How Getting Rid Of This One Item Changed My Life

August 13, 2021 – 10:02 pm

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.

Something good is happening lately — I feel fitter, happier, and in control. My clothes seem to fit better than they used to and I'm more energized and confident. No, it's not the latest fad diet. I haven't changed a thing about my workout routine. Here's the thing: I no longer own a full-length mirror.

Mirrors weren't always a problem for me. When I was young, I hardly gave my reflection a second thought. I was a skinny kid — the little girl with a voracious appetite and endless energy. As a teen, I could eat what I pleased: A cheesy Buffalo chicken calzone, big helpings of my mom's unbeatable spaghetti, sandwiches piled high with cold cuts. Even with college nights of heavy drinking and the late-night eats that went with them, I only gained a few auxiliary pounds. In fact, I loved food so much that I made it my job after graduation when I became an assistant editor at a national food publication in New York City.

New York. A job. I was an adult. And, just like that, my pizza party was over.

I started gaining weight — fast. Pants ripped unceremoniously. Sweaters grew tight in the shoulders. Cellulite showed up in places I never knew it could (Arms? REALLY?!). My identity as the skinny girl who could hold her own at 25-cent wings night, was shaken. My metabolism had come to a screeching halt; for the first time, I felt the need to watch what I ate. But, the "eat what I want, when I want it" mentality was nearly indelible after a lifetime of being able to do exactly that.

The one thing that ate me alive was seeing my new body in my full-length mirror.

I knew I'd gained weight, but I didn't want to let it change my life. I conducted business as usual: Dinner or drinks with friends five nights a week (with guilt-erasing healthy lunches, and a workout here and there). But the one thing that ate me alive was seeing my new body in my full-length mirror.

I'd always been an indecisive dresser, but now it was out of control. Mornings began with me ripping through my drawers and closet for multiple outfit changes and painstaking tweaks. If a pair of jeans made my legs look too thick or a shirt didn't fall perfectly, I'd nix them — even if, to everyone else, I looked great. The dressing panic became a habit; I was consistently running late for work, missing big chunks of movies, and — in one extreme circumstance — losing a reservation at a restaurant because I spent so long deliberating over a dress.

This anxiety may seem obsessive, but it's not at all unusual. According to research done by the NYC Girls Project, a municipal group dedicated to raising the self-esteem of young women, a fear of being overweight typically begins at the age of 10. We are taught that a perfect appearance is the end-all-be-all. We're taught to hate our flaws — not embrace them.

It's those voices that chip away at our self-confidence, and despite my skinny youth, they'd finally gotten to me, too. As much as I hate to admit it, whenever I caught my reflection in the mirror in a less-than-glamorous state, it instantly triggered those nasty thoughts — especially when I was still adjusting to my curvier body.

By the time I left my job at the food magazine, I'd gained 25 pounds. I got a new job as a travel writer, moved from my home in Brooklyn to the healthier, more active town of San Francisco. My full-length mirror did not come with me. It wasn't deliberate; just a question of logistics. I figured I'd pick up a new one when I got there. During that first California run to Target, I focused on all the major necessities: Sheets, towels, toiletries, shelving, a lamp. Afterward, I realized that somehow, a mirror didn't make it onto the shopping list. I shrugged and told myself I'd get one the following week. Winging my outfits for a couple days wouldn't be that bad.


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