Because Jeans Are Motivators Too

by Andie Mitchell on January 24, 2011

There are so many motivations to losing weight. And largely, I cover the ones deep below the surface. The ones that really mean something, that stick with you longer than those jeans you’re jonesing to wiggle into. I figure, there are enough magazines and ad campaigns and billboards to tell us and tell us and then tell us one more time- how good we’d all feel if we could just drop those last five, that you don’t need me telling you about how much joy I felt when I could finally wear a standard size jean. But what about those jeans? What about the more superficial aspects of losing weight that feel like magnets toward change?

Of course your end game should always be health. It should be wellness and peace of mind, body, and spirit. Really. Truly. It’s the mind of the matter that, well, matters.

Everything in our culture embraces beauty. Clothing, makeup, style, design, food, you name it, we as humans are drawn to people, places, and things that please our eyes. We lust. As a woman, that beautiful ideal is even more bombarding, more omnipresent. I see other women, I see the ones that seem to be heaped with praise, love, and acceptance. They wear certain things, they look a certain way, they carry themselves just so. The honest to God truth is that I get that it’s all smoke and mirrors. Happiness doesn’t piggyback beauty and thinness, even if that’s the message permeating my social and cultural space.

The good news is that I get that. Good Lord do I get that. I’ve written post upon post about my reckoning with sadness, the hard realizations I had when I finally met skinny and felt so…let down.

Consider all of what I just said my disclaimer. Losing weight isn’t the best thing in the world, not even among the thousand best things, but I’d like to spend some time talking about the superficial satisfaction of all of it.

The reason I focus so intently on what’s upstairs in your mental capacity, the reason I am careful to not fawn over the flesh part, is because it’s flimsy. Yes, being and looking fit, feeling noticed, being able to buy clothing that you see in magazines and on mannequins is exciting. Thrilling, even. But thrill is only one part of it. Give the smaller sized purchases, the mirror glances at a mini-er you, the freshness of being new on the thin scene, six months or even a year, and you’ll see that it fades. When it isn’t new anymore, when getting dressed becomes the same mundane task it was ten, twenty, thirty pounds ago, you’re left with you. Yes, you made over your body, but did you make over your brain?

Having made over my brain, or at least, constantly working on it, means that I can both accept the mental work, do it, and still embrace the parts of being at a healthy weight that seem lighter (pun intended), more fun. I can know that beauty radiates outward from inside, but that feeling stylish and sleek in a perfectly fit pair of jeans is just purely a blast. You can feel gorgeous, sexy, desirable, and fierce at absolutely any size. Really and truly you can. I, in truth, have always felt fairly confident and…I’m going to cringe and die after I say this…beautiful. Not in a narcissistic or self-adoring way, but more in the way of ‘hey, I’m happy with my face. I think I’ll keep it.’

There’s also something very different about someone who is ten, twenty, or thirty pounds overweight, and me when I neared 300 lbs. Very, very different. So when I speak about my desires to lose weight and to finally look and feel good, it’s from a place of less vanity and more dire need. I wasn’t merely uncomfortable, I was dying inside and out. I wasn’t just wanting to drop a few dress sizes to get back to my high school weight, I was in high school and larger than three of my classmates sewn together. I had never been even verging on healthy sized, so for me, getting there was maybe extraordinarily special. A first.

When I lost 135 lbs, I was in a state of wild excitement. For the first time in years (21 to be precise), I was picking clothing off racks, trying tops and pants on, finding fits and styles that suited me like never before, and waltzing out of the store in the most self-assured way. I felt, for lack of a better phrase, like a million bucks. A trillion, if only I knew exactly how much that is.

Being at a normal weight, at least one that can be classified as such, even now after five years of maintaining it, brings me a sense of peace in many ways. I’d explain like this: there are so, so, so many things that occupy my mind every second of each and everyday. Millions of things buzz about my brain. But the one thing that doesn’t anymore is losing weight. Or the discomfort of being big. The worry, the dread, the sense of hopelessness, the anxiety, the looming diet, the fear of staring eyes.

Those preoccupations are gone.

There’s room for others, sure, but I’m done feeling bad about the way I look. Sometimes I flash back to just how much energy I devoted to feeling uncomfortable. How much time I spent pained and picking myself apart.

I think that my very current feeling of contentment, with just existing in a body I move and love and celebrate, is precisely what got me through thirteen months of losing 135 lbs. The vision of a less worrisome me, a more confident girl, was driving me.

Every single day, I thought about how great it would feel to dress in the latest styles and actually feel as though they looked great. I thought about how absolutely exhilarated I’d feel buttoning jeans that could be purchased in the Gap, and not online only. I’d tuck in my shirt, I promised. My face wouldn’t drain of color and I wouldn’t be awash with dread at the mention of an upcoming wedding, or any event requiring a dress or…dear God please…a bathing suit. I would never buy or wear or look in the direction of a girdle ever again. Spanx could burn in hell for all I cared, because I never wanted to be pinched or poked or encased like a sausage link in my clothing…ever again.

I thought about the confidence I’d have, the way I’d carry myself with such grace. (For the record, grace has and will always elude me. Advice is welcome.) I dreamed up imaginary scenarios of parties I’d attend, people I’d see, the ways I’d woo the world. So many adventures were waiting. I made a scrapbook of pictures of happy things I wanted to fill my future with. There were photos of places I’d like to travel, snapshots of people who possessed the outdoorsy nature I’d certainly always wanted to adopt, women dressed to kill. Smiles. Sunshine. Roses. Rainbows. I’d call it a vision book. The very sight of its colorful pages inspired me. Essentially, I cut out images, pasted them, wrote blurbs and mottoes and motivational quotes. I was moving into positivity and changing my life, and I could feel it. I could taste it.

These things, in themselves, don’t amount to much. I know that the sight of cute trends, healthy, fit figures, and quotations could only get me so far. But they really helped. Visualizations in general are what kept sparking my interest, kept revving my engine through losing half of me. I tell people all the time to just take it one day at a time, so as not to get overwhelmed and discouraged. But I also encourage people who need to do what I did to surround themselves with positivity and things that motivate them. Big ideas like long term health and optimal wellness are fantastic, greater than good. But they’re almost too big to keep focused in your daily mind. They don’t mean as much in the short term. You need the short term motivators and the long term motivators, and so I support having a solid, beautiful vision of the way you’ll feel, the way you’ll look, the way you’ll carry yourself, even the way you’ll dress (so long as that means anything to you) and then a more overarching goal floating around above you.

To feel beautiful is to look and be beautiful, in whatever your definition of beautiful is. And vice versa.

What small things motivate you?

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

MelissaNibbles January 24, 2011 at 1:38 am

This is a great post. You’re truly a very talented writer.

Jeans are great motivator, but jeggings have taken their place in my life. So tight!

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Amy @ Second City Randomness January 24, 2011 at 5:11 am

Wonderful post as always.

Jeans are definitely motivators. For me, the ones I currently own sort of gauge how I’ve been eating/exercising. They’re sometimes the little kick in the booty I need.

But I want to say you make a very good point. Because it doesn’t matter the current weight or amount of weight lost- you really do need to feel beautiful and comfortable before anything else. I used to obsess a little more about my weight but it became way too exhausting. I wasn’t appreciating any of the “little wins” and was spending my entire days unhappy. Now I’ve gained a few pounds, but am so much more comfortable in my own skin. And that is a big win. :)

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Niki January 24, 2011 at 6:18 am

You bring up so many good points. I don’t know how I would feel if I lost all the weight that I want to. I know I’d be ecstatic and yes, I would stare at myself sideways in mirrors and pull the waist band of my jeans to see how much room there was and pat at my tummy and not really feel a tummy… But my issue is that I feel like I have confidence now. Sort of. I still cringe a bit at the gym when I am doing an exercise that emphasizes my stomach or flabby arms… but I don’t feel disgusting or ugly.
I tell myself that people in the gym aren’t disgusted with me, they are proud of me. They admire me for getting in there 5 times a week. I feel like people like me for who I am, not what I look like, so I like me for who I am, not what I look like. Maybe if I didn’t have skinny friends or a skinny boyfriend, I’d be worried!!
But I am scared of how I will feel b/c I wonder if I will feel like the same person. Yes, a skinner person, but I like the me I am now. What if I don’t like the me I am when I lose the weight? What if I’m a bitch, or stuck up, or like all those other skinny people that fat people hate (or that hate fat people?)
That’s my head’s biggest worry…
And of course, how awesome it will be to be able to buy jeans from anywhere!!!

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Lu January 24, 2011 at 7:48 am

“I thought about the confidence I’d have, the way I’d carry myself with such grace. (For the record, grace has and will always elude me. Advice is welcome.)” I love your honesty. You do inspire me to make many changes in my life. I just want to be comfortable with myself. I know I will get there.

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ASuburbanLife January 24, 2011 at 9:12 am

Very, very nice post, thank you. I’ve struggled with my weight – gaining, losing, dieting, exercising, wearing clothes I’ve bought in mainstream stores, wearing clothes I’ve bought online from Lane Bryant – for half my life. I’m done with it! What’s motivating me? My age, as I approach a new milestone age health, strength, longevity are even more important to me and I realize I can’t take any of them for granted. My children, I have daughters and want to set an example for them and help them avoid the years of shame and embarrassment I’ve endured. I really really think that I’m on the right track and can do it this time. Your posts help a lot, thank you!

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Shannon January 24, 2011 at 11:43 am

“You can feel gorgeous, sexy, desirable, and fierce at absolutely any size.”

Just fabulous! Right now my eating habits are changing and I’m learning to feel comfortable as my body changes. Trying to embrace this and treat it the best that I can!

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Kace January 24, 2011 at 11:48 am

Wow totally relate. I just wrote a post about my “real reasons” for wanting to get in shape. Most are petty, but they’re all legit. Blatant plug: http://www.thenchangeit.com/?p=439

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Naomi January 24, 2011 at 12:55 pm

what a very honest and heartfelt post. i truly enjoyed reading it.

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Apicius' Apprentice January 24, 2011 at 1:04 pm

I’ve started typing and deleted a comment now three times. All this to say this post is… perfectly timed. Thank you so much for writing this. It’s clearly from the heart and… just thank you.

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Kelly January 25, 2011 at 3:44 am

Only you could talk about the superficial side of weight loss and make it seem admirable, not superficial at all. What an honest and beautifully written post. You’re my writing hero. I’m just going to tell you my thoughts and let you write my blog from now on. ;) Little things?…bathing suit season, the summer in general, my wedding was a huge motivator.

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Anneliesz January 30, 2011 at 11:33 am

Motivators for me involve seeing family members who are older and dying before their time because their heart gives out. This is the motivation that gnaws on the back of my brain. But then again, there are those that do kick things into higher gear: that pair of white jeans in the closet that lets me know it’s not quite summer. They’re hinting that summer is on the way like a shoot of green edging through the snow and ice does for spring. Their my current reminder and motivation to keep it up. Great post Andrea.

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