Column: You are worth more than your jean size

If you would’ve asked me to define success four years ago, my answer would have been simple: I’d fit into my favorite size-zero skinny capris without visible side “pudge.” The jeans were skin-tight: comfortable after a day of wear, but tight enough to constantly remind me to watch everything I consumed.

The jeans were low-rise and dark washed American Eagle, and they were my accountability partner. Every day after school, I’d come home and try on the tightest clothing I owned to ensure I hadn’t exceeded my caloric or portion amount allotment for the day.

In high school, I struggled with eating disorders. I unintentionally obsessed over food intake and how thin I could appear, making an effort to start and finish books while working out to push myself another four miles.

I weighed myself before school and, as soon as I got home, I ate handfuls of crackers or say I’d already eaten dinner to avoid discussion, or I completely overate. There was no happy medium with my consumption habits, so I lived on either extreme of the spectrum.

I hated the way I looked on “off” days when I grabbed three pieces of pizza instead of the one I’d conditioned myself to eat at a sloth pace. My mental budgeting stressed me more than my college search, and I lost 15 pounds in three weeks — something completely unhealthy for a 100-something pound gal.

To say that I haven’t always respected my body would be an understatement. I’ve starved it. Slashed it. Belitted it. Binged. Purged.

At my thinnest, I hit the 90s because I thought that’s what was expected for my little frame. I broke down frequently and begged myself to be kinder to my exterior, and I could hold myself accountable to do so until I spiraled and consumed too much.

A former male friend I’d considered a mentor began to verbally degrade my little body, which made me even more self-conscious. Eventually, his criticisms echoed in my mind too.

This destructive behavior didn’t stop when I reached my goals. Even when I reached my “target” weights, I’d notice another flaw. My frustrations only bred more hatred toward the vehicle of my mind.

“Who cares if I’m finally thin? My hair is frizzier than a second-year Hermione and my height stunts me from ever being truly ‘attractive.’ If I was, I’d be in a stable relationship like all my friends.”

During my senior year of high school, my skin started clearing up. I soughtout a psychiatrist and detached myself from the external criticisms. After 17 years of being dirty blonde and plain, I decided to drastically change my appearance: I dyed my hair, cut bangs, and got tattoos and piercings. I felt like a new human, reborn from the ashes of the loser I thought I was.

I’m 21 and I still struggle with panic disorder and cycling eating disorders. But with prescription assistance and the addition of yoga, I’ve learned to be better.

Part of my yogic training is understanding the balance of contentment, self-study and non-violence. By weaving this practice into every aspect of my life, I’ve learned to only take as much food as I need and nurture my body. Since I started yoga, I’ve learned to avoid stress-eating, practice poses specifically for ailments or moods and challenge my physical limitations at the gym — but not out of spite.

In the last year, I’ve learned to practice moderation and I’ve realized my self-worth. My body can hold itself against gravity and gracefully (usually) hold inverted poses. It can climb mountains in Colorado and bicycle 40 miles on a hybrid Specialized.

I have accountability partners for my disorders now, and I’m not afraid to seek help when I need it. When I feel abnormal in my clothing, I find a treadmill and set limitations for my timing, and I avoid those who do not contribute positively to my life.

After all, I’m worth so much more than how I fit into a pair of jeans.

Lexi Browning can be contacted at [email protected].