Hello, it’s me Ali. I know it’s been a minute since I’ve written. Like everyone else, I’ve been in COVID re-entry transition mode. For me this includes putting Eça in daycare and adjusting to the related commute time and hand foot and mouth disease (HFM) outbreak (and don’t worry…HFM isn’t a resurgence of a Medieval disease like I originally wondered. It’s relatively common and harmless).
And one post-COVID transition topic that keeps popping up in both my Truce with Food and Why Am I Eating This Now? Groups is how to handle post-COVID clothing… particularly when there’s been COVID weight gain.
Clothing is yet another sneaky place where the “sacrifice-reward” cycle unconsciously shows up in our relationship to food and our bodies. The underlying belief is that “being good” is about depriving ourselves. Here are a few ways this dynamic plays out with clothing:
- When I battled my weight, clothing was a reward for weight loss. Once I lost X amount of pounds (through sacrifice and discipline), then I could buy clothing I liked (because I earned it!).
- A client has a dress she loves that keeps her cool in the current hot weather. Still, she hesitates to wear it and to show her “jiggly” (“non-sacrificing”!, undisciplined”!) arms and legs
- A client likes working out in biker shorts that eliminate thigh chafing. The shorts make working out more enjoyable (and her more likely to move her body), but she questions if she should really be wearing them now, at this weight (has she earned comfort)?
The through line in these examples? That we have to earn the right (via sacrifice) to feel comfortable in our clothing. If we’re comfortable, how can we possibly be motivated to lose weight and not advance to larger sizes?
I’m here to 1) make this belief clear so that you can see if it’s something that controls your relationship with clothes 2) show you how deprivation and being “good” sets you up for being “bad” and 3) remind you that fear-based motivation doesn’t work.
COVID has killed almost four million people. We’ve all been through an incredible amount of adjustment, stress and perhaps grief. If you’re reading this, your body carried you through all. of. this. If you’re like me, your body also fought the virus itself and won.
Even if you feel fortunate for how you’ve fared the past 18 months, we don’t have to “earn” feeling comfortable in our clothing. Some things in life do require sacrifice. Save your energy for those.
Denying ourselves comfortable, stylish clothing creates a new source of distress that puts our nervous system on high alert and further builds up weight loss as a panacea. Being thinner becomes THE solution to make pants that are too tight fit instead of buying a comfortable size, which is also a solution.
Feeling like we have choices makes us feel in control and helps to repair our relationship to food and our body. What we’ve discussed in my groups is buying “transition” pieces, which are a few really comfortable pieces to help you feel good in your body now, that will also work if you do lose some or all of your COVID weight.
For example, I’m not one of those Mothers whose pregnancy weight just fell off. For me losing 10 pounds in the past six months has been about exercise consistency — and I’m still 20 pounds above my pre-pregnancy weight. I have no idea where my body will land post-pregnancy.
As the weather turned to summer, I bought a pair of shorts, pants, a dress, and a few tops whose fabrics I love. These will fit me now and when I lose the next 10 pounds. The Athleta pants (below) are my favorite. The soft fabric and flowy feel are the best and I love that Athleta is a B-Corp.
One client told us about ThredUp, an online consignment shop. It’s an eco and price point win. You put in your general size, answer questions about style, and they send a box of clothes and you only pay for what you keep. My client got a few things at a great price that she probably never would have picked for herself.
We live in a time when clothing manufacturers are making really stylish clothing for all body sizes. We have so many choices.
Buying clothes that allow you to express yourself at your weight now— that also leave room for weight loss— is yet another act of resistance against the “all-or-nothing” and “deprivation-gluttony” cycles created by the sacrifice-reward belief system.
Trusting comfort and pleasure to get us to where we want to go is part of the medicine we need to change our relationship to food, health and our bodies.
To changing seasons in all the ways (and daycare staying open!).
P.S. If you’re finding you have apprehension about post-COVID re-entry, check out Prentis Hemphill’s Finding Our Way podcast episode, Power, Intention and Gathering with Priya Parker. The first twenty minutes in particular are helpful to understanding the range of feelings (and even fear) as we re-enter society and some powerful questions to help us meaningfully cross this threshold.