Life After Weight Loss Surgery: Shopping Ain't Easy!

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I recently went shopping with my boyfriend, looking for a few new items for the summer. The weather is finally getting better and I wanted to make sure I dress appropriately.  I looked at some skirts in The Gap, a store I’d never set foot into 5 years ago, and decided on a skirt and cargo pants. I held up the pants against my legs thinking, “My hips are wide, so I need to get the XXL”. I didn’t try them on because I hate fitting rooms, even though it’s absolutely essential that I try on new clothing because of vanity sizing. (There is absolutely no consistency in sizing across labels, brands, and stores, I’ve learned). It was a great sale and I figured they would fit just fine.

 

shopping mall
Image: Roberto Verzo via Flickr

I’m currently the same weight I was 2 years ago, when I was frustratingly trying to fight through a weight loss plateau. At the time, I hadn’t lost or gained weight in over 3 months, but I refused to believe I was done. My goal was to lose 200lbs from my highest weight ever and I was 35lbs away from that goal; this couldn’t be it. I was determined to get as close to my goal as possible because I had already come so far.

I created a new fitness challenge and went on to lose another 23lbs over the next year, busting through the plateau and focusing on healthier all-around approaches to eating and exercising. I looked good, I felt even better, and last summer was the first time in my adult life that I enjoyed shopping for new clothes. It was tricky, learning my new sizes and trying to adjust to shopping in “straight size” stores, as for over 2 decades, I was in the plus-size stores and sections. It took a while, but I came around and realized I could take more chances with clothing, so I did. For the first time, I wore a size 12 pants, 10 dress, and I even fit into a size “S” top. I was thrilled and I felt accomplished because I spent most of my adult life barely squeezing into 2-3XL clothing.

Enter the stress of graduate school, the fun of a new relationship, and an explosion of writing and speaking opportunities, on top of being a mom and full-time social work administrator and well, I gained some weight back. There didn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to exercise and if there were, there didn’t seem to be enough energy to get me through them.  I was eating on the go, grabbing whatever I could and it wasn’t always the healthiest choice. This weight gain felt different, though, because I have had to face a very real fear of being morbidly obese again that has been somewhat daunting.  Having been so big for so long, I know all-too-well just how poorly people treat you, how bad you can feel carrying around the extra weight, etc. I promised myself I would never go back to that, yet here I was, gaining 20lbs in a year.

My clothes have been getting a bit snug, at least in the thigh area. Gaining 20lbs makes a BIG difference now when before, it was barely a blip. I lost 100lbs before I saw any real change in the clothing I wore. Now? Way different, so I’ve been shopping to accommodate while working on losing again. Well, I put on those XXL pants and was swimming in them. I felt silly as I pulled the drawstring as far as it would go and convinced myself the baggy look would work.  For whatever reason, I couldn’t see myself being able to fit the XXL, but when I wore the pants, I had a rude awakening: Shopping ain’t easy!

 

large pants
Image: Feminista Jones

One of the things you experience having lost a massive amount of weight in a short period of time is a lapse in your mind-body connection. Your body changes rapidly and your mind struggles to catch up. It can take a while to feel comfortable shopping for clothes around smaller people, especially if you’re used to reaching in the back for the largest size available. You can feel self-conscious and even paranoid, wondering if people are asking themselves why you’re in their stores. You belong there, too, but you struggle with feeling like you fit in.

I generally hate actual shopping, as in going into stores, perusing racks, etc. I hate being followed around or being accused of shoplifting. I usually shop online and was able to do so for so long because I knew what size I was. Now, I have no choice but to go into the stores, face the stares I’m probably not getting, deal with people following me around, and do my best to purchase clothing that won’t cover me like a tent. It’s a process, for sure, but I’m working on it. This most recent purchase was embarrassing in a chin-check kind of way. I need to accept that I’m not as big as I once was and that I have way more clothing options that I had before. I am going to stop limiting myself out of fear and this distorted view of my new body.

I’m going shopping this weekend :)

 

Feminista Jones is the Love & Sex section edit at BlogHer. She blogs at FeministaJones.com.

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