Weight gain, guilt, and not being a victim to our clothes

One of my personal challenges recently has been to do with negative body image. It goes without saying that I’ll dip into that territory in this post, so this could be a sensitive topic for some people to read. I don’t feel like I’ve come out the other end yet, but it’s all a journey so I’m looking forward, and trying to manage my emotions the best way I know how. When I get anxious and upset, sometimes I feel out of control, and I find it helpful to remember what I can control, and more importantly, what I can’t.

I experienced disordered eating in the past, and an obsession with being as small as possible. Fitness (specifically strength training and weight lifting) changed that for me, and I became OK with being bigger and taking up space, and my relationship with food became better. I obsessed less over the number on the scale and I remember being about 8kg heavier, but not really remembering how I got there. I couldn’t remember weighing myself from point A to point B. (As the numbers are not important, I decided not to specifically disclose the weight—just the difference.) I remembered having to buy new clothes in bigger sizes because my usual size was too small. This didn’t bother me at all because I equated the weight gain with being at a healthy weight, and my body being stronger. I knew that when I started my fitness journey, I was underweight.

At this point in time I have been finding it more difficult. My clothes don’t fit nicely anymore, and I’m upset about that. I realise it’s because I really like some of my clothes, and when something is too small, it’s difficult to make it bigger through alterations versus if something is too big. People who have read my blog for years or who know me well, already know that I love expressing myself through my style and I am very interested in fashion and clothes. Some of you probably even know what my style journey has been like. I’ve developed a wardrobe of clothes I really love, including some that are gems I found second-hand. So the real bummer about my clothes being too small is that I feel like I am losing something important. In turn this makes me feel like getting bigger is bad. I know it’s not. It’s OK to be bigger and it’s OK to gain weight. But—my goodness—have I had to remind myself the important learning “it’s not you, it’s the clothes”.

The other feeling I have is guilt. Guilt for the last time I gained a significant amount of weight and donated a lot of my clothes without putting in any effort to give them a better home. After doing my own research and understanding the impact of clothes on the environment (especially how much we waste), donating to charity is the last resort for me. I try to sell, give away to friends, swap, repurpose, re-use, or give away to anyone in the community, really. I felt guilt for the last time I purchased clothes new, without putting much consideration into my purchases. These days, I want to do better. So I felt almost guilty for gaining weight, guilty for actually needing to buy new clothes. Though the truth is, I don’t need to buy new clothes. I do have enough. But I care about and enjoy expressing myself through what I wear, and I’m privileged enough to be able to afford new clothes.

I also felt guilt for wanting to simply donate my clothes because I wanted to avoid the time and effort it takes to sell them. It gets really exhausting sometimes. I am also aware of the cycle in not making considered purchases resulting in more frequent disposal of clothes. The more frequently I buy clothes without thinking carefully, the more likely it is that I will get rid of the clothes. And since I care about selling and re-homing or “un-buying”, instead of simply disposing, then it’s more likely that I will find myself exhausted of trying to sell stuff.

This guilt has sometimes translated into feeling terrible for gaining weight in the first place and “causing” this problem. Gaining weight and clothing having an impact on the environment, however, are two separate things. I am inclined to say I literally cannot help gaining weight. People’s bodies fluctuate all the time. I almost want to say “it’s out of my control”, but in a way, it’s kind of not? But at the end of the day, we shouldn’t be serving our clothes. I don’t want to say that our clothes should be “serving us”, necessarily, but clothes are a necessity. So they should really be fitting us, not us fitting them.

I know that some people see weight changes as temporary, and that’s OK. I prefer not to think that way. I believe my weight gain can be attributed to many things including hormones, periods of eating more, and some muscle gain. It’s not something I want to scrutinise but I have noticed gradual change over many months, so it’s not something I’m necessarily concerned about. The way it has impacted how I see myself is interesting, and the whole situation has nuances.

While I don’t feel like I’ve come out the other end, I’ve focused more on what I can control. I know how to fuel my body with nutritious food—although I know I can do better, and am trying—I know how to keep myself physically active, and I’m aware of when my mind has negative thoughts about my body. I know I’ll never be perfect and I swayed between frugality and splurging on clothes throughout my adult life so far, and I accept that I will sometimes purchase clothes I really like, but I am still doing my best to make choices that have less of an impact on the environment. It’s still so important to me that I can wear clothes in a way that makes me feel good, not just about my body, but about how I’m expressing myself. It’s all feeling… kinda tricky, I guess, but I have hope.

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