In preparation for beginning Project 333 on April 1st, I tried on most of my clothes. I did this so I could select the best 33 garments to wear over the next three months. That process resulted in both good news and bad news…
The Good News – Letting Go
The good news was that I eliminated a number of items in my closet which no longer work for me. Trying things on really helped me to make decisions about the fate of many wardrobe pieces. If you think a garment in your closet is fine but haven’t worn it recently, I highly encourage you to try it on!
Our perceptions of our clothing are often way off! Pieces we may have loved in the past might be all wrong for our current lifestyle, body shape, and sense of style. Trying things on allows us to break through any illusions we may hold about what to keep and what to release.
The Bad News – Weight Gain
Now for the bad news… As I tried on my warm weather clothing, it became abundantly clear that I’d packed on at least a few extra pounds during the cooler months. I almost never weigh myself, as I find the number very “triggering” and bad mood inducing. I allow a simple three-digit figure to mean far too much about me and my worth as a human being. Although I’ve overcome the majority of my eating disorder issues (see “History of a Shopaholic”), the last vestige of my two-decade struggle is negative body image.
Perception is Reality
Those who are close to me refer to me as slim. I was even described as “willowy” in a recent article written about me. But in my eyes, I often regard myself as “chubby” or “a bit overweight.” My weight tends to fluctuate by five to ten pounds regardless of my efforts to keep it in check.
Admittedly, it would be easier to control my weight if I could force myself to mount the scale periodically, but I break into a cold sweat when I even think about approaching that seemingly benign household appliance. I try to use my jeans as a “weight barometer,” but such measures aren’t really reliable, especially given pre-menopausal water retention (fun times…).
Wanting to Escape Through Shopping
During my try-ons in late March, I encountered skirts and dresses with tight waistbands and bulging fabric in the hip region. Besides struggling to hold back my tears, I was struck by a strong urge to… go shopping. I wanted to bury my anxiety and self-criticism in the “thrill of the chase” and the excitement of the new. Yet I’ve become self-aware enough to know my desire was more for positive feelings than for new garments to fit my slightly larger shape.
I’ve long searched for self-esteem and validation through my clothing. I believed that the right outfit could somehow alleviate my feelings of inherent unworthiness and elevate me to the status of “okay” and “enough.” Hundreds of garments later, I still struggle with poor body image and low self-esteem, along with a packed closet and a smaller bank account. The famous Dr. Phil might ask, “How’s that working for you?” I’d have to honestly answer, “Not very well…”
Tight Clothes Don’t Facilitate Weight Loss!
As I wrote in my recent article, “The Reasons We Shop Too Much,” many people avoid shopping when they’ve gained weight. They force themselves to endure tight garments until they get their weight under control. I’ve seen threadbare clothes in the closets of many women I’ve known, often because they didn’t feel worthy of new items until they reached their ideal weight.
I always advocate that people have at least a few outfits which fit their current shape and that they love. Heaping ill-fitting, worn-out clothes on top of weight-related self-recrimination is like adding insult to injury. It’s far better to feel comfortable and attractive in what we wear, and it’s more likely to motivate us to take the steps required to shed excess pounds.
Seeking a “High” More than New Clothes
Unlike many other women, I have shopped too much when I’ve gained weight, as well as when I’ve lost weight. In both cases, I was seeking the “high” of shopping more than some new clothes to wear. Of course that high was only temporary, soon to be replaced by shame for over-shopping and even more negative feelings about myself.
I was at the cusp of Project 333 when I realized the extent of my weight gain. While I was unhappy with that reality, I still had plenty of clothes which fit me well. I was easily able to find 33 garments to wear (and hopefully love) over the next three months. Although some of my wardrobe “all-stars” didn’t make it into my Project 333 capsule due to poor fit, a number of other favorites worked just fine. There’s no need for me to shop for new things because I’ve packed on a few pounds.
I Have Enough, But Am I Enough?
I know that I have enough to get me through the three months of Project 333 in comfort and style. It’s quite another thing to feel that I am enough – and okay – even with some extra pounds on my frame. While I believe I’ll slim down a bit now that I’m aware of the weight gain, I’d like to get to the point where I can feel okay about myself even before I lose weight. I’m not there yet…
I want to shop to alleviate my pain and anxiety, to let the clothes tell me I’m okay, that I’m still attractive. But that won’t solve anything. I’ll just end up poorer, with more clothes in my closet, and with shame for my lack of willpower (in shopping as well as eating). So I choose to refrain from shopping and let myself be with my feelings, no matter how unpleasant they may be.
The world won’t end simply because I packed on a few pounds. I will survive. I don’t need to shop. I don’t need to feel ashamed. I hope I’ll soon believe that not only do I have enough, but I also am enough – right here, right now.