In the back of my mind a little voice used to wonder if getting a job would help me with my eating. If it would be the missing piece of the equation that kept me securely on the wagon and permanently off the yo-yo dieting rollercoaster. Because that little voice used to whisper that maybe my eating was from habit and from boredom, and maybe that eating was rooted in having no “passion” or purpose to my days or in my life, and maybe a job could alleviate boredom, interrupt bad habits, and fill my life with some meaning. I know there’s no magic pill, but maybe working could be somewhat magical in the changes it brought to my life. Maybe?
Here’s what I can tell you from my short stint as a working woman:
Having to wear your own store’s clothes is a great motivator. Partly so that I can fit into the ones I already owned. Partly so that I can feel more comfortable trying on styles. And partly so I can be happier when I buy new clothes that I’m getting my “happy size.” And, yes, I have great expectations that not wanting to have to shop in my own store for new clothes in bigger sizes will be an awesome deterrent to ever again regaining any significant amount of weight!
When I’m working I’m not eating. Ta da! How simple is that?! I might put in a four-hour shift and not think about food even once. And yet I know that if I’d spent those same four hours at home, my mind would have gone to food often, and my hand and mouth might have then followed. What a novel idea – that I can go all afternoon or all evening or two hours past my normal lunchtime and not be eating or even missing eating or even thinking about eating.
Food temptation follows me everywhere. In our “back room” there is a bin of “community” food. I’ve done my best to ignore it. In my first week I was already offered crackers (which are like crack to me) and, gasp, chocolate (the nectar of the gods), by nibbling coworkers. So far I’ve done great with a simple “no thank you.”
Planning is key in this as in all things. I think about what I’m going to eat next. If I know my shift will run over a mealtime, I eat something hearty and healthy before I leave the house, even if I’m not hungry. Dinner at 4:30 can be tough to get down. A second breakfast at 10:30am is a bit easier. I’ve put a small bag of almonds into my purse for “emergencies.” And I’ve packed a snack of cut peppers to eat in the car on my drive home so I don’t walk in the door famished. This week will be the first time I work a longer shift over the dinner-hour. I’ve already planned what I’ll bring from home for a quick, healthy, just-filling-enough “meal.”
Hydrating is hard. I don’t want to drink too much before I got to work because, as I’m sure you can imagine, I don’t want to make repeated trips to the bathroom. “Excuse me while I leave the floor; I have to visit the potty again.” I can’t drink while I’m actually working except if I make a trip to the back. Some of my co-workers keep water bottles there. And there’s a water cooler with cups that I’ve taken advantage of a few times, just a few sips to wet my very dry whistle. So I’ve taken to leaving a water bottle in the car so I can rehydrate on the way home.
I still only look normal. I am sure that on the outside, to my new colleagues, I look “normal.” After all, I wear a size small in most of their pants. They’ve seen me in more body-hugging clothes than I typically wear. At work I’m not a reforming yo-yo dieter or a woman who bares her soul and eating issues in a blog. I have a clean slate. And I intend to keep it that way. But on my first day when my manager asked if I wanted to stay longer to try on pants, my mind immediately went to “but I haven’t lost those few extra pounds yet.” And how self-conscious I’d feel modeling such fitted attire in front of people I hardly know. And… well, there was an inner “eek” but an outward “sure.” It was good for me, I think, to “let it go” and to push that part of me away and outside the store and to just be, well, normal.
A little padding is the girls’ best friend. I’ve told you before that to say I am not well endowed would be an understatement. Mostly, I’ve come to peace with my itty bitty titties, and enjoy the freedom of an often braless life. But, don’t worry, I harness the (little) girls when clothes or situations demand it. But for work I’ve taken it one step further. I’ve done something I’ve shied away from in the past. Worn a padded bra. Gasp! As tiny as I am, I’ve never wanted to look like anything other than myself. (Okay, I did really wish I had bigger boobs, but since I didn’t, I was going with the natural look. I mean, really, can you imagine if one day you see me as my boobless self and the next you see tiny odd-shaped things sprouting from my previously flat chest?) But the reality is that my body doesn’t look good in most fitted clothes and that includes workout tops. So, a little bit of (mostly) natural looking padding it is. And my guess is no one is the wiser.
Maybe I think I’m bigger than I am. Or maybe not. Maybe I just like my clothes comfy and have gotten used to wearing things loose and unfitted. Whatever the reason, every time I try on pants with my boss around she tells me, “those are too big on you.” The other day I went in just to try stuff on (to learn more about how styles fit on my own time) and was actually feeling very comfy in one of our new capris from our casual (non-exercise) line and, sure enough, my manager told me, “you need a smaller size.” And one of her regular customers got into the act, telling me they did indeed give me “mom butt.” Well, I am a mom; I have a butt. And I prefer that over visible panty lines! Honestly, I don’t think I have a distorted self-image. But I do think I have gotten lazy about what I wear and have always put comfort over style. That might have to change now that customers might be paying attention to how clothes look on me.
I wonder if everyone is like me. Does every woman think she has problem areas? Every time I get dressed for work I’m aware of mine. My (every-increasing-with-middle-age-despite-ab exercise-and-healthy-eating) muffin top showing under my fitted exercise top and above my fitted low-rise waistband. My visible panty lines that cut across my butt and the nearby saddle bags that show beneath my long-but-not-long-enough-to-cover-that jackets. The cankles so clearly defined between the snug top of my exercise socks and the bottom of my capri pants that hit at the widest, least flattering part of my lower leg. I tell myself, “stop it.” I tell myself, “everyone thinks she has a problem area.” Or two. Or three. But then I wonder if maybe some people don’t! And I am only just beginning to appreciate my role selling clothes to women who may have body issues of their own!
So, there you have it – the inner workings of the mind of an over-thinking reforming yo-yo dieter, transitioning to a new definition of self thanks to the new focus of a new job and a new normal.