What Are You Waiting For?

self image style
A girlfriend of mine has been unhappy with her body for … well, for as long as I’ve known her. She is one of the most naturally beautiful women I’ve ever known, and her generous, open, loving personality just serves to amplify the startling physical beauty that shines out from her silky hair, and ladylike hands, and creamy skin, and perfect-pout lips, and dive-into-me eyes.

But she battles her body, and loses.

Constantly.

She adjusts her food intake, and then adjusts it some more. She tries meal schedules and diets and avoidance of certain foods. She counts calories. She exercises twice as much as me and twice as hard. She varies her workout routine, and monitors her heart rate to optimize her efforts.

And she stays the same shape, and she stays unhappy.

I don’t know why she can’t seem to lose weight. It’s truly bizarre that someone who is as focused and dedicated as she should see no progress whatsoever. And while it doesn’t matter a whit to me if she gains weight steadily for the rest of her natural days, it drives her mad with frustration. So it hurts me, too.

My girl constantly compliments me on my taste and style, while simultaneously lamenting her own unsatisfying wardrobe. I’ve offered countless times to shop with her, but she always declines, saying she doesn’t want to invest in new clothes until she’s in a better place with her body. And for a while, I understood that. I’ve been there. I’ve shopped for a transitional body, and been frustrated when I had to cast off newish duds after just a few wears because they no longer fit. But recently, I began to push harder. And here’s why:

Even if she finally hits on the magic combination of diet and exercise that allows her to smallen, why should she feel uncomfortable, uninspired, and unhappy with her appearance in the meantime? Wouldn’t it be possible to bring in a few key pieces – just a few – to make the rest of her wardrobe more flattering, functional, and fun? And what if she doesn’t change her waist size for another year or more? Will it have been worth it to feel frumpy and grumpy that whole time?

My weight and body configuration have shifted more times than I can count. Or anyway more times than I can recount without boring you into a stupor. And the most important lesson I’ve learned from all those body shifts is this: You MUST dress for your today-body. Buying too-small clothes that you plan to fit into “someday” is ill-advised, and seldom the motivator you hope it will be. Wearing crappily-made or ancient or stopgap clothes until you’ve reached a different/better physical place just makes you impatient and uneasy while you’re working toward your goal. Dressing for a body you no longer have or don’t yet have encourages you to live in the past or future, and keeps you from enjoying the present.

If your clothes do not fit the woman you are right now, you should consider getting rid of them and getting some different ones.

Note that I did not say “new” ones. I recognize that anyone in the throes of a physical transition won’t want to max out her credit card on items that might get worn a single time. Exploring thrift, vintage, swap, and hand-me-down options for these purposes is a fantastic way to keep yourself looking and feeling great – even in transition – on a budget. Don’t get new, get different.

I believe that part of learning to love yourself is learning to see yourself. And that means seeing yourself as you are right now, not as you hope to be in six months or as you used to be six months ago. And that can be so hard: Facing down the numbers on the scale, or the sizes on a rack of skirts at The Gap, or even just the mirror. The emotional effort it takes to see ourselves in our today-bodies can be tremendously draining, I know.

But there is real benefit to be gleaned from dressing your transitional body well. Looking good now can get you hooked on looking good: It can establish a habitual desire to feel awesome when confronted with a mirror, and can even fuel fitness and body-related goals. Even if your body is changing shape, you are likely to maintain the same basic proportions: The process of learning to dress your transitional body will provide knowledge about your figure that will carry over even if you shift again someday. But more than any of that, dressing in a way that works with your figure right now will make you feel good RIGHT NOW. And you deserve that.

So what are you waiting for? Why are you dressing for a body you don’t have, and neglecting the beautiful one you’ve already got? Start dressing for your today-body, and worry about your tomorrow body … well, tomorrow.

Image courtesy h.koppdelaney.

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  • miss cavendish

    You know, what I like about Stacy and Clinton, is that they always advise their “clients” to dress the body that they have *now*, not to wait until . . . because what happens in the meantime? You’re so right here.

  • lopi

    When I gained some weight a couple of years ago, I lived in my track bottoms until I was back at my normal size. Back then it out of the question to even think about buying a pair of jeans a size too big than my usual. But, seeing pictures form back then, I wish I had bought something else to wear, so I wouldn’t look so frumpy, even if it would work only for these few months.
    I haven’t gained since, but having in mind that it is a possibility, when I buy clothes I question myself if they will be wearable with a few pounds more. Soft jersey dresses, empire-waist tops, wrap-around skirts, they all can be worn even when someone gains a dress size. I’ve been known to wear my mother’s wrap skirts, and they are a couple of sizes larger. And a nice belt can fix almost any oversize piece of clothing, while creating flattering drapes. Heck, I’ve even bought maternity clothes this last year, even if I’m not and aren’t planning on getting pregnant, because they are so comfortable and they will continue to be if I gain too! I’ve done a post back on August about shopping maternity clothes, with pictures:
    fashionarchitect.blogspot.com/2008/08/clothes-by-any-other-name-would-smell.html
    So, there is a middle ground answer to your friend’s problem. I hope she soon realizes that she can dress beautifully and feel comfortable while she takes care of her body, and when she reaches her target she will still be able to wear her fabulous clothes!

  • poodletail

    Yours are words of wisdom, Sal. Why hang on to a pair of too-small jeans that sit in your bureau and mock you every time you open that drawer?
    If, by whatever magic, your body changes back into that size you’ll want a different pair of jeans anyway.
    Get rid of them.

  • drwende

    Sizing and fit sometimes seem designed to feed body loathing.

    Over at my blog, we are soon to start an interactive process called Wardrobe Therapy that is all about looking and feeling good with the body and life you have right now… it’s very DIY, as unlike Sally, I’m not an expert on clothing, and I expect to be linking to her posts here a lot. New participants are always welcome!

  • momo

    Amen! Hold on to those clothes that don’t fit if you have the room, but push them to the back of the closet or put them in a box, and find a couple of things that make you feel comfortable and look great NOW. Good posture and a smile are half of looking great anyway.

  • Always In Style

    Spot on, as usual!

  • Shannon (A beautiful Dream)

    This is a lovely post Sal.

    I’m trying to feel good about my bulging buddha bod and part of that is taking the time to ‘dress up’ every day – even if all i’m wearing came from a op shop.
    Even if you are not happy with your body, you still deserve beautiful clothes that look good.

  • La Belette Rouge

    I was going to say the same thing as Miss Cavendish. This post made me think of Stacy and Clinton’s wise advice to dress the body you have now. It makes sense to me that if I feel the best I can and look the best I can that I would feel better and the changes I hope for are more likely to happen and if not I look the best I can. If I waited for my hips looked like I wanted them to I would never get dressed.

    I hope your friend takes your offer and goes shopping with you and finds some clothes that allows her to more fully love the body she has today.

  • The Seeker

    Such powerful and wise words Sal.

    You know I’ve been strugle with my image in the mirror since I can remember. Not accepting my body and always wanted to buy clothes in an oversize because I could get fatter. Since I’ve my blog I look to my pictures as if they were from somebody else (weird and crazy I know) and that has been helping me to be a bit more conscious of me. And the clothes I bought lately ARE my size.
    I’m still struggling, but a bit less 😉

    xoxo

  • Holly Anne

    Wow… your friend sounds a lot like me.

  • Jozette

    Sal, I could not agree with you more. Your friend needs to buy some clothes that she really feels great in NOW. Because when you feel great, you look great, and things change from there. After all, isn’t feeling great really the goal? No matter what weight you are at? I say hands-down, f*ck yeah, absolutely. Your friend deserves to be happy NOW. She deserves to feel great NOW. She deserves to buy herself clothes that she feels great in, instead of punishing herself.

    Ok, rant over. The end.

  • K.Line

    This post is fantastic. So much sage advice – looking good hooks you on looking good. Loving yourself is seeing yourself!

    Wanna offer up one other thing. Your friend might have some cortisol or thyroid imbalance (some kind of hormone imbalance) that all her efforts aren’t getting to the bottom of. She may want to go see a naturopath (or even endocrinologist, if that’s more her scene). Kxo

  • Kelly

    I *absolutely* agree – if you put the effort in to look beautiful now, you’ll start looking forward to the mirror. And when I feel consistently pretty, it’s easier to keep up with a good diet, exercise, etc – because I start loving myself and loving my body and wanting the best for it.

    Your tales of all her weight struggles make me think that she may be insulin resistant. I am. Most people who are insulin resistant have a really hard (if not impossible) time losing weight, despite their crazy-intense diets and exercises. Insulin resistance is also linked to polycystic ovarian syndrome (which I’m also blessed with – the joys!). It sounds to me like it would be worth talking to a doctor about. There are medications out there that really work wonders to help control it. And even if she doesn’t like taking drugs (I know many people don’t), after I learned about my condition I met with a nutritionist and that helped me a lot, too. Even just altering your diet can really help people with insulin resistance.

  • Darcie

    have you been listening to my brain? honestly! 🙂 really nice post, sal!

  • Sharon Rose

    Hi there-what a moving and heartfelt post, you are so caring my dear and spot on with the advice too.

  • Iheartfashion

    Good advice Sal!
    Hope your friend takes you up on the shopping offer. She may find that she can look much better in the body she has now, without waiting for her ideal body.

  • adventuresatmidlife

    Well-put. This should be required reading for every woman. We are, indeed, already pretty!

    msmeta

  • Teresa

    Truer words have never been written. I gained 30 (yes THIRTY) pounds since getting married for a variety of reasons. For years I wouldn’t buy new clothes, or if I did it would be super cheap, unflattering because I would someday lose it. All of this just caused me to feel even worse about myself. But then a few months ago I said to myself, “Self, this is it for now. Work with what you got.” So I did some shopping, started reading some wonderful style blogs like this one and you know what? I feel SOOOOO much better. People have noticed too.
    I still hope to lose some of what I’ve gained, but this is where I am right now, and that’s okay.

    Hope your friend realizes that soon too.

  • kpriss

    I have to bring out the exception – the exception, in my case, is pregnancy. I have pre and post pregnancy clothes (the same) and pregnancy clothes (somewhat different for the last two months of pregnancy).

    I’ll count out the exception and get back to your lady friend. Is there any possibility that she should feel uncomfortable about her body because she’s uncomfortable with her life? just saying.. been there, done that.. Like you said, my body has changed so many times, I lost count!

  • Psyche

    Brilliant post!

  • Hanne

    Very good post ! I like your blog a lot 🙂

  • fashion herald

    Well, well said!

  • geri

    ugh, i have friends that are the same way and it breaks my heart. great post!

  • Miss Karen

    This is such an excellent post – I feel that so many women out there are experiencing the same thing – it’s almost like they’re punishing themselves now by not indulging in some beautiful clothing because they don’t think it’s worth it until they’re a certain size. And it’s true, being in a transitional body shape may mean that the clothes might be too big after a while, but clothes can always be altered/belted/re-jigged!

  • Louise

    Sal, I love where your heart is at, I feel a similar burden for woman who don’t know just how lovely and wonderful and beautiful they are. Please, continue to inspire.

    Body image is a tough one, although I’m fairly slim I’ve only just come to realise I will never have a tapering waist, I’m a square, my bones just aren’t shaped like that. Like what you were saying in an earlier post about “the tire”, all you can do is learn to dress for how you are, and no point beating yourself up over it.

  • fleur_delicious

    yes! Even more than fuel for future body change, I think that life is just plain too short to be worth suffering now for some unknown future. You know? We are alive today, out in this fascinating world, why should we not embrace the bodies that we have that move in it, and enjoy all as much as possible every day that we can?

    If I were to add one little addendum to all of this, it would be that maybe one need not entirely ditch the duds that fit a past body (bigger OR smaller). Maybe packing some of the old duds up and putting them away in storage somewhere (you know, just in case you need them again!) might make buying new things for the current body a little less scary, yes? You still have the old fall-backs if you need them, but in the meantime, what’s in front of you on a daily basis is what makes THIS body look good. =)

    Oh, and Sal? I am in a slump. One of those grad school slumps, where you’re too tired and stressed to be inspired anymore. If you have any inspiration to throw around, I think this weekend I am FINALLY going to go to my local consignment (it’s been months since I’ve shopped) and find some little thing to shake things up and make dressing satisfying and fun again. But…what? Any ideas?

  • LENORENEVERMORE

    I’ve been strugling with my image in the mirror… but this self hatred seems to deminished as I grow older…trying my best to embrace what I have now…realizing that fear is the root…fear is the opposite of love! I’m chopping down the root each day! Amen!!!

  • Songy

    I say Amen “get you hooked on looking good”.

    It’s darn hard though. One of my friends struggles with her weight. Same thing, no matter what she does she can’t lose a kilo. Style aside it’s really worrying for health reasons as well. Clearly there’s a genetic issue here, I strongly believe. I hope some brilliant medial scientists should come up with a good idea to solve this problem for really heavy people. Fingers crossed.

  • Leah

    Possibly the most inspiring piece of "love your body" writing I have read in a long time.

    In all honestly, most women are unhappy with how they look, no matter how beautiful they are. I had a friend who lost weight (& was happy with that) but then she was unhappy that her breasts were smaller. You just can't win can you really.