The Unexpected Emotions of Weight Loss

Happy Thursday everyone! I took a TRX circuit class last night and I’m sooo sore! I also taught my last Zumba class until August. I can’t believe it, I’m going to miss it so much, but it will be fun to have time to focus on other fitness endeavors. Why am I taking this time off (and what on earth am I doing with myself now that school is over for the summer)?? I’ll be working full-time at an internship in Boston, and John and I are headed there in ten days!! I’m soooo excited. Boston is where I hope to end up after law school so I’m pumped to try it out. 🙂

So originally, I had planned to write part one of a two part post on running today, but instead I wanted to share something I experienced yesterday. This is my first real emotional post – cue deep breath – but I felt it was important to share.

I’ve been needing to clean out my closet, and the time was finally right this week: I have time now that classes are over, I need to figure out what to pack for the move, and it’s spring cleaning time. I periodically purge my closet and donate everything I don’t wear often. On top of the normal purge, thanks to my weight-loss over the past two years, I have a ton of clothes that are just too big, a good problem to have right? A lot of people advise against keeping your old, larger size clothes when you lose weight. Normally, I am one of those people and would add them to the donate pile. However, in my case, I’m just packing them away. I figure, someday when we are ready to start a family, I’m going to be glad I have an entire wardrobe hidden away.

When I set out to tackle this project, I was excited! It’s been annoying having a bunch of stuff taking up room that I can’t even wear anymore. Besides, I figured what could be more of an ego boost than trying on clothes for hours that are now too big. What an awesome measure of progress! Right? Turns out it was more complicated than that, and I was really shocked by the emotional roller-coaster it turned into.

the "too big" pile about halfway through the purge

the “too big” pile about halfway through the purge

There were definitely moments where I wanted to high-five myself. I love love love what I see in the mirror these days.  But there was also a lot of sadness, which seems so silly. When I started feeling depressed, I was so thrown off. What is there to be sad about?? Here are a few things I nailed down. I was sad that a lot of my professional, pre-law school clothes that I once loved are now packed away. I was sad to say good-bye to old favorites. Maybe more profoundly, I questioned my old self image. There were dresses and shirts that I LOVED because I felt like I looked amazing and in them. Now they are too big… so does that mean I didn’t look great before? The rational voice in my head says of course I looked great, being happier with how I look now doesn’t mean there was anything wrong with how I looked before. The clothes I wore last summer around our wedding and on our honeymoon are too big now. I started beating myself up for not working harder before the wedding. I could have looked the way I do now, imagine how much better the pictures would have been! Again, rational me loves the wedding pictures and loves how I looked in them (besides, who cares, it was the most perfect day of my life! I married my best friend!). But that self-doubting voice was still there, nagging away about how I failed to achieve my pre-wedding goal of looking better on my wedding day than I ever would again (silly, because why settle for peaking so early?! I’d rather keep looking better and better). Then there was the lingering insecurity. I used to buy a lot of flowy shirts to hide my stomach, and I didn’t put a single one in the discard or pack away pile even though I don’t wear them anymore now that I don’t feel like I need to hide. I couldn’t bring myself to part with them. What if I need them? To me, this was a clear sign that I still harbor some fear that I won’t be able to maintain my results.

At the other end of the spectrum, I was excited that some of the clothes I held on to from the days before I “let myself go” now fit again. Some were even a little loose! Awesomeness! It was like going shopping in my own closet, finding things long forgotten that I could now wear again! But some of those clothes have a troubled past. I haven’t talked about this yet on the blog (maybe someday I’ll be brave enough to do so in more detail), but there was a time when I weighed much less than I do now. I used to refer to this as “the time when I was skinny.” Now I call it “the time when I was sick.” Because I was sick. I starved myself. I obsessed about food. People worried. It was a bad time. A lot of my “skinny clothes” are things I held on to from that time. Yesterday I learned that they fit again. There was a time I would have celebrated this as a return to skinny me. There was a time when trying to fit into those clothes reduced me to tears. So part of me did celebrate, and after all, I weigh more than I did then, and I weigh more because this time I have muscle, and I have muscle because this time I lost the weight in a healthy way and committed to a healthy lifestyle, right? Of course! But putting those clothes on made me doubt myself. Could that analysis be wrong? Have I gone too far and I just can’t see it? I don’t feel like I have, but when I was sick, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with me either. Am I a hypocrite for preaching health to other people? The reality is no, no, and no. I AM healthier, I love my body and treat it with respect instead of resenting it and treating it like my enemy. But putting those clothes on again made me question.

I wasn’t expecting this flood of self-doubt and the sadness at saying goodbye to my old, bigger clothes. Don’t get me wrong, I was also super proud to see the results of all the work I have put in. I’m stronger, faster, happier, and more confident than I was two years ago. Rational me knows these things and wanted to celebrate. The result was the roller-coaster.

Looking back at this post, it sounds sad, and that wasn’t what I intended when I set out to write it. I really just wanted to highlight the complicated emotions that are often tied to weight loss. Some, such as lingering body image issues, are more well known, but they can pop up any time and you don’t have to have lost huge amounts of weight to experience them. Writing it down and seeing it in black and white both brought the emotions home and helped rational me prevail. We all have struggles, facing them and sharing them helps us move past them.

On that note, sorry this ended up being so long and rambling, and a bit of a downer, but thank you for listening. If you’ve had a similar experience, please share below if you feel comfortable.


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2 comments on “The Unexpected Emotions of Weight Loss

  1. Azka

    Kim, thank you for writing such a heartfelt post. I have many mixed emotions about my own weight loss/maintenance and dedication to exercise and I have been thinking about it all morning, because I decided on a whim to do measurements today with my trainer who I have been working with off and on for the past year, once or twice a week. The results were immaterial, I don’t even remember what I wanted to achieve by measuring the difference. My body fat caliper result was off (higher than the electroni one I did last year) and instead of floundering and feeling upset, I brushed it off secure in the knowledge that I KNEW my body fat is way lower than last time this year. This ‘normal’ attitude is a huge deal for me. While I am nowhere near as lean and fit or as disciplined as you are, and while in many ways I envy people who are able to give more time or are more focused than I am, I also congratulate myself for coming so very far from the horrible days of counting calories and working out two hours a day and being unable to go to a restaurant or eat with friends without a meltdown and the worst, purging.
    It’s been a long journey of getting over bulimia/anorexia and replacing it with orthorexia – which I now know can seem very healthy but I still used to obsess about what I ate and if I ate unplanned calories I would work them off carefully all the while my friends would laud me for being so ‘good’ – and finally becoming ‘healthy’. It honestly took getting pregnant to ‘fix’ me. Watching the scale go up for a reason (first with despair at the gain, then with happiness), making sure I took care of my baby and ate healthy and nutritious food (fine line between healthy and prego-rexic, that one.) And then I carefully exercised the weight off while trying to ensure my baby’s breast milk requirements were met.
    Now, I make time to exercise at least 5 hours a week and wake up at 5 a.m. if I have to, but limit each session to an hour because there are just so many more things in my life that need my attention and fitness is just one. Instead of beating myself up over a one pound gain like my ‘sick’ days, I understand that my body will fluctuate and give myself up to three pounds before really buckling down to get back on track. I trust my body to correct itself and I go back to my regular clean eating and exercise habits as soon as I can. I don’t deny myself the absolutely delicious treats my mother-in-law makes with immense love for us, and I eat out normally, sticking to the cleanest options. I find that I am so much more now that defines me – mother, wife, daughter, professional, fitness enthusiast, friend – that my health and looks are just a fraction of the whole.
    I fit into all of my pre-pregnancy clothes, but I know that I will never (and nor would I want to) fit into the clothes I had at my absolute skinniest. I also understand that while I have good strong abs, I have excess post-partum skin and just because I can fit into all of my pre-pregnancy shirts doesn’t mean they are still flattering. I still weight myself pretty much every single day and there are many times that I doubt myself or feel that I could be leaner or skinnier, that I could work out a bit longer or harder but those days are less and less frequent. Weight is an emotional thing for me and always will be, but I am happy to be feeling freer every day.
    Sorry, this is extremely long, but it just hit so close to home today. Also, hang on to those flow-y shirts. You’ll be glad not to have to waste money on overpriced maternity wear 🙂

    1. BusyBod Post author

      No need to apologize, I’m so glad that you could relate and that it touched something for you! I’m so happy to hear you’ve been able to come so far and are doing so well. I feel like the fine line you mentioned walking in pregnancy is a fine line that everyone who is health-conscious (especially those with a history of an eating disorder) walks all the time. To me, I think the balance you mentioned is exactly how you know you’re on the right side of the line, when what you eat and how you look is a small part of your life instead of completely defining it.

      It’s also so encouraging to hear that pregnancy really helped you. One of my bigger fears about the future is that a pregnancy would trigger a relapse of sorts, even pregorexia, but I hope that love for the baby would be enough to withstand it like it sounds like it was for you.

      Thanks so much for being willing to share your story too. I hope it touches others who read this post because it definitely did for me 🙂


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