A Tale of Two Dresses

I have been wanting to share this – a tale of two dresses – for a few days but I struggled with what I wanted to say about it. I wanted to be sure you understood this was not a comparison of two versions of my body, per say. This is not a “see how awful I used to look” post. It is, in no way, shape, or form a degradation of “the old me.” Nor is it a “I used to be bad but, look at me… now I am good” post. I fucking hate that shit as I believe it perpetuates the same harmful myths that the multi-billion dollar weight loss industry uses to sell you useless pills and shakes and diet plans. I want it to be understood that this about internal transformation, about emotional and mental healing. This is going to be a long post so buckle up or bail out now.

The photo on the left was taken in 2008. Shopping for the dress was awful, the store clerk oh-so-helpfully telling me I NEEDED to wear Spanx with the dress, after which I retreated to the privacy of my fitting room and wept. This was a painfully commonplace occurrence. From the time I was 13, my body was fair game for commentary and critique, usually well-intentioned although sometimes intentionally shaming. 

The photo on the right was taken on New Year’s Eve 2010. In my memory, shopping for this dress this plays out like a slo-mo movie sequence … zipping the back, turning to look in the mirror. When I saw this body, literally half the size as the one I saw in 2008, I broke down sobbing. My friend in the next fitting room came in and hugged me as I cried – not tears of joy but tears of deliverance.  

When I look at the photo on the left, I don’t see an ugly girl – and neither should you. I don’t see a fat girl, a morbidly obese girl. I see a sad girl. A depressed girl. A hopeless girl. I see a girl hiding a world of pain behind a fake smile. I see a girl who believed, in the marrow of her bones, that she was unlovable, that she was unworthy of love and respect. It was her core belief. It was a belief formed and cemented by years of being criticized, demeaned, and abandoned. It was a belief perpetuated by her cycle of choosing to surround herself with people who would confirm these notions. It was a belief that drove her binge eating disorder, constantly seeking alleviation, or at least distraction, from emotional pain and trauma in the warm comfort of food. The body I lived in at the time was a physical manifestation of my trauma. It was a heavy body, physically painful to inhabit, to attempt to move. It was a prison.

When I began losing weight in 2010, it wasn’t because I discovered some magical new diet that worked when the dozens of others I had tried had failed. I did not start to heal my emotional pain because I had lost weight. Just the opposite. When I began losing weight it was because I had started to believe in my own worth, my own value. It was because, for the first time in my life, I was challenging those core beliefs. When the weight fell off me, it fell off like shackles. I was liberating myself from that prison. 

If the photo on the left is of a physical manifestation of trauma, then the photo on the right is of a physical manifestation of healing, of resilience. That is what I wanted to show you. That is what I wanted to celebrate. I am not done. I still suffer setbacks in terms of my healing, still occasionally lean on my old methods of coping when those old core feelings are triggered by internal or external influences. I see healing as an ongoing endeavor, one without a finish line. This year, my focus is on finding balance in my life. It is on whole wellness, not body or mind – body AND mind. Looking at these pictures side-by-side, I am reminded of the profound effects healing can have in transforming every facet of your life: your relationships, your outlook, and, yes, even, on occasion, your dress size.