My Number's Up

10.22.07: Shopping for new pants leaves me feeling supersized

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I'm a size 8—always have been, always will be. Not too skinny, not too fat. Just a regular girl with reasonably good muscular tone and little bit of built-in padding. Size medium. Average. That's me.

Or at least that's the way I think of myself. Size 8 is part of my self-identity; it's where I'm at when I'm fit and happy, healthy and thriving. Sure, I've gotten myself down to lower sizes from time to time, but they're no good for me—think extreme depression, crash dieting, exercise bulimia. And I've certainly been up to higher sizes, too, but they're no good, either—they're associated with working way too much, eating at my desk or in my car (whatever I can get my hands on), and generally feeling too important, stressed, and/or busy to set food inside a gym.

In other words, when I'm NOT a size 8 something is off kilter; when I'm not a size 8, I've come to learn, some is very wrong, indeed. Conversely, size 8 is associated in my mind with balance, and happiness, and everything good.

If that's still true in the post-baby reality, then right now, it's all bad. I went shopping for new pants this past weekend, and realized that not only am I NOT a size 8, I can hardly even squeeze my giant thigh into a size 8's waist space. And I learned it the hard way.

Because I'm an inner 8, I always begin there, and go up in increments, each step up a too-tight study in pain and suffering and oh-my-god-I-can't-believe-how-fat-I-am self flagellation. Can't even get the size 8s over my hips! What a pig! Size 10? They won't button! Oink! Oink! Size 12? Maybe if I just don't sit down. Despair! Agony! Sooooooooie! Size 14? No way! I can't! I simply can't! I won't! I'm huge! I'm a house! No a barn! No I'm a meat packing plant! A Spam factory! Ugh.

And then I leave the mall, pantsless, because I just can't face up to my own size. It's back to the sweatpants and the couch and the self-imposed hiding out because I don't have anything to wear. Literally.

I whine about this a lot to my girlfriend Laura, the only person to whom I'm willing to admit the current sizes I'm dealing with (besides you, of course). She's sympathetic to my plight—for a little while. She's an inner size 6, who grew a couple sizes larger post-baby, too, so she knows a little bit about what I'm going through. But then, she inevitably will tell me to suck it up. "Who cares about the size?" she'll say. "Know one knows but you. The only thing that matters is finding clothes that fit and that you feel comfortable with."

That's good advice. And someday, I hope to be able to follow it. I acknowledge the wisdom it holds...and yet, my own personal brand of crazy means that I can't allow myself to buy clothes in what I think of as "fat sizes." Don't get me wrong—I've known size 14 and 16 and 18 girls who I think look happy and healthy and utterly hot. But I know that I'm not one of them. I know that when I'm wearing these sizes, it ain't good—my frame isn't built for them. It's built for a size 8, or something like it.

My body has changed radically since having Truman. Thanks to the workouts, there are parts of it that have reshaped themselves into something resembling pre-baby status. But my waist has thickened, there are new pads of fat around my hips that just won't go away, and my lower abs simply refuse to snap back despite my endless rounds of kick-ass core crunches. My body is both larger than it was, AND an entirely different shape.

Size 8 is still a goal, but I'm starting to come to grips with the reality that it may be a thing of the past. Is the bold new future all about size 10 or 12? Or will I simply have to start permanently shopping at stores known for their VERY generous sizing? Either way, Coldwater Creek, here I come!

Hillari Dowdle is lounging around in her sweatpants in Knoxville, Tennessee. Contact her at Hillari Dowdle.