shape of you

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Heading out for lunch with a friend last week, I grabbed a pair of jeans, and tried to put them on, operative word being "tried".

I couldn't. They were button-fly, and I couldn't even get the bottom button within kissing distance of the buttonhole. 

I tried another pair - same result. A third pair - same. By then I was too sweaty to continue, so I gave up.

Some of my dresses - the ones with a more columnar fit - felt tighter around the hips. Some of my more fitted tops felt tighter around the armholes. 

Yep, I gained weight in South America. Actually, I don't know if I gained weight because I haven't weighed myself in ages and I don't have access to a weighing machine. But I'm definitely half a size, (if not a size) bigger. Not much of a difference, but enough for my less forgiving items of clothing (damn my non-stretch jeans) to make their feelings known.

I bitched and whined about it to my friends, and then felt bratty, because well,  let's face it, going up half a size isn't a problem on any level.  

I whined, because I think we're conditioned to fear weight gain, thanks to the near-global obsession with being slim - there is a weight loss company in Singapore called "Bottom Slim", I kid you not. I spent a good half day fretting over whether my metabolic rate was on steep decline now that I was well into my thirties, whether I was exercising enough, and whether I should start having fat-free milk with my coffee. 

But this was ridiculous. I felt healthy. I spent the last five months clambering up and down any mountain I could manage, I walked well over 20,000 steps a day, I hauled a 16kg backpack around without a fuss. Since returning home, I've resumed my routine of thrice-weekly yoga, and added twice-weekly swims (because I am really, really free). 

I adjusted. I reach for clothes with more stretch and give in the fabric. I wear the boyfriend jeans that are now just jeans. I haven't been able to bring myself to consider adjustments to my diet, because I am still revelling in the abundance of Asian food again (South American cuisine just isn't the same). 

I'd always thought that insecurities and body issues were things that other people struggled with, and I hadn't realised I had internalised so many negative messages about size unconsciously, enough for me to fret.  

Maybe I gained muscle mass (that's my preferred explanation), maybe I gained fat. The point is, I feel fine, great even, and nope, I have no issues with how I actually look.

It did make me wonder if I would dress differently if my body shaped changed significantly. Would I change my style? It's an interesting thought experiment. 

Have you ever struggled with body image, and how has that affected how you dress?

(I'm sorry if this sounds I'm seeking reassurance about how I look, I promise it's not the intention, I'm just genuinely fascinated by how I responded in a moment of insecurity.)

Comments

Archana said…
My life after grad school has been much more comfortable. I dont skip meals. I own a bed. I have a partner who has made it his mission to see me fed. With the transition, came a more curvy body. My shirts started gaping. I could go around with a few buttons undone but for the first time in my life, I have cleavage. This phase should have been done in the teenage years but apparently 30's can be full of surprises too. All this would have been fine except for the clothes. I invested in them after swearing off fast fashion. For the most part, its mildly annoying. Thankfully, I have enough shift dresses, stretchy denim and boyfriend shirting to last me for a few years. Since I hold myself back from shopping to my heart's content, I wouldn't mind using the excuse of weight gain to try a new silhouette ...
Honestly I think the only reason I might panic a bit if I went up a size or two is not so much body image but the fact that some things in my wardrobe I spent a lot of money on and it would be a shame if I couldn't wear them anymore, lol.

I don't know if my body is changing or if it's just a part of growing older, but I noticed a few months ago that I prefer pants higher in the waist now, and that I'm considering letting out hems of a couple of skirts to make them longer.

I'd say give it a couple more months, a year of not going to the office has to have some sort of effect on your body! I know it's a real pain to break in jeans, though, but maybe now's a good time to experiment a bit with the clothes you have on hand!

We're always harder on ourselves than we are on other people, I know it's not the same when you look in the mirror but for what it's worth, I think you look fine in your recent mirror selfies!
Pret a Porter P said…
I'm in the same boat as Koko, my clothes cost me too darn much to not be able to fit in them.
Anna said…
I've always been a comfort queen even though I am petite and don't need the extra space. I like clothes with stretch in them, those that don't cut of my blood circulation, and the feeling of just being comfortable. I think it's important to embrace it if you are comfortable. If not, obviously change something. If you are? Great! Enjoy it.
Ammu said…
First of all, you look fabulous (great trousers!)
I went up a dress size when I moved from London to Delhi and like you, I only noticed it when certain clothes began to feel a little snug. I blame it on too many samosas and a general trend towards happiness -- I put much more pressure on myself while living in London and as I turned 30 my first year in India, it felt right to ease up and start valuing my body in terms of what it could do rather than how it looked to others and to me. I won't lie -- getting rid of expensive clothing was not fun but then again it all found a good home -- thanks to India's robust second-hand clothing network, there's always someone who can appreciate what you no longer have use for. Anyway, I think it was the beginning of a changing relationship with my body -- I have become much more happily active in the years since and regardless of any weight gain or loss, have grown to value my body for everything it allows me to do.
Shutterbug K said…
I say give it a bit of time--if you're back to your regular food, exercise, and general health barring any unforeseen events (knock on wood) you may find some clothing might become accessible to you again. I'm fitting better into some old clothes because I started to lift but at the same time certain silhouettes don't work on me. My body tends toward curves, so it's been interesting and challenging to dress emphasizing that (when I'd really rather be in looser fits.) When I do something form-fitting nowadays it's what garners me the most notice/response. Strange things.

Would you mind exploring the beauty/health standards in Singapore/Asia as you've seen them and how women are reacting to it? "Bottom Slim" sounds like the entire opposite of what women in the US (at least as popular media has it) are trying to achieve.

MC Bontemps said…
"I'm just genuinely fascinated by how I responded in a moment of insecurity"

Well if we're talking morbid fascination, I see this subject attracts rather more commenter interest than the prior two (very much more interesting) posts on your recent travels. Probably says more about the audience than anything else though.
lin said…
Archana, koko, Pret a Porter P: Yeah, it's not really the weight gain I mind, more the fact that I can't wear some of my favourite things! Especially when almost all my trousers have been altered by a tailor to fit.

Anna: I like my clothes a little loose too, and that has been a saving grace.

Ammu: "a general trend towards happiness" - I was thinking the same thing; I was rather unhappy by the time I decided to resign, and much happier now! Maybe stress kept my weight down.

Shutterbug K: "When I do something form-fitting nowadays it's what garners me the most notice/response" -- I get that sometimes too from both friends and strangers, the former because they know I don't usually do form-fitting. One of the nice things about South America is that tight clothing on women is quite normal and no one (man or woman) bats an eye!

MC Bontemps: I think I rather surprised myself by overreacting, and it made me wonder how people respond to weight gain. Or maybe I need to up my travel writing game...

Anonymous said…
It is so funny Lin, I can really relate to this at this moment of my life. About 3 months ago I noticed that I gained a bit of weight while I was trying to put on a pair of jeans (I have a few pairs but rarely wear them as I prefer looser clothing, minimalistic style dresses and looser pants). My initial reaction was that of a panic (I need to lose it, and quickly).

What is really interesting is that I only started 'panicking' when I actually checked my weight - which I don't really do, maybe like twice a year when I visit my parents. I then realised I had gained about 3 kilograms (half a stone) which is generally speaking about half a size. The truth is that what I am now is actually a healthier weight for me and my height. I have been trying to loose it by cutting out chocolate between meals, having lighter dinners etc but the weight has pretty much stayed the same. So I have decided that I am going to go with whatever my body wants to do. I am not going to deprive myself of occassional desserts, full fat milk, a bit of cheese and a glass of wine a couple of times a week.

I don't really mind as it is still healthy weight for me (same as you probably). The only thing I do mind is exactly what you said - about 1/3 of the tighter clothes in my wardrobe (jeans and some close fitting skirts) are now too tight for me to feel comfortable in. I really like those items and would like to be able to wear them but I am not going to 'diet' and overexercise (my twice weekly yoga or pilates, lots of energetic walking and occasional swims is enough for me) and if my weight doesn't drop naturally I am not going to start depriving myself. My diet is generally very healthy with occasional treats. If the weight stays the same until the end of the year I will probably give the tighter clothes to charity.


Kasia
Anonymous said…
Also, where is this great top from?
lin said…
Kasia: "I really like those items and would like to be able to wear them but I am not going to 'diet' and overexercise (my twice weekly yoga or pilates, lots of energetic walking and occasional swims is enough for me) and if my weight doesn't drop naturally I am not going to start depriving myself." >>> agree! I figure if my body stays the same after a year I'll bring the clothes to the tailor to see what can be adjusted. The top is a old T-shirt from Cotton On! Love the fit but it's pilled a lot since I bought it and I suspect it's going to look a little too shabby in about a year's time.
Anonymous said…
I never really considered taking my tighter clothes to a tailor to have them made looser, it's usually been the other way around. Great tip! Kasia

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