Ladies, we all know how difficult clothes shopping is. Finding a pair of jeans that fits perfectly in the rear and the waist simultaenously is absolutey exhausting and generally a fruitless endeavor. When you’re struggling with body image and weight loss, shopping for clothes can get downright heartbraking. All of a sudden certain sizes don’t fit like they used to, and you find yourself having gone up a size (or even two!) despite weeks and weeks of eating healthy and exercising. Truth be told, it hasn’t been uncommon (even recently) for me to find myself in tears in a fitting room with half a rack of clothing that doesn’t fit. You leave the store with your clothes seeming to fit a little tigher than they did when you walked in.
Unfortunately I ran into this problem this weekend. I found an adorable shirt, and being the impulse buyer I am, I bought it despite it being what I thought was 2 sizes too big for me (what? It was the last one! 🙂 ). I didn’t bother trying it on until I got home. When I did eventually try it on, I was disappointed to see how well it fit. It was just right in the arms and while it was just a touch baggy in the front, it was tight enough to be considered just “loose-fitting” instead of too big. I was angry. More importantly, I felt hurt, and disappointed in myself. I felt like my body had betrayed me – I was trying so hard to eat right and keep exercising and stick to my nutrition plan and keep eating back my full 2600 calories a day, and what was it getting me? One more “X” on the tags on my clothes? I reluctantly sat down for dinner, wondering if it was even worth eating if I was just going to get bigger.
Fast forward and hour and Matt and I have settled into the couch for the night and I grab the hoodie I bought on our honeymoon. I didn’t think anything of it until about 20 minutes later when it hit me: this hoodie is a Medium. Imagine my confusion when I realize that this Medium fits me awesome but not 4 hours earlier, I had shoved myself into a 2XL that fit almost the exact same way this sweater did. After a few moments of confusion, I was reminded of the last few lines of my last self help article that encouraged a focus on the capabilities of my body rather than it’s shortcomings. And the conclusion this brought me too is that women’s clothing is incredibly difficult to find middle ground on.
Take for example these items:
Both of these shirts are mediums, bought within 2 months of each other. The shirt in the back fits me perfectly, but the shirt in front is very clearly way too small for me.
The hoodie fits me great with plenty of room in every area! The pink shirt is… well frankly it’s tight. And unflattering to say the least. It was uncomfortable to put on and I was glad to take it off. But the difference between the two is astounding – they’re both Mediums, so they really shouldn’t be all that different in size!
Surely this can’t be across the board? What about the size Large items I own?
If my last photoset is any indication, the pink shirt should fit me perfectly and the balck v-neck should be too tight… right?
Surprise! They both don’t fit! I was a bit too self conscious to actually take a decent picture with the black shirt, it literally does not fit any definition of the word “flattering”. So what’s the deal? We’ve been through 2 sets of clothes, and had some incredibly mixed results. Keeping in mind that this is just within my own closet, at this point in my fashion show from hell I’m already tired, crabby, and upset that my clothes don’t fit. Now imagine doing this in a store – realizing that the size you have is too small and having to make the “walk of shame” back out into the racks to see if the next size up fits. It’s enough to make anyone quit shopping and just wear sweatpants and hoodies forever (as much as I would love to do that, I don’t think work would like that too much). Let’s try the next size up, shall we?
These XLs go back to our original form: The red shirt fits great while the blue one… not so much.
The thing I want to point out here is that while these are both XLs, you can see in the first picture that on either side of the blue shirt, the red shirt has a good inch of room on either side. I don’t know about you, but 2 extra inches of room on a shirt within a single size just seems excessive!
Last but not least, we get to the first 2XL size shirt I have ever owned in my life:
Cute, right? I know 😛 But in all seriousness, this is the last shirt I put on this afternoon and I can’t tell you how excited I was – for a few reason: First off, the fashion show was over and I could breathe again not having to squeeze myself into clothes that no longer fit. And secondly, because this shirt actually fit me.
It is quite possibly the most disheartening thing in this recovery journey to put your heart and soul into your recovery, and have it return nothing but your worst fears. These last 10 months, it seems no matter how much I eat healthy and follow the plan and adapt to my body signals, the only thing I have to show for it is that I’ve put on enough weight to push me back over my heaviest weight ever. I’ve gained 3 jean sizes, 3 shirt sizes, and frankly I’m too scared to try on a dress and see where I’m at.
So where do we go from here? Knowing that recovery is more than about the size you are, and knowing how much variation sizes actually have in clothing – moving forward, how do we measure progress? So many folks go off of clothing sizes to guage progress when they’re trying to get healthy. I certainly did – I spent weeks destroying my body just so I could fit into a size Medium shirt. I bought the ever elusive “Goal Shirt” in hopes of motivating my “lazy self” to do more, push farther, and lose the weight I needed to fit into it.
But in the end, with as much variation that exists within clothing sizes, how can clothing be an accurate measurement of progress? While it can offer a general idea how much you’ve lost, it most definitely is not a good way to track your progress in general. When you’re trying to get healthy, measuring your progress by standards set by an ever changing base line should not be an option. Instead, try to measure your progress by your lifestyle changes, healthy habits you’ve formed, and heck, even self-image.
Don’t measure your progress by the things you put on your body – measure it by the things you’re capable of. Measure it by how many more minutes you can run without getting winded than you could when you started. Measure your progress by the things you wanted to cut from your diet – do you drink less soda? Do you drink more water? Do you get an extra serving of veggies in daily?
I would be lying if I said I loved everything about my body. I would be lying if I said the pictures above didn’t hurt to look at: seeing pictures of how tiny I was only a year ago to seeing what I look like now through a camera lens is painful. But beating myself up over the weight I’ve gained in an attempt to heal my body is a moot point. Beating myself up over the fact that I can’t pinpoint what “size” I am because that number or letter means almost nothing within my own closet, will most certainly lead me to relapse. So instead of obsessing over the tag on my new shirt, I will remember that I haven’t had soda in over 3 months. I will remember that I drink a gallon of water a day, and eat mostly whole foods with the occasional ice cream because some things in life are not worth giving up. I will remember that I’m capable of doing 60 minutes of Zumba without stopping, and I will remember that 6 months ago “deadlift” was not a work in my vocabulary but now I’m capable of deadlifting 30 pounds.
The tag on my new shirt sucks, and the pictures above suck. But the things my body can do definitely don’t suck. So that’s what we’re going to stick with.