When the [RECOVERY] Jeans Don’t Fit

What do you look for first when shopping for jeans? 

Cut? Color? Wash? Hem?

SIZE?

Are you more inclined to purchase one jean brand over another because the size is smaller? 

That is certainly how I used to shop. My worth as a human being was tied into the size of my clothes and the number on the scale. The smaller the number, the more worth I carried as a human being.

I was smarter, faster, better if my size was smaller than the next person.

WHY?

Or better yet WHEN did size become a predictor of worth in our lives?

Remember when you were a kid and your parent would bring home cool striped turtlenecks and track suits form the Gap? (I’m an 80s baby). You didn’t look at the size. You tossed on your cool Umbros and rode down to your friends house. But at some point we received that unspoken message: size = worth.

I remember noticing size at a young age, around fifth grade. I was taller than my peers and bigger in every way. From my shirt to my shoes, everything was a bigger size.

As my eating disorder progressed in high school, size became my ultimate predictor of worth. I vividly remember buying my first pair of high-end, designer jeans. Sure, I remember the brand, but what I remember most was the size on the tag.

Like the number on the scale, these jeans became my measuring stick of worth. When my body fit perfectly within their denim stitching, I was a good girl, a worthy human. When my sides aka “muffin top,” spilled over the sides, I was ‘gross’, ‘huge’…unloveable.

Senior year of college, I was wearing my worth-predicting jeans when my college boyfriend (now husband) popped over to say hello. I hated his surprise visits. It meant I didn’t have time to ‘prepare’ – i.e. change into something that hid my disgusting body or come up with an excuse for him not to come over.

On this particular day/month, I was in an eating disorder swing of binging and purging, so my body barely squeezed into my jeans. But I wore them as a cruel reminder. I thought if the tight jeans pierced my skin, I would be reminded and shamed enough to stop eating and get that jean-perfect body back.

As we stood in my house’s tiny kitchen, I tried desperately to get him to leave, making up excuses of studying and other *important* college to do lists. He leaned toward me and placed his hand on my waist. I jumped about ten feet in the air as if I saw a rat.

“Oh my GOD,” I thought, “He felt it. He felt my gross muffin top side oozing over my jeans. He knows it. He knows I am fat and gross.”

I immediately made up some lame excuse and ushered him out the door, retreating to my room where I sobbed quietly into a pillow.

I kept the jeans on for the rest of the day. Cruel and unusual punishment.

December 14, 2010

I slid my beloved and hated ‘skinny’ jeans onto my body. Today, it was important that I fit in these jeans. Not because their size makes me worthy as a person, but their size somewhat made me feel like I belonged where I was heading.

A few hours later, I admitted to the Carolina House for treatment.  I thought if I looked skinny, maybe they would believe that I had an eating disorder – maybe I would believe I had an eating disorder.

In February 2011, my mom can to visit. We were out on a pass in my beloved Raleigh shopping mecca, Cameron Village. It was a beautiful day and I loved having my mom with me. We wandered into a store named ‘Beanie and Cecil’.

It was a high end boutique with precious clothing. Mom and I perused the racks and found designer jeans on the sale rack. 

SCORE! I instantly thought, quickly followed by…OH SHIT.

There is a reason the Carolina House had a ‘No Shopping’ rule, unless approved by your therapist. My therapist, Christy, had NOT approved shopping on my pass and definitely would have said ‘hard pass’ on the jeans shopping with mom.

As the disordered thoughts clouded my mind, I noticed them and let them pass. I was determined to live a life without my eating disorder and that included shopping.

I looked first at what color and cut I wanted and then went find my size, or what I was guessing would be my size. I could see a panicked look on my mom’s face. She knew first hand how many times my shopping sprees ended in sheer terror and tears, not to mention I was on pass from my eating disorder treatment center.

Not wanting to rock my emotionally unstable boat, my mom remained silent as I walked into the dressing room. I stood alone behind the swanky curtain and removed my ‘safe clothes’ – aka clothes that were stretchy and comfortable. I slowly slid on the jeans, balancing on one leg at a time, praying to the denim gods above to be nice.

“Stay calm, McCall. They are just jeans. You need new jeans. You need to shop without your eating disorder. You can do this.”

I pulled the jeans to my hips, then buttoned and zipped them. I walked out of the dressing room feeling proud and confident. Yes, the jeans were a bigger size, but the accomplishment I felt overshadowed the number on the tag within.

I exited the dressing room with a huge smile. I went jean shopping WITHOUT my eating disorder. Sure it was there, but I did not allow it to overtake me. I loved these jeans because I FELT good in them, not because of what size they were.

Needless to say, my mom treated me to my ‘recovery jeans’. I am pretty sure my mom would have paid $5,000 for the miracle jeans.

But oh the irony!

Shortly after I discharged, I was putting on my beloved ‘recovery jeans’ when the worst possible thing happened – they RIPPED.

Not because they were too small, but because I stretched them a bit too much. I would hang dry them and stretch them out so they wouldn’t shrink. Apparently, in my fear of denim shrinkage, I StretchArmstronged them a wee bit too much.

I called Paige brand jeans and cried to the poor woman, “You don’t understand…these are my RECOVERY jeans.” I sobbed as I explained what these jeans meant to me and the kind human on the other phone said they would ship a new pair ASAP.

A few months ago, I was Marie Kondo-ing my closet and came across the Paige jeans. I haven’t worn them in years because I prefer my jeans’ rise to be above my c-section scar and not look like a Britney Spears’ video from 1998. While my recovery jeans spark joy in the form of memories, I decided it is time to say goodbye.

In addition to the outdated super low rise cut (can I get an AMEN that mom jeans are back in style), they don’t fit. And I. DO. NOT. CARE. I have lived A HELL of a lot of LIFE in my nine years of recovery:

Babies, Southern Smash, Moves, Ups and many Downs…so much LIFE.

And now it is time to say goodbye. 

They don’t necessarily fit because my body is drastically different. They do not fit because the cut of jeans are different now AND so is my body. I no longer need to run to the store to squeeze into what size I think I should be, I simply buy the size that I am. 

No one said recovery would be simple. No one said it would be a straight path. And no one said loving yourself in a world that picks you to pieces would be easy – but it is possible.

So try this on for size: (super funny pun intended)

Shop for clothes that bring you JOY! Skip the numbers and find what fits YOUR beautiful body.

If you like something your friends don’t, rock it. Style and clothing can be an extraordinary portrait of who we are. I did not realize my ‘style’ until recovery and nine years later I am still having fun trying new trends – and ditching the old.

I have had zero issue giving away my 78 other pairs of low rise jeans, but these jeans were MINE. They were the first pair bought for ME, not for their size.

Good bye recovery jeans. Thank you for loving me during one of the most difficult times of my life. Thank you for reminding me that a bigger size does not mean a bad body and unworthy human. Thank you to my momma for holding her breath and buying those jeans all those years ago. Feel free to treat me to a new pair of jeans.

Clothing is so much more than the fabric that covers us. It is self-expression at its finest. I am so thankful to have discovered my style through my years of recovery. And I am extra grateful to have celebrated NINE YEARS of recovery Saturday, December 14.

Nine years ago I walked through the Carolina House doors not believing in recovery, not believing in myself. My belief system was built according to the number on the scale the size of my jeans.

Nine years and a hell of a lot of work later, I not only believe, but know that recovery is possible. And that life is SO much better when we push ourselves to smash the beauty standards cultivated by our disordered society!

Challenge yourself to shop for YOUR body, not what size you think you *should* be. It is just a number after all! And haven’t we all learned to smash that silly thing by now?

In love and light,

McCall

The Scale that Almost Divided Us

Something happened yesterday that jarred me…

As I unwrapped and loaded scales in boxes for our Alliance for Eating Disorders NOT ONE MORE walk in Orlando, Jordan came over and tossed a scale on the ground. He is a lighthearted, joking guy and was going to step on the scale. I immediately grabbed it from him.

It wasn’t about him weighing himself. He could careless and I don’t care if he does, but not with these scales and definitely not in our home.

His benign act, sent me backwards to a time when the scale wasn’t so benign. Ten years ago the scale was a horrific piece of metal that almost drove us apart.

He would find my scales hidden in closets and run them over. I would go buy more and the fight would repeat. Our fights were huge and I prayed he would leave me so I could die alone. I didn’t deserve his love.

Taken a few months before treatment

My eating disorder went far beyond the number on the scale, but the scale represented everything the eating disorder was to me…my best friend and my worst enemy.

Jordan could not understand why I could not see myself in the eyes he saw me. Why I couldn’t see the beautiful and amazing woman he saw. But I was blinded by numbers and my eating disorder, not knowing how to get through a day without them.

For quite some time after treatment, scales were my kryptonite. I could smell them out and sneak on to them…only to have the eating disorder get louder after each hop on the scale.

Even when I started Southern Smash, I was careful when I ordered scales. I would not dream of unboxing them and I did not keep them in my house. I did everything to protect my recovery.

Today is a different story. I have had twelve scales sitting in my office for a week. I haven’t given a single thought to taking one out and stepping on it. In fact, my dog has enjoyed chewing on their cardboard box all week.

Even yesterday as I unwrapped each scale (so not to have waste at our event. I can recycle at home), I don’t think twice about weighing myself. It is no longer my kryptonite. Scales are simply hunks of metal I get to help others destroy.

While Jordan didn’t realize the power of his lightheartedness, I’m so glad he did that because I got to realize just how far I have come. And how I have taken back ownership of something that was SO powerful over me.

And the icing on the proverbial eating disorder recovery cake…I get to pay it forward and pass the sledgehammer on. Helping others destroy something that tried to destroy them.

Recovery is a beautiful journey that never ends. I love learning more about myself, pushing myself and growing as a human being. Yesterday was a powerful realization that the thing that not only almost took my life and almost destroyed my marriage, no longer owns me.

Looking forward to destroying these twelve ripe scales tomorrow with a few hundred friends in Orlando…along with my Jordan and my two greatest recovery blessings.

How are you destroying what destroys you?

Finding Love In White Privilege

In college, I was a proud member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority at Ole Miss. My sorority years hold some of my most precious memories.

We were a group of strong, independent and bright young women – eager to make positive impacts on campus, while also having a little (or in my case – a little too much) fun along the way. Our bond ran deep; and to this day, we share a connection, continuing to support each other through all of life’s ups and downs – marriage, divorce, death, birth, cancer, suicide – the list goes on.

And sadly, just like with any group, sorority women carry numerous stereotypes and stigmas: self-centered, closed minded, air heads, sluts, the list goes on.

But the truth is, as a collective, we were none of those things. Yes, we were undoubtedly born with privilege. We were, after all, pursuing a high level of education with extra money to be a part of Greek life.

Probably the most common stereotype/myth is that sorority houses are breeding grounds for eating disorders. As someone who suffered an eating disorder while in a sorority I can call complete bullshit on that.

In fact, it was quite the opposite for me – and many others. All bodies were embraced and loved within the walls of KKG at Ole Miss. We had all shapes and sizes. My eating disorder was not caused or perpetuated by my sorority sisters. Years after coming out of the proverbial eating disorder closet, I received a message from one of my dearest sisters (who nicked named me after my middle name, Mims): 

Mimmsy—Thanks for sharing your story and struggle…it is so personal, but so good for others to know what you have been going through for such a long time. I am so proud of you for BEATING what has been haunting you for most of your life. Reading your story makes me feel sick…because I knew what was going on. I always suspected you were purging, and I found your laxatives at the Kappa house. We would take turns

following you around after meals and not give you the chance to be by yourself. I guess we thought we could annoy it out of you! I am SURE the annoying part worked, just not the helping! I wish that I would have gone about it in another way and tried to talk to you about it—and been the friend that you needed. I am sorry for not having the courage to confront you so long ago. I hope you are realizing how truly beautiful you are inside and OUT! Much love, XOXO​

Her message years ago was the catalyst for my passion to not only connect with Panhellenic groups, but as many college groups as I could. Students need to not only understand eating disorders and the warning signs, but where help and support is on campus.

I am proud to connect with Panhellenic communities across the country. And I’m really honored to work with ALL college groups – Health/Wellness, Active Minds, Body Positive, LGBTQ+️‍ – bringing everyone together to promote eating disorders awareness, health at every damn size and smash the mental health stigma, but this has not come without its own set of challenges.

I see it time and time again, students in one group shutting out another because they look different or are because they are part of a sorority. Then I watch, like a proud mom, as the students work together on SMASH day to promote positive body image and eating disorders awareness. 

I love seeing a sorority woman work a table with someone they might never interact with. Their kindness helping to lower the other’s persons guard and shatter the sorority stereotype. I watch in awe as blue haired students SMASH scales with not so blue haired students.

This is why I love this generation. They are not only ready to embrace others’ difference, but work together to help promote a cause that impacts them all.

At UNC Monday we had over 300 people attend our evening SmashTALK, many were sorority women. They sat engaged as they listened to the six of us on stage…four cis-gender women and two non-binary folks. Everyone sharing their story or expertise to educate the next generation of world changers. If these women were close minded they wouldn’t sit for nearly two hours in awe. They wouldn’t ask questions, listening to the lived experiences of those on stage. They wouldn’t show up.

I am well aware I, myself, live a privileged life as a cis-gendered thin and able bodied white woman. But do not mistake my privilege (or anyone else’s) for ignorance and simple mindedness.

Privilege or not, I have dedicated my life to educating ALL people and creating a platform for every BODY to tell their story. I proudly (and eagerly) hand over the SmashTALK stage and microphone to any size, shape, color, gender and every person in between. And student groups across the country have helped me to do just that.

Not only do we all deserve the right to tell our story, but the world needs to hear our stories. And as someone who has the ability and platform to help facilitate this, it is my duty and ultimate honor to open my stage to every BODY.

Love is love. People are people. We are not to judge others based on anything – color, sexual orientation, privilege or anything in between. Never assume privilege equals an easy life and do not think blue hair equals weird.

My students constantly amaze me and challenge my own thinking in how we can work together and embrace differences. Because at the end of the day and at the end of this life, it isn’t about what group we belonged to or if we wore Greek letters on our shirt, it is about how we treated every BODY around us.

Let my beloved UNC students be an example for us all – teaching us to not just accept, but embrace every BODY.

A Letter to My Today Show Mom Bod Haters

This week I was thrilled to create and write the feature essay for the Today Parent’s newest “Challenge”. My idea was to challenge moms across the country to embrace their ‘mom bods’ and tell us why the love them. The amazing Parent editor Terri Peters loved it so I created the Why I Love My Mom Bod Challenge with three goals in mind:

  1. Get mothers thinking about insecurities that possibly hold them back from being fully present with their children
  2. Celebrate mom bodies in all their glory and how they come in all shapes and sizes
  3. And most importantly, how to instill a positive body image in our children by leading by example

Not only did Today Parents share my essay, but the Today Show did as well. This isn’t the first time a piece of mine has been shared with its over six million followers. And it is definitely not the first time my writing has caught criticism. But it is the first time many critics completely ignored the message because they could not get passed my physical appearance.

They always say, “Never read the comments,” but this is different. I want to be a part of the conversation. However, I quickly realized the comments went way beyond what I could answer in one day’s sitting. And to be perfectly honest some comments stung more than others. Not because of what they said about my body, but sadness because so many commenters used my mom bod as another vehicle to put their own down.

Normally, I would not take time to respond to such comments, but it did not sit right with me that so many readers completely missed the message, blindsided by their overwhelming need to comment on my physical appearance.

Therefore, I want to take a minute to address some of my favorite comments. There were hundreds of comments, making it hard to pull just a few. But somehow I just got tired of reading and deemed these the ‘best’ of the bunch.


The “You Don’t Have a Good Enough Mom Bod to Say You Have a Mom Bod” Comments

“Yeah, probably helps if she actually had a mom bod”

“I wished my ‘mom bod’ looked like that!”

“Soooo…where is her mom bod?”

I must have missed the lecture in Motherhood 101 that clearly defined what a ‘Mom Bod’ looks like. I did not realize that simply having a body and being a mother was not good enough to say I have a Mom Bod.

If stretch marks and belly rolls will justify my mom bod, then I can show you photos of that too. But I don’t feel the need to prove my mom body because pictures NEVER tell the whole story.

My worst Mom Bod scars cut deep – both mentally and physically. The scar that runs across my lower abdomen is my daily reminder of one of the scariest days of my life. It is where my daughter was pulled (literally) out of my body at just 27-weeks old in an emergency surgery. She weighed 1-pound, 15-ounces and remained in the NICU for nearly three months.

“You should wear a one piece suit”

“Love what she says, but her boobs do not hit her knees”

I can wear whatever the hell bikini, monokini, tankini or thong I want. I do wear one pieces to the beach and public places because I still have children that have no concept of private parts and like to use my swimsuit as a ropes course.

Also, one pieces are extremely hard for me to wear because my breasts do hit my knees. Okay, maybe that is an exaggeration. But let me tell you that the girls hang LOW. This is thanks to my premature daughter who I would gladly sacrifice my body for a million times over.

After many (many) months of solely pumping on my medical grade breast pump, it seems as though the pump not only took milk, but every ounce of breast tissue I had. Bathing suits, especially one pieces are hard for me to find. Bikinis work best for my low hanging gal pals because with a crane and a good strong square knot behind my neck I can raise them up to a ‘normal (ish)’ level.


The “I’m just looking for followers” Comments

“Another look at me bullshit blogger. That is not the typical mom bod.”

“Another Mom blogger looking for followers.”

You are correct: I am a mom AND I am a blogger. Where you went wrong is that the last thing I am looking for is followers. Sure, I have followers who read my blog. But I would actually have to be actively blogging all the time, posting, cross posting and know how to use that damn LinkTree (which I still can’t figure out.)

What you don’t know is that this blog started anonymously eight years ago as a way for me to navigate the rough terrain of eating disorder recovery. I was so ashamed of my story and felt I was a terrible writer so I did not share this blog with anyone. The blog’s sole purpose was for me to connect with the online eating disorder recovery world – anonymously.

Eight years later, I still blog. But there is no rhyme or reason to my writing. I write when I feel like, whatever I feel like. This blog served as my daily therapy outlet during my daughter’s early birth, her cancer journey and the loss of my best friend last year.

Followers are the last thing I am after. I could care less if I have one follower (thanks, mom) or one million, all I do here is tell my story for my own therapeutic satisfaction. I write from time to time for Today Parents because it is a beautiful (for the most part) community of amazing parents sharing the hardships and humor of this wild ride called parenting!


The “It’s Easy to Love Your Body When It Looks Like that” Comments

“She’s pretty thin with no discernible fat rolls, stretch marks or loose skin. A lot of women would have her attitude if they had her figure.”

“It’s easy to love your body when it looks like that.”

Let me tell you a little secret: happiness and body love has nothing, absolutely nothing to do what your physical appearance.

One more time for the folks in the back:

Happiness and body love has nothing, absolutely NOTHING to do what your physical appearance.

I have been much smaller and much bigger than my current body size and I was miserable and hated every inch of my body.

Body love does not automatically happen because you go Keto, drop xx pounds and fit into that perfect bikini. You are the same person a few pounds lighter and probably hungrier too.

My journey to self love happened over many, many years of hard work. I literally almost killed myself trying to achieve perfection and the perfect body. It doesn’t exist. But what I do know is that

I LOVE my body.

AND that doesn’t mean I have to like it every day. Sure I still have my blah days where I don’t want to put on my bathing suit. But I know society has programmed me to go to war with my body instead of the deeper rooted issue at hand.

Maybe on those body blah days I’m feeling anxious or stressed. So I do exactly opposite of what the gremlin in my head says – I throw on the damn swimsuit and soak up some sun.

When you can start to see your body as a beautiful vessel, an instrument that carries your precious soul through this crazy thing called life, then maybe you, too, can start loving and nourishing your body the way it deserves to be taken care of.


So say what you want about my body. I could care less. It won’t ruffle my feather or keep me out of a ruffle bikini. But before you comment on MY body, take a look in the mirror at YOUR magnificent body. See it for what it is – an extraordinary vessel and instrument. And while you are looking in that mirror look at that tiny human standing in your shadow, watching your every move.

Do you want them comparing their beautiful belly to a stranger’s on the internet? Or do you want them to look in the mirror and think to themselves, “I’m awesome!” I’m guessing it is the latter.

Comparison is the thief of JOY…and body love!

So stop comparing and start LIVING. Here is to ALL Mom Bods: big, small, tall, short, round, dimply, low gal pals, small gal pals, silicone gal pals and to every shape in between. I salute you and will see you at the beach!

Ditching the BUSY Diet

Yesterday, I almost forgot to eat…almost. It was one of those work from your car, the hair salon and be the kids’ chauffeur kind of days. I couldn’t help but think of a diet I used to be a big fan of – the BUSY Diet.

I grew up hearing the phrase, “I was so busy today, I forgot to eat.”

This led me to connect that forgetting to eat (aka restricting) means you are busy and productivity means you are worthy. Stopping to eat and nourish my body quickly became equated to weakness, shame and/or worthlessness. After every meal or binge, I would berate myself, “Why can’t I ‘forget’ to eat?” I was embarrassed to eat in front of others because in my head it meant I was lazy and worthless.

The BUSY Diet and its harmful ‘I forgot to eat’ language echoed the halls of high school, my home and reverberated throughout my life for years to come. Now that I am a proud member of the motherhood gang, I hear about the BUSY Diet on the days that end in ‘y’. It makes me thankful for my recovery and sad that so many busy themselves in hopes to numb out uncomfortable feelings or anxiety.

I get it. We are B-U-S-Y. I have had plenty of days where I look at my watch and it is 1pm and I have to scramble to find lunch. I also get the physical appeal of forgetting to eat. That feeling of emptiness and maybe even the number on the scale going down because you are so busy. Of course, when the number on the scale goes down, the compliments increase only reinforcing the BUSY diet.

I’m thankful to have escaped from the BUSY Diet…and my eating disorder. Food is no longer on my brain 24/7, but neither is busyness! Sure, I’m off-balance most days, juggling work, kids and the Dempsey zoo. With the chaos of my life, I forget A LOT in my daily life – kids’ lunch boxes, those 100 solo cups I signed up to bring to school Friday, returning emails, texts, calls and any other form of communication…the list of “Things McCall forgot” goes on…and on…and on. But one thing I never forget is to eat.

I wrote this blog from Zoe’s Kitchen where I grabbed a late lunch before picking up my ballerina for dance class. After a late breakfast and coffee, I headed to my once a year hair appointment (praise up for fresh hair!), left the salon at 1pm, ran to Target (because I refuse to take my children into Target, especially Marjorie, it turns into a 2-hour trip looking up and down every aisle.) After Target, I planned to go home and eat, but time got away from me. Marjorie isn’t the only one with time management issues at Target.

I was starving and knew I didn’t have time to make it home. So off to Zoe’s Kitchen I went and ate all by my happy self. I could have EASILY ran three more errands or stopped at a coffeeshop to work, filling up on caffeine instead of the real calories my body needed. But, alas, the beauty of recovery!

In a world that tells us we should GO-GO-GO, recovery tells us the opposite: slow down and take care of your body. I wish everyone could understand and embrace the recovery lifestyle. I am so thankful for my eating disorder for giving me the opportunity to learn how to live a life that honors who I am: mind, BODY and spirit.

Mom life keeps us busy enough. Hell, I don’t know how I make it through most days without forgetting a kid or locking the dog outside (actually forgot the cat outside last night so never mind). My main motivation for recovery was to be a good role model for my kids. I would never want my kids to deny themselves food for the sake of productivity so why would I do that to myself?

I slow down to nourish and recharge. I cannot pour from an empty cup. And Lord knows a hangry momma isn’t a fun momma!

The BUSY Diet is just as bad as every other diet. Being productive does not make you a worthy and capable human being. You are worthy as you are. Take time for YOU. Slow down. Rest. Recharge. And go again.

Skip the coffee and get some real food. (Or get coffee with real food). I highly recommend Zoe’s chicken roll ups 😉

PS…While busyness isn’t an excuse to not eat, busyness is my excuse for not paying more attention to this blog. Life has been cray-CRAY. And I can get perfectionistic with this blog – perfect title, photos, links, etc. So I will be ripping off the perfection band-aid and heading back to the imperfect world where I live. Stay tuned and subscribe because I plan to be writing a lot more imperfect posts 😉