I am simultaneously a UK size 6 and a UK size 24. A twenty...four...to a six.
I hate my body. I hate my weight. I hate looking at myself in a mirror and seeing full body photos of myself makes me squirm. Therefore, as you can imagine, I also hate shopping for clothes. Long before I was weight-conscious and even longer before I was sick, shopping just didn’t interest me. The idea of spending three hours in a hot, sweaty building, wandering aimlessly just to pick up one or two tops was my idea of torture. I used to either order online and just guess at my size or I’d send my Mum on her weekly shopping trip with a detailed description of the one top I wanted (with my money, of course).
Fast forward to Secondary School and I started to get curves. Obviously this is just puberty but I wanted to cut my bones off so badly because I felt so overweight. I spent my life in baggy jumpers and baggy jeans because then nobody would know. Nobody would see the (non-existent) fat hanging from my body. I got reasonably large boobs and cried for weeks. I started to develop hips and spent six months at the gym, three times a day, trying to “burn them off.”
I got sick. My obsession over my weight became an obsession over being in control. My home life, combined with puberty, made me feel like I was spiralling into a pit that I wouldn't be able to get back out of. So I stopped eating. Simple. I went from the necessary 2000 calories to 1000, 700, 500 and then 450. 450 a day. My brain could focus on nothing else. I felt like it still wasn’t enough. My head was filled with the calorie content of every single food in any room. I could calculate how “fat” someone else would get from the meal they were eating in a couple of seconds. I had to be constantly moving or the calories would start to stick to my body. Exercise. Exercise. Exercise. If I ate, I had to be punished. I couldn’t keep it down and let it sit in my body. Those calories would be toxic. I couldn’t even touch fatty foods such as pizza out of fear that the calories would seep through my fingers and make me put on weight. Food paralysed me with fear, but the thought of being fat scared me more.
Thankfully, I have begun to develop a healthier relationship with food itself, however my relationship with my body has never been worse. For the last year I’ve been trying, desperately, to throw myself into the idea of “body confidence”; bikini pictures, mini skirts, dresses that I deemed too tight. I’ve been pushing myself as hard as I can but this forced positive relationship has made me hate my body more than ever. On top of that, I’m getting a little curvier. I have gained absolutely no weight in the last two years, but my body has begun to finish developing (as it does, it’s sometimes called “second puberty”) leaving me with a little bit more hip, a smaller thigh gap and slightly bigger boobs. Basically, my worst nightmare.
This all came to a head when I tried to purchase a pair of shorts for my holiday in a clothes store...can you guess from the title which? This same store has had a lot of media coverage recently about having difficult sizing, however I’d never had a problem before so I brushed it off. In all shops, I’ll be between a 6-8. I had to size up to a 10 in New Look for my “new” hips (which caused a week of tears in itself) but otherwise I’ve maintained a size 6-8. Except in H&M.
It’s a shop I try not to buy from. As I said, I never personally had a problem but I once got a phone call from a friend who was distraught at not being able to fit into size 8 jeans when she is a size 4 naturally. It is well known as a shop that requires you to size up and everyone leaves feeling hideous about themselves. From then on I decided to try and avoid it like the plague. However, on this day they had a shorts sale on and I’d had no luck elsewhere so I figured I’d just have a look.
I could only fit into a size 24.
This brought on a full blown panic attack in the dressing room. Maybe it sounds vain to you but as someone who has suffered with EDNOS and still has a crappy relationship with her body and food, it was the end of my world. I was on the floor, sobbing, shaking and barely able to breathe. Thankfully, a kind shopper came along, brought me water and sat with me to calm me down but the after effects were worse. I went home and threw all my food out of the fridge. I binned all junk food, all meat and most of my salads. I left only what I used to class as “pure foods”. I poured the milk down the drain and drank only water. I skipped breakfast and lunch and eating the most minimal amount for dinner. I weighed myself twice a day. I was back to running three times a day - once at 3am which isn’t safe for anyone but I didn’t care because I just needed to not be F.A.T. The fact that all my clothes I was wearing were still 6s and 8s, with the occasional 10 for my hips, did not matter. That one pair of jeans had thrown me backwards two years in my recovery in a matter of seconds. I was frustrated. Confused. Hurt. Panicked. Broken.
The problem with H&M sizing, isn’t so much the sizing but how it makes you feel. Having to size up in clothes can be one of the most triggering and devastating situations, especially to young boys and girls. Coming to terms with your body changing is hard enough, never mind suffering from mental illnesses that manifest in your appearance. Although eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorder etc are rarely as simple as not being able to fit into the right size of clothing, it can be enough to set someone who is trying to recover back ten steps or can be enough to trigger someone into an illness.