I’m trying hard to view weight gain as a neutral event – neither good nor bad, simply a thing that is happening that is not worth much of my time or attention. Because I am a human woman, this is basically impossible. Even as a conventionally thin person, I’ve been trained my entire life to believe that my body becoming bigger is the worst thing that can possibly happen to me. The message that we should all, always, be actively engaged in the pursuit of losing weight is so socially acceptable, you can talk about it anywhere, with anyone, at any time (in the elevator! in line at the grocery store! in office-wide email chains about “wellness initiatives”!)
I hadn’t heard of this social paradigm described as “diet culture” until last year, when I came across a series of essays on Refinery29 called the Anti-Diet Project. Learning about diet culture and intuitive eating revolutionized the way I thought and talked about food. Here, finally, were people telling women that our bodies are fine, and that weight is not a reflection of self worth or even of health. Weight fluctuations are normal. Dieting is harmful. These were the things I needed to hear all my life, and because I am me, I couldn’t shut up about it once I opened the Pandora’s box of body positivity.
Well, I talked a big talk, but now that I’m struggling with changes in my own weight, I’m finding it’s not so easy to walk the walk.
I own two pairs of jeans, one black and one blue. At the moment, neither of them fit. I’m not sure when it happened – when I stopped going to the gym? when my husband started baking bread three times a week? – but somewhere in the past few months, I outgrew some of my most frequently worn clothes.
My first instinct was, of course, to shrink myself.
At any other point in my life, I probably wouldn’t have questioned that instinct. Now, though, I’m struggling against it. Aside from the fact that my pants don’t fit, what is the problem, exactly, with my body being 5-10 pounds heavier than it was a few months ago?
My knee jerk reaction is to say that my health must somehow be suffering, but that’s just diet culture, repackaged for 2019 as wellness culture, reinforcing the false idea that thinner bodies are always healthier than larger bodies. Maybe sometimes they are, but there are so many more indicators of health than weight, and I’m not having any symptoms besides the internal torment of feeling simultaneously like a bad feminist and a guilty cheesecake lover.
The primary problem, in my case, is not health or weight, but the fact that I keep a minimalist wardrobe, and so when my pants don’t fit, I don’t have any alternative pants to turn to. I had a Regina George moment the other day when I shimmied into my elastic ponte pants for the third time in a week and thought to myself, with shame but also a little bit of humor, ponte pants are all that fits me right now.
I decided that instead of trying to lose weight (boring, not a good use of my time, unwilling to deny myself my daily afternoon pop-tart), or buying new pants (expensive, not enough room in my tiny closet, dislike visual clutter), I’m just going to put my jeans away for the season and embrace the more forgiving options in my closet (even that phrase smacks of diet culture – what do I need to be forgiven for? What was my crime? Yuck.). I’m turning to dresses, elastic waist bands, and garments that feel comfortable on my body whether I’m 10 pounds up from usual or 10 pounds down.
So, 500 words later, I’m going to tell you what I wore today. A dress. I think I’ll be wearing a lot of dresses this summer as I get used to what my body is doing these days. Today’s dress is a new one from Everlane (generously gifted to me by the brand), the Japanese GoWeave Notch Shirtdress in Olive. I’m wearing it here in a size 0, and the irony of telling you that I wear the second smallest size available while complaining about gaining weight is not lost on me.
I took some better pictures of this dress over the weekend that I look forward to sharing in a more official review in the next few days, but today I’ll just say that I wore this to work, and I felt really good about how I looked in a dress that doesn’t scrunch my internal organs or pop open when I sit down (which is currently the case with both aforementioned pairs of jeans).
If you’re interested in learning more about diet culture (or how to unlearn it), I recommend following Registered Dietition Christy Harrison and writer Megan Jayne Crabbe (aka BodyPosiPanda) on Instagram.
Thanks very much to all of you who expressed support for my new 100 Outfits in 100 Days project! I’m glad I made it to day 2.
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