A pretty inevitable fact of anorexia recovery is that you will end up growing out of small clothes. I feel this topic of clothes becoming too small for you, isn’t really talked about that much as you are going through it. So much of the focus of anorexia recovery is on weight gain and helping you deal with this. Everyone accepts that seeing the number on the scales go up is tough. But it is equally as difficult finding that you no longer fit into clothes that were once probably even too big for you. It is just as gut wrenching each time you can’t do a button up, as it is hitting a new high number on the scales or BMI chart. So lets talk about it.
When I was in the depths of my anorexia, I was never really driven by clothes sizes. I wasn’t striving to reach a certain clothes size – I was all about the numbers on the scales. I also never really bought new clothes. Instead, I would just wear my old clothes that had become too big for me, taking comfort in the fact that the clothes felt loose on what felt to me like a disgustingly fat body. I was happy to drown in the clothes as I was drowning in life.
But once I started my recovery, I wanted to start living life. So I started buying new clothes. In fact, one of the trips out I had from the inpatient unit I was in was to TK Max with one of the Healthcare Assistants so I could buy a few new items of clothing. I was preparing for life after discharge and my clothes were very old, and very outdated, so I needed some new ones. As I said earlier, I never really cared what the size of the clothes were, and this was true when I started buying new clothes. I would buy clothes that fitted me and they could span over four clothing sizes.
Fast forward a few years into my anorexia recovery and I start putting on a bit more weight. My fortnightly weigh ins were very difficult; seeing a steady, albeit slow, increase in weight. But coupled to that was the agony of getting dressed every day. I could avoid the scales, except on weigh day, but I couldn’t avoid getting dressed. And going to work five days a week meant that on those five days, I was painfully aware that I had to squeeze into my trousers that had previously slid on. They didn’t suddenly stop fitting me one week. No, it was a very gradual shift in the tightness of clothes but my sensitivity to that was like the princess and the pea.
One of the main things that I did find really difficult was trouser buttons. I had always previously put trousers on without undoing the button. The trousers would easily just slip on and off. When I had to start undoing the button to get the trousers over my thighs and bum – I have to say, it was a horrific experience. Such a mundane, normal thing that many people do without thinking, would leave me crying, distressed and ridden with guilt, anxiety and absolute self-loathing. And once you have the clothes on, that unfamiliar feeling of clothes actually fitting you properly and fitting neatly to your body makes you feel like you are some sort of volcano erupting. Like you are Gus, the mouse from Cinderella, bursting at the seams. It is traumatic. And it happens on a daily basis. But no one ever really acknowledges this.
My decision was to avoid tight fitting clothes as much as possible and instead wear tracksuit bottoms and baggy trousers at every opportunity. It helped. It eased my daily comfort slightly. But then an occasion would arise weeks or months later when you would have to wear clothes slightly smarter than your adidas trackies. So you’d pull a pair of smarter trousers out the wardrobe – the ones you’d given up wearing because they felt too tight. You try and put them on, remembering to undo the button. But now you can’t get them up post mid-thigh. The trousers which had once fitted you loosely, now no longer fit at all.
I have recently had a clothing clearout. My wardrobe was full of clothes I hadn’t worn for ages. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get into many of them now. It was quite hard attempting to try things on. Knowing had once fitted into the clothes. I didn’t keep any of the smaller clothes. Some people struggle with this – they like to keep smaller clothes in case they ever fit back into them, or to remind themselves of what size they used to be. I don’t want either of that. I know I am never going back down that route to be able to fit into the clothes again. And I don’t need reminding of what once was. Rather than feeling upset and guilty for the clothes no longer fitting me, I like to think of growing out of my smaller clothes as actually, growing into a bigger and better life.
I recommend anyone who has grown out of smaller clothes to get rid of them. You don’t need that reminder, it doesn’t serve any purpose. And I also recommend that people don’t focus on clothes sizes. Clothing sizes are all ridiculous. When I cleared out my wardrobe, I had clothes ranging over four sizes. There were items that fitted me in each size, and items that didn’t fit me in each size. It is clear to me that clothing sizes don’t really exist. You can be an 8 in one shop and a 14 in another.
We must remember that we are all worth more than the numbers and the clothes we wear. Our worth, our personality, our attributes – none of these are defined by the size of our clothes. We don’t want a life filled with numbers. We want a life filled with memories. It is so incredibly difficult growing out of smaller clothes during recovery. I have felt the pain and cried the tears. We can spend the rest of our lives trying to get back into those smaller clothes (and I promise you that you won’t be any happier when you do. And we can just hold onto them as a reminder (which will only leave you feeling crap and living in the past). Or we can start to appreciate our body for what it does and the life it allows us to live.
Remember, growing out of smaller clothes means you are growing into a bigger and better life.
PS. I recently made a vlog about my wardrobe clear-out & also about clothing sizes which you can check out here: https://youtu.be/V-kYZ3cIKCI