One thing I didn't expect, being a long-term dieter, was that my body shape would end up being different than it was when I was 20 and thin. I'd had it in my head, during all those years of being overweight, that if I could just lose the weight, I'd look the same as I did when I was 20.
It didn't happen.
Too many years of pushing my skin in the wrong direction, too many years of storing fat around my middle, plus, I'm sure, a bit of natural aging contributed as well - the end result was that I didn't recognize this body. Not going to lie - while I was thrilled to be smaller, I was also disappointed that I didn't look how I thought I would. Even with all the exercise I was doing when I worked out with my trainers didn't change certain things. It's taken me a while to come to terms with how my body looks now, and figure out what works for me, clothing-wise, and what - no matter how cute - just doesn't.
So now, when I shop for clothes, I have a few sanity-saving rules, because otherwise, it's amazing how one bad day of trying on clothes can make me feel like I'm right back at my starting weight; and yet, the very next day, I can have a great day of trying on clothes and feel like a million bucks. Here are my rules:
- Ten pairs of pants/jeans is my try-on limit for the day. You pretty much know when you've found a pair of pants that fit; for me, if I can't find anything within the ten, I'm usually hot and tired and either try to talk myself into something that isn't perfect for me, or I get disgusted with my body.
- I have to love it. Now that the majority of what I try on fits, I have more options and am no longer stuck with "well, this is the only one that fits so I'll buy it" thing that quite honestly, WAS my life for a long time. So if I don't completely love what I'm trying on, I don't buy it.
- Know what I'm comfortable in, and only try on those styles. Sure, it sounds like I'm not being open to new things, but really - I don't like my upper arms and therefore will not wear a sleeveless top in public. I just won't - so why waste time trying something on when I know I won't leave the house in it?
- Fabrics. My body has lumps and bumps, and as I'm not willing to wear smoothing shapewear (hello, hot Texas weather), I've discovered that heavier fabrics - twill and denim vs. thin cotton, and heavier knits vs. fine guage - make me look better.
- Patterns. On the top, they help camouflage my belly. I still have to be careful not to go too "old lady" with patterns, as I have always been drawn to bright florals, which my close friends have gently pointed out to me are not in my age demographic. No patterns in pants, though - that's an area that I don't want to draw any extra attention to.
- Cut. I have one skirt, bought a few years ago at Target, that I like. Last fall, I tried to find another, and absolutely despised how I looked in every single one I tried on. My shape is odd for skirts, but I discovered, with the purchase of my favorite Adidas running skirt, that the dropped waist, lightly-pleated look works for me. Now that I know this, I'll look for a regular skirt in that style. Understanding how certain cuts of clothing work for me saves me a lot of angst in the dressing room.
It's not me, it's them.
Saying that this article of clothing doesn't work for me, instead of saying "Oh I'm so fat, I can't find anything that fits, my thighs/butt/stomach are horrible" - NO. There are a lot of clothes out there that are not right for me - the manufacturer/designer didn't do a good job of making it for ME. Turning the tables on the offending clothing - instead of feeling bad that my upper arms are squeezed into this particular top, I can see that the designer messed up on proportions - has helped me immensely. I realize that not everything is going to fit me - after all, we all have different body types - but I know that lots of cute clothes are out there that will fit me, and I'll look pretty good in them. I just have to find them, and not settle for less.