Shopping is a sport at which I’ve been quite good over the years. Shoe shopping, in particular, is an area I excel at. See, your feet, unlike other body parts, can try on shoes, and even after the most decadent of meals, still look spectacular. Your midsection, in a bikini, after a big lunch…not so much. Even with those rose-tinted mirrors that the bikini-store installs to fool you into thinking your pasty skin isn’t as pasty.
I have carried an extra 15-20 pounds my whole adult life, and was, for the most part, at peace with it. I wasn’t skinny, but I wasn’t fat either. Then, in my late 30’s, due to circumstance: stressful job, lack of exercise, the natural aging process and metabolic slow-down, to name just a few [handy excuses], I wound up gaining a bunch more weight.
That last bunch of weight crept up on me gradually, the way a bad flu would. First feeling a little achy and lethargic, then building to a low-grade fever, and finally ending up knocked flat on your ass in bed for a week. That’s how my weight gain went.
Over a 2 year period, I slowly gained 5 pounds, then 15, then 25, until I found myself 40 pounds overweight, and not knowing what had hit me.
Because the gain was gradual, it wasn’t so painfully obvious how big my clothing sizes were getting. And, being the good shopper I am, I was able to adapt my style to cuts and fabrics which were much more forgiving. I was the master of hiding. As I said in a previous post, I didn’t look obese, and yet, with an extra 40 lbs on my 5’5 [and a ½”] frame, and a BMI over 30, clearly I was.
Around this time I also began to avoid the camera. Pictures forced me to see the changes in my body, in my face. Changes that made me uncomfortable. But not so uncomfortable that I was willing to do something about it.
I also found myself avoiding mirrors, other than that hour in the morning when I’d be doing my face and hair for the day. I don’t even remember consciously doing it — but I see it now, now that I’m back to looking at myself regularly. I’d be washing my hands in a public restroom, or passing a mirror in a department store, and I would intentionally avoid making contact. I didn’t want to see what was reflected back. Kind of like when a young child covers their eyes during a game of hide and seek and thinks that you can’t see them just because they can’t see you. It’s really cute when it’s a little kid. More disturbing when it’s a woman in her 40’s.
The human brain is a fascinating thing. And mine may be stranger than most.
Now, here I am, down 20+ pounds since embarking on this year of sweat. So, from a numbers perspective, this takes me back to my pre-last ‘bunch of weight’ gain; i.e. Up approximately 15-20 lbs from “ideal” weight. Still, I couldn’t be more different from that Nancy. My body shape has changed — much more than the raw number would indicate. My clothes are way too big now. I’m down 2 dress sizes. And I’ve crossed the threshold from L (or, GASP, on a bad day XL) to M because I’m tighter and more toned than I’ve been in a long, long, long time.
I should be shopping up a storm, right?
So why aren’t I?
I’ve confided in a couple of close friends that maybe I’m hesitant to buy new stuff in the smaller sizes for fear of jinxing myself. Or, more realistically, for fear of regaining the weight. Why am I worried about this? I’ve been committed to this lifestyle for nearly 9 months, without even the hint of slip. Other girls seem to rush out to buy new stuff in size X because they’ve lost 10 pounds, as a reward for their hard work. Me, I’m second guessing how it’s even possible that I’m a Medium for the first time in more years than I can count.
And even when I actually do some shopping, as I did on Saturday at the outlet mall here in Vegas, I find myself, by default bringing two of the exact same item into the fitting room. One with my old size (L) and one with the new (M), because I’m sure that I couldn’t possibly fit into that particular item’s cut in a Medium. And each time, I’m genuinely surprised when the M actually does fit.
The amateur psychologist inside of me wonders if it’s because I don’t feel I’ve earned this size? But why? I bust my ass every day. These, and so many other questions about body image continue to rattle around in my head.
I don’t have the answers, but I’m so glad that I’m at least considering the questions now, rather than avoiding mirrors and cameras. And the truth.
I learn so much from the amazing comments I get here on this blog from you, my dear readers (and friends!), as well as through the wonderfully insightful posts I read from other bloggers. Little crumbs along the way as I try to figure this whole thing out. Baby steps…