How I’m Learning To Love My Body, Find A Middle Ground, And Buy Clothes Without Regret
I was pregnant or breastfeeding for four years. Starting in March 2015, when I got pregnant with Kidwoods, straight through to April 2019, when I weaned a 14-month-old Littlewoods. There was a one-month hiatus in 2017 after I weaned Kidwoods and before I got pregnant with Littlewoods. Other than that, my body’s been in full-time mama territory.
Today is an exploration of how my relationship with my body–and by extension, with clothes–evolved as a result of my pregnancies and parenting. I’m learning it’s more nuanced than the fact that my hips will never go back to their original shape. The physical changes are the most obvious, but the mindset shift is the most affecting.
Body positivity, acceptance, finding a balance between vanity and neglect, breaking my clothes-buying-ban, and spending money are all wrapped up in this experience.
Four Years Of Maternity Clothes
Four and a half years ago, I was determined to cobble together a hand-me-down maternity wardrobe and baby nursery. And I did it. I totally did it. I’ve got the full story here: How I Saved Tons Of Money During My Baby’s First Year.
But today is about me. After I weaned Littlewoods, I woke up the next day, looked in my closet, and realized that everything was maternity or stretched out or way, way, we’re talking WAY too small. My body’s been through a lot and my clothes reflected it. I flipped through the hangers and found nursing tank tops, maternity pants with strained waist bands, stains from all sources, and shapeless shirts distorted to accommodate nursing babies. I felt depressed about continuing to wear maternity clothes long after giving birth. Depressed that nothing else fit.
I’m grateful I was able to breastfeed both of my daughters. I’m beyond thankful I had two healthy pregnancies resulting in two healthy babies. I’m aware of how fortunate my husband and I are and of how many families yearn and struggle for exactly what we have. I’m also aware that I’ve been wearing hand-me-down maternity clothes for four years straight.
My Clothes Problem
Before pregnancy, before motherhood, I loved clothes. Loved them too much, in fact, which was the impetus for my clothes-buying-ban in the first place. I stopped buying clothes in January 2014 and didn’t buy anything (no shirts, no shoes, no socks, no undies, nothing) until a pair of winter boots in February 2017.
After starting my Frugalwoodsian journey to a simpler life of less consumerism and less spending and less stuff, I came to terms with my over-consumption of clothes. I’d thought I was doing good because I shopped only at thrift stores and garage sales. But that was still money spent and still way too much stuff in my closet. It doesn’t matter if something’s a good deal if you don’t need it. That’s a hard lesson for me and one I have to continuously re-learn.
When I got pregnant with our first child, I packed all of my cute, small, fancy clothes away in the basement. When we moved to Vermont, they moved along with us. I thought I’d wear them again. After my first baby, I could wear most of them again. I lost most of the baby weight pretty quickly and–with the hubris of the unexperienced–thought I’d have no problem doing the same after baby #2. Well. Here’s the thing about that: nope, nope, nope. One of the reasons I lost the weight is that I was breastfeeding. When I stopped breastfeeding, my weight crept up.
Then I got pregnant with baby #2 and, after Littlewoods was born, my body refused to rebound. The pregnancy weight clung to me like an uninvited koala bear: warm, soft, gripping my belly and hips. Nursing helped, hiking helped, yoga helped, eating well helped, but after 14 months, I needed to accept my new body. But “accept” isn’t what I did; “resigned myself to it” is more like it.
Then I Went To New York City
Around this time, I went to the New York City Statement event for women in money and was surrounded by confident, successful, beautiful, brilliant women who balance femininity with feminism and intellectual success with trendy outfits. I felt awkward in my dresses that were, at minimum, ten years old.
I wore a lot of black on that trip in the hopes of smoothing things over and looking less rural. Before I left, one of my Vermont friends–my chicest Vermont friend–told me not to worry about what I wore because, no matter what, one cannot contend with the trends of NYC.
She was right; I was out of date and out of shape. But you know what? It didn’t matter. No one cared. Everyone wanted to talk about my work, about their work, about my book, about their book. It was empowering.
During this trip, I gave a talk about Frugalwoods to a packed house at the Financial Gym wearing a black dress I bought at Talbots ten years ago with a gift card from my mother-in-law. It was too tight, but I was sitting down for the presentation and it was ok as long as I didn’t bend over.
Body Positivity: Mrs. Frugalwoods Learns Something New
While in New York, away from my kids and husband, away from my homestead, away from my mom-role, I was free to think about myself and my body. Something I hadn’t had time to do, but moreover, something I’d avoided doing. My body was a vehicle these past four years: a cocoon to grow babies, a source of sustenance, a means of conveyance, and a convenient place for kids to wipe noses. During that trip, I had a conversation–actually a tear-infused three-hour brunch at an incredible French restaurant–with my friend Emma Pattee, who recently wrote about her experience with prenatal depression here on Frugalwoods.
I confided in Emma that my body felt mommed-out and that none of my clothes fit and that I didn’t like how I look. I’m not fat, but I’m not the size I used to be and that bothered me. Instead of encouraging me to exercise more or lauding the role my body played in creating life, she did something really useful. She told me about body positivity. I was like, bodies? Positivity? I’m listening. Emma explains it best in her New York Times article on the topic, so I’ll excerpt:
If you’ve ever been on a diet, you probably told yourself that as soon as you lost those pounds, you’d love your body. Maybe you did actually achieve that goal weight, or maybe you didn’t. But chances are, you didn’t end up with a long-lasting love for the way you look.
Whether it’s weight loss or some other element of your appearance, you shouldn’t wait for some magical change to start loving your body. Loving your body as it is, regardless of your exercise routine or diet is one of those rare “life hacks” that doesn’t have a downside.
YASSSSSSS. You can see why our brunch involved a lot of tears. I’m yes, yes-ing all over because this is HOW I’VE FELT MY ENTIRE LIFE. Right? Like there’s GOT to be one weird trick to making my booty less flat and my stomach more flat (could the fat not just switch places!?!? would it be so hard?!?). I’ve always felt I SHOULD be DOING MORE to get into better shape. A more desirable shape. A shape that’s condoned by our culture. A shape lauded as “healthy” and “attractive.”
Well you know what? Maybe there’s more I could do and maybe there isn’t. Maybe the shape I am is fine. Even if it’s not fine, it’s the freaking shape I am.
Emma blew my mind with this whole body positivity movement, which is indicative of how much I have left to learn. I recently listened to an NPR Hidden Brain podcast about how approaching your work as a novice, or rebel, can yield tremendous dividends. This made me wonder what I don’t know. Turns out, there’s a lot I don’t know. Accepting that ignorance and embracing my flawed knowledge base is pretty cool. It’s allowing me to explore my work as a novice would: with excitement and a willingness to be introspective, a willingness to admit I was wrong. I’ve been wrong a lot and I realized that one of my most prominent wrongs was my decades-long devotion to…
The Guise Of Being Healthy
I’ve dieted and exercised my entire adult life under the banner of “being healthy.” I was “being healthy” by only eating salads for lunch. I was “being healthy” by refraining from cookies at a party. I was “being healthy” by berating my body in front of the mirror–after all, I just wanted to be better, to be healthier. I was “being healthy” when I criticized other people’s food choices, exercise decisions, and bodies.
All of this was ok, all of this was good, because I was “being healthy.”
I’m not saying that healthy foods and exercise aren’t wise choices–they empirically are–but there’s a temptation to paper over vanity, obsession, and body shaming in the name of “being healthy.”
Reading Emma’s writing about body positivity, and following some awesome body positive influencers on Instagram (I believe social media can be a good influence if you’re careful about what you consume), started to reform the way I think about my weight, my body, my appearance, and myself.
Seeing pictures of healthy, HAPPY folks of all sizes in my Instagram feed eroded my conviction that skinny is best and thin is in and fat is bad, bad, bad.
Undoing prejudices we’ve held for a lifetime isn’t easy, but I think it’s necessary. The world calls on us to evolve as people, accept new ideas, and challenge ingrained beliefs.
Creating A Family Philosophy of Body Positivity
I’m super motivated to do this transformative work right now because I have two young daughters. Two girls who will grow up to be women. Two girls I cannot shelter forever.
I have days, you guys, where I want to keep my daughters home with me all the time. To shield them from the negativity and predation that stalks women. To create a world for them where all bodies are celebrated and no bodies are coerced and all bodies are listened to and respected. A world where all bodies are valid and needed and valuable.
Since I can’t–and won’t–keep them home with me all the time (to whit, Kidwoods started preschool this week), I’ll control what I can control: the environment inside my home.
I can’t control what their peers tell them, but I can control what I tell them and what they overhear their parents saying. My husband and I are creating a home atmosphere, and a family philosophy, that’s gender neutral, affirming, accepting, progressive, and–as I’m now learning–body positive.
Striking A Balance
I don’t want to mislead my kids or delude myself into thinking that all foods are healthy and that all levels of inactivity are healthy. But I also don’t want them to obsess over their appearances and their weight. I want them to understand nutrition, but not feel the need to “diet.” I want them to incorporate exercise into their lives, but not slavishly churn away to burn fat. In other words, I want balance.
As a family, we eat whole foods: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, local organic meat and eggs, some dairy. As a family, we are outside a lot: running, playing, chopping wood, gardening, hiking. As a family, we sleep long nights, drink lots of water, and have limited screen time. As a family, we don’t talk about appearances very often and we don’t say negative things about anyone’s body. As a family, we’re trying hard to engender a body positive mindset.
As a family, we are many different sizes. Kidwoods clocks in at the 60th percentile for height and weight. Littlewoods, on the other hand, barely cracks the 3rd percentile, which means she’s very tiny. Totally healthy and well-fed, but really small. I don’t want to create identities for my kids around their sizes. The fact that one is average and one is minuscule doesn’t matter. They both have worth and value regardless of their percentile.
To be honest, it’s pretty easy to create a body positive atmosphere right now: we just say that people come in all shapes and sizes and that it’s good to eat good foods to help you grow and to move your body and be active. That pretty much does it for a 1.5 year old and a 3.5 year old. But I know these are the easy years as far as appearance and self-confidence are concerned.
I know that we will have tween daughters and teenage daughters and I know that someone will say something cruel–whether intentional or not–about how they look. So I’m girding myself now to be ready for them. I’m reforming my mindset now to not just accept my body, but to love it.
Working For Self-Confidence Without Vanity
While I was pregnant and a human milk machine, I stopped caring about my appearance. Anyone who saw me out in public can attest to my lack of care. I struggled to get through a day when my kids were newborns and taking a shower (alone, thank you very much) was the height of decadence.
My hair was somewhere up on my head and clothes were hopefully covering the requisite bits. I didn’t have energy to put into my outer shell and that was ok. I’m all about leaning into the phase of life you’re in and I was in the phase of surrendering to my babies.
After being diagnosed and treated for postpartum depression, and after Littlewoods stared sleeping through the night, and finally, after Littlewoods was weaned, I raised my head. I looked in the mirror. I saw myself.
For the first time in four years, I thought about myself and my body as separate from my children. I didn’t want to go back to my pre-pregnancy routine of counting calories and tracking my weight and obsessing over how my waist looks in a dress, but I craved something more than my beaten-up maternity clothes/tents. I had Mr. FW cut my hair short, which helped alleviate the time and stress of managing it. Then I turned my attention to my clothes.
What’s The Middle Ground Here?
I have a tough time finding the middle ground. It’s easier for me to be extreme. This is one of the reasons why our early days of extreme frugality were natural for me: I can totally go all in on not spending any money. That is my JAM. I can also go ALL IN on not eating anything unhealthy. I can be 100% on never eating out. What I struggle with is identifying compromises. How much money is ok to spend? How many brownies are reasonable to consume? How often should we go out to dinner? Answers: 1) unsure; 2) not enough; 3) once a month seems to work for us right now.
In today’s example, I’m trying to balance all-consuming vanity with utter appearance neglect. Again, it’s easy for me to swing one way or the other. The middle ground that most people seem to effortlessly inhabit? Not my forte. Until now. I think. Still TBD. “Work In Progress” should be my human bumper sticker. Although I’m trying not to draw attention to my mom butt, so let’s not put a sticker on it.
Recognizing my desire for a middle ground, I cleaned out my closet. In a torturous, days-long project, I tried on allllllllll the clothing I own. If you think you don’t have a lot of clothes, try trying them all on in one day. In front of a mirror. Most of them did not fit, which was awesome, let me tell you. I discovered that at least 80% of my clothes were either:
- Bedraggled maternity or deeply worn post-maternity.
- Super chic, teensy tiny work clothes from back when I worked in an office.
Neither of these categories suits my current roles: non-pregnant mom who works outside on the farm and inside on the computer and goes to a lot of social functions with two young children clinging to some portion(s) of her body. So I got rid of them.
I meant to count the number of trash bags jammed with clothes that I donated to the thrift store, but I forgot. I did take one picture of the trunk of the Prius loaded down with donations, but that was only one of many trips. I gave away all of the maternity clothes to several friends who are pregnant with their first babies. I donated all of my former work clothes. I gave away shoes, coats, purses, dresses, jeans, trousers, blazers, blouses, shirts, sweaters. Giving away all of this didn’t feel like a loss. It wasn’t painful. It was a liberation. I had all this STUFF sitting in my house–crammed in the closet, stowed in the basement, jammed in the drawers–and I wasn’t using any of it. Instead, here’s what would happen: I’d go to get dressed, pull out something I like and realize one–or several–of three things:
- This does not fit
- This doesn’t even come CLOSE to fitting
- This makes me look pregnant
That bummed me out. It doesn’t feel good to be reminded every day that you don’t fit into things. Having size 2 jeans in my closet didn’t motivate me to exercise more–it depressed me. It made me feel like I SHOULD dedicate all my time and effort to getting back down to a size 2–consequences be damned. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to forgo nourishing, filling meals. I don’t want to forgo my rare chances to sit on the couch and talk with my husband in favor of squeezing in a workout. I want to be… wait for it… content. I want to be happy with my life and with my body. So I gave away those size 2 jeans (I really loved those jeans) and I said goodbye to that part of my life.
Will I ever be a size 2 again? Unlikely. But if I am? I’ll go to the thrift store and buy some new-to-me size 2 jeans. I don’t need to shame myself every morning when I’m just trying to get dressed before the baby wakes up. I don’t need to feel anger over my weight every time I reach into my closet and come back with something that’s too small. That won’t bring happiness into my life.
What’s interesting to me is that as much clothing as I gave away, I’m sitting here itching to go through my closet again and get rid of even more. All four seasons of my wardrobe now fit into my side of the master bedroom closet. I do have a few fancy occasion dresses, along with one black suit, hanging in the basement and my winter coats are in the front hall. But other than that, all of my clothes are in one closet. And I still only wear about 5% of it. I’m going to challenge myself over the next few weeks to winnow down my stash even more. Doing so clears my mind, it frees me from decision fatigue over what to wear, and it lets someone else score a great deal at the thrift store.
So, I Bought Clothes
After giving away almost all the clothes I own, a sparse and slightly tragic retinue remained: leggings I got a garage sale, a few dresses, and a bunch of sweaters/fleeces. I could’ve cobbled together outfits from this sad assemblage, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to feel good about the clothes I wear and I wanted to have a few things that look decent. So I bought new clothes. I didn’t take my own advice. I didn’t go to the thrift store or wait for a garage sale. I got on my computer, typed in my credit card number, and had new clothes shipped to me. And I’m so glad I did. Plus, I have a cash back credit card, so at least I got some money back…
Buying clothes is part of my new attempt at balance. The old me would’ve berated myself for spending money on something as frivolous as clothes. The newly-becoming-me recognizes that I was tired of wearing hand-me-downs and stuff that didn’t fit. I’m still me, I’m still Mrs. Frugalwoods, and I still like a good deal. I spent waaaaaaaaaaay more time than I care to admit researching leggings (that’s a rabbit hole I hope to never go down again), which proved my theory that frugality can fix paralysis by analysis and that more choices do NOT make us happier. I found what I consider a good middle ground: $9.97 and $24.99 leggings from Old Navy.
Then I found two pairs of leggings for $2 at a garage sale a few weeks ago–here they are on Amazon if you’re interested (affiliate link). The leggings, along with several $24.97 long-sleeved dresses from Old Navy and four $19.99 short-sleeved dresses from Target, plus my much-lauded Jockey Skimmies, provide me with a year-round, all-seasons wardrobe that I enjoy and that’s comfortable. Since I liked the Old Navy leggings, I bought the same leggings in four colors. I bought the same dress in two different colors. From Target, I bought the same short-sleeved dress in four different colors. Actually, not gonna lie, two of the dresses are the same color. Yep. I own two identical dresses. This is a problem with online shopping–I SWEAR they looked like different colors on the screen. No worries, I wear them both over the course of a week.
You know what I realized while purchasing all these dresses and leggings? I don’t like wearing jeans. Of any size. They pinch and squeeze and constrict. I LIKE LEGGINGS AND DRESSES. I’ve known this my whole life but militated against it because I thought I should wear jeans or trousers or pantyhose or something (definitely not pantyhose). Ridiculous, I say. So I didn’t buy new jeans.
My indoor clothes sorted, I needed something for outside farm work. Burned out my from leggings search, I decided to copy my husband and ordered a pair of the exact same work overalls he has (and loves) along with the exact same long-sleeved work shirt he has and loves (affiliate links). We look like members of a matching cult, but other than that, it’s the perfect outdoor work outfit.
The women’s version of these overalls are more expensive, less durable, and have fewer pockets. Forget that. I ordered a small men’s size and they’re awesome. As the weather turns, I’ll add long underwear underneath and a coat over the top. When snow sets in, I got a pair of snow bib overalls from a yard sale that I’m hoping will suffice along with my infamous trash-find-coat and these winter boots, which are what initially broke my clothes-buying-ban.
The Unfulfilling, Endless Consumer Carousel
I don’t want to go back to my old habit of perpetually buying clothes. I want to settle on this wardrobe and be done with shopping. Several reasons for this:
- The more I buy, the more I think I need. The more I online shop, the more ads I see for cute dresses I might like to buy… The more I click on cute dresses, the more inadequate my current dresses feel. Doesn’t help that all of the models are size 0.
- The more I buy, the more money I spend. This is the obvious frugality argument and it’s one that’s well-hashed here on Frugalwoods. You know I love my captain obvious phrase: “The easiest way to save money is to just not buy anything.”
- The more I buy, the more stuff cluttering my life and mind. As established, I just gave away a metric ton of clothing. I don’t want to re-start bringing unnecessary clothes into my house only to have to later comb through and give them away. The other week I bought what I thought was a cute dress at a yard sale for $1. So, just a dollar and not much time spent deliberating over it, which negates reasons #1 and #2. But what it doesn’t negate is #3. I had to jam it into my closet and, as I heaved hangers aside, I knew I shouldn’t have bought it.
- The more I buy, the less satisfied I am. Consuming puts me on the carousel of never enough. Once I start, it’s hard to stop. It’s so easy to get myself into the mindset of “I’ll just buy one more dress and then, THEN I’ll be done. Then I’ll be all set. Then I’ll be happy.” That’s a tough treadmill to get off. When do I reach enough? When am I wearing the perfect dress that’ll help me feel perfectly positive about my body? When will buying equal happiness? I think we all know the answer to that.
Test Out The Extremes To Find The Middle
I seem to live my life like a ping pong ball. I hurl myself toward one extreme and then ricochet to the other. Eventually, hopefully, I settle on a midpoint. I learn a lot from my time on the extremes.
Before Mr. Frugalwoods and I adapted an extremely frugal lifestyle, we experienced what in my book I call a “rumspringa of spending.” Now we’ve migrated to a moderate midpoint of spending: we’re not super frugal, we’re not super spendy, and we still live far below our means.
Before wholesale neglect of my appearance, I was overly preoccupied with what I looked like and what I was wearing.
I hope I can now nudge myself into moderation. I can wear clothes that fit and aren’t stained. I can (kind of) fix my hair. I can feel good about how I look without it being the most important thing about me. I can be positive about my body no matter what size it is.
How do you find the middle ground of moderation?
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Oh, I’m so happy for you! Learning about health at every size and body acceptance was transformative for me, and I so love it when people I care about (yes! I care about you even though I only know you from the internet! Mom solidarity perhaps?) find it too. The sheer amount of BRAIN SPACE that opens up is exhilarating.
And thank you for writing this. It’s such a vulnerable topic, and as with your writing about postpartum, I so admire your willingness to share your tender heart in the service of making other people experiencing the same things feel less alone.
I completely agree!
Brava! To help guide your body positive parenting journey as your girls get older, you must, must, must listen to the Full Bloom Podcast (https://www.fullbloomproject.com/podcast). The hosts are eating disorder psychotherapists who follow the latest in how Health at Every Size, body positivity, and intuitive eating intersect with human development and parenting. You are clearly on the right path, and Full Bloom Project will give you so many tools to use!
Awesome! Thank you! I listen to a lot more podcasts (and read fewer books) now that my time is so strapped, so this is most appreciated. Adding it to my queue now!
Long time reader and dietitian here! The best researched and most effective principles for feeding healthy families is the “Satter Division of Responsibility “. You can check out her book “Secrets of feeding healthy families ” or take a peak at her recommendations here. She’s a dietitian and family therapist with tons of experience.
Yes!! This is the approach we follow as a family. Huge fan of hers!
Girl. Finally. I’m proud of you for buying some new clothes!
Also are you going to fix your bathtub in your house? Bathtubs are most useful when you have little kids and you definitely have some of those.
I’d be curious to hear how you and Mr FW allocate your earnings now. I’m not the IRP, I don’t care that you both still earn an income. Your extreme frugality allowed you to build the beautiful homestead life. But what is happening with that income in FI? Does the homestead cost more that you thought? Are you donating most of your excess? Are you adding to your investment portfolio? Could you spend it on things that would improve your quality of life?
My husband and I have been in student loan payoff mode. I know what we normally spend a month, but we try to keep it as low as possible and throw everything else at loans or investments. We recently did some FI calcuations and came up with a monthly savings number that would get us to FI in a reasonable amount of time. We discovered that we were saving too much. My husband should buy some new clothes. since his are all 10 years old. Ramit Sethi’s money dials concept drove us to some great conversations. DH wants to do more activities involving health. Signing up for a cycling event, personal trainer sessions. I love to travel, but I have always felt guilty spending money on it. Now I know we are financially meeting our goals. We decided to have a list of items/experiences we’d like to invest in for our quality of life. Our excess for the month after bills and investing goes to something on that list. That way it’s not mindless impulse spending.
On the body positive self worth note, when you’ve been in extremely frugality mode, it’s ok to spend money on yourself. All money spent on you doesn’t mean it’s mindless consumerism. It could be a very deliberate act of self love.
The spend-as-little-as-possible-game-every-angle-to-spend-less has served you well. With the excess you have each month could you improve your quality of life spending more? I’m not talking mindless consumerism. You’ve clearly ridded yourself of that habit. I don’t see you going back there. What could you deliberately and thoughtfully spend more money on?
These are great questions, Scarlet! let me try and answer as best I can:
-Since we are FI, but still both work by choice, our money goes into: diversified investments, 529s for our girls, traditional retirement savings, a donor advised charitable giving fund, and of course, our monthly expenses since we’re not drawing down on investments right now.
-We have indeed found homesteading to be more expensive than living in the city, which I discuss in detail in this post.
-We’ve also increased our spending on things that improve our lives, such as: our Roomba, date night dinners out, our kids-free vacation in July, my new clothes, farm equipment, our solar panels, etc.
-We also buy lots of local, organic foods (meat, eggs, vegetables) which cost more than conventional grocery store items, but which are worth it to us to: support our neighbors, support our community, and eat healthier and more locally.
I hope this helps! Happy to answer other questions and maybe I should do a whole post on this… 🙂
I’d love to see a post on this. My husband and I had the same experience as Scarlet. We started out super hardcore, cut everything for about 3 years. We’ve slowly added back what we think is important over the last 2 years. Some would call this lifestyle inflation. We figured that we put a large amount in early, so that money has more time in the market, so it was more valuable to cut back a lot for a few years.
Thank you so much for this post. I am a first-time mom to an 8 month old daughter, and I’ve also grappled with yearning to break out of the body-beration cycle. Her body is amazing and perfect as it is; I love her thunder thighs (they are the most amazing chunkiness), her sparkling eyes, how she is on her way to being an Amazon (95+% on height and weight). I never want her to feel like she is less than anyone else, and I need to be able to model that for her, which means I also need to do the work of loving my body now so I can show her what that looks like later.
I followed all of your clothes journey posts so closely and felt like I had taken the easy, lazy route because I bought a lot of my maternity clothes new. (The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and all of the regular winter clothes I tried on were too short.) However, I felt so much better in many of those items than I do now, living in whatever pre-pregnancy button-downs accommodate my new mom-boobs and staring at all of the hangers of things I may never wear again. I have feared what will happen when I have my second baby. Perhaps, I need to give myself the grace and budget to purchase a new item occasionally, knowing that having something that works nearly perfectly and makes me feel better goes a long way to helping me love my body for what it is.
Finally a book recommendation if you’re open to it: Hunger by Roxane Gay transformed the way I look at food and bodies and taught me a lot of empathy that I was lacking around food choices and body sizes. It’s a fantastic memoir.
Thanks again for this post, and from one extremist to another, I look forward to reading more about your journey to find the middle ground.
“Although I’m trying not to draw attention to my mom butt, so let’s not put a sticker on it.” – Maybe you SHOULD put a sticker on it. Celebrate that thing, love your body!
As someone who has never fit into society’s expectations of what a body should look like, I’m always so happy to see when others discover body positivity. It not only helps you, it helps all of us who then slowly become a little bit less judged as this movement spreads. 🙂
YES! YAY! Kidwoods will be happy to accommodate your butt-sticker request 😉
I truly appreciated all aspects of this post: body positivity, finding a happy medium between complete denial and complete excess, and wearing stretchy clothes rather than constricting jeans! Thank you!
Thanks for sharing-I needed this tocday 🙂
Thank you so much for writing about this topic! I am in the same boat (two kids in 27 months, constantly pregnant or breastfeeding) and now feel my body settling into a higher weight than I’m used to. As another Uber-frugal person I struggle with needing new clothes but like you, have purchased clothes that make me feel good in the here and now. If you haven’t read it, I recommend the book Intuitive Eating, by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. It introduces what to me is the most body positive way of eating—intuitively! Keep up the great work of writing about your journey, it’s an honor to follow along.
Thank you, Laura!! My friend Emma also recommended that book and it’s definitely on my to-read list. I so appreciate you following along and sharing your experiences with me.
Hashtagnailedit! As a mom of a now 14 year old, I’m going to challenge you to 1 additional thing now that I have the hindset of mean girls, consumerism, and fashion trends. Make a point to let your girls hear you make comments about how good you feel in your clothes/hair/makeup/etc. Not in a vain way but in a way that engrains in their minds that it’s ok to be different if it makes YOU feel good or YOU like the way you look before they learn how they are “supposed to” look in order to like it. Simple things like, ‘I love that I don’t have to worry about acne as much because I feel comfortable without makeup” or “Tshirts may not be in the fashion magazines, but I like the way my arms/boobs/stomach/etc look when I wear this one.” We can’t pretend girls (and boys) won’t care what other people think at some point, but maybe helping them learn alternative ways to looking good that doesn’t include butt cheeks and half boobs hanging out can show you don’t have to fall into the negativity and shaming of not looking like the media tells us we’re supposed to.
And – you are definitely above the game with the general health of yourself and your family and I think that is something you should feel very proud of “being healthy” because you’ve got it the way it should be – natural food and exercise vs something that is forced or a daily task to strive to get done!
Thank you for this advice!!! I’ll make a point of saying that today. Kidwoods is a sponge–everything we say is taken in and then repeated back to us, so I will start being thoughtful about giving myself compliments 🙂
Hey there Mrs. Frugalwoods, my name is Tibor and I´m coming over from Germany to Montreal in the beginning of October. Since we are planning on making a road trip with my 2 year old son from Montreal to new york I was wondering whether you have a couple tips for vermont. (National park, cabins/accomondation to stay (airbnb), fun things for children. thank you so much! And of course: great article! 😉
This is a great idea. It addresses one of the concerns I had when I read Mrs Frugalwoods’ comment in the blog that they rarely talk about appearances at home.
I grew up in a wonderful home, with loving parents, a great sister and an amazing grandmother. But one of my memories of my childhood/adolescence is that NO ONE ever said I looked nice, or pretty or beautiful. And I was a nerdy, sometimes picked on kid who didn’t conform to social ideals of what girls should look like.
Seriously, it’s great to be valued for your mind and what you do and say, rather than how you look. I’m forever grateful to my family for that. But there was a child inside me, even as a young adult, who wondered if she was ugly because no one in her family ever said she was pretty. And I went looking for that validation, sometimes in the wrong places.
And so that’s why I like what Financially Fit Mom has said. It makes the child the source of validation, and her suggestion models a way for people to talk about their bodies and appearance – to enjoy their bodies and their appearance and feel confident in who they are.
Thank you so much for this perspective and advice! I will be taking it to heart and putting it into practice 🙂
that’s a great point. It’s easy for people to feel pigeon-holed, to feel that because, say, brains or talent or something is important and a priority (which it absolutely may well be), that wanting to feel attractive or pretty from time to time is somehow shallow or wrong, something to be avoided. I know a person who falls a little bit into this category. They were raised by really wonderful, very intellectual, socially-conscious parents (who are great by the way), and I think maybe ”being feminine” was sneered at as something lesser, unworthy, to the extent that the person in question clearly feels very insecure and unable to – ever – look nice or ”be seen to” have the slightest interest in clothing of any sort beyond the ruggedly practical.
Now if a person of either sex genuinely does feel this way, assuming they are hygienic, happy and warm enough, I say more power to them! But it’s so often not the case. It’s not a crime to wear a bit of mascara or a spritz of a nice perfume for an evening out, or to occasionally want a new pair of shoes that strike a balance between practical and just attractive. Stained, worn clothes can drag the spirit down a bit, for men as well as women.
So yes, genuine compliments about all aspects of our loved ones are a great thing. I don’t think ”your hair looks so nice, wow, you should definitely wear it like that more often” will turn someone into a self-obsessed, vain, shallow being.
When my daughter was brain injured at birth, one thing that I had to grapple with is that my whole childhood, I was fed the message that what matters is not beauty, it’s brains! Every time someone would praise how beautiful my baby is, I would cringe and dismiss it. What good will her beauty do her, if she’s intellectually impaired? Over time and lots and lots of thought and therapy, I have become more able to appreciate the gifts that my daughter has, including her beauty, and celebrate her cognitive and physical milestones as well. I want my kids to be able to derive happiness from all aspects of their lives, including enjoying what their bodies look like and what they can do.
Yes, I totally understand this. My mom was very good looking, in a Princess Diana sort of way, and enjoyed the attention she received. I couldn’t identify with her because I was more a plain jane, skinny and a tom boy, and had no sisters only brothers.. For some reason I still loved myself the way I was. BUT it would have been nice to hear some compliments once in a while. I remember a time when my mom would set my hair into pincurls at night with clips, that itched like crazy, trying to create curls out of straight hair. Or in grade 9, practically begging me to wear make up, in her subtle way, telling me that I wasn’t cute enough without it. I didn’t start wearing make up until my late 30’s when my own daughter became interested in it, and I decided, hey make up is fun. Now I’m early 50’s and I need some make up to cover up rosacea & my eyes look less tired with some eyeliner. Anyway, I have a grand daughter who is only 18 months, and I love to give her lots of hugs & tell her she is so cute & smart. I wish my mom could have been like that with me, but I’ve learned she didn’t get that from her own mom. Basically, let’s not be stingy with compliments for our loved ones.
OMG….. what she said ^^^^^^^…. I have a teenage daughter as well and the pressure from the start of middle school is something else!! Start at an early age to combat all that negativity and those other negative feelings!!
LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this post.. it is so true that after our kids are born we tend to believe we will fit back into our old clothes, and old habits…. but it doesn’t always happen. Love that you acknowledge that IT IS OK to not be that size 2 anymore…. it is such a freeing thing….. Thanks so much for a great post!!
Thank you for this post. I am, this is lifelong for me, in recovery from an eating disorder and alcoholism. Recovery x2!
I think the worst pitfall is either the “I am TOTALLY WORTH ALL THE THINGS” or “I am not worth the thing” see-saw that my brain throws at me. I felt a kinship with you as you described all or nothing thinking. That’s how I’d describe how I feel too sometimes.
I track my intake and output (fitness trackers are what they are though), because eating to instinct got *me*dangerously medically underweight and in SO much danger. The recovery community always paints tracking as bad. Tracking saved my life.
I’m slowly trying to learn to eat correctly for me and my body so that I hope someday I won’t need to track anymore.
*smile* I’m trying to work on it, it’s all I can do.
I’ve read your blog for years but never commented. But this post was absolutely beautiful and something that I also struggle with. Thank you for your illuminating words!! 🧡
I love everything about this. Thank you, thank you!
Great post! I gained this year while recovering from surgery. I felt bad about it and the fact that none of my summer clothes fit. I went to Kohls and bought 5 floral or stripe v neck tops (my favorite style!) and 4 pairs of shorts, same style different colors. These clothes have been my uniform for the last couple months. My mind is free from clothing decisions. I don’t have to wonder if they fit- I know they do. Instead of dwelling on my size or what doesn’t fit I can go about my day with one less decision to make. I can lose weight because I should for my health, not to fit clothing.
exactly! And if you have had surgery, then you have other areas of your health to focus on than ”do I have the summer bikini body of my dreams”. On the other hand, it’s nice to feel somewhat attractive, nicely dressed, very draining to constantly feel shabby and like your clothes don’t fit or flatter at all. Good to strike a balance and then have other, more important things to do with you time.
Body positivity is the way forward!! Talking to yourself the way you would talk to others and watching negative self talk is key. It’s worth noting that it’s not just being a mum that can change your body and the way you see it – illness is a big one. Sometimes I eat what I NEED to eat to get through the day and sometimes I can’t do any / as much exercise as I would want to. Embracing yourself and realising that everyone is on their own path and may make choices others don’t understand is so important.
Every word of this resonated with me. Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness and willingness to share your vulnerabilities and insights with us.
Well said. You look beautiful and it is important for you to feel good about yourself.
“The women’s version of these [insert clothing / personal care item] are more expensive, less durable, and have fewer pockets.” Yep, and with many women’s clothing items, they’re also cut unnaturally small. Bicycling clothing (both genders) assumes you have little to no body fat and tiny feet. Almost none of the women’s bicycling stuff fits me and I’ve never owned women’s cycling shoes – all too small. I’ve been thrifting men’s clothing for years – wish I’d started sooner, but then again, thrift stores were less appealing >10 years ago. Non-bicycling pants, skirts, shorts are OK as women’s versions. Some well-established brands seem to have more consistent sizing, so that can help you narrow what works & what doesn’t for your dimensions – Lands End as an example. I wish it would all just become genuine measurements like HSN & QVC do (and men’s dress shirts), so if my waist & hips are x & y, I simply look for X&Y pants, skirts, shorts. I know, that would be too simple and it robs marketers of their obfuscation.
Same with running! There’s a relatively new running gear company – started right here in my town! The creators own our local running store where I buy my shoes. I want to support the local biz, right??
The largest running shorts they had a few years ago are a size L, which is a 40 inch hip. My hips are 41 inches. They are NOT getting smaller, that’s span + muscle. I tried on the L, no go. Looks like maybe now they have a few styles with an XL.
So true!! It’s impossible to find durable outdoor clothing — mostly pants — in the women’s section that isn’t too small, too short in the legs, or laughably flimsy. A few years ago I threw up my hands and bought a pair of men’s Carhartt work pants for my waist & length measurements. I took them to the local tailor and had them take in the crotch and the legs. Not an expensive alteration, and now they’re PERFECT. I get compliments from fellow outdoors-women all the time and have to let them in on the secret… just buy the men’s and wear & repair forever.
Great post. I love your daily “uniform” you settled on! It looks comfortable, fits well, and hopefully will last many years! The middle ground can be a slippery slope for me too. I did a clothes shopping ban for a year but then I didn’t have plan for the months that followed. If I’m not careful I go right back to thrifting things I don’t need. Like you said, “it isn’t a good deal if I don’t need it!” What I currently do is little month-long shopping bans. They seem to work to re-set my brain and help me use and appreciate what I already have. Thanks for sharing! If you have more tips about finding a balance after a shopping ban, I’m all ears!
Beautifully written. I think every woman needs to work on better body image and honor the phase they’re in. I’ve held on to clothing because I’d love to fit back into them again only to realize that it’s not even something I’d really wear today. Doesn’t fit my body, lifestyle or it’s no longer my taste. With a teenage daughter, I’m mindful of how my disposition affects her. I’m a work in progress though…
It’s important to feel good in your clothes. No need to buy a ton or buy expensive clothes, but buy clothes that fit well and make you like what you see in the mirror. It gives you confidence and it definitely changes your posture. I know it’s a bit silly but you feel better equiped to handle your day.
Really enjoyed this one as a fellow relatively new parent who has also settled into a body shape that is definitely different than the one I had before I was pregnant. It sounds like you’re just establishing a style uniform, as per the advice in this really fun book: https://anuschkarees.com/curatedcloset High fives to elastic waist bands (the only jeans I enjoy wearing these days.) I find my parenting clothing needs are so different than my non-parenting clothing needs. One tip that has been great is to lean towards dark busy patterns to hide random stains. 😉
Breastfeeding is the ultimate pregnancy pounds dropper – never again in my life will I be able to eat like a pro football player and still lose weight.
And yes, while you may get back to your pre-pregnancy weight, it won’t be in the same places. Doing what you can to stay healthy is realistic. But I will warn you, menopause is your next hurdle in the weight/clothing arena. What used to work to lose a few pounds that crept up on you may no longer do the trick. And your body may do another “shift” on you.
I’ve always disliked clothes shopping – nothing seemed to fit well. I don’t miss the days of office dress code.
Loved this. Needed this. FEEL this. Especially the part about seeing yourself for the first time, in 4 years. I love the idea of getting rid of everything that doesnt fit, all it does is make me feel bad.
I HATE jeans as well! So do my young daughters. We do lots of leggings, dresses and bottoms with elastic waists. We’re all about being comfortable as well as cute!
Thank you for writing this! I relate so much.
Putting at the top so others hopefully see it and benefit. These 3 books have literally changed my life:
Intuitive Eating by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole
Just Eat It by Laura Thomas
The F*ck It Diet by Caroline Dooner
Thank you for talking about this! Dieting and disordered eating is something that effects something like 80% (if not more) of women and yet we almost never hear about it. I’ve been on a 1.5 year journey to repair my relationship with my body and food after over a decade of disordered eating and yo-yo dieting. Prior to this, I was on a clothes buying ban and used frugality as an excuse for my unhealthy behavior. I needed to diet because it’s a better financial choice than buying clothes that actually fit! The thing is, fitting into size 0 clothing for the rest of my life is probably not a very realistic goal, and acting like I could just will myself into that size is somewhere between delusional and downright unhealthy. Buying nice, new to me clothes that actually fit has been a huge step on my journey. I’m so happy for you that you’re working toward peace!
Love this. As a now 70 year old woman, who’s Mother started her dieting at age 10, this has been a lifelong issue for me. Now, I eat in a way that is healthy for me and dress in a way that is comfortable and attractive just the way I am now. It is still a hard road, even with the knowledge I have gained with age, but I am thrilled that you have learned this and will not pass body shaming onto the next generation. BTW, for your Amazon daughter, two of the most beautiful woman I have ever known were close to 6’ tall, large ladies who carried themselves with pride, dressed in the styles they loved and were comfortable in, and never tried to shrink to society’s pressures to feel bad about their size. You are doing a great job Mama.
Thank you for posting this. At 68 years old I have struggled the same way and see my daughters struggle. Im now finally at the point where I realized that they don’t make jeans that are comfortable for my body shape or life style.. And I like my life style so I wear what I feel good in. I can only hope that my daughters will see the light much sooner than I did.
In my mid 40s I am experiencing body change and I have not birthed children! I’m healthy and strong but my ego doesn’t like the fact I am a size large and not a medium.
As a office dwelling professional in a casual west coast city, I’ve been served well by purchasing 2-3 quality pieces of clothes every year and integrating them right away into my wardrobe. And a pair of professional shoes every other year. But it is torturous to figure out what pieces to buy! I’m striving for optimization and that’s a tyrannical master to have! Simple elegant Basics appeal to me as do bold patterns. Reading some fashion blogs (aimed at adult women) has helped me see possibilities in my current wardrobe and given me ideas (uniform dressing and a base color) to help me make purchasing decisions. 95% of the time I get dressed and don’t give my clothes a second thought for the rest of the day. I’m trying to pay attention to the 5% of the time when my clothes aren’t comfortable and letting go of those items.
Can you share the title, or date, or author of that podcast? Thanks!
I relate SO HARD to this post. I mean to the extent I also own the same grey and black old navy dresses in your pictures! HA!
I am now nearly 26 weeks pregnant and while I aspired to your level of frugality with clothing during this phase, the reality is I don’t have any friends or family that have maternity wear hand me downs. So I had to buy some of my own stuff. I had no luck at the used shops, either not my size or nothing in stock. It’s like maternity wear is a commodity. My solution was to buy loose fitting garments in the NON maternity section a size up–which Old Navy had in spades. At least it is cheaper than maternity wear. And I feel better about myself than trying to stuff myself into clothing that doesn’t fit me appropriately. Being pregnant is already mentally and physically challenging. I have to allow myself some mercy here.
I have a lot of thoughts about body positivity and fitness. A lot of people exercise as you noted to get thin or change their physical appearance. Once I stopped this mindset and moved to a skill-based fitness practice, I ended up in much better health than I ever had before anyways and the focus was no longer on how I looked. Right now I have to kind of temper that. Right now I have to work out with the goal of a healthy pregnancy and delivery in mind. But when that is over, and I am cleared to work out again, some of my goals are things like:
-10 full push ups in a row
-strict pull ups
-handstand push ups
-10 double unders consecutively
and so on. I also plan to add in some specific weightlifting goals, but I’m starting with things I can do at home using my home equipment that I have now. I ultimately plan on cobbling together my own crossfit-style gym in my home, but that’s a few years out still. Yes, it’s not cheap; that said, it’s of great value to me and it’s certainly cheaper than monthly crossfit gym fees.
A few frugal resources for others:
–Al Kavadlo’s book Get Strong. Full price is $10 on kindle, if you keep an eye out sometimes it goes on sale. This is a 16 week at home course to achieve body weight skills like push ups, pull ups etc. All you need if I recall correctly is a pull up bar and a bench. If you don’t want to buy a pull up bar then of course just skip those exercises.
–roamstrong.com’s Progressive Bodyweight Workout, free online. Similar to the Kavadlo method, of progressively increasing abilities in bodyweight fitness.
–12 minute athlete phone app, $2.99. I haven’t personally used this but I’ve heard great things. lots of great workouts, all with minimal equipment and a short time commitment.
–Street Parking which is at streetparking.com . This is more expensive at $19/month, or $180/year, but contains a ton of resources on how to gain specific bodyweight and weightlifting skills. I’m a big fan.
I hope by focusing on a skills based workout program in the future my kid sees fitness as a way to learn how to do neat things as the primary goal.
And, I see someone above recommended Roxane Gay’s Hunger–will second that recommendation!
I hope Emma is doing well and managing her depression. I think about her a lot, all from that post. I find myself less and less depressed as my pregnancy goes on, and more confident.
I have just been through what amounted to a bit over a month of really… not great health. It started as a UTI (I know, nice!) and just would.not.shift. Back and forth to the doctor, new infections, new antibiotics, not able to jog (and believe me, I’m not breaking land speed records, I’m talking 30-40 mins of staggering around our neighbourhood), not able to do my home rebounding at all. Really quite depressing and just… unwell, sort of low, not up to much.
Then earlier this week a urologist took a look ”inside” with a camera and identified a large, entrenched kidney stone that was nicely settled in the bladder and removed it. It was scary to hear ”there’s a growth, we’re putting you under… now” BUT on the upside, when I woke up, literally within an hour, 90% of my symptoms were gone, with the rest disappearing over the next 12 hours. Suddenly I am… fine. I’m well. No more problems. All gone. When I need the bathroom, the need is genuine, It doesn’t hurt in any way, I just carry on with life, not giving it another thought. I’m not up two or three times each night, worrying over this problem that just won’t go away.
But while in hospital, I was in a ward with other people with serious, serious, probably life-threatening / limiting ailments. Scary things that mean that being a few lbs overweight, not terribly fit would be something to aspire to, being able to eat nice food would be fantastic, a blessing.
Today I woke up and decided that while I am certainly vaguely working towards losing a few lbs since my clothes, which I love, do fit, but are a bit tighter and less flattering than they were less than a year ago, not hugely, but it is noticeable, that I am going to be actively grateful for a body that works well, very well, is resilient and forgiving, that given time, will be fit enough to stagger unattractively around the streets. It’s perfectly fine to have a general weight range or to want your hair or skin or whatever to look nice, it’s when it colours your entire self-worth it’s a problem. No more of that!
So every now and then, overhaul the wardrobe, clearly you needed to, you were in an intense season and nothing is quicker to make a person feel bleurgh than clothes that really don’t fit at all or are just faded and worn out. Yes that’s vain, but there it is. For less than USD30-40, you can feel much better, look great and that seems like a good deal to me! Your clothes are lovely, stylish, practical, not overpriced, not cheap-tatty, good buys, all of them.
What a wonderful perspective to have. Thank you for sharing this. I’m so sorry you’ve been ill, but am glad you’re doing better now and seeing the world with refreshed eyes.
had my first ”jog” this morning (I say jog, because I am feeling generous!) and it feels so good to be able to do normal stuff. It really is a bit of a reset. Not that I’d wish getting sick on anyone, but it certainly highlights how fortunate some of us are, with continued decent health, and that spare tyre round the middle, or slightly bulky round the thighs… or whatever… is literally just nothing to feel bad about.
Babies WILL change your body. Period. I quickly lost the baby weight, but my hips widened and my boobs became smaller and softer. Even my feet grew half a size! Now my body is gearing up to menopause, and I can see the weight shifting places on my body. As women we sholuld accept the different eras in our life; that was then, this is now. Part of that acceptance is to buy clothes that fit, ratter than beating ourselves up for not beeing who we used to be.
Ps! You look lovely!
I’ve been selling a lot of my old clothes on Poshmark. They email you a pre-paid shipping label and you can drop it in any mail box to get picked up. Highly recommend!
Also, Uniqlo has the BEST leggings. They last forever, way better than my former Target leggings.
Love this! I highly recommend following Jessie Mundell on Instagram if you aren’t already. LOVE her work on body positivity and food/exercise culture with an emphasis on pregnant and parenting women. So good and has helped me a lot. You can also read through her blog for some excellent posts.
Good for you mama. That’s the beauty of frugality! You alone get to decide what is important enough to spend your money on and right now that is some new, affordably priced clothes that make you feel good after spending a long time raising up babes. I would also recommend Project 333 for getting a wrangle on your wardrobe and identifying gaps and things that are okay to toss. Your wardrobe should absolutely suit your lifestyle right now. I’ve had to do the same adjustment with my sahm wardrobe and deciding to get rid of dresses/20’s something clothes I know I will never wear again has been so liberating. I can open up my drawers and closet and see only clothes that I like to wear and that are seasonally appropriate. I did not anticipate how something so small could make my day so much brighter!
So, so good!! I so enjoyed reading this; thank you for sharing your insightful thoughts and always lovely writing. It is wonderful that you are working into this middle ground and finding a place of happiness, acceptance, and gratitude in this so important area of your life. I also love and applaud the atmosphere / family values you are creating for your girls!
Ms. FW: You literally crawled inside my head and wrote (a more eloquent version of) my thoughts. Even down to the hating jeans!! For me, I’ve been stymied by a reluctance to “invest” in new clothes while I’m waiting to lose weight (my youngest is almost 3, I similarly had a rebound weight gain after I stopped constant nursing). Then I get in a loop where I want to buy used clothes or ethically made (expensive) clothes and I’m paralyzed and still wearing gross maternity/early baby outfits. This motivates me to clear out my closet ASAP!
I LOVE this post. I too just transitioned to a new life phase and body size- and so I donated everything that didn’t work. WHY KEEP IT?! I love my body and won’t be depressed I’m now in size 4 clothes. The world still turns despite my pants size!
This was a lovely post, and basically goes through the same experience that I’ve had in the last few years.
I’m a bit older than you (nearly 50). My kids are 13 and 7. So I was fat, lost 57 lbs. Had a kid, carried around baby weight for 2 years, lost a bunch of weight back to nearly goal. And then went and had another kid (at 42). That weight was stubborn. I held on to my skinny clothes for too long. Then I lost most of the weight again and tried on all those clothes. They didn’t fit!
– The shirts were all way too small. 5-7 years of swimming, weight lifting, and pregnancy made both my shoulders and my rib cage broader. Sniff. They all just had to GO.
– The pants were mostly way too big. Which is weird. But then again, I’m pretty hippy anyway. Being that I was in my mid-40s at the time, I did not get rid of the jeans (I LOVE JEANS). I put them in the back of the closet because: menopause is coming!
I gave myself permission to do a small refresh. At this point, I only had mostly old and worn out work type shirts. A lot of running shirts. Only one pair of jeans that actually fit. I went off and bought two new pairs of jeans, but resisted the shirts.
Then I started weightlifting and eating ice cream and put on about 8 lbs. Suddenly, the extra arm bulk meant that I was getting these weird pains. And I traced them to my shirts being too tight across the shoulders. At the same time, I would do our Costco runs. I saw this loose, flowy shirt. I fingered it every time. It was something like $10-14. But I didn’t buy it. Eventually, I bought it. It’s the most comfortable shirt that I own (but not practical for washing dishes, too flowy!) I bought a second one in a different color. I really should get a third.
I tell you, when I wear those shirts I feel like a different person. I hate wasting clothing – I feel like things should be worn until they fall apart. But sometimes, they are really doing you no favors if they are ill fitting and only useful for pajamas.
Also: the squats mean that those too big jeans are not quite as “too big” anymore.
I bought those Felina leggings at Costco and they are SOOOO comfy. I also bought new underwear.
I still need to go through my workout gear and let go of the too-small shirts. The ones that give me weird pains.
Thank you, Liz! This post echoes 1,000,000 times what I have felt over the past five years. The loss of self and body all at once is something not brought up very often, or as eloquently, as you have done. My kiddos are 5, 3 and nine months old; reading your article on postpartum depression drummed up the courage to address my own depression and anxiety issues. It’s difficult to find words to express my gratefulness for your writing and encouragement, but the best I can do is say “Thank you” and please keep on writing!
Thank you, Lauren, for your kind words and encouragement and for having the courage to get treatment! I am wishing you all the best 🙂
As a former naturally skinny-mini, I remember well the feeling that I SHOULD ALWAYS WEIGH WHAT I DID IN HIGH SCHOOL. Which was 93 pounds, and let’s face it, I would look like a scarecrow if I weighed that now. But for some reason, I felt gaining any weight was just Bad.
I actually never had a real weight problem — I hovered between 110 and 115 for years and years (I’m short). But I recently started a medication and the first thing it did was put 10 pounds on me. I’ve been surprised at how bad this has made me feel. Thank you for reminding me that I have permission to weigh more than a supermodel. That I’ve had kids and life has happened and now this medicine and… this is me right now. So, I’ve had to buy a few more clothes — when you are short, 10 pounds can make a size difference — but so what? I bought most of them at thrift stores and online consignments, anyway. I am actively trying to keep the amount of clothes down, though, because I have a very small closet, which at first I hated, but now realize it is a gift. It forces me to keep only what I love. I appreciate the reading and listening suggestions from other readers. Gonna check those out!
This. Is. Amazing.
Share, share, everywhere.
I am losing weight. I’ve lost 50 pounds and still wear the clothes I’ve had for the last 6-7 years. It’s hard to give them up! First, because I’m not at my goal weight then I don’t “deserve” new clothes yet. After all, when you live frugally, why buy something that you won’t wear very long. Second, I fear regaining the weight; then I would just be rebuying (is that a word?) clothes that I should have just kept all along. Third, it’s kind of nice to be in something that used to pinch and squeeze you previously and now just floats on your body.
But, really, why do I keep them? Because I don’t love my body. I’ve struggled for years with weight and losing it has never made me happy. Yes, I’ve yo-yo’d back and forth but I had never been as large as I was 7 months ago; it was necessary for my health and that started the journey. Happiness with my body can be a here and now thing. Not a, once you’re finally “skinny” thing. Oddly enough, even having been smaller before, I KNOW happiness doesn’t come from my clothing size…but, it doesn’t FEEL that way. Cue the light bulb above the head that feelings can LIE. They aren’t the truth; it’s a feeling. I feel unworthy of new clothes; I feel buying them is pointless; I feel like hiding in my “too big” clothes.
So I will read your post over and over. I will share it with my husband (who has lost nearly 100 pounds and has his own feelings to argue with). And I will keep telling myself that I’m not alone in the struggle.
Thanks for this.
Good for you! Thank you for sharing this. It is such a vulnerable time when you resurface after the intensity of pregnancies, newborns, breastfeeding and toddlers. My kids are older now (9 and 13) but I remember going through this exactly as you describe it. The funny thing is I didn’t get all the say back to my pre-pregnancy weight until my oldest turned 12! I was close, but somehow it took me that long to find the right combination of time and ability to focus and relax, and here I am now at my pre-pregnancy weight and in great shape. And yet, it *still* is not the same body I had before babies! But it is the vehicle I have to move through my life, and I’m grateful for it. We somehow imprint on that pre-baby body as our “normal” and then try to return to it, when really every body is temporary (even that young adult body!), and we will inhabit many different versions of our bodies over the course of our lives. Basically, NOTHING in my life is the same as it was before I became a mother, so why should I expect my body to be the same? I wish you every enjoyment of this next phase of life!
Another fantastic post! As a mom of 2 little girls (now 3 and 6 years old), I so appreciate everything you wrote here.
I think all women can relate to this post. I also recently, finally, donated the last of my work clothes that I loved and spent untold dollars on. (Maybe went a little too far and also got rid of my husband’s pants which he suddenly looking for, and my wedding dress that my daughter hoped to wear). Despite that, it is so freeing to have a small closet! As a retiree, I don’t need much. Leggings, a few tops of various sleeve lengths and gym clothes. I saved 5 dressy dresses and, with an incoming wedding to attend, am trying to convince myself that I don’t need a new one. Love your blog!
I needed this. I needed to read this and hear it come from another mom who is just *over* feeling like nothing worked for her appearance and not be vain about it.
My husband and I had a conversation last night about my body confidence. It’s basically a 2 out of 10. And it’s because I’ve been hiding in my too-big post baby clothes for over a year. I literally tried on every single piece of clothing i own last night (you’re correct in saying it takes forever). Nothing made me feel like me. Like a mom who loves herself just as much as she loves her kid AND feels confident. I have maybe 10 things left in my closet now.
You’ve given me that last little push I needed to find clothing I feel good in and buy because I love it – not because I found for a dollar at the thrift store.
Thanks for doing these kinds of posts regarding the struggles of postpartum and just aging. I’ve gone through the same experience since have two kids in quick succession (2.5 years apart). I’ve always been skinny, mostly due to genetic luck, so I never really worried about eating or counting calories. I gained weight after my first, which stuck around, then gained more weight after my second, which also stuck around and I have diastasis recti so I still look pregnant in tight clothing. But with two small kids, a new house and a full time job, there’s not a whole lot of time for exercise or picking the best foods to eat! And yet, in a lot of ways, I feel the most secure about my appearance than I ever have. I don’t wear make-up anymore, other than for weddings or other special occasions, I happily bought clothes in a bigger size and gave away my old ones, and just generally am realizing that my body can do amazing things (pregnancy! nursing!) even if it doesn’t fit into society’s “ideal.” And that this “ideal” is pretty screwed up. It’s really hard to unwind all of the societal pressures to look a certain way though.
I do love the look of jeans and a blouse though – it’s what I wear to work every day!
You know before you even wrote this, I thought those looked like new clothes in your Instagram photos, and I am so glad they are. You certainly deserved a change from maternity wear. Now you look like the modern mommy to your kidsters. It may not be trendy in NYC, but hop over to Wisconsin, and you will find you look sharper and prettier than most moms in your dress, leggings, and flats. BTW don’t feel bad about the jeans… they were originally created as work wear, and we aren’t hauling logs all of the time, so no need. 🙂
I do not envy your position of sharing your personal journey with the public. I really admire your posts the last year where you’ve admitted some of your previous ways of thinking have evolved into healthier, more balanced thoughts. I am 8mo postpartum with my 1st baby. A few weeks ago I met with a stylist and a fancy 2nd hand consignment store and spent more money than I had in the previous year on a new wardrobe. The stylist told me when things were fitting too tight and he picked clothes that really accentuated my new body. It was worth every penny. Now when I go in my closet I see things I am excited to wear and feel good in. It falls in line well with Marie Kondo’s philosophy. I got rid of everything that didnt make me feel good. I put all maternity clothes in storage for the next pregnancy. I encourage every new mom to do this at some pre-determined time postpartum (irrelevant of a weight goal)- put it in the baby budget. I feel like a million bucks!
So many good points ! Yes to body positivity , and I’m so glad you realised that ‘healthy choices’ can sometimes be used to obsess about food and body size …
As for finding the mid-point: the older I get (36 and counting, no kids yet), the more my mantra has become: Balance is Everything !!!
Too much chocolate: very bad. Zero chocolate: terrible. The same applies to time and effort spent at work, weight and exercise , even our aspirations ! I don’t mean we shouldn’t have lofty goals, but beating ourselves up for not being a size 0 millionaire by age 25 is… unproductive.
Loved this post.
Also: you look happy in these photos , which is wonderful.
GREAT post. I always wondered about how the clothes buying ban was holding up. There are very few things I’m still excited about wearing that I’ve had for over 5 years– maybe a few flannels that were pretty expensive initially, or my fancy shoes I only wear to weddings. I’m new-ish mom too- and at some point I just had to buy NEW yoga pants and NEW cute crew neck sweatshirts because I started to loathe looking at myself in the mirror- I felt so schlubby. I have a very frugal friend that was pregnant at the same time as me, and she talked about how much she loved her pregnancy tshirts, but then she was like, “I’m not sure if they are actually that great, or if I love them because they are the first new clothes I’ve bought in 5 years.” So it goes without saying that buying tons of clothes constantly is wasteful and silly, but do not underestimate the power of crisp white tank tops or undies with intact elastic 🙂
Also, lots of good eco options these days for getting that new tee- has anyone tried http://www.fordays.com? i’m tempted! usually I just get my basics from everlane but the fully closed-loop system piqued my interest. I also like marine layer’s recycled collection but that’s big $$
Ah, body image. My mother started it. No, really. I remember her saying I needed to slim down because my hips were too wide and my shoulders too broad. Um, ok, so you and Dad built a Mack truck… how can I help with that? I’m not a waif, but I have worn a size 4 or 6 for ages so thanks Mom, not cool. Anyway… now that I’m around the corner from 50 and am coming off an injury that drastically reduced my athletics for 4 months, my metabolism has come to a screeching halt and the weight gain… it’s killing me! I DON’T love anything about my body right now. I’m actually disgusted when I look in the mirror, But you know what? I’m only 8 lbs over what I was this time last year. And I’m a size 8. Ok, so going up the scale, but I’m not at epic proportions. I was reading your post thinking, “Yeah, someday I’d like to even like my body, but love it?” Well… I have a slew of clothes that don’t fit and even if I drop those 8 lbs, they won’t fit. It’s time. Let them go. I can now run and bike and hike and swim and do yoga again. So instead of berating my puffiness, I’d love to figure out how to accept where I’m at, get a plan in place, execute, and be thankful for what I DO have. A body that allows me to ride my bikes, run, hike, swim, do yoga. Many people are incapacitated, in pain, physically unable to do things. So this puffy body that allows me to move? Dang it lady, buck up and be thankful! I hope your post offered me some hope. There’s a tiny glimmer… 🙂 Thank you!
Thank you for this, it is very timely in my life with thoughts about weight, what healthy is, buying second hand versus buying new and buying quality garments that will last forever. It’s given me a lot to consider.
I can identify with so much of what you wrote about today. I have a 7 year old and a 5 month old (and had many miscarriages and fertility treatments in between my kids). My body has been a vessel for growing our family, and I am immensely grateful for our children, but my body has not been my own for years and I don’t really like what I see in the mirror. Like you, I am trying to love my body and acknowledge the hard work it has done to grow and feed babies. I am bigger and softer than I was before babies, and it’s hard to not criticize the changes I don’t like. I want to focus on my body being strong more than thin. My second child is a girl and I want to raise her to love her body and focus on how strong and capable it is rather than being a certain size. Funny how having a daughter of our own motivates us to address our own issues in the process. I applaud you for your growth and am with you in spirit trying to evolve, too.
You looked FABULOUS at the Financial Gym event! What you gave to the audience- your words and energy and jokes- were so much interesting and engaging than the way you look(ed). Anyone who is spent more than 30 seconds with you (either in-person or by reading your blog) knows that your pretty face and slim figure are absolutely the least interesting things about you…. because you are such an intelligent and thoughtful person who has so much more to share with the world!
On another note, I too have been on a spending ban though mine was less stringent than yours (I really needed new socks, I swear!). One thing that helped especially as I came off the ban was really thinking about where my clothes came from and whose lives were impacted beyond my own. If you haven’t already, you should watch The True Cost. It’s a documentary about the hidden impacts of fast fashion. After watching that, and learning that a lot of brands I had in my closet where created in factories that pollute the environment, underpay their employees, and generally skirt all fair labor practices/safe working conditions, I committed to never again supporting the fast fashion industry. Of course, the companies that are sustainable and ethical tend to be pricey…. which does indisputably fly in the face of frugality. But it does mean I’m way less likely to buy something “just because.” Plus, I know that my purchase isn’t actively hurting anyone and that means something to me. In the case of leggings, as I can see we’re kindred spirits on that front, I highly recommend The Girlfriend Collective. If I could wear them everyday, I would.
Hi Katie – thanks for your note about fast fashion. I was just trying to think of a way of saying just this. When I commited to only buying clothing from ethical companies (and certainly that isn’t a black/white conversation, but it’s a start), I found I saved money in the big picture – I save up for items, these items last longer, I care for and repair these items rather than tossing them when they suffer wear & tear, and generally I feel good about where my $ goes. Support local, support sustainable, and save money = win, win, win!
I feel you! My first baby is two years and my second is two months, and I can already tell my body is not the same the second time around. But what a wonderous thing it is! I’ve had to consciously come to the attitude of treating my body for what it is: amazing. This motherhood experience is a journey, and I can’t be looking backward at how much I used to weigh or how smooth my tummy was. That would discredit the journey. I’m not the same person on the inside, and I shouldn’t wish to be the same person on the outside.
Too many people talk about “getting your body back” after a baby as if it were stolen instead of willingly given.
Also, way to go with finding a middle ground! I have found the same middle ground of buying a few staples I love from Old Navy and Target, or sometimes a local consignment store. There’s nothing wrong with some deliberate spending on items you spend every waking hour with.
Good for you!! Loved reading this as I am also a mother and can relate in so many ways.
In the years where you are busy with kids, your weight and working out is no longer a priority. When you are young and childless, you come first. Once kids come, you no longer do. And there are mommy and me baking, snack foods etc that weren’t around before. Etc. When single a nuked potato was dinner for me, but with a family, that’s not what happens,
Accept this stage of your life. Despite how intense and overwhelming it can be, when it is over, you will miss it.
Then middle age hits and you notice your middle gets thicker. That’s just what happens,
Then the kids need you less and it dawns on you one day that hey, maybe I can squeeze in some time for me. And possibly you change what you are eating, incorporate some exercise.
And embark on yet another stage in your life.
Great post! Clothes are a necessity and your body changed. Of course you had to buy some new clothes. If only it was this simple in the mind, but that’s being a woman, I guess.
By the way, you look great.
I really enjoyed reading this. So many women I know have a wardrobe full of different sized clothes – “fat” clothes, clothes that fit me now, and “skinny” clothes that I’ll wear again when I lose weight. In my own case, the skinny clothes are the ones that are lovely clothes in styles that suit me and my right now clothes are blah that don’t make me feel good. I am working hard on body acceptance. As always I am a work in progress! Thank you for sharing your journey, it helps to know you are not alone.
It took me a long time to realize clothes did not equal happiness and that farm women need different clothes from their more urban counterparts. It’s a valuable lesson I appreciate everyday. It also took a while to come to terms with fast fashion vs. quality goods. Something I am still struggling with for many reasons. You probably follow Courtney Carver and her concept of 33 pieces of clothing. If not, google or look for her on Instagram. I’m definitely not down to 33 pieces, but now I stop and think before any new piece of clothing enters my closet. It’s been life changing. You’re doing great. Really💕
Amazing, congrats- I’m on the way to body positivity as well 🙂
… and for some weird reason, women’s snowpants like the overalls in your story cost 3 times as much (except I swear they are the same thing with a different tag!). I just buy men’s.
Balance 365 Life Radio (free podcasts) have some awesome podcasts on this topic (body image, body acceptance, self-care, habit-based approaches to health, etc)
You look so happy and free in the photo tagged:
“One of my new Old Navy dresses and pair of leggings. I got the necklace from a free box at a rummage sale and the shoes are from Target about 10 years ago (I have the same ballet flats in about 6 different colors). Kidwoods’ dress is a hand-me-down.”.
LOOOOOOOVE this so much! Our bodies change as we age. And what a privilege it is to grow old. Not everyone gets to.
For anyone reading and thinking body positivity seems too far out of reach, try accepting your body as it is now. Body acceptance is in between body hatred and body positivity.
The diet industry is a MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY! Imagine if all the money spent on diet pills and weight loss programs was instead spent on literally anything else? Imagine if all that mental energy we spend hating our bodies was instead used towards growing and learning as a person. Imagine if everyone decided to just accept their body and choose to treat it right (good food, movement, and kind thoughts).
As far as finding a happy medium, I find it helps to think of it like a pendulum rather than a specific point. It’s totally ok to move back and forth. Ideally just a little bit, and not huge swings one way and the other.
Thoroughly enjoyed your article. Most of us have struggled with body image at one time or another. I hated my body for years. I am only 5′ and 11″ in height. A weight gain of 10lbs can look like I put on 20lbs. I am now more concerned to be just healthy and feel good. No more dwelling on the shape of my body. My weight tends to go to my butt and thighs. I no longer dwell on what size wear.
I also love your new outfits. I dislike wearing jeans as well. I, too wear comfortable dresses in the warmer weather and when I see a dress with pockets, I am in heaven.
I’ve never had a closet full of clothes as I cleaned out my closet at least once a year, if not twice. I don’t like trying on clothes, that helps to curb spending as well.
I am happy for you. You have given yourself a gift of a few new outfits! You didn’t break the bank! It feels wonderful when your clothes fit and are not stained or stretched out .
Thank you for writing this. I had my second baby a few months ago and I can definitely relate. I’ve been feeling like I have to get back to my pre-pregnancy size because I don’t want to spend money on buying new clothes. This is a good reminder that if my body doesn’t go back to the way it was, it’s not some kind of personal failure, and that if I do need to buy some pants in the next size up, it’s not the end of the world.
I don’t think I’ve ever empathized with a post so deeply. Accepting my body (before kids!) is so difficult, and I feel like I’m constantly fighting the bombardment of messages to be thin in order to be loved. It’s a continuous process, and one I still sometimes lose sight of. Thank you for being so thoughtful, and for not letting “frugality” turn into not-having-anything-to-wear! I love your message: that it’s about spending towards goals and the life you want, not about making yourself miserable by not buying things.
I’d be willing to bet it all that your husband does not care about size 2. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want you to aim for size 22, but a wife who is not obsessed with her weight is a delight to be around. My husband hates when I gain weight….not because he cares about an extra 10-15 lbs, but because he knows how miserable it makes me. (So, yeah, apparently I only like the theory of body positivity) p.s. I’m glad you bought new clothes….although I still don’t really understand what one does with leggings
First, you look great, and I love your new clothes! Just wanted to mention something, though….I know you mentioned in a previous post that you started taking Zoloft after having baby #2, and I wonder if that could be part of the reason you had more of a challenge losing weight? I took Effexor for eight months and gained a whopping 30 pounds (it totally zapped my energy and I had no will to exercise….I basically went to work, came home, ate dinner and fell asleep). I’m in no way criticizing you for taking anxiety/depression meds, because mental health is just as important as physical health, but I wondered if you had thought there might be a connection between your meds and weight?
I am retired. Now I don’t have to worry about what I wear or look like. I need only dress for myself. Suddenly just taking a shower and brushing my teeth seems to take all day! However, I don’t like feeling like a slob in public, or at home. I don’t need a lot of clothes, but I like to have nice ones for every day wear. The challenge is in the choosing! I think what you are going through is totally understandable – finding that balance where you think you look great, feel great as a result, but also are living within the values that are important to you. Like you, I like nice clothes, ones which are well made. But will I spend a fortune? No – I will spend moderately and be happy with what I have. When I was working, I would spend about $300 / year on clothes. Now it is less. I discard things periodically and replace them with other things. My clothes are always new because I grew up with musty hand-me-downs, and new clothes are one thing I like. Same with shoes. New, but well made and relatively inexpensive. I also sew, and that helps.
You go girl! I know it’s also time to let go of my maternity wear, and things that make me sad to look at since I don’t fit into them. I did just bite my lip and made my eating choices a little better starting last week since I gained weight over the summer eating pizza and ice cream nonstop with the kids… even my “fat” clothes were getting too tight:/.
It’s always up to us to make ourselves happy. That was a hard lesson for me to learn after years of being very unhappy with my body, home, life choices. But once I learned it-I was unstoppable. If I find clothes or shoes that are super comfy, flattering, and stylish(and not too $$) I’ll just splurge cuz I never do regret it. I don’t have much time to shop anyway so if I find a gem I get it. My one rule is that said item has to really go with something else I have or be matched with another clothing item I’ll buy so I now have an outfit not just a random shirt or shoes that goes with nothing I own. It’s really worked well for my wardrobe since I can instantly wear the new item(s). I love me some leggings btw!!!
Now that fall will be starting soon I look forward to breaking out the boots and sweaters again… it really is the little things that can bring the most joy-and looking good definitely helps with my own peace of mind.
Awesome post. Thank you. For a shot in the arm whenever you need it, follow Stasia Savasuk’s Instagram account and see her TedX talk. Awesome!
Great post- balance in all things! Now that you broke your shopping ban (even if a little) – there is a wonderful blog on minimalism and sustainability “reading my tea leaves” which I found very inspiring. She profiles many companies that sell sustainable fashion, most of them quite expensive. But one of them is wearpact which has very comfy (and inexpensive) cotton leggings I really like! I recommend both the blog and the clothing company!
I love your post, and I know how you feel. When I was younger and was a sz 10/12, I thought I was so fat. I hated my body. Then, I gained 50lbs. in school. It took only 1 yr. I was able to lose it, but it took 2yrs. Now, I am far happier with my figure than I ever was in my younger years. I love how my clothes hang and look on me. For the first time in my adult life, I feel sexy. And, when I buy something from wherever, I buy it because it fits and looks great on me.
I now have a teen and preteen and just came across abhorrently humongous tshirt that I wore ALL the time when I was pregnant with my first so to minimize buying maternity clothes. My friends, it was a Home Depot shirt that they gave me for free since I was renovating my house at the time. In my defense, I was 40+ when I had my first child, so all my mom friends at that point had long donated their clothes.
Coming across that tshirt was truly cringe-worthy. I’ve been in the “don’t spend money, wait ’til I lose weight” mentality of non-clothes buying, and while it works when it needs to, there comes a time – as you realized, too – that Some Money Must Be Spent. I realized recently that I tend to wear clothes for a long time, so it’s ok to buy them now and then and even, horrors, spend a little on them. As one gets older, it seems shoes are where that has to happen. I have places where I’ve shopped for years (Ann Taylor Outlet, Bass for shoes, etc.), so when I buy things they tend to go together, even when purchased years apart, and I also know the sales strategies and qualify for additional $$.
Spending $100 each on summer and winter items each year helps me to feel positive about my appearance. A close family member spends an extreme amount on clothes that she never wears (alas, not my size or style!), so I find it easy to stop once I’ve done my biannual shopping. I appreciate your thoughts on this – all women of all ages need a reminder about this from time to time.
Wow I relate SO much to all of this. Absolutely all of it. I have a 14 month old and just cut about 9 inches off my hair for exactly the reasons you mentioned. I’m probably 1-2 sizes up from what I was pre-pregnancy, and had a long clothes-buying ban in place, and wore a fully hand-me-down maternity wardrobe.
Then when the baby was just about a year old I decided I was over feeling grubby all of the time and replaced my entire wardrobe. I also just did the whole wardrobe at once so I wouldn’t be on an extended search for wardrobe items.
It is liberating! It was an outward sign of feeling ready to take care of myself again, not just being fully consumed by a small child.
I’m still not the most put together person on the block, but I feel a lot better with hair that’s short enough to take care of and clothes that aren’t stretched out and stained!
This is beautiful. You are beautiful. This is a message I needed to hear. Thank you.
Thank you for your wonderful post. I have just really started thinking about this- my two are now 20 months and 4. Pre-kids I was borderline obsessive with weight, always exercising, eating super healthy, watching my body…After child no. 1 I was the same. Instead of cuddling up to my child and embracing the phase I was thinking and shamed about my body. Now I realise that it doesn’t matter. If I am active, eat reasonably healthy, try and sleep, have a peaceful life, then I think that will reflect in my body and my face. I may have more wrinkles, bigger thighs and a saggy tummy, cellulite, greyer hair, and more fascial hair (!), but I truly think self-love and inner peace counts for so much more. So I am working on that!
Thank you so much for this. So timely. I cried reading this several times because I needed to read it right now. I was someone who placed a lot of emphasis on clothes and appearance in my twenties and yet I was never happy and I never felt like it was enough. I always felt uncomfortable and unhappy in my clothes. I loved when I was pregnant because my clothing was limited to a few select items that I felt cute in. There wasn’t a lot of stores to shop in and I loved my little wardrobe and not being paralyzed by choices. I’m currently in the neglect phase of mommy hood. I have 2 boys (22 months and 3 months). I didn’t feel crappy about my closet after my first son was born because I thought I would wear again. But I’m starting to feel like a stretched out version of myself that’s just covering my body. I’m still nursing and will be for awhile and I don’t want to get rid of my maternity clothes because I hope to have a third baby one day – but it feels yucky to be wearing the same stretched out clothes from years ago. I told myself I would go through my closet in November so that I can purchase some new clothing after Christmas/for my birthday in January. But it makes me anxious to think about because I’m still changing sizes, I’m not sure what my style is anymore (though I hate jeans too!), and I hate to rid of all the cute clothing I had before. But it doesnt fit and a lot of it isnt comfortable anymore. I got in a car accident 18 months ago and much of it bothers my neck, so I have that to consider too. I know it doesnt serve me, but it’s hard to get of it. I also feel a lot of guilt that I will have to spend money on myself (even though I dont think anything of the fact that my husband soon needs to purchase 2 new pairs of dress pants for work soon). I’ll probably reread this article again so I can think about it more. I really want to start loving my body as is – the size and the pain that I sometimes feel in my neck and back from the accident – rather than thinking I will only be happy when I am stronger and smaller. I know its work in progress. I really want to be a good role model for my sons and any other child that may come along (and the students I teach when I go back to work). Anyway…thank you thank you. Congrats on the progress you’ve already made and I wish for both of us to learn and grow in this matter!!
Thank you for sharing this. I felt those feeling and wanted to wait until I lost all the baby weight to buy new clothes and, finally, I reached a place of acceptance. It’s so tough when you’re in the thick of newborns and toddlers and I am sorry to hear about your accident too. I am wishing you all the best and I am hoping you will be kind to yourself and take care of YOU, mama!
Thank you very much 🙂
What a beautiful message. This is something I need to be reminded of everyday and especially today.
On a totally practical note, what shoes do you wear with your dresses on a day-to-day basis? I like to wear sneakers everyday because I find them the most comfortable and they make it more likely that I will go for a spontaneous walk. I’ve always felt uncomfortable wearing sneakers with dresses, so I stick with jeans. Do you change into something else for your treks through the woods?
For outdoor work and hiking, I wear either hiking shoes or boots with my work overalls. Inside the house, I wear slippers (no outdoor shoes inside) and, when I go somewhere, I wear either flats, boots, or converse sneakers. Converse are my go-to for when I want to wear sneakers but still look sort of fashionable ;).
Ohh, I hadn’t considered Converse. Will have to give that more thought…
What an absolutely wonderful blog – I’m a longtime reader and always enjoy your work but this is definitely a new favourite. Conscious consumption and spending money when it feels good and serves you is such a focus for me right now – thank you for continuing to share and inspire in the process.
Thanks for your honesty and vulnerability. These are important issues and our kids sure are watching! When shopping for clothes, I sometimes narrow my searches by adding organic, fair trade and/or local (like I do with food). Over the course of a few years, a decent % of my smallish wardrobe has become organic. Mostly from Pact. They often have sales and you can end up with organic leggings for $7-10/pair. They also have limited color/design choices, which can help save time! https://wearpact.com/women/apparel/leggings%20&%20tights
Thank you so much for sharing the info about Pact!
The most important thing about this article is to give your daughters a good sense of who they are and that does not include a “perfect” body. I learned while going thru eating disorder recovery therapy for my son that you NEVER talk about dieting, body size/shape with anyone. Also, I couldn’t agree with you more that jeans don’t feel good to me either…would rather be in yoga-type pants and dresses.
Thanks for all you share – these are important topics!
YES YES YES! Thank you for making me laugh and cry- simultaneously!
My 11yo has been commenting that she feels fat since she was 7. Devastating for me; I had taught high school and ballet and began with the healthy body image attitude early on. I have found A Mighty Girl to be very helpful in supporting my efforts, and recently, this post appeared: https://m.facebook.com/amightygirl/posts/1587091214660519
Thank you dear one for shining a light on this. And thank you Katie for the documentary on clothing sources; this is just the relevance I need to help guide our tween clothing searches.
<3 a big fan
“I have a tough time finding the middle ground. It’s easier for me to be extreme.”
HEAR, HEAR TO THIS. Totally relate, and am relieved to hear I’m not the only one.
Thanks for a thought provoking article! My husband and I have been pursuing FI for about 4 years now and we are well on our way. Similar to some other commenters’ experiences, the first year was pretty hardcore and we’ve made adjustments as time has gone on. For me, specifically regarding clothing purchases, I completely stopped buying new clothing for that first year and a half. It was horrifying to realize what I had been spending on clothes before we began our FI journey. However, I’ve slowly returned to combing through our town’s best local thrift store on a regular basis to a) shop ahead for our growing daughter and b) keep an eye out for things for me or my husband that we either need, or are exciting stylish finds that make me feel excited about my wardrobe and give me confidence. Many times, I leave the thrift store empty handed, but I go regularly, and I also destination shop at thrift stores in places we’re traveling… especially high income areas… my own pet version of geographic arbitrage, if you will :).
Over the last couple years I’ve done more reading about the impacts of fast fashion on the environment and this has made me feel pretty passionately that I want to avoid buying new clothing whenever possible. So, I comb the racks a bit more regularly than I probably need to so that I am not “forced” to buy new clothes if I get to a point where an item is really needed. Just some food for thought- that more regular shopping/browsing than might be truly necessary, to buy ahead on quality used clothing , can do a lot of environmental good. This is the compromise I seem to have arrived at at this point in my FI journey!
Love the leggings and dress look 🙂
A question: Considering how few brand-new clothes you buy, did you (or would you in the future) consider ethical/sustainable products that might cost more? It’s a question I wrestle with….do I (who has the $ and rarely purchases new clothing and wears my stuff forever….) buy ethically/sustainable produced clothes which might cost 5x more than a fast fashion brand that was likely manufactured in less than ideal conditions. What are your thoughts on this?
I’m going to come back to this and read every comment, but I wanted to say a couple of things:
1) This post really resonated since I’m at essentially the same stage of life as you (30s, mom of a daughter) and have had basically all of these feelings, mostly in fact all of them at this moment.
2) Yay body postivity! I also follow a lot of instagrammers who are helping to reprogram my brain about this and I love it.
3) I *really* enjoy that there are a whole bunch of comments here already and as far as I can see they are ALL from women. That’s how I landed on your blog, because I was looking for a FI blogger who’s a woman, and you’re one of the most well-known. I really appreciate your perspective and your tone on your blog, and this post is a big example of that.
Cheers. You are awesome. :))
I can totally relate to the part about being able to go to extremes and needing to find middle ground! I’m the same way, early on my frugal financial independence journey, but I have to remind myself not to torment my family, who may not be comfortable with extreme frugality. Also, it’s hard for everyone to figure out what to wear after pregnancy – I think I held onto my maternity clothes way longer than I should. It sounds like you found the middle ground that will make you feel good and provide the need for new clothes. Great messages here!
You’re beautiful and you’re allowed to buy some clothes after you come out of the baby phase. Different life stages require different behaviours. You’re right about the happiness that comes from limiting choices but dressing becomingly most of the time is not vanity. Beauty is a thing after all – there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s an important value like Truth and Goodness. And about moderation – you don’t need to be moderate all of the time in all things. Some of the joy in life comes from contrast. Trust yourself – it’ll all balance itself out in the long run. And thank you for being so honest about these issues that confront all of us.
Thank you for sharing! I have been loosely following the body positivity movement for several years now, and I think it’s helped me to find some balance as well. I am currently a size 18, and am growing more comfortable with buying the size that I need, rather than lamenting that I am not in the size I’d like to be. In 2012, I weighed in at over 200 pounds, and worked at losing weight for about a year (I didn’t cut things out of my diet, but I counted calories most days and tried to maintain a deficit). I lost over 45 pounds and felt great (also trained for and ran a half marathon in 2013); but in the years since the weight has slowly crept back on. Graduate school is partly to blame, along with the shift to a more sedentary job. I aim to take good care of my body by eating reasonably healthy, moving my body through bike riding and horseback riding, and I’d like to do some strength training to build up the muscles I need to be a better rider; but I don’t deprive myself of foods that I enjoy (ice cream), I simply aim for moderation. If I have a daughter some day, I want her to learn how to take care of her body without obsessing over her weight or what she looks like. It’s a difficult balance to strike.
As for the clothes, I’m glad you were able to give yourself the freedom to buy new clothes that fit and that you enjoy wearing! Many of the clothes I own have been in my closet for years, but I find that adding a few new pieces a year to my wardrobe helps it continue to feel fresh and interesting. I dress business casual for work, and tend to wear jeans and a decent top when I’m just running errands or around the house on days off. I used to do more thrift store shopping, but have found that the amount of time I have to invest to find pieces that I like and that fit properly negates the savings to some extent.
Best wishes on your journey to find balance!
Yes! Boo jeans!!! In fact I will go further- no pants. Leggings and dresses are how I roll. And since I am mostly at home with my three-year-old and a five-month-old right now, it’s leggings and long shirts. That aha moment when I realized I didn’t have to wear pants was so liberating.
This was exactly what I needed to read right now, so thank you for your refreshing honesty and the vulnerability to share your thoughts with readers!
This is a great piece Liz. Do you know of Stacia Savasuk? https://www.stasiasavasuk.com/stasias-style-school
She has a similar philosophy: there’s nothing wrong with our bodies; learn to love them the way they are and find clothes to make you feel good in that loving body!
love your philosophy and your engaging writing.
I read you from Paris (France, Europe!) and I am so glad you wrote this! I thought you were so perfect, so virtuous, it was too much… 😉 So you’re human and you need some new clothes. Well done! And you’re right : it is so difficult to be satisfied with what we have. Now that I am 60, I think less about my clothes -but I am alone since a long time now and I am not sure it would be easy to be naked again in front of a new someone…. So I too need to progress. Have a nice september!
I don’t typically comment, but I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this post. Definitely in my top 5 of all time. It was just so…authentic. I especially loved the quote “there’s a temptation to paper over vanity, obsession, and body shaming in the name of ‘being healthy.'”, which I think would resonate with a lot of contemporary women.
Also, as an aside, as much as I enjoy your journey of frugality, I do silently cheer you on every time I see that you are spending money to enjoy your quality of life. You deserve restaurant dinners, massages, and clothes that fit. And girl, you know that Roomba was a genius move! I’m guessing it must feel a little awkward to discuss these types of expenditures since they may seem at odds with your readership’s expectations, but honestly I am really appreciating reading about how you are exploring moderation. I’d love to see more of these posts! Take care and enjoy the hell out of those leggings.
I’m so, so glad that you posted this. I am in the same boat–after my first daughter, my body sprang back. After my second, I lost almost nothing and it has been hard. For nearly 6 months I was in maternity clothes, because I refused to admit I just wasn’t going to get back to the old size. I’m struggling to find the balance, too, of appreciating the body I have, even while working on improving things a little. Like you, conflating health and vanity is extremely easy for me. I don’t believe I have found a middle ground yet. I am glad you’re sharing yours, though. I think it is easy, when watching others on the extremes, to feel guilt. I felt twinges of guilt when I had to make my wardrobe larger, even when I did it via secondhand stores.
I am a relatively new reader of your blog, and I am certainly in a different stage of life than you are. I am now a grandmother, and getting ready to retire in a few months after a long, successful and rewarding career. While my husband and I have mostly been careful with our money, we certainly have had our share of frugal failings. My mantra these days is “you can either find a way or find an excuse.” I’m trying day by day to find a way. One thing I have gleaned from life and from your blog, however, is that you should never feel guilty about what you do spend and you should certainly not feel guilty about buying some new clothes. From what I have gathered, the whole premise of the blog is not to not spend any money, but to spend on what will enrich your life. Feeling good about ourselves, naturally looking the best we can at whatever stage of life we are in, is important. How to spend wisely and do things that keep you not only healthy, but feeling attractive, are important lessons to share with your daughters.
Love this article!! I too bounced back after the first baby but never did after the second baby….and he is now 25 years old! Add to that, menopause! My body is still trying to recover but I’m learning to love my Grandma Bod with all its extra fluff.
I find the middle ground by roughly following the ten item wardrobe coined by writer and YouTuber Jennifer L Scott. She has a bunch of videos about it. I used to love dresses from Old Navy and they would last several years but I’ve found the fabric quality has declined, so lately I’ve waited for sales, mostly at LL Bean, Lands End, and Talbots. I also have a few things from Coldwater Creek, JJill, and Duluth Trading Company. Some of which I found at thrift stores, and other things I bought directly from them. I think you’ll find Jennifer’s mantra of always having something appropriate that you love and feel beautiful in, but: 1) ruthlessly culling problem pieces, 2) limiting the number, and 3) limiting the shopping to seasons (either 2 or 4 per year, depending on your climate and preferences) to be very helpful for you. Also you might really enjoy learning about style vs trends/fashion. There are timeless, non-trendy classic styles that always look chic. I can’t tell you what they would be for you, it depends too much on your taste and body shape. I’m guessing you’d like items from Boden, Talbots, and possibly JJill. They tend towards relaxed/casual classics.
I’ve been thinking about clothing A LOT. My issue isn’t that I’m a new-ish mother slightly beyond breastfeeding (my boys are teenagers), but rather I work as a dog walker in Seattle. All seasons. All size dogs. Nearly everyday. And I commute by ebike. So I’m inherently active and I get wet and cold and messy. I’ve been doing this for 6 years now and I realized quite recently that I no longer own jeans or skirts and I only own one dress. I unintentionally embraced Project 333… and there is no end in sight… I only intend to stop when my youngest goes off to college and that’s in 2025! Since there are so few days where I’m not working (only 10 days off so far in 2019), I simply don’t see the point in buying new (or even new used) clothes of any sort. So I’ve dealing with my feelings by making sure I still perform some sort of self-love/celebration that works with my lifestyle. I spritz perfume each morning now even though the only clients I’m going to meet are group of stinky, wet dogs. I wear my solid gold earrings I bought at a fancy boutique (my only pair). I’ve begun to use nice, quality soap you’d buy at a co-op and not what you’d find at Costco. And I exercise! Yoga and jogging each day… so no matter how yucko I feel about the outside I’m scoring big by taking care of what is most important: my health and vitality. At 40+ I’ve begun to see other changes that aren’t related to post-pregnancy as much as general aging. It’s not just the shape of your body that changes.
It took me many many years to figure out what my “style” is. It happened after physically moving away from a high pressure of “how you look is very important”” culture.
If there’s one thing I want for all women clothing wise, it’s to find your own look, embrace it, and dress in it every single day.
Keeping things simple. Buying multiples.
My own look is mostly comfy skirts and dresses….this is more comfortable for me than jeans, although I do have the “jeggings” that I wear with long tops.
I took a deep breath, it took more than one actually, and purged my closet so that only “me clothes” were left. There was trial and error in this as i figured out what I like to wear and feel good wearing and that is totally me, while still giving a nod to what is reasonably current.
Before my move, I used to constantly compare myself to others in the room and in my mind continually came up short.
Now I can walk into a room and say “I’m me and I dress like me. Now let’s talk about what’s going on with your heart”
Because you see I’ve found the magic. When I’m not worried about how I look, I can focus on others and how they are feeling.
It’s almost like freedom is found in my “uniform”.
Beautifully said! Thank you for sharing.
Wow, Katie nailed it! Here, here!
Another thoughtful and honest post – thank you! For the record, I think there are very few New York women who ever feel dressed up or stylish enough at any event. Fashion seems to rule there and is often valued more than the person wearing the clothes. I always felt like I could never measure up there, but I’m sure you looked good anyway. It’s funny – I often read your blog and look at your pictures on Instagram and envy the simplicity of your life and had the impression you were fine with your wardrobe and body. So little we know about others, right?
It’s kind of like how people always comment that I’m so fortunate to be thin, but they refuse to acknowledge how hard I have to work at it. While I don’t really count calories, I used to place the importance of my workouts above seeing my family and friends. That’s no way to live. I’ve even skipped going out with friends to avoid overindulging in meals. But this is the mentality we’ve created here. It’s sad, but true.
I haven’t had kids and likely never will, but I’ve noticed throughout my 30s how much harder it is to keep weight off. I’m not a fan of this body change, but I’m coming around to accepting that I’d rather spend more time with family than friends than on the treadmill. Thank you again for sharing!
I’ve rounded the corner of 40 and had a lot of life changes, including going from being a single, childfree woman to a married stepmom. Being single and childfree definitely made keeping the weight off easier. I’ve had to become okay with an extra few pounds because even maintaining my “overweight” weight was a challenge in a family. I workout, am a distance runner, and try to get a lot of cross training in. But its still a challenge. Its about learning to balance and realizing that we live in a society that’s loaded with addictive food. We are set up for failure all the time, and we will always be pushing against the tide to try to eat healthy and exercise. Keep working on that balance. 🙂
This is so timely! But oh no! You’re shopping now? I LOVE CLOTHES SHOPPING. We CANNOT shop together. I mean, unless you really want to…
I am also all about body positivity. So much so that I started a blog the other month for Muslim ladies with “real” bodies, and real shopping budgets because instagram has victimized us all!!! So I sucked it up and put my fat self on the internet. LOL.
I read your post and reader comments with great interest. I am an image consultant based in Canada who has helped both men and women find their authentic style no matter what their size is. The struggles shared about body image are those that my clients have experienced over and over again. Sometimes having a coach to work with can be affirming and simplify the what to wear/buy conundrum. You can be well dressed without spending a fortune; less is more and simple is better. Please keep up the great writing.
Have you considered doing Courtney Carver’s Project 333? Sounds like you’re almost there!
I resonate with this so much! I have two kids who were (are) both extended nurslings, and I realized in July that I have been pregnant or breastfeeding continuously for the last 7 YEARS! My younger kiddo turns 3 next month, which is when I cut off my first, so we`ll see how weaning goes. Being a breastfeeding mom means that I haven`t really been able to wear what I want over the past 7 years- I always have to choose clothing based on how well I can nurse a kiddo in it. My clothes are definitely tired and I don`t particularly enjoy clothes shopping (or spending money on clothes…), but at the same time it would be nice to get a few new things for ME once I am through the nursing phase. I love the `uniform` you have created for yourself- I have always wanted to create a simple style that I can be comfortable wearing on a daily basis. Thank you for sharing a really honest post about an area a lot of moms struggle with.
Thank you thank you thank you!! I found when I hit the magical 40, everything shifted for me. A few things were fast and others were slow. I married a wonderful man with two kids, so I had to adjust how I ate. I was going out more, and even at a pot luck there are calories. 😉 And my body naturally slowed down. As someone who has always struggled with their weight, this has been incredibly difficult.
One thing that resonated with me, believe it or not, was to wear what makes you happy. I hate to wear pants. I don’t feel they look good on my body, and frankly, I don’t like how they feel. I like dresses. Your post inspired me to go through my dresses and pants and make a LARGE bag to go to Thred Up (my choice for decent clothes reuse/ re-purpose) and to use a big credit at Thred Up for some new dresses for me. Also to purchase some new “foundation garments” (ahem, we ladies of a certain age know what that’s like) and to wear my cute clogs proudly!
We age and change and our society thinks we should just remain a nubile 22. Except…. I was always not nubile. I was always a little round in the middle. I was always big hipped and broad across the shoulder. No wonder pants look weird on me!
But I also need to remind myself of what my body has done. I ran a marathon in this body. I’ve run multiple half marathons in this body. I’ve run countless road races in this body. I sailed competitively in this body. I coached my step-son’s soccer team in this body. I’ve traveled and seen the world in this body. So this body has big hips and a tummy. It also has sustained me through hikes and bike rides and a million other things.
Yes I need to make healthy choices. I need to chose the carrots over the chips most of the time. But when those homemade chips with old bay show up at a party, I should enjoy them and pass on the grocery store stuff full of chemicals. 😉
Thank you again. This was a great reminder on a lot of things we women (and many men) often forget. About your “being worth it” and that “it” is love, and loving yourself. 🙂
So well said. Thank you for sharing these motivating, positive insights!!!
You should think about having your hair professionally cut. You’d get some time to yourself, have a nice scalp massage and have your hair cut professionally. If you spend $30 on a haircut and get it cut 4 times a year, the overall cost is not high.
Body positivity at its best is about loving and honoring your body for what it is able to do and be. Yours has mothered two beautiful children. As a woman who finally weaned her second child about a year ago after a similar pregnant-nursing-pregnant-nursing cycle of years without an autonomous body, I will say that you should be enjoying this journey! I’m so happy to hear you are enjoying finding some balance. I love your new wardrobe choices and the idea of leaning into the current stage of life. Rock on and congrats!
This was beautiful, and I am so glad you’re on the journey to body positivity!!! I realized I had reached it (I battled an ED for ten years so it’s been a struggle) when my doctor casually suggested I might lose a few pounds (I’m in the 5-10 pds overweight party) … I told her I’d prefer not to, it’s a trigger for me, and my beautiful doctor stopped scribbling (as doctors do), looked me full in the eyes, and told me she supported me. I about bawled, I’ve never had that kind of response! But it’s true: I am focused on building strength and flexibility as I go through my 30s because I want to maintain it as I get older. I don’t need to lose weight, it’s no longer a driver for me. And it’s a beautiful spot to be, I want everyone to reach that point:)
Beautiful. Thank you for sharing this and congratulations on your journey to healing and acceptance.
I LOVE this article, for so many reasons. Here’s to body positivity and finding balance. If you do ever figure out the correct amount of brownies, please tell me.
Oh Jules. The correct number of brownies eludes me forever… 😉
Not sure if you’re still reading comments, but great post. One thing I wanted to add is that limiting sugar or “unhealthy” foods for your kids can backfire. My parents micromanaged my sugar intake to avoid me gaining weight, which not only sucked the joy out of things like s’mores, but it took away my ability to learn self-regulation, contributed to negative body image, and caused me to binge on the forbidden fruit whenever I could. Surprise surprise, I also gained weight- because it was freaking puberty! I really wish I had just been allowed to guide my own eating and learn balance on my own. Something to think about with your daughters.
Thank you so much for putting your time and energy isn’t your writing. I’ve just stumbled onto your blog from the playing with fire website and having done a deep dive into MMM I find your work refreshing and exciting. I’m going through this same thing right now – coming up to the surface after 7 years of either being pregnant or nursing. I’m buying my first non-nursing bras! And clothes that fit and feel good especially on the larger body I’m becoming friends with. I’ve struggled with spending money on myself and have found it harder to thrift plus sizes. I really enjoying this read and the balance you’re attempting – I’m also a pendulum – lol. I look forward to reading more of your work! I especially love it because we also left the busy world for a rural homestead.
Thank you so much for commenting and for sharing your story! Good luck with those non-nursing bras–I really need to get some myself…
I so appreciate this whole post. Kudos. I’m working on scaling back on clothes-buying because it makes me feel exactly the same — the more I buy, the more I feel like I need. We recently relocated and I feel like it’s been a spending frenzy (on all things, not just clothes). I want to scale back! Also three cheers for body positivity and enjoying life as we are post-baby.
So I also came to the leggings+dress idea after 2 kids. You need warm leggings too! When the house is 67 degrees I wear these cheap but very warm fleece on the inside tights ClimateRight by Cuddl Duds Women’s Thermal Guard Long Underwear Legging
When the house is 65 degrees I wear expensive heavy leggings from llbean that are sadly discontinued.
Also as someone who transmuted body perfectionism into a focus on healthy living, I’d note that hard as you try , tour daughters may pick up the body perfectionism themselves as teens despite your best efforts. Culture is strong! But eventually they may be open to learning from your example and experience. That’s how it was with me and my mom
Hi! I loved reading this! I too am a Mother of 3, ages 2, 4, & 6. So I totally get the back to back pregnancy, breastfeeding! Last year I finally gave up a lot of my maternity bras! They were just so comfy why not keep wearing them!? Now I live in sports bras, as I do yoga daily and also love resistance training using my “home gym” with R3BAR (@r3bartraining) I have always worked out prior to motherhood but never anything hard core like running. On a treadmill! I love resistant training because it definitely tones your muscles- especially working on your core which was zero muscle after pushing out 3 babies! Anywho thanks so much I enjoy your articles and one day I hope to have land like you and your family for our kiddos to run free on- especially in the times we are in now!! Take Care! ~ Jade