Fear and Clothing in Las Vegas

Image via simplerabbitsociety

Image via simplerabbitsociety

Well, folks, it happened. I went shopping today.

I promise this isn’t going to become one of those oversharing moments where I tell you what I made for breakfast this morning, what time I woke up, and what setting I turned the washing machine to when I did laundry in the afternoon. This isn’t as mundane as it sounds. Actually, it’s one of the biggest victories I’ve had in the past couple of weeks, arising as it did out of one of my biggest setbacks.

But before I can explain why the plastic bag sitting on my bed from JCPenny is brag-worthy, I’m going to need to back up a little bit. Let’s do a wide-angle shot and include the time of year in our considerations. It is currently May 5th. In my region of the US, this indicates absolutely nothing for certain about the weather. As a measuring stick, about nine days ago it was snowing. Today, it is 75 degrees and gorgeous. So I’m not complaining about the sudden change from permafrost to summer. Not at all.

It’s just that I had nothing to wear.

I began my unsettlingly high-speed recovery from anorexia sometime around September, and in the ensuing eight or nine months my body shape has changed dramatically. I’m not going to describe this in numbers, because I know as well as any the unreasonable power numbers can have to ruin somebody’s day, but let’s talk ratios to give some kind of understanding about how big a change this was: since September, my body weight has increased by about 50%. Yep, you read that right. Take how much I weighed in September, divide it in half, add one of those halves on top, and that’s where I am now.

So needless to say, the shorts and tanktops I was wearing in July and August… well, they didn’t fit so well when the thermometer topped 80 on Wednesday. And so there’s a giant pile of old clothes sitting in my front hallway, waiting for me to take them to Goodwill. (I will get to this. I swear.)

Strangely, throwing out the old clothes that wouldn’t have fit without me detaching a limb wasn’t particularly difficult. Those pants and shorts are connected in my mind with a time that was not exactly my high point, and I’m glad that my body has come a long way since then. I don’t expect to fit into the same clothes that I wore in the height of my disorder. I understood that I was going to have to go out and buy new ones.

But understanding and accomplishing are two entirely different cans of worms.

My life story

My life story

Let’s just say that today was not the first day this week I set out to buy a few pairs of shorts. That first time… was not pretty. I’ve been pretty much living in yoga pants for the past few months, except for the two pairs of Levi’s a friend of mine sent me in the mail because they were the wrong size for her and which were close enough to fitting me to be getting on with. But I’ve deliberately avoided trying on pants for at least five months, because I just wasn’t ready to handle knowing what pants size I was.

And not only was I not the pants size I thought I was, I was also not the pants size bigger than that. Which, you know, was a lovely surprise to discover in a crowded Target dressing room. I went home empty-handed, still wearing jeans despite the weather, and a royal emotional mess. Exactly how I like to spend my Wednesdays.

There was more going on here, obviously, than none of the shorts I grabbed fitting. I’m okay with gaining weight from a year ago, but I won’t pretend to be fully recovered. There’s definitely a point over which I did not want to go, and discovering that I’d crossed the point was a little rough to take. (Okay, a lot rough.) I felt lied to: they always said that I wouldn’t get fat, I’d just gain weight! What’s going on here? I’ll never wear shorts again.

Obviously, there’s a turning point to this story, and it comes from the most unlikely source imaginable. I feel weird typing the name, because she’s the person who probably least deserves to be mentioned in this blog, and I actually just finished editing an article that talks (indirectly) about how much I hate her. But what are you going to do? This story finds its happy ending thanks to The Biggest Loser’s Jillian Michaels.

I know. You all just did a giant double-take. Sorry for anybody I gave whiplash to.

Over the course of the year, I’ve totally burned myself out on my ordinary exercise routine, and so I’ve been searching for alternatives that are at least mildly entertaining. Most of these came from YouTube, and one of the workouts that gave me the most satisfaction for my time frame was a cardio workout with Jillian herself. Now, I still don’t like her as a trainer. I think her strategies of fat-shaming her clients and her tough, abrasive, “Exercise should make you want to die” demeanor is terrible and shouldn’t be condoned. (But that’s a tangent. No tangents here.) The point is, I did her workout routine this morning, and as I sat on the floor in front of my computer, covered in sweat and pretty much feeling like a hot mess, a thought that I don’t have that often drifted across my mind.

You know what? You just made it through that whole workout. Kid, that’s really hard. Good for you. Clearly you’re in pretty good shape.

I praised myself. I saw the results of my exercise coming through in fitness, not in weight loss. I said something nice to myself, which hadn’t happened since the Target Fiasco of May 2013. And then another thought followed the first ones:

You know what else? It’s hot outside. This is stupid. Go buy yourself some shorts.

And I did. In the next hour. Before I changed my mind and chickened out.

I’m not pretending the shopping trip was perfect. It could’ve been an episode of Supermarket Sweeps: throw a bunch of shorts into your dressing room, fling them on over your hips as quick as you can, do a quick scan in the mirror to make sure nothing’s hanging out that shouldn’t be, slip your jeans back on, pay, and get back to the car. Twenty minutes, tops.

Still, I’m laying on my couch right now enjoying the 75-degree breeze in a brand-new pair of shorts. And they only cost me $10, and they’re neon orange for a bit more pizazz. Sure, they’re not the size I’d hoped they would be, and sure, my legs don’t look exactly like I’d like them to in them. Thank God I don’t live by the beach, because I’m not sure I have the stamina to go through bikini shopping right at the moment.

Nobody else is going to be looking at my legs but me. I’ll keep working on looking at them a little more nicely as I hang out on the back porch and let my legs see sunlight for the first time in nine months.

Has anybody else dealt with a similar problem shopping after recovery? Any tips or advice that you’d like to share? Is there anything else you’d like me to talk about in future posts? I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts.



  1. Shopping is tricky, and although it can be enjoyable – like if you’re drunk, maybe – I usually just get through it by biting my bottom lip. In truth, although I strive to be as undisordered as possible, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to put an end to dressing-room-self-judgement… That said, taking a healthy, bubbly friend helps 🙂

  2. I cut the yoga pants into shorts…
    In all seriousness though, good for you! I don’t know you, but I think I’m familiar with a lot of the feelings you described here so I’d just like to say I am SO PROUD of you! I bet you look amazing in your orange shorts.

  3. Wow!!! This is a totally amazing awesome accomplishment!!! Congratulations!!

    Personally, I avoid shopping in clothing stores. Not only am I working mom with 2 kids, but I can’t deal with the harsh lights and the music and the people and the mirrors everywhere. And the sizes… The numbers everywhere – different styles/manufacturers/designers are all different and one size in one piece does not mean you are the same size in a different one. Enough to give me a panic attack just thinking about it!!

    I love landsend.com because I usually can get free shipping and if I don’t like it/doesn’t fit, I can return it at the local sears. The clothes are classic looking (never out of style) and usually comfy.

    I wish I had better advice…

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