Yeah, I know. “The role of clothes in my diet” makes it sound like “the role of fiber in my diet”. But I realized this weekend how much of motivating factor having decent clothes is in this whole shift toward a healthier diet is for me.
This weekend I did a mild closet purge. I tend to be a routine closet purger, anyway. About once a year I go through a drawer that doesn’t get opened much and toss the things I forgot existed. I like to free up hangers instead of buying new ones by going through the back of my closet and taking a close look at what I’ve been ignoring and getting rid of it. I live in a small apartment with my husband, so we both have to be pretty conscientious about how our stuff is taking up space.
I hadn’t done a closet purge in almost two years, though. The weight of 73 pounds has been coming off for about 15 months now, but I hadn’t done a serious closet overhaul. I bought a couple of new pairs of jeans and some leggings when my old ones were just falling off of me, but in terms of dresses and blouses, I had just been making do.
Part of the issue, however, was that I wasn’t quite ready to let go of my dresses. I’ve lived in fit-and-flare or maxi dresses for about six years now, loved most of them and liked all of them. You see, a few years ago when I found myself over 270 pounds and back in full-time work after taking care of my mom for nearly nine years, I decided that I wanted clothes I felt comfortable with, but looked decent in. When I found eShakti, a shopping site where the style suited me and had sizes I could customize, I built up a wardrobe of fit-and-flare or boho style dresses I felt good in. I looked presentable, felt pulled together, and the confidence I didn’t know had waned was given a bit of a boost. The dresses ranged from simple blue chambray for work to flowing floral maxis for fun. I got tons of compliments on them and, even at my size, knew I looked lovely in them. My wedding dress was ordered from eShakti and I had (and still have!) every confidence that I was a gorgeous full-figured bride.
So getting them out of my closet has been difficult because of my attachment to what they did for me. Some of them I could belt and wear a little longer. But others now slide off of my shoulders or don’t fit in the bust well enough to fake it.
I was considering today, though, that without those dresses in my life at my heaviest, I probably never would have had the confidence to take my weight and health issues in hand to begin with. People often think that larger women feeling good about themselves and how they look “glorifies obesity.” We’re told that we have to feel awful about ourselves and since we feel awful about ourselves, we’ll magically want to become “healthier” (read: thinner) people.
(I’m not going to unpack everything that is wrong with the aforementioned notion today. There is too much.)
My experience, however, has been the opposite. Yes, I felt literally sick in the months before my pre-diabetes diagnosis. Yes, I was not thrilled with my weight or how I looked. Yes, it took being given a poor medical report to get me doing what was right for myself.
But you know what NEVER got me to lose weight? Feeling shitty about myself in general.
At least if I wore some nice clothes on the regular, even though it is waaaay not required in my workplace, my self-image got a little vitamin shot most days. Combined with my smarts, accomplishments, and some basic hygiene, I was able to face the world with a sense of pride each day. I decided that even at 270+ pounds, I was going to do what I could to show up for myself and feel as good as I was able.
It was that practice of showing up for myself and deciding how I was going to live in the world each day that laid the foundation for feeling as though I COULD lose the weight and live a healthy life that feels good in my body. Dressing like a schlep every day led me to thinking like a schlep and feeling like a schlep. And when I stopped schlepping, I started doing. Feeling better about myself helped me improve myself. Feeling shitty about myself has never gotten me anywhere.
Now’s the time I’m going to give the caveat that if you deal with chronic depression or any serious mental health struggles, changing your clothes obviously isn’t a fix. But once you have your treatment in-hand in terms of medication and support, purging your closet may be a small, simple place to begin practicing showing up for yourself on the daily.
For me, seeing those lovely dresses I adored for so long stopped being a daily joy. I started feeling sad that I could no longer wear so many of them. So it is time to get rid of them.
I’ve found, both at a size 28 and a size 18, that when I look through my clothes in my closet and everything fits me as I am right now and I like the way I look in those clothes, I feel happy and able to face the day a little better. Feeling sad that I couldn’t wear things in my closet became a cloud over the morning that didn’t need to be there.
So I packed away the two dresses I had the most sentimental attachment to and have bagged up the rest for a friend to look through. The rest will get donated so hopefully some other woman can feel good in them. Now I have no-stress items in my closet to choose from and I know I feel pretty good in them.
And feeling pretty good is what keeps me going.