Monday, January 20, 2014

Clothes Make the (Wo)man

Every day we have to make decisions about what clothing to put on our bodies. We usually have sets of clothing for different environments: work clothes, workout clothes, casual clothes, summer/winter clothes, etc. Choosing clothing has been something I've struggled with throughout my life, although now my challenges relate more to how to pick the right running gear for the weather!

As I gained weight I had to keep buying new clothes, and as I lost weight I had to either dig out old clothes (if I kept them) or buy new ones. I've spent a lot of money on clothes in the last eight years, and I think people who have gained and/or lost extreme amounts of weight have probably spent more money on this than most. This was a challenge in itself, and I still find myself wearing clothes that don’t fit properly because I’m tired of having to buy new things over and over again.

Clothes shopping was easily my most upsetting and stressful task when I was going through the process of gaining and losing weight. I went through a growth spurt in first grade that left me taller and wider than almost all my peers. I never felt comfortable buying clothes as a child and then teenager, and I often wore clothes that were baggy and good at hiding the shape of my body. I had a brief period of time at the end of my senior year of high school through the first six months of college where I was my lowest weight before now (around 160) and I felt good about how I looked. I remember buying a bunch of new clothes and starting to dress in more form fitting clothes.


Unfortunately that period didn't last and as I gained weight I went back to my trend of baggy clothes. I also shopped a lot in the men’s department. This was partly because the clothes hid more and partly because I was exploring my queer identity by wearing men’s clothing. I absolutely hated going to the “fat girl” stores like Lane Bryant, although I would occasionally find something at Torrid that fit with my alternative aesthetic. I can’t tell you how many dressing rooms I've cried in, how many times I've left stores embarrassed and empty-handed, and how guilty I've felt about the money I spent on clothes that would fit for a few months at a time.

Baggy when it's cold...

Baggy when it's warm!

At my heaviest I was wearing a size 28 pants in women’s or 48 in men’s. I was wearing men’s 2XL shirts and basically could only buy women’s shirts at plus size stores. The initial weight loss was the most difficult for clothes as I dropped about 70lbs in six months. I know I relied a lot on clothes I’d gotten too heavy for. I had several periods where my weight stabilized for longer amounts of time, once around size 16 and again at size 12.

Now I wear clothes that fit, even if it's scary sometimes

I hit size 12 around 2011 and that’s when I really started to enjoy clothes shopping for the first time. I also got back into wearing more form fitting clothes, and I know I look much better in them than in baggy things. I honestly thought I’d be a size 12 forever (and was happy with that), but eating a clean plant based diet and running has caused me to drop to a solid 10 and sometimes 8. I've been toying with the idea of setting up some kind of online exchange website for women on weight loss journeys to trade gently used clothes as they gain/lose weight. I’d welcome any feedback on this, and wonder if anyone has already heard of something similar?

Some of my run gear!

On a related note, I usually don’t run on Monday but my schedule this week and the weather convinced me to take a run today. Unfortunately, my usual running gear was all in the washing machine! I had to wear clothes I usually use for other types of workouts and was also breaking in a new pair of shoes. I almost felt like a completely different person! I’m so used to my usual gear that those small changes were annoying me throughout my run! In case anyone is wondering I usually run in compression shorts/tights from Road Runner Sports, and I rotate between tanks/tees/long sleeved shirts depending on weather. When it’s cold I usually run in an Under Armour zip up hoodie that has inner pockets that are great for storing my phone and any gloves/hats I shed as I go. My experience this morning convinced me that clothes have a bigger impact in how we feel than we realize!

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