What Not to Wear

By Katie, 4:59 am

Here’s a strange phenomenon: when I’m feeling low, I have a tendency to treat myself with less kindness instead of more. I actually take steps to increase my discomfort rather than alleviate it. What’s the deal with that? 8-O

For example, back in the day when my weight was constantly going up and down due to the persistent restricting/bingeing cycles, I had a tendency to break one of Stacy and Clinton’s most important rules: wear clothes that fit and flatter your body as it is right now.

Indeed, when I would gain weight I would purposefully stuff myself into clothes that were too small for me – it was part self-punishment for gaining weight, and part “motivation” to lose it. My theory was that I would be unable to overeat with the constant reminder of how “fat” I was (so cruel, right? :-( ). But in the end, nothing positive ever came out of it: I felt miserable all day long, and would often still overeat as a way of distracting from the discomfort I had brought on myself. Not to mention I looked like a sausage. :-?

But there was also the other extreme. Sometimes I felt so ashamed of myself that I would only wear clothing that was way too big. This allowed me to hide my body – and my shame – underneath layers of loose cotton. Who could call me “fat” when I was drowning in baggy sweats? I didn’t want to admit that walking around in nothing but oversized workout attire made me appear bigger than I was.

Fortunately these days I don’t waffle between the extremes. I don’t purposefully punish myself with clothing that’s too right, or purposefully hide my body under clothing that’s too loose. Instead, I make it a point to wear outfits that fit my body as it is right now…outfits that flatter the body I live in today. :-)

Reaching this place has required me to embrace two ideas:

1. I deserve to feel comfortable and confident.

Looking back, it seems utterly ridiculous that when I felt bad about my weight, I thought the best solution was to make myself feel worse by wearing ill-fitting clothing. Why, oh why, are we so cruel to ourselves??? :-( Gaining ten pounds was not a moral failure – I hadn’t done anything wrong that necessitated punishment. It dosen’t matter what someone weighs; that person deserves to look and feel her best.

2. The present means more than the past or the future.

When I wore clothes that didn’t fit properly, it was a way of mourning the way my body used to be or dreaming about what it could become down the road. It was an outright denial of my present size and shape. But now I realize that even though it’s great to work toward positive changes, it’s also important to embrace my body as is – because it’s not changing overnight. Reaching those goals will come much more easily if I’m treating myself and my body with kindness here in the present.

So while I may not be a fashionista who dons all of the latest trends, I have learned one important lesson about what not to wear: anything that doesn’t fit and flatter my body TODAY.

Can you relate to my clothing struggles? Have you ever purposefully worn clothes that didn’t fit as a way of punishing yourself, “motivating” yourself, or hiding yourself? Did that experience make you feel better…or worse? Please tell me I’m not alone here!

45 Responses to “What Not to Wear”

  1. I can totally relate – when I had my really bad ED, I’d wear baggy clothes to cover myself up. Even now, I still won’t show my shoulders cos I thinkthey’re too boney, and I’m terrified (literally – a big fear of mine) that people will see them and think I’m a freak :( it’s horrible!
    You’re definetly not alone!

  2. Sarah says:

    I have done this! I did it quite a bit in college, but even recently, I noticed a similar pattern- “I’ll wait to get my hair cut until I stop caving to emotional eating.” But I look at pictures, and I hate how unkempt I’ve let my hair get! I realized it’s silly to stop taking care of myself in an effort to motivate or punish, and I made a hair appointment for this Tuesday!

  3. I have definitely done this before. I even notice that when I’m indulging in emotional eating behaviors, I’ll pay less attention to my self in the mirror and take less overall pride in my appearance. It’s as if I’m too ashamed of myself during these times to even look at myself. But you’re totally right….whether we’ve gained or lost ten pounds, we always deserve to treat ourselves with kindness and respect.

  4. Tina says:

    When I had to gain weight to get my cycle back to try and conceive going out and buying clothes that accommodated that change in my body was one of the best things I did. I instantly felt more confident. It really is important to embrace our bodies where they are. That doesn’t mean we have to give up goals (I know I will be working to get back to my “normal” pre-gain clothes after the baby) but not allowing ourselves to be upset with who we are along the way.

  5. Very interesting post, Katie. I’ve never thought this through before. I haven’t necessarily worn clothes out that are too small, BUT I would always try them on just to “prove” how fat I’d gotten. It’s actually quite sick when you think about it.

  6. Ugh– I am SO guilty of this! I will actually still buy things that are a little tight every now and then with the hopes that it will prompt me to lose the last five pounds. And it doesn’t, of course– it just makes me feel bad about myself!

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Katie!

  7. oh my gosh, i used to be in the exact same boat! i’ve recently been buying stuff that fits me NOW…i’ve tried so many times to get something that is too small to hang on my closet door to motivate me, only the GAIN weight! i feel so much better wearing things that make me feel comfy now though :)

  8. I’ve always noticed that when I wear clothes that are too tight, I have MORE problems with bingeing.

  9. I’ve been a sausage many times. I’ve often thought it would motivate me to eat less (not better, just less…) if I had a super tight waistband cutting into me all day. Needless to say, it never worked.

    Now, I wear what looks good and fits well, especially to work, where I want to feel good. There are definitely some in my office who are still in the stuffing-yourself-in mindset, and they are usually the ones talking about fad diets and not eating for one reason or another.

  10. I can so relate to every word you said. I too used to go from the extreme of wearing XL clothing to cover myself up to then squeezing into skin tight jeans that made me feel terrible about myself.

    One thing I’ve recently started doing is wearing some clothes that I find really beautiful and pretty that may not actually make me look thin. It’s a funny thing because I often wouldn’t wear these clothes because they weren’t very fitted to the body and therefore in my head meant I didn’t look as small as possible. It’s been quite freeing to wear them for just how lovely they are and not because they may or may not make my hips look 2 inches bigger.

  11. Jill says:

    I just recently started wearing skirts, more specifically knee length skirts, because for YEARS I thought my legs were to ugly to be seen by the public. My legs are pasty white with lots of spider/varicose veins and I just thought it would be cruel to subject the world to my white and blue patterned legs. But then I realized that I LIKE wearing skirts and I actually think I look better and I know I feel better wearing them. So these days, veins be darned! I’m wearing the skirts THAT FIT and if I show a little leg, so what?! It’s who I am. :)

  12. homecookedem says:

    This is totally relatable for me! I’ve been so many different sizes… When I gained weight after Andrew and I got married, I refused for a few months to buy new clothes, so I too was stuffing myself in clothes that I had no business wearing!! But one day I finally realized that even though I was bigger I did not deserve to feel uncomfortable and suffocated all day long. So I broke down and now I have all new clothes for my new body. But, I did keep my old, smaller clothes – just boxed them up in hopes that one day after having my baby and getting my hormones back in check I can get back down to that healthy and happy size for me.

  13. Josie says:

    oh, Katie, you are NOT alone! i lost about 30 pounds a few years back, and this post reminds me of a particular thanksgiving holiday during that weight-loss cycle. i binged the first full day i was home. the next day (when all my smaller clothes still fit) i took all my books to my hometown library and told myself i’d just study and drink water in lieu of eating (brilliance). what i didn’t do was put on the smaller-size jeans i’d driven down in and that i was so proud of fitting into. i didn’t put on any makeup or even brush my hair. no cute top, no jewelry, nothing. i’d binged, and therefore i didn’t deserve to look my best. i went down in my gigantic sweats and, of course, saw 15 people i’d known in high school. sigh.

  14. Jessica says:

    You’re not alone! This is totally me. I’m trying to lose about 15lbs right now, and am realizing the only thing that clothes that don’t fit make me look like, is that I am wearing clothes that don’t fit! Embracing my “now” body make me feel better about myself.

    • Katie says:

      Thank you for sharing this! It’s so comforting to know that we can relate to one another’s struggles.

  15. tanyasdaily says:

    I can’t stand the feeling of wearing something too small, so I don’t do it.

  16. Lisa says:

    Oh I so agree with you on the clothes. Wearing clothes that fit, regardless of your size, will do wonders for your self confidence and how your body actually looks.

  17. I used to make myself wear too tight clothes so that I wouldn’t over eat, but you’re right I would just eat anyway because I was so uncomfortable! It was awful! I also avoided buying new clothes telling myself I needd to lose weight first.
    I’ve learned it feels so much better (mentally, emotionally, and physically) to wear something that fits well no matter what the size tag says.
    Great post!

  18. Meg says:

    I love Stacey and Clinton!

    It’s almost scary how unfiltered you describe your feelings and how much I can relate! I used to (and still do) refuse to buy clothes that fit better since “I’d be losing it anyways.” I can happily say that I don’t do that stuff to myself so much anymore!

  19. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Katie McLaughlin, Katie McLaughlin. Katie McLaughlin said: What Not to Wear http://goo.gl/fb/eUmoo [...]

  20. Ah yes, I have been there for sure. When I gained the weight back I refused to buy new clothes, particularly jeans. I’d leave them unbuttoned, of use a hair tie to hold them closed. Eventually I just caved and bought new jeans… but I bought them BIG. I didn’t want to feel them touching my fat. So then when they were too big I felt skinny- “Look my pants don’t fit, I must be losing weight!” Mind games are no fun.

    I happily wear clothes that fit now. I do still have a lot that is too big since I just recently lost the weight but I am slowly rebuilding my wardrobe.

  21. Hope says:

    Oh yes, I’ve definitely worn clothes that were too small for me; almost as a way of punishing myself, as you said. It did the same thing to me: I just ate more out of shame.

    I stick with clothes that flatter me now, no matter how “fat” I feel on a particular day.

  22. For the longest time I could not get myself out of wearing anything that wasn’t a size small. Heck, now I own clothes that range from extra small to large!

    • Katie says:

      Just goes to show that those sizes don’t really mean anything in the first place, you know?

  23. It’s so true that wearing the proper size is so much more flattering, no matter what your body shape or size! I don’t think I’ve ever struggled with wearing the wrong size, but when I was heavier I would always wear empire waisted tops and loose t-shirts to try to cover myself up. It’s such a shame that women feel they have to hide themselves instead of rocking their curves. I’m glad Stacy and Clinton help people embrace their shape!

  24. Jennifer says:

    I love that show! And you can definitely take some pointers from them and relate it to weight loss or gain. For my own self, my clothes actually have not fit any differently since I was in high school, but I will say that sometimes on my bad days, I will nit-pick things about how a shirt or pants may fit. It may fit me fine, but I might say, well it doesn’t look as good as it used to on me.

  25. Wow this is a really great post and I can definitely relate to what you are talking about. I used to get hung up with sizes until I realized sizes are different in every store and sizes are different even among the same store! It really is a frustrating experience, but what I need to remember (and I’m sure others too) is that as long as you are dressing for your type and wearing your clothes with confidence — you will give off a beautiful impression for yourself and others to see.

  26. sophia says:

    Katie, yet another stellar post. I definitely hear what you are saying…when I was severely underweight, I gave no care to my exterior appearance…one of the ironies of eating disorder is that you lose appreciation and interest in your dress and personal grooming. Of course, at that time I still desperately needed to gain weight, but wearing crappy clothes only brought my self-esteem and confidence down lower.

  27. This is going to sound terrible and probably make you want to kill me. I have always been very thin naturally and my weight would only fluctuate by a few pounds. I got really sick over a year ago and lost a ton of weight, to the point that I was wearing between a size 0 and 2 (mind you, I’m 5′ 9″). This past year with working full time, going out with friends and starting on new medications I gained the weight back. But I literally freaked out when I could no longer get in my size 2 jeans. I didn’t care if I was healthy, I just wanted to be that size again. My body has definitely changed since I started running and cycling, and I feel good about the way I look, regardless of what size I am.

    • Katie says:

      That definitely doesn’t make me want to kill you! Unfortunately there are probably a ton of women who can relate – I know I’ve definitely freaked out about not being able to fit into a particular size. Some women are naturally thin, others are less so…but like you said, it’s all about feeling good about ourselves regardless of the number on the tag. (Easier said than done sometimes, for sure!)

  28. *Andrea* says:

    i can completely relate!!! when i’m feeling bad about my body i.e. fat, i will not allow myself to wear flattering clothes or tight clothes that show off my curves because i feel ashamed and instead i wear baggy ones. i used to do this when i was anorexic too because it made me feel better knowing that my clothes were too big. i hate that i still do this! i love that you mentioned the punishment mentality. it’s unfair to punish our bodies and ourselves based on weight or size

  29. Jessie says:

    This is so true, Katie, and this post really hits home. Struggling with self-image can manifest itself in other ways too, and punishment can take many forms. In terms of physical appearance, wearing clothes that flatter is an outward sign that we feel comfortable with who we are as a person, and that’s more beautiful than anything. Celebrate it! :)

    • Katie says:

      Very true! This is just one form of self-punishment; I’m sure for different people it manifests itself in different forms, but the overall motivation is similar.

  30. tima says:

    Hi Katie
    you are not alone. I used to do that. I remember that I had a lot of clothes to wear last year , but I always wear a black big clothe to hide my body . I always said to my self I will wear them when i lose 10 pounds . right now My new struggle is buying new clothes. I say to myself after i lost whatever pounds i will buy new clothes for myself.

    • Katie says:

      Thanks for sharing this! Just know that you deserve those new clothes NOW, regardless of what the scale says! :)

  31. Shelley says:

    i know EXACTLY what you mean!! What i wear has a lot to do with how i feel about my body, too so i try to make sure that I am wearing clothes that flatter me all the time to prevent any possible body-image issues that may or may not have already come up. I think you bring up a great point :) I’ve definitely worn clothes as punishment though- and a huge thing for me has been throwing away clothes that no longer fit. It is just torture to have them!

  32. It’s so true. I have really REALLY focused on making things work that I have. Putting on something that I feel good in is so important.

  33. Nicole, RD says:

    Wow! Our posts were really similar! Post jinx! :) Great post, Katie…have a wonderful weekend!

  34. Ekk. I have so much to say about this one… even started a post recently that covers a similar idea of “what we deserve.” Should be going up soon (if I can get my act together to finish some of these posts I have in queue). The short of it is – yes, I don’t know why I do it, but I do… and it has all to do with not deserving to feel okay with myself. Hugs all around!

  35. [...] in this particular blouse. I feel sexy and super confident about my body. Score! We found this great blog post about wearing what fits you RIGHT NOW…no matter what your shape or size and despite the fact that [...]

  36. [...] a very effective, important role in our self-images. That’s why I preach so strongly about wearing clothes that fit and flatter the body you have right now, rather than the body you want to have or think you should [...]

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