Thursday, September 19, 2013

Scales: You have been using them wrong

When I was little, I felt a sense of pride each time I got on a scale and the number was just a little higher.  It meant I was growing up and getting bigger!  But by fourth grade I weighed 60 pounds while my friend Cathy still weighed under 50, and for the first time I wanted the numbers to stop going up, and maybe even start to go down.  I started worrying about my weight a few years earlier, but fourth grade was the first time I started thinking that my weight was something I was supposed to control and measure.  It was the first time that I can remember thinking that my weight said something about me, and I didn't like what it was saying.

By the time I was 13, I was already restricting food, and focusing on my body as a way of not dealing with other issues in my life that I felt I had no control over.  By 14, my self-worth was completely bonded to my weight and by extension, my appearance.  For the next seven years, I dealt with crippling emotions of self-doubt and accompanying eating disorders that I vigorously denied.  How can you have an eating disorder when you still look fat?  The concept was ridiculous to me.  During those years, I thought that analyzing the numbers on the scale was my way of testing my validity in the world, when really I was using it as a physiological weapon against myself.  It was like a game, or a challenge.  Could I get down to 100 pounds?  What if I could get down to 90?  The noise from everything in my life that I couldn't control could sometimes be blocked out by intrusive thoughts of losing more weight, and I felt like I needed these thoughts to stay sane. 

It is not too dramatic to say that nothing very good happened to me during these years of self-torture, or at least, nothing good happened to me because of me.  I was too busy trying to get smaller to bother making the rest of my life more meaningful.  Even the good parts of my life were drowned out by hateful thoughts of self-loathing.  I was jealous of everyone, and I hid myself away as much as I could.  My already introverted personality became magnified by the thought that I wasn't good enough, and it partnered with the idea that I would let myself have a life once I finally could make myself skinny enough to be worth knowing.  My perception became my reality and I became less loving, less useful to society, and less emotionally connected to the people I loved.     

Eventually, I realized that constantly hating yourself is one of the most self-indulgent things you can do. How can you make a difference to anyone when your main thoughts are all about yourself?  It sounds strange, but the obsession with getting thinner and thinner can become like a drug.  The idea of meeting your goal and finally being skinny enough is very addictive.  The problem is, you can never meet your goal because you can always lose more weight.  You can never win.  Winning for an anorexic is death, pure and simple.      

Throughout those years, I had moments in time where I felt healthier, or tried to let go of the idea that being thinner would one day make me "good enough", but it was hard to let go of something I had woven into every fiber of my being for so long.  But at some point, I realized that I would never be happy, or help to make anyone else happy, if I kept thinking that a number on a scale was going to save me from my problems. 

When I decided to get healthy, I started by letting go of my desire to constantly compare myself to others.  I forced myself to look in the mirror and say, “you are beautiful,” even when I didn't feel it.  I started working toward goals that had nothing to do with my body.  I stopped buying clothes in the size I wanted to fit into, and started buying clothes that actually fit the body that I was in.  It sounds so simple now, but in reality, it was a lot of work. 

Despite the fact that I am super confident now, sometimes, my weight still challenges me.  I lost a lot of weight because of my illness (I have Crohns disease) in 2009, and ended up getting back down to 100 pounds.  Unfortunately, it really messed with my head, and set me back a few steps in my journey for a while. I worried that once I was at a healthy weight again, I would have a hard time giving up my super thin status, and in 2011, when I finally did start putting weight back on, every pound was psychologically difficulty for me.  I had hated being so sick and so thin, but I was afraid that people would judge me for the weight gain, and I was afraid of how I would judge myself.

But I wanted to fight fair this time, and give myself a real chance to get better emotionally as I was getting better physically.  I looked closely at my thought patterns, and when I started to obsess, I forced myself to focus on something else, even if it was something hard like dealing with my emotions about being so sick with my Crohns.  I used my tools that I had made up all of those years ago when I told myself that enough was enough.  I asked my husband to take my scale away and I tried to focus my energy on getting well, on living a good life, on making others happy, rather than spending all of my time indulging in unhealthy thoughts about myself.  As I reached my pre-illness weight, I tried to remember what being happy in your own skin feels like, and I made it through somehow.

Eventually, I started to notice that I liked the extra weight.  It made me feel like I wasn't about to break or float away, the way I felt when I was so sick and unable to eat.  I felt substantial.  I felt whole. I held onto that feeling, and I let myself learn to love myself again, no matter what size I was.  

Some days, when I fell my jeans getting tighter, or I think my face looks puffy, or I just feel sad about something I can’t control that has nothing to do with my appearance at all, a part of me wants to start focusing on my weight again as a way of distracting myself or as a way of rewarding myself with the prize of a lower number on the scale.  But I don’t.  I can’t.  I won’t go back to living that way ever again.    

Scales weren't invented to be self-worth readers; they were never made to tell you if you were good enough or not.  They are not meant to be a weapon or a reward.  If you are genuinely dealing with a weight that makes you unhealthy, then a scale can be used as a monitoring tool to help you figure out where you feel your best and healthiest, but even then, the number you see says nothing about you as a person.  You will never be worth more than you are right now.  You are already worth everything you would be worth if you were thinner.

When was the first time you got on a scale and let yourself believe that the number you saw defined you?  I realized that I was worth a lot more than that, and so are you.  What could you accomplish with all of the brain power you devote to telling yourself that you need to be something other than exactly what you are?  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Butterick B5949- Trying something new

To be perfectly honest, I don't really like learning new things.  I like having new information, but mostly I just like already being good at things without having to spend very much time trying to figure out how to be good at them.

As you may guess, not liking to have to learn anything does not make it easy for me to get too excited about trying a new pattern, or mastering a new skill even as simple as using a different type of stitch on my sewing machine.  But, I do love buying new patterns and imagining that one day I will use them.  I like picturing my new clothes, hand made by me.  That is the fun part.

Still, sometimes we have to do things we don't want to do if we want a certain result.  It's all part of being a grown up.  Seriously folks, doing things you don't want to do and learning to like coffee and wine are pretty much the highlights of adult hood.  Know it, own it, except it.  So, with a heavy heart I forced myself to brave the unknown and begin Butterick pattern B5949 for the first ever time.

This pattern is marked as "Easy" which isn't a total lie.  I'm sure if you were a more experienced seamstress than I, you would have no trouble putting this pattern together.  Even though the pattern pieces looked like the physical embodiment of gibberish to me when I cut them out, I have to admit the pattern has come together much easier than I thought it would; so far at least.

That is not to say that I haven't already made some pretty blaring mistakes (the sleeves are on the wrong sides, and somehow I ended up needing an extra pleat on the front for example), but I am starting to lose some of my dread for the project as I go.  Hopefully, things will continue to go well and I will have a finished dress by the weekend, and even better yet, it may even fit me.  But in any case, I am glad that I am giving it a real try and forcing myself to learn some new skills even though I hate it. I just keep telling myself that once I learn this pattern, I can use it a few more times before I have to learn something new again, and that thought gives me comfort in this dark and trying time.

A quick word about this pattern:  It is super versatile!  Assuming I actually complete it and it doesn't look awful, I will certainly attempt some of the other versions of this pattern.  As you can see from the pattern envelope, it doesn't just give you one new dress option, it gives you four pretty different ones!  I love when patterns give you several choices.  It makes it easier to learn less and get more.  Yay!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Easy outfit post- welcome fall!

First of all, didn't my hair look cute today?  I have a post all lined up to show you how to do this hairstyle with very little effort.  But for right now, I just wanted to do a simple Monday-morning–getting-back-to-work outfit post.  

This Emily and Fin dress is one of my all time favorites.  I almost always bring it with me on trips because it is so easy to wear and super soft and comfortable, but today I felt like wearing it to the office.  The shoes are a $5 thrift store find that have ended up being one of my most worn pairs of shoes ever.  Who would have thought red and white shoes were so versatile? 

I am feeling good today, and ready for fall fashions, even if I’m not quite ready for fall weather.  What are you looking forward to this season?  

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Mad For Plaid

I haven't been sewing much lately, but I am itching to start up again.  The truth is it is really intimidating to decide which project to start when I have so many ideas rattling around in my head and patterns piling up in my sewing room.  So I finally realized this summer that I needed to have a system if I didn't want to go crazy trying to do it all.  I have discovered that the most fun way for me to decide what projects I want to make for myself is to come up with a concept and a collection of pieces that all work together rather than just choosing randomly, and this fall, I have a pretty obvious theme.  Plaid all the way baby!

When I was around 17, the first thing I ever made on a sewing machine was a pair of high-rise plaid pants.  Back then, we didn't have the range of pattern sources that we have today, so I made some very skinny, very high waisted green plaid pants.  Skinny jeans were just coming into fashion and they were certainly not on my radar yet, especially not in plaid, and high-waisted was defiantly not the thing.   These were the days where if you saw a thong poking out of the top of someone’s pants (charmingly dubbed “whale tail”), you barely even noticed because pants were so low it was unavoidable.  I was not completely immune to the low low pant trend myself, in fact, I literally cut the waist band off of jeans so that they would be lower.  And then I wore those mangled pants with crop tops, and went bra-less.  The late 90's early 2000's were a classy, classy time.
I blame these Pussycats for a lot of the terrible trends of the time, but dang, I still love this movie!
Never-the-less, I wore my green plaid all-wrong pants with pride.  I also had a store bought red pair of plaid pants that I wore constantly.  Plaid was having a moment, and I was happily along for the ride.

Now, plaid seems to be back on the runways, and it couldn't be better timing since I started falling back in love with the pattern last year when I made my second ever pair of plaid pants.  To this day, they are the only other pair of pants I have managed to make that actually fit me correctly.  I’m not sure how I did so well on that first pair, but I must have thought pants would always be easy for me.  Ha!

So, just to show how plaid crazed I am this year, in my sewing roster for fall I have: one plaid pencil skirt, two plaid dress’s, and another plaid high-wasted pair of pants (this time because I love a high waist, not because it is the only pattern I could find).  Then I am making a solid colored jacket and skirt to go with all of the plaid that I will be sporting.  I am debating making a little video for this blog to show off my "collection" Project Runway style, only I will be the designer (sometimes- I am mostly going to be using patterns), the seamstress, and the model.  Would a video be too silly?  I’m not sure anything is too silly for me to be honest. It sounds like fun!
Just in case anyone was confused, no grunge for me.  Classic+plaid, or cute+plaid all the way for me!
Besides making my collection, my main sewing goals for fall are to focus on learning new skills, to sew more slowly and deliberately, and to make lasting pieces that I can wear for years.  I am going to force myself to really focus on the details, which is really hard for me, but I think it will be worth it. 

Summer is my favorite season because I love to swim, but fall is my favorite style wise.  Besides an avalanche of plaid, I am looking forward to deep, saturated fall colors, boots working over skinny jeans, cute jackets and cardigans, leggings under dresses and warm adorable felt hats.  What wardrobe staples are you looking forward to this coming season?  What trends can you not wait to try?  

Saturday, September 7, 2013

A Day In The Sun

I LOVE swimwear.  Let me explain…I love FLATTERING swimwear.  In fact, the things I am willing to spend the most money on are underwear and bras, with swimwear slipping into a close second. 
It makes a lot of sense to spend money on these things because if you don’t buy good underwear and bras, your whole look suffers.  In some ways, swimwear is even more important because it is worn on the outside, in front of people!  If you don’t feel awesome in your swimsuit, you are not going to be able to let go of your cares and just swim, and swimming is the most fun thing in the world!!!  Don’t argue with me.  Funnest ever.  Period. 

Of course, there may be some wonderful inexpensive options too, but I haven't found any that work for my body type.  If you know something I don't, let me know!  Expensive or not, we all know good swimwear is hard to come by.  Personally, I like a more covered up, retro inspired look, but I also need a bit of lift.  This will be the first of two swim inspired posts, but for today, I'm just going to show you some swimsuits that I have worn in the past, and felt absolutely fabulous in.  

2010- very sickly and skinny (for me anyway), but still rocking it! Swimsuit by Modcloth.  

 2011????-Feeling healthy and happy.  :)  Bottoms by Victoria's Secret. top by Lands End.  

In this photo and the one under it, I am wearing J-Crew suits. These tops were a bit too big, but both bottoms are still in rotation!  

 2012- Such a lovely day in the Sun.  Suit from Anthropologie.

Same suit, much blonder hair.  

2013- A weekend trip to the lake.  Etsy suit.

The next day.  Suit by Anthropologie.

I do have some tips and tricks for getting nice suits for less, but that will have to wait for my next swim inspired post.  However my best tip may help you now: wait until the end of the season and see what is on sale!  Go now!  The sales have already begun!

Even though the summer is technically over, I still have some swimming in my near future.  I hope you do too, and I hope you feel fabulous when you do it!  :)