This past weekend, we decided it was time to clean out the closets at our house. This may not seem like a noteworthy event, but really, it was for me.
Each time I opened my closet door, it was a little more disheveled, a little more stressful. I was just piling things on top of unused things, on top of things that don’t fit. There were a few things in there that I actually do want to wear, so it was time to sort it all out, so that I could dress myself in the mornings. Since I’ve been practicing this radical self acceptance stuff, and loving my body JUST the way it is…I’ve realized that I might not need to hang on to some of those old clothes anymore. When I first started exercising, and eating a more satisfying diet, weight was just falling off of me. That was about 7 years ago now, and since that time, I’ve seen my body down about 50 pounds from where it is now, and I’ve seen it back up, and every where in between. Weight is something left to another post, but the point here is that I had clothes that fit all of these sizes. When I was over-exercising and eating about half as many calories as I need, I was down to my lowest weight as an adult. Of course I needed new clothes, these ones just didn’t fit anymore. Unfortunately, since that brief window of time was so fleeting – due to the fact that the lifestyle I was leading was completely not sustainable – I had a bunch of stuff that was way too small for my body.
When I lost weight initially, years ago, I immediately tossed all of my ‘fat clothes’. I thought it would motivate me to ‘stay thin’. It felt like quite an accomplishment, donating all of my bigger clothes, and buying lots of smaller ones. I felt like I ‘deserved’ nicer clothes than I previously wore, when I was a smaller person, I could shop at the really nice stores, so obviously thinner people deserve to have better things (sad, sad logic in my brain). I even got to a point where every time I went shopping, I’d just buy the next size down, because I kept shrinking. It was a way to reward myself as well. Once I got to a certain weight, I could buy myself whatever I wanted because I deserved it. I figured if I no longer had clothes that would fit a bigger me, I would never ‘let myself’ become a bigger me. Boy, was that a horrible plan. My sense of self, health, and weight were all out of whack, and my size was my biggest concern. So, the minute I gained some weight, I tried to use my old motivational tool, my clothes. I had jeans that were too small for me, and I put them out, on display in my room, with a note to self “these will fit you some day”. At the time, I was proud of my willpower. Now when I think of this, I shudder. How much ‘motivation’ is it to look at an impossible, and stringent standard you are setting for yourself? I did eventually lose enough weight to fit into those pants. I wore them one time, and after I had lunch, I thought they would rip apart at the seams. Yet, I held onto them. I had those pants for about 6 years. It was not until this past weekend that I felt ready to let them go. I had a closet full of those types of things. I had a dress I bought on sale about 5 years ago, and I’ve never been able to put it on. But I remember standing in my room, week after week, weigh-in after weigh-in, trying it on, not being able to zipper it, and feeling ashamed. Again, until this weekend, I was not ready to let it go. I was holding on to the big dream of finding a way to sustain a huge weight loss, one that my body has shown me time and time again, that it is not able or willing to sustain.
As I pulled all of these memories, these impossible standards, and wasted money out of my closet, I felt sad. I felt sad that I had to get rid of brand new clothes I hadn’t ever even worn, and I felt sad that I had forced myself to hang on to them this long. I also felt sad that I had donated all of my ‘fat’ clothes, because a lot of them would still fit me now. But most notably, I felt sad that I was making peace with the fact that I may never be that small again. The type-A, controlling and worrying part of me told me that I was using this as an excuse to slack off, to not push myself, and that if I really wanted to, I’d be able to wear those things again. I cried a lot while filling up those bags for Goodwill. I was donating them a large (read: more than half) portion of my wardrobe, but I was also donating them a part of me. And it’s a hard part to give up. It hurt. It hurt to say goodbye to the girl who got praised for losing weight every single time she went home. It hurt to reacquaint myself with the larger clothes in my wardrobe, it reeked of defeat. I felt a great cleansing, and a relief, but I also felt like a failure.
Michael was working on his closet at the same time, and he watched me get upset, and listened to me explain how hard this process was for me. He has seen me at my skinniest, and he still loves me now, just as I am. But there is a part of me that still fears that he wishes I was that thin girl. The girl who worked herself so hard that she got to be as small as she was 12 years ago, who refused to eat her favorite foods, and spent 3 hours a day doing intense exercise. I don’t want him to wake up one day and be disappointed. This is me talking though, not him. He has never said that his love was conditional on my appearance, that’s just my own demons talking. There are just memories of all the compliments and encouragement that I got when I was losing weight, so I guess in my mind that means he found me more attractive then. But I’m so much happier now, and I’m accepting my body, and loving it fully, and still eating great, and working out a lot. I’m just this size, not that size. I’d like to think that despite size, my attitude and happiness would be more attractive now than the completely taken over with obsession, calorie counting, exercisaholic?
So I packed up the bags. The clothes I spent all my hard earned money on, and I took a look at what remained. Options remained. There are things for me to wear, and there aren’t actually any less things than before. I was holding on to so much stuff that I didn’t need, and I let it go. So all that remains is what I need. Just like in life, my closet is now refreshed, and I can choose from things that suit me, and that fit me. I don’t have any reminders of body hatred, shame, or desperation in the form of silk dresses staring back at me. It’s freeing, but still somewhat sad. I know that I need to continue to fill my closet with options for my person now. Not the way I thought I wanted to look, or the weight I wanted to lose. That’s just telling myself that I’m not okay right now, just the way I am. If I lose weight, or if I gain weight, I can buy clothes to suit me then. But for now, I’m this size, and my body wants clothes that fit it. I will be taking the rest to Goodwill this week. I’ve watched myself evolve over the last 7 years, from thinner to heavier, from sadder to happier, from ashamed to accepting…and it’s been a good ride. I’m happy with where I am now, and it feels really good to not have daily reminders of what I can’t wear in my closet. I have options.
I choose the option to surround myself with choices that make me feel good and pretty. I also choose the option to allow myself to live my life freely, openly, and happily. I am excited about these new options, and also, about getting a few new things to fill up my closet, and the good stuff too. Not the ‘someday when I lose weight, I can wear this!…’ stuff.