Thursday, November 13, 2014

Letting go of disordered ideas about clothing sizes

When I was heavier (almost 200 in 2004 and almost 150 in 2011), I really HATED clothes shopping. I wanted to hide my body in a sack. So I bought clothes that were too big for my body, and I was larger in the first place. I hated seeing really high numbers or the letter "X" on the clothing tag. I avoided getting clothes as much as humanly possible.

As I got smaller, I really started to enjoy clothes shopping - because I was proud of my body, now, and wanted to show it off! Also, it helped me mentally that the numbers were lower or the letters were "S" or "M" (even an "XS" at Old Navy, haha, vanity sizing!).

But, initially, even though I was at a healthy weight, my brain was still very disordered. I was obsessing over numbers (calories, weight, clothing tags, whatever) and wanted to see the lowest numbers possible. I would avoid trying on clothes whose sizing ran small (meaning if you were a size 4 normally, you'd fit into an 8) just to NOT have to buy a bigger size.

Not good. Kind of stupid. I didn't wear clothes because of a hidden number on the tag?

As I've done more and more work on my mental health in the past few years, I've let a lot of the obsession go. I've learned that numbers don't define me.

My body is the size it is, whether the clothing tag says "S" or "L"... clothing manufacturers do really whatever the hell they want when it comes to determining size. They are playing to certain markets. I just have to ignore it.

Now, when I shop, I usually have NO idea what I will fit into. I grab all sorts of sizes in a best guesstimate sort of way. Tops are different than bottoms. Cuts determine size. And it all just does NOT matter. What matters is getting clothes that flatter you and that you feel terrific in!

Here are some of the many articles online that discuss vanity sizing and why what size you buy doesn't really say much about your body:

For example, I went to H&M, bought a size small top and pants in a size 10.

It was the first time in a long time that I bought double-digit sized clothes and I had a momentary pang of "OH NO!"... a flashback to the old days when my weight, how many calories I had eaten or my size determined my worth (in my own mind, anyway). A bad time.

But then I got real. It was a tag and a number. It's from a more youthful store, skinny cut pants, etc... the sizes are going to be different. My body is the same as it was before I put those pants on and I was happy with my body then, so I had to be happy after :) 

I felt great and professional and trendy and confident in my pants. The tag doesn't define ANY of that about me:

There is a lot of craziness in this modern Western world - lots of messed up ideas about health and worth and beauty. I have pursued health in body AND mind, and it has been worth it. Trying to ignore all the stimulus in this society is very hard... but looking inward is where you will find your real worth (not to say that you shouldn't pursue physical health... it all goes together. Body and mind create a feedback loop, healthy or sick).

It is a fine line we all walk - pursuing health while trying to weed out the disordered ideas about health in our own society. To love our bodies as they are while still reaching for better physical health. To know we are beautiful while the media tries to tell us we aren't good enough. It's a mess, but it's worth the struggle to figure it out, though :)


  1. Bravo! Being 5'1" and shopping in the nicer re-sale shops, I had to get over vanity sizing and go for fit, spandex for my lose skin, price, and colors to match my work clothes.

    Glad you are making your way to peace in the dressing room and blogging about it. :)

  2. I used (when the final bits of my weight were off) to have to try things on in three sizes. The size I thought I was, one size bigger, one size smaller. I have very broad shoulders. Sometimes I needed the one size bigger. Often I needed the one size smaller. Sometimes I needed two sizes smaller.

    I rarely try things on in three sizes any more. But I almost always, still to this day, try things on in at least two sizes.

    When I first got down to my current size (2009) I went on many trying/no buying expeditions. I would lock my purse in the trunk of my car so I could freely move in and out of the dressing room. And I would go (usually to Macy's) and just try on tons to different styles/cuts in many different sizes. If I found something I really thought worked on me, I would make note, wait 3-5 days and then back and reconsider for purchase.

    I had to break a lot of habits at this time. I would gravitate toward the styles with no waistline, no definition because that is what worked in my fat belly days. I had to make myself try new things.

    Currently I do most of my purchasing on line. I order the exact same thing in two sizes. I order enough so I get free shipping. I only buy from places that have a local store for free returns or offer free shipping for returns. And then I try on, at home, several times, trying new things with the clothes/shoes in my current wardrobe.

    It took a long time to get used to the full length mirrors in dressing rooms (2009-10). It took me a long time to have a full length mirror at my house, in fact I finally got one just last year. I honestly think if I had ALWAYS had a full length mirror, I would not have gained as much weight as I did. And I would have started the process to lose it a lot sooner. Facing cameras and mirrors would have helped and was an important part of my process.

  3. Too funny! I've been cleaning out my closets and although all the items fit, the sizes range from 6 to 14. GAP seems to be the worst about vanity sizing (although it's fun to believe I'm a 6 lol) and if I buy anything from Target it's generally a size L or XL.

    Love your work outfit! Cute cute cute :)

  4. Hey! I love what you said! Number do NOT define you!!! That is so right. It takes time to change how we think--it's a habit change! So keep going and be patient and kind to yourself! You're awesome:)

  5. GREAT post, and a topic uppermost in my mind at the moment. 4 or 6, small or medium, who cares? Healthy BMI by several pounds, so it's all good! (I'm trying to convince myself. LOL)