Monday, March 15, 2010

A Third Vote of Confidence in Myself

For the third time in my life, I have done a full sweep of my wardrobe and pulled out all the clothes that are now too big. I seem to have a strong pattern to this process. Like the first and second times I did this, it starts in a frenzy of joy and celebration. It is so much fun to pull out all the clothes in a particular size, try them on, and discover that they are all to big. For more than ten years, I was much more used to trying on all the clothes in a particular size and "discovering" that they were all too small. The opposite is so much more fun.

When I go through my wardrobe to weed out what no longer fits, I pile all the too big clothing on my love seat or couch and glory in that sight for a day or two. Then, the freak out starts. Who am I kidding? Look at all that nice clothing that I'm just going to give away. How much money does that pile represent? Can I really keep off this weight or continue to lose? Odds are against me. Do I want to spend the money to repurchase this wardrobe if/when I ever get back to this size?

The freak out wasn't as strong this time though. I have two other examples to reflect on how this process really works for me. A Weight Watchers buddy said it was like Hernan Cortez burning his ships when he and his crew of Spaniards landed on Mexico. There is no going back. You have to keep moving forward and succeeding at this journey. I do know that getting rid of my bigger clothes the previous two times helped me keep from regaining the weight and getting back into those larger sizes.

I am a very solid size 12 now. In fact, I'm just starting to fit into the smaller side of the size 12 range (e.g. Tahari suits) and even into a-line size 10 skirts and dresses. Soon, I'll fit into curvy 10s (e.g. Ann Taylor Loft Julie pants). Give it a few more months, and I'll be wearing the smaller 10s (e.g. Ann Taylor Loft Marissa pants). By mid-summer, I may be able to contemplate wearing a-line 8s as the curvy 10s become too big. There is a very strong pattern to getting into smaller size clothing that I have now experienced many times through 20-plus (one pair of very hated shorts), several 18-plus, lots and lots of 16-plus, some 14-plus, regular 16, regular 14, regular 12 and just the barest glimmers of regular 10. I recognize, celebrate and love all the signs of progress.

L: May 2005 in Hydra, Greece. I'm pretty sure I'm wearing size 18-plus cropped pants from Dress Barn Woman.

R: March 13, 2010 - I'm wearing regular size 12 from Ann Taylor Loft. This was the first time I'd fit into the brown, size 12, Marissa pants pictured.

The current pile of clothing on my love seat contains mostly size regular 14 clothing and several of my favorite, "smaller" size 16 pieces. For more than a decade, losing 20 pounds and getting into a regular size 14 was an impossible goal. I walked into Weight Watchers in January 2009 half ready to prove that it was impossible and with tentative plans to join the fat is beautiful movement in 2010. Instead, I'm getting rid of those 14s and contemplating getting into a size 10 or 8. That is amazing.

Yesterday, I took the very best of my size 16 and size 14 clothing, most of which had only been worn half a season, to a clothes swap party that I've been fortunate enough to go to 3 times before. A successful member of my local RWA chapters hosts it every year. I was able to see many of my long-time friends take my size 14 and 16 clothing home as additions to their wardrobe or as aspirational pieces. I think that's so wonderful.

I went home with my own huge pile of aspirational pieces, costume jewelry and a nice pair of shoes. (By the way, my shoe size has gotten smaller with my now nearly 35 pound weight loss since January 09 and nearly 45 from my highest weight. I used to be a 8 - 8 1/2 and I'm now more of an 8 - 7 1/2 size shoe wearer.) The hostess of the party had lost 20-30 pounds herself this past year and had contributed many size 8s and 10s to the pile of clothes to be swapped. I seemed the most interested in them (or perhaps the most aggressive person to go after them), and I now have many amazing pieces I can add to those 3 size 10 clothes I bought last winter to use as something to work towards in the next 6 months to a year. In fact, one or two of the pieces from yesterday's clothes swap already fit well enough to be worn in public. I'm filled with confidence that the rest of it will eventually fit. No, this journey is not fast, but I do know that my patience and persistence will be rewarded.

What things do you do as a vote of confidence in yourself? As you get smaller, do you get rid of your bigger clothes?

Michelle Butler has made becoming a healthy writer a priority. She lives, works and writes in the Washington, DC, area. You can follow her on twitter at


Tawny on March 15, 2010 at 1:14 AM said...

First off, a huge happy dancing WOOOOOOT for you, Michelle :-D I'm so excited you're seeing your sizes shrink and now going through a THIRD purging of your wardrobe. Thats just so awesome!!

I'll admit, I've never worn my current size as the last time I was close to this weight, I was in maternity clothes :-P But I will definitely be getting rid of the larger sizes as I shrink out of them!

Now tell me, how do these clothing swaps work? It sounds so fun :-)

Elise Hayes on March 15, 2010 at 8:12 AM said...

Oohh, you SCORED on getting those "new to you" size 8s and 10s! I hear the hostess has lovely taste, so I bet you got some real treasures.

And congratulations on this third purge of the closet. That's a serious financial commitment (not to mention the time for all that shopping), so it's a great of vote of confidence in yourself. Yay, Michelle!

Elise Hayes on March 15, 2010 at 8:20 AM said...


Michelle will have her own answer to your clothing swap question, but I did one with friends last spring and really enjoyed it, so I'd recommend them.

In this scenario (which I think is different from what Michelle will describe), a group of five of us gathered at a friend's house. We were within about a two size range of each other. The instructions were to bring gently used clothing that you were tired of, or that you'd bought but had never quite fit right and thus hadn't become a favorite.

It was a lot of fun--and sometimes surprising--to see that the shirt that didn't quite fit me just needed someone with, er, deeper bosoms than mine. Or that the color that made me look washed out really made someone else glow.

We actually tried the pieces on that afternoon (which is different from Michelle's swap, I think) and we all left with several "new to us" outfits the refresh our wardrobes. And, every now and then, I see a flash of familiar clothing on a friend and know that some of my old pieces have found a happy new home.

The other fun thing about this event is that it pushes you out of your clothing comfort zone. I brought home a pair of high waisted, aggressively striped pants that I would *never* have bought on my own, but that look fabulous on me.

And, after we finished, we had several bags of clothing to donate to charity, clean closets, and new looks for all of us :)

Unknown on March 15, 2010 at 9:38 AM said...

I love the idea of a clothing swap.

And yes, I do get rid of my larger clothes as I grow out of them. I love this certain style of black pants and as I go down a size I give the larger one away and replace it with the exact same pants in a smaller size.

Michelle Butler on March 15, 2010 at 10:37 AM said...

Thanks, Tawny! It really is awesome getting into smaller sizes. :)

Clothes swaps are a lot of fun. I don't think the one I went to on Saturday is as organized as the one that Elise described - probably because there are so many more people involved. It can feel chaotic at times.

Everyone who is invited to the party (which is not just about the clothes swap - though I love that part of it!) is also invited to bring clothes to the swap or to partake of the swap. The sizes available can range from small/petite to 22/24.

People bring whatever they want to swap. Sometimes they bring stuff that no longer fits (either too small or too big) or they just don't like or wear much anymore. Usually, the stuff is in good to very good condition and includes clothing, jewelry, shoes, handbags, etc. A few items may still have tags on them.

The clothes are literally piled on the floor and on the couches/chairs, and you just dig through it looking for buried treasure. I must touch everything to make sure I don't miss anything great. This makes me feel the need to impose some organization, and I will start making piles of stuff that I've already gone through. Yes, I've got generations of frugal ancestors urging me on. :)

And, there are a lot of treasures. As Elise said, the hostess has great taste and some real treasures are to be had. I don't want to sound like a complete label snob, but many of the jackets and pants I got are Armani or other high brow designers and look like new. I also got a ton of Banana Republic size 8 stuff that look like new. Since I'm literally replacing a wardrobe at each size (trying to show some restraint but not too much), this clothing will be extremely useful if/when I get to an 8.

I did contribute very nice clothing to be swapped - mostly Ann Taylor, Ann Taylor Loft or Tahari suits that were almost new. Others bring nice stuff, and there really was quite a collection of nice costume jewelry to go though. I just love this swap!

Michelle Butler on March 15, 2010 at 10:38 AM said...


I did score, and it just thrills me. :) You may score some of the 8s too.

Michelle Butler on March 15, 2010 at 10:39 AM said...

It seems to me that most people keep their big clothes. I might be more tempted to do that if I lived in a house and had lots of room, but I just don't want that clothing around to encourage me to backslide. Congrats on getting into smaller versions of your favorite black pants!

Sally Kilpatrick on March 15, 2010 at 11:05 AM said...


This is awesome. I'm with you--it is so much more exhilarating to try on clothes that are too big that those that are too small. Bonus: I bought a pair of jeans sized by waist (29) thinking they were 10s, but they're actually closer to an 8 and too big. That made the sting of apparently shrunken pair of 8 jeans much easier to bear.

You go girl! And, yes, I started getting better results when I stopped keeping my "fat" clothes--when they went out the door, it was the moment of no return. : )

Oh, and I so want to have a clothing swap now. I do the consignment sales for the kids, and I've often thought that it would be great to have a consignment sale for adults; a swap would be even better!

Michelle Butler on March 15, 2010 at 11:38 AM said...

Thanks! You totally understand my joy. :) It's good to hear that getting rid of your big clothes also worked for you. I have wondered if I should start keeping the 12s down when I get too small for them. It sounds like I shouldn't.

Congratulations on the jeans! That's great that you can also confirm the 8 shrunk. Clothes do shrink in the dryer - it's just such an easy excuse to use though when one's clothes start getting tight that it's hard to know did they really shrink or not.

Maybe you should organize/host a clothing swap for some friends or your RWA chapter. Based on Elise and my experience, they work so well.

Mary Curry on March 15, 2010 at 7:22 PM said...

Wow, Michelle. I'm so proud of you.

I'm hoping to be able to do the discard in time for summer. So far I seem to have lost a solid 5 pounds and an additional two that still fluctuate up and down.

Mary Curry on March 15, 2010 at 7:27 PM said...

BTW - I made Rachel's broccoli and bean soup yesterday. I was afraid to eat too much - given the broccoli and beans. It was nice to have it here when I got home today. It really took the edge off while I waited for dinner to cook and it sure beat the crap I usually stuff into my face when I am ravenous.

Michelle Butler on March 15, 2010 at 7:42 PM said...

Thanks, Mary! It is very exciting.

Congrats on the 5-7 pound loss. That's very great. Best wishes for the rest.

Great to know about Rachel's soup too. It's always a dangerous time for me when I get really hungry - not unknown when I walk in the door after work. WW has tons and tons of vegetable soup recipes floating around that they say their dieters can eat unlimited amounts of. Many folks I know swear by them. You may want to look up some of those.

Rachel Graves on March 16, 2010 at 4:10 AM said...

Hey Mary! I'm glad you liked the soup. I have to admit the, um, windy side effects can be troublesome. Just remind yourself (or the other gym goers) how good beans are for you despite their noisy nature.

And Michelle: I am wicked, wicked jealous that you've got proof things are working and spiffy new clothes. Congrats!

Michelle Butler on March 16, 2010 at 9:22 AM said...

Thanks, Rachel! Promising myself I'd give it a year no matter what and working on my patience really made a big difference. :)

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