Tony's garage was full of jeans of all styles and sizes. In the late '70s in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York. We bought jeans in our neighbor's garage. I probably had enough money for Sergio Valente, but I wanted Jordache or Calvin Klein. The more important question at the time was, "Could I fit into a size 7/8 or 9/10?" My best friend Francine was 5'7" and weighed 115 pounds. She always fit into the size 7/8s and usually the 5/6s, which at the time, the 1970s, was the size to be. I, on the other hand, was 5'4" and weighed 115 pounds, and most of the time I fit into the 9/10s. Although at the time we wore our jeans so tight I could sometimes wear the 7/8s by laying flat on the bed or floor and using a metal hanger to pull up the zipper. Insanely enough, that was not an out-of-the-ordinary thing to do.
I'll never know the exact second, minute, day week or year the size of my pants, and the size of my body, started having something to do with the size of my life.
It could have been when I was not thriving as a baby. My mom was so depressed she couldn't take care of me. Today, she would be diagnosed with and treated for post-partum depression. However, then they did not have this diagnosis, and my parents did not want to admit I was not being properly cared for, and as a result I wouldn't eat. My pediatrician wanted to hospitalize me. In essence, I was on my first starvation diet so that I would be noticed. My dad solved that problem, or so the story goes. He held my nose and stuck a bottle in my mouth, so I was forced to either eat or not breathe. Talk about being given a message to eat when you don't want to.
It could have been when I my parents decided I was overweight at age 2 and put me on a diet.
It could have been when my father told me at 7 years old "I was getting a belly" and should start doing sit-ups.
It could have been when my mother and father discussed in front of me about whether or not I needed to lose weight, and came up with the conclusion that I needed to lose at least 5 pounds.
It could have been when my parents compared my body to my mother's. Such as when she told me that she was both taller and thinner than me, when she was my age. As well as when she told me I took after my father's family with "the big thighs and tiny waist."
But the one thing I know for sure is that I started obsessing about my weight and body size, and I started starvation dieting, which inevitably resulted in bingeing to try and get into those size 7/8 jeans. Bingeing was the natural, inevitable result of severe dieting. After all, for every restrictive diet there is either a equal or greater binge.
Clearly, I had to be fat if Francine was 5'7"and 115 pounds and I was 5'4" and 115 pounds. Ironically, like most women, I would now be glad to be the weight I was when I initially decided I was fat. This is the very reason it really isn't about the actual size of our pants or the actual size of our body. The way we feel about ourselves and how we look is about the size of our lives -- the size of our thoughts and feelings, and our voice to express those feelings.
We are born into this world knowing we and our body are the right size. Hating ourselves and our body are learned behaviors, as is the idea that "you can never be too thin."
However, today we can choose to know, as we did as children, that what is more important that the size of our body is having a healthy, loving relationship with our body. And that we are loveable no matter what our size.
Wishing everyone a large-sized day and a large-sized life!
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.
If you want to read more from Karen Cigna you can find her book "The Size Of My Life" on Amazon.com; and you can follow her on Facebook on her pages "Size Of My Life"; and "Dear Body".