Weight has always been a complicated facet of my life. Three years ago, I lost nearly 100 pounds and felt great about myself. Now having gained back 40 of those pounds, I feel that I’ve gained some vital perspective within the newfound inches around my waist. During my period of significant weight loss from 2013-2015, I was excited, to say the least, about being able to buy and fit into newer and smaller clothing. Now in the second half of 2017, some of those clothes barely fit me anymore. There was a time where I thought these clothes would be the wardrobe which lasted a lifetime, but life doesn’t often happen as planned.
Growing up, I was almost always overweight. Every year, I would often receive hand-me-down’s from older cousins, only a small amount of which would fit. I was a big kid. Not only was I tall, but I was heavy. Every time when I would visit the pediatrician’s office, he would show my mother that I was constantly soaring off the CDC weight chart. Needless to say, I’ve always been hyper-aware of my size. For most of my childhood, I donned husky jeans and shopped in the men’s clothing section long before other kids my age. As an aside, can we talk for a moment about how ‘husky’ is still a descriptive term for boy’s clothing? To me it seems tacky and outdated. If I wore husky pants, then I thought that I, too, must be husky. Unfortunately, it was all too easy for me to internalize that (thank you marketing companies). Apparently I’m not alone in this ordeal. Young girls get the same treatment, when their larger clothes are described as ‘plus-size’. In my ideal world, clothing manufacturers would market their clothes with more objective measurements such as waist circumference, chest circumference, inseam length, etc. Clothing of all sizes would be sold in the same store and only designated with styles and objective sizes and fits as opposed to subjective sizes and genders.
While we are on the subject of objective measures, let’s get to the real heart of the issue: Clothing sizes and how they affect us. Why is it that one of the most variable and subjective measurements is often the one we put so much weight into? (pun slightly intended) A men’s large garment from Carhartt might be double the size of a men’s large from Abercrombie & Fitch. When I was losing all of my weight a few years ago, I remember the excitement of buying newer, smaller clothes, finally ending with ‘large’ sized clothing. I remember the feeling of donning a men’s large tee shirt, feeling like I was less of a societal outlier because the world ‘extra’ did not appear in my clothing size any number of times. Large, to me, seemed like it was acceptable because I, too, was large (at least in height). I could tell people what clothing size I wore for the first time without feeling shame or embarrassment.
Needless to say, I didn’t fit into a men’s large forever. College happened. Stress happened. Anxiety & depression happened. My penchant for sugary baked goods happened as a result of the aforementioned two events happening. Basically, life happened. I started gaining weight and not really knowing why. I did the best that I possibly could to make sure I was eating a healthy diet while also making sure that I wasn’t a couch potato. Nonetheless, I kept gaining weight. Eventually, none of my ‘lifetime’ wardrobe fit me anymore. In many ways, this felt like a failure. I had imagined myself staying the same exact weight for the rest of my life and that I would also want to wear the same clothes for the rest of my life. Boy, was I wrong.
In many ways, gaining weight back felt like I was losing control of my life. It made me feel like I wasn’t caring about my health every time I stepped on the scale and it read that I had gained a pound or two. After I told myself that I would never weigh over 200 lbs again, but then became 200 lbs again, my health ultimatum seemed to be fading. When I no longer fit into my large clothes, it was out of the picture. With the weight gain, and with the life lessons that came along with it, I learned that success is not a linear path. Gaining or losing weight is not indicative of success or failure, in the same way that having to wear a clothing size larger isn’t. Learning that I was human and that I, too could gain weight back made me in part learn to accept my shortcomings and come to understand that I shouldn’t necessarily be putting so much weight (pun slightly intended) into thinking about my weight and my clothing size. A large percentage of people who lose a substantial amount of weight usually end up gaining it back, so come to find out that it wasn’t necessarily my fault. Clothing also does not remain the same size, either. The washing/drying process can significantly shrink clothes over time, so your large shirt that you bought two years ago might be closer to a medium if you keep washing it with hot water and drying it on high.
We should not allow clothing sizes, nor numbers on a scale dictate how we feel about ourselves. Self-love is a radical act not practiced anywhere near the amount it should be in our society. If you feel incomplete, rest assured someone will be right there trying to sell you a miracle fix in the form of snake oil or band-aids for your underlying problems and feelings of being insecure to make them appear as if they aren’t there. For the longest time, a small ‘X’ in front of an ‘L’ on the tag of a garment held so much power over me and my self-confidence. Where I’m at now in life, I feel much more confident about my body and my mind. I’m coming to understand that the best way to live a healthy lifestyle is to love yourself first, and the rest of what you’re looking for will follow. I wear ‘Extra Large’ clothing, and I am completely fine with that. I will refuse to allow clothing sizes to dictate my own self-worth from here on out. I may have gained 40 lbs back, but with that I gained a vital dose of body positivity. If you wear 2XL, 5XL, or XXS, love yourself and don’t give letters on the tag of a garment the power to define who you are. You are so much more than that.
Those are my thoughts, what are yours?