Last week I pulled a pair of long-forgotten jeans out from the bottom of the ironing bag, where they’d be lurking alongside a bridesmaid dress and a couple of odd socks I’d long since assumed were gone forever.
The jeans in question were my off-white wide-leg pair from Marks & Spencer, bought at the start of this year after seeing a few of my fave stylish Instagram girls wearing similar and deciding I felt brazen and confident enough to try the trend for myself.
The M&S customer reviews suggested the jeans came up small, and people moaned and complained about the fact they’d had to size up to get them to fit properly.
Since having Atti I’ve levelled out somewhere between a size 14 and 16. Maybe closer to a 14, not quite a 15 (if the size existed), maybe a 14.7 if you will. And so, I ordered the 16, and when they arrived I felt confident in the sizing. There was plenty of wiggle room, a good amount of space to go out and eat a big ol’ Pizza Express pizza without fear I was slicing an organ in two.
I trimmed the hems off the jeans to make them work just a little bit better on my 5ft 2 frame and then I absolutely wore them to death. Much to the amusement of every fellow parent on Instagram who’d slide into my DMs and say ‘BUT HOW ARE YOU WEARING THESE WITH A SMALL CHILD?!’. Spoiler: I wore them on nursery days.
Anyway, last week I decided to retrieve them from the ironing bag of doom and give them a once over with the iron so I could wear them – paired, as I had pictured so beautifully in my head, with an old pale blue jumper from H&M, some black heeled ankle boots and my brown La Redoute coat.
And then I went to put them on.
I pulled them over my toes and ankles and shins and knees. I felt them strain over my thighs. They needed extra power to go all the way up, a bit of a grunt and an awkward lunge. I had to breathe in as I forced the button to pop through the hole.
And then I stood up straight and took in just how unfamiliar the jeans felt on my body. How tight. How uncomfortable. How restrictive. I noted the way they dug into my skin and how different they were to the memory in my head.
And in that moment and in the breath that followed, my mind went into a wild, untameable overdrive.
It told me I was disgusting, that I was ugly, that my value as a person had significantly decreased, that I was worth less then when those jeans had done up with ease. It called me gross and lazy and weak and undesirable. It panic wondered how I would lose the weight – would I just stop eating breakfast? Try and jump back on the Couch to 5K bandwagon? Go on MyFitnessPal? Or Slimming World?
And then my conscious trail of thought caught up with my spiralling subconscious voice of poison.
It reminded me that I am wonderful and beautiful and a worthy human regardless of whether the damned jeans fit, or the ‘always-slightly-too-tight & Other Stories midi skirt’ fit, or whether I have to order a size 14 or 16, or whether I look smaller or bigger than expected in photos taken of me.
It reminded me that absolutely nothing about me is defined by my weight.
You see, I am comfortable in my skin, I have made peace with my body. Accepted every lump, bump, curve, roll and dimple as part of me. I no longer consider myself as less for having a body that doesn’t align with the way I grew up expecting to look, for having a body that differs from the socially accepted version of beautiful we have all spent most of our lives believing we should aspire to.
BUT I haven’t quite learned how to accept weight gain.
I learn to love my body as I am, but when it changes, it makes me feel vulnerable and out of control, it leaves me questioning myself.
In those first few seconds after my jeans went on, my mind raced with ridiculous thoughts. The kind that I’ve been programmed into thinking over the past thirty years. The real Hannah Gale, the one whose voice I can control, knows better. She is stronger and more accepting of herself and loves herself whole-heartedly.
But I’m still working on training that other voice, the one that lies dormant in unvisited areas of my brain, ready to creep up and whisper vile nothings in my ear when I least expect it.
She is the worst part about me, but one day she will be completely gone and when that day comes, I will be the most powerful, strong and unstoppable I have ever been.