- My extreme situation highlights a common weight-loss mistake
- Something important happens when you dress up
- Tips for shopping second hand & a few of my favourite finds
Dress up? There was NO WAY I’d dress up when I was trying to lose weight.
I thought a nice outfit would suggest I was happy with my body. I also believed punishing myself would inspire me to stick to my diet. Then buying new clothes could be a reward after I lost weight. And I hate waste. Investing in a wardrobe I’d only have for a short time didn’t make sense. Finally, I didn’t dress up because I LOVED dramatic change. I wanted to flick a switch and re-enter life.
I had a lot to learn.
Refusing to dress up started when I was 14
My first memory of declining new clothes was back-to-school shopping. My family and I had just returned home from driving across Canada. During those 6 weeks we ate hamburgers and fries at cool diners for lunch, sat for hours in the car and I hit puberty.
Rather than coming home and going back to my regular eating and activity routine, I started following diet rules, tips and tricks. I felt an urgency to get back to my healthy body so I could start high school feeling like me again. But dieting lead to a complicated relationship with food and more weight gain; a trend that spanned 10 years of my life. A decade I didn’t dress up.
I didn’t know reaching and maintaining a healthy weight was about building healthy habits.
So I put all my energy behind the (wrong) weight-loss information, whilst wearing black leggings and a baggy top to cover my butt. Then I’d gently loosen the straps of my back pack and lower it to secure coverage. I needed to keep the tail of my top firmly over my bottom. And that was pretty much my high school uniform.
I would not dress up here or there.
I would not dress up anywhere.
Yes. Actually you should dress up.
What happens when you don’t dress up
Putting any part of your life on hold when you’re trying to lose weight, or reach any goal, is unhealthy.
For most of high school I was completely confused. I was eating so little, exercising so much and gaining weight. I didn’t realize I was messing around with my metabolism. One day I went home early pretending to have the flu. I decided I’d just stay in bed for a few days and try to eat as little as possible.
At that point trying to lose weight had taken over my life. I’d neglected everything I cared about to focus on losing weight.
This self-defeating strategy is part of my OCD mindset.
Now I understand that taking an all-or-nothing approach sets you up to fail. I also know that you have to lose weight the same way you want to keep it off! Staying in bed and feeling angry at myself would never solve any problem. It would only make things worse.
By the end of that day I was too hungry to keep trying to starve myself. All I accomplished alone in my bed was another day of ingraining bad habits while falling further behind in school.
The magic of deciding to dress up
A few months ago I was sorting through files when I came across a piece of paper that said:
No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
– Regina Brett, author
Nothing good happens when you’re under the duvet!
It doesn’t matter what you’re trying to get through. Keep a regular routine. Having a shower, putting on clothes you feel good in and getting busy with your interests and the commitments you’ve made, helps you overcome any hurdle and reach your potential. Everything’s interlinked.
One healthy choice leads to another.
For instance, if you’re at school or work, out with friends or volunteering and you’re presenting yourself in a way that makes you feel good, you’re more likely to get engaged in the activity, have fun and excel at the things you care about most.
My last turning point
When I was in teacher’s college I got healthy for good. By then I had collected healthy eating and exercise information. But I was still “on” and “off” diets because I’d tell myself I have to restart “tomorrow” as soon as I made a “mistake”. And I dragged the rest of my life into it, by cancelling the rest of the day as soon as I ate something I regretted (or felt I messed up anything on my growing daily tick-list.) So I was missing a lot of school.
One day early in October my professor said to me:
“If you miss one more day you’ll have to repeat the whole year.” Suddenly showing up was a non-negotiable. And consistently being in class either as a student and student teacher got me really into the course and I fell in love with the students. They were way more interesting than dieting. Suddenly caring for them was more important than if I took one extra bite of something I regretted.
When the lunch bell rang and the kids came back in we got busy with math, science or art. There was no time to look back and worry about what I ate. That year I learned an important lesson. The one I write about in this post. Don’t put problems under a microscope! Focus on the big picture. Keep moving toward your goals with your best foot forward and everything gets easier.
When I stopped making weight-loss such a HUGE focus it was so much easier to lose weight.
Putting your energy into music, people, hobbies, career goals and anything else important to you will bring you up! Feeling positive makes it easier to reach goals. If you feel good you’ll be more likely to work on building healthy habits than slipping into unhealthy routines.
Dressing up is part of a healthy domino effect.
Example of why I get up, dress up and show up
Recently I had an appointment that was only confirmed 15 minutes before it was to start. Due to the short notice I had the option to re-book.
Despite the allure of staying home and making a cup of coffee, I kept the appointment and ran across town in the rain. (The rain part is true.)
The result? I got good news. Had I put the appointment off there would’ve been weeks of waiting (and worrying). I also felt good my doctor didn’t have an empty appointment. And we ended up having a frank discussion about something completely off topic that’s had a HUGE impact on my life.
None of these wonderful things would have happened had I decided to not show up.
You can dress up without a big investment
So we’ve established the importance of making the most of each day. The remaining barrier is the idea that buying clothes you only plan to wear temporarily is a ridiculous way to spend money. Here’s a solution!
There’s lots of ways to dress up without your bank account going down. You can:
1. Purchase new clothes and donate them when they’re loose.
Stop weighing yourself! When your clothes feel roomy, it’s time to update some staples. (And a few frivolous pieces!) Fitted clothing is more flattering.
Where to donate? There’s shelters, organizations that help people re-enter the workforce and tons of stores, like the Salvation Army who rely on donations. If you choose a cause to give to annually, make a clothing bank your beneficiary this year. Help someone dress up who otherwise couldn’t.
2. Plan a clothing swap with friends.
You can also look on-line for groups that do swaps.
3. Buy second hand clothes and resell them when they no longer fit.
There’s high-end, arty, cheap’n cheerful and vintage-y boutiques to choose from. On-line stores like Ebay or Poshmark are also an option.
If you dress up in second hand clothes is it hygienic?
Let’s get this question out of the way.
Do you stay at hotels and eat at restaurants? The sheets and utensils are much more than second hand! They’re constantly used by different people. As long as you wash your purchases, you’re good to go.
I LOVE to dress up in second hand clothes
When I first finished teacher’s college I lived in the UK. The pound was strong, I’d built healthy habits (and thus, lost weight for good) and I was entering a new phase of my life: Adult-ing (!) But I had no idea what to wear. Finding ways to hide my weight had dictated my fashion choices for years.
Supply teaching all over London introduced me to charity shops like Oxfam, Fara, Cancer Research, Red Cross and countless other second hand stores. Quality items were priced from as little as 10 pence (about 20 cents USD or 25 cents Canadian at the time) to 2 pounds (about 4 USD or 5 dollars Canadian). I once found a cute Fendi purse for 50 pence. I hadn’t heard of Fendi at the time. Just thought the zipper was well made and I loved the bright yellow colour.
As well, the store you buy from creates jobs, often for marginalized people.
For me, shopping second hand started as a necessity. Now it’s a way of life. I love the hunt! You never know what you’ll find.
Garage sales also help you dress up
One of my favourite places to get second hand clothes is at a garage sale. There’s an annual event in Toronto that has over 100 vendors; people who bring beautiful clothes and bric-a-brac to sell. Not only do you end up with tons of great loot, you have lots of laughs with like-minded locals.
I’m not into name brands. However I LOVE something that’s made well.
New-old things to dress up in!
These are a few of my favourite things. (If you didn’t sing the previous sentence, please try again.)
I got these pieces last weekend and I hope they’ll inspire you to get out there and dress up!
The unexpected (but totally necessary):
The practical purchase:
I paid: $20
Retail value: $500
The I-didn’t-know-I-needed-it necessity:
The experimental piece:
I think I’ll wear it over a fitted dress, maybe.
Now she’s an art professor. I think they’re my favourite find.
I paid: 50 cents
Retail value: priceless
I paid: $3
Retail value: $650-ish
A collection of curiosities:
Each was between 50 cents and a dollar. Who doesn’t need an arrowhead? I’m obsessed with ribbons, pottery and bead work… and dust bags. Even if I don’t have what goes in the dust bag.
The resell piece that pays for all my purchases:
I paid: $25
Retail value: $2600 USD
The end-of-day deal:
This purple coat was 40 dollars. The woman who was packing up said if I bought it she’d include the Lululemon sweatshirt, hand-printed and reversible purple dress, long-sleeved, burnt-pink soft top and a 100% silk sun dress. Then she threw in 2 designer purses. I really should retake this photo. This mash-up doesn’t give this deal justice.
Retail value: $1500+
Tips for second hand shopping
Hopefully you’re ready to dress up while you build healthy habits (and thus, naturally reach a healthy weight). Better yet you’re excited to get in on the hunt or play with your look. You’ve set yourself a budget and decided where to shop. Here’s some things to keep in mind while you’re thrifting.
Another tip: bring refreshments:
Get started! Each day is a chance to ingrain healthy habits. Dress up today.
Build healthy habits. A healthy weight will follow.
Do you dress up each day? How do you go from dressing down to putting on something that makes you feel polished? Here’s the first step.
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Sharing what I learned makes the 10 years I STRUGGLED worth it
What’s your favorite way to buy second hand clothing? Please include the name of the store or event and the town or city it’s in. Do you have a go-to outfit you like to dress up in? What does it look like? Where did you find it?!
In Toronto (Canada) I love Common Sort (eclectic pieces) and Fashionably Yours (for a fancy find). Buffalo Exchange is awesome. It’s in Boston, Chicago and other cities across the USA. (There’s 48 stores in 17 states.) In London, England I love Fara in Parson’s Green. The funds raised go to refugees from Romania and the store always has unusual pieces at a fair price. It’s win-win-win.
Oh Kelly, Zing, Zing, Zing – I’m in the wearing whatever covers as much as possible and looks the least horrible. Working at home so not dressing or wearing makeup unless necessary…
But today is special! I am going out to a special event and contemplating what will look least horrible on me… so now thinking of what would be fun and fab to wear or at least some fab accessories. If you’ve got it flaunt it!
It’s been a tough few weeks, death in my family, just coming up for air. You just never know when something you say hits the mark amazingly.
I hope you had the best night at your special event. Sometimes the things we least want to do are the most important to do—hopefully you really wanted to go, but in case you didn’t, I get it. When I’m going through a tough time, being social (or dressing up!) is that last thing I want to do and then… BOOM! As soon as I talk to other people I feel so much better. Just connecting with a laugh or sharing a story makes such a big difference.
I’m sorry you’ve had a death in the family. Losing a person or animal or anyone we love… can feel so confusing as you miss them, worry and wonder how it’s even possible. Really hope you feel a little better each day.
One thing that’s helped me a lot over the years is something my partner, Alex always says: Love can’t disappear. And its true. What you create with another living thing – that energy, connection, the memories and everything else is real and priceless and lasts forever. Sending you a big hug and I’m sure you looked absolutely fabulous tonight!
Thank you for your lovely comment. Your words mean so much to me.
PS Love that you mentioned accessories. I’m obsessed with them! My grandma used to wear all black and then add the craziest “most unexpected” accessories and reading your comment has inspired me to put on something a bit out there for the Oscar Party I’m going to tomorrow night!
This is me right now! I don’t like dressing up because I feel like I look thinner in jeans than dress-up clothes. And I hate buying things that would actually look nice right now because I want to lose 10–20 pounds first! Some of my dance classes have dress-up socials so I’m just starting to add to my wardrobe, but it still doesn’t feel great yet. Some pictures have been posted on social media and I see them and wish I was thinner. Sometimes I feel like I should just “give in” and stop hoping for a better, thinner tomorrow—just enjoy today—but then I worry I won’t have the motivation to get to my ideal weight. I know it isn’t sensible since I’ve been thinking this way for 20+ years and still have the same weight to lose.
I think you should do both!
1. Enjoy today
Focusing on dancing, the people & animals you love and everything else that gets you up in the morning will help you stay busy and happy which makes it easier to build healthy habits. And feel good about the improvements you make each day. The key is to make very small doable improvements because that way they’ll build momentum and last.
2. Believe in a better tomorrow
You said “thinner” tomorrow but when I focused on a “healthier” tomorrow it was so much easier for me to make decisions that helped me reach a healthy weight naturally. (Because I know they’re good for my heart, lungs, hair, skin, mental health and body). The healthy choice is the one that will help you reach & MAINTAIN a healthy weight. The reason I write this blog is because when I understood what healthy actually looks like and allowed myself time to build those habits slowly (vs. the 10 years I tried to make dramatic change in just a few days) I reached a healthy weight for good. And other people who have followed this method have too. The best part about habits is they really make healthy choices your preference so you never feel deprived. I’d way rather have water or a coffee with whole milk than diet coke. Or an apple, almonds and latte for a snack than a sugary treat. (And when I have a sugary dessert once in a while I enjoy it too.)
I felt “stuck” for 10 years and so I understand where you’re coming from but focusing on health was a game-changer for me and part of being healthy is enjoying today.
On a side note:
Unless there are strict clothing guidelines, I think you can dress up and look fantastic in jeans! Throw on a blazer, heels and some great earrings and you’re good to go. And black jeans or dark blue jeans can make an outfit dressier too. Even great sneakers /running shoes look good with jeans 🙂
I love how involved you are in the dance world. Being part of a community like that is so much fun.
PS Thank you so much for your comment.
Hi Madeline, Have you ever seen the show “What Not To Wear?” I love it. They inspire women who are ‘waiting’ for something to stop and work with what they have, with amazing results. Basically teaching women ‘they’re worth it!’ I know for me it’s a mindset change, and I’m starting to embrace loving myself ‘now’. Like Kelly, I decided to embrace health, and let go of the unhealthy obsession with thinness. Taking it one day at a time. 🙂
Kelly, this is an awesome post! I love finding bargains and ‘new to me’ things– it’s so much fun! Many times, since I work at home, I don’t change out of my night clothes (comfy workout clothes) before starting my day. Today, I took a shower and put on ‘regular’ clothes, before heading up to my studio. It’s making a huge difference in my mindset– feeling more confident and focused! I was going to do this anyway today because of our schedule this weekend, and your post confirmed this as an act of self-care. Love it!
I LOVE your comment Kathy!
I’m the same with working at home. Showering first just makes you feel more “human”! And alert, etc.
I also love that you call items “new to me” vs. second hand. That’s awesome.
On the topic of accessories… Let’s talk wear-able art (!) Have you ever made your art into earrings? Or painted a purse or shoes with leather paints?
We just got a gorgeous, well-made belt that has white paint all over it. I’m sure whoever owned it before thought it was “ruined” because of the paint but I think it looks so interesting. I’m going to add colourful nail polish splotches to it and see if it sticks. The belt is Alex’s size and I think it will look great to have a belt with a lot going on paired with a smart dress top and jeans…
I think you could make really cool mosaic earrings, Kathy! Or paint a jean jacket with acrylics. I love your art.
Hi Kelly, Thanks for your compliments. Years ago (in the 1990s) I did some t-shirt painting/decorating, and painted some hats and shoes when I was younger (for fun). More recently I painted some glasses frames with nail polish (with mixed results, LOL) I like your ideas– Your plans for Alex’s belt sound great! Thanks for your enouragement about my art!
Wow… sounds so cool and I need to see a pic of your nail-polish painted glasses! There’s so much more you can do with nail polish than nails 🙂
Yesterday I toured a beautiful local exhibit of Italian fashions. Many beautiful pieces but the lounging outfit with pom poms just might be my favourite. I’m happy with my “uniform” of boots, jeans/cord, turtlenecks, and scarves but I’m definitely inspired to add some whimsy!
Obsessed with that pom pom outfit Elaine!!! Thanks for linking to it.
And I love your add-some-whimsy goal.
Lately I’ve been into brooches. They’re such a great way to add some whimsy to a jean jacket. Tying a scarf around a purse or your wrist adds a pop of colour too.
My fashion rule is: Once I’m dressed I try to add one thing that’s unexpected. Like a:
-pair of earrings that don’t really match the outfit
-purple nail polish
-big costume ring, often plastic (to wear beside a meaningful one)
Or a second bead necklace to layer with the one that “works” with the outfit.
(Not all of these at once 🙂 Just one of them.)
…sorry, I get a bit carried away when I talk about this stuff. I think too many people who LOVE fashion think ONLY Gucci or other high end brands are fashionable and they don’t enjoy the fun of putting an outfit together that’s meaningful to them. On the flip side, I love that Kelly Cutrone only wears black and Steve Jobs only wore jeans, black turtlenecks and New Balance sneakers. Done and done!
Your boots-jeans-turtleneck outfits sound perfect. There really is nothing better than a great pair of jeans.
Love this! There are some days I just don’t feel motivated to spruce up and get a call to go somewhere and have to tell that person that I can’t or that they have to wait.
I am going to really work on this. I really do believe it is one step toward making other pieces of our lives come together so we can focus on what is really important instead of focusing on what we are going to eat every moment of the day.
Such great points Connie! Everything does feel like a domino effect. I’m sure you look great all the time but I know it’s how you, yourself feels that matters. I spent so much time camouflaging my weight (or trying to!) it’s still a novelty for me to wear something purely because I like it vs. how it can “cover” me. But I can also fall into a pattern of “I’ll save X amount of time if I skip this…” So I’m trying to make it a habit then it’s a no brainer to get ready in a way that makes me feel more like me. xo
I dress up every day and love it. It is the highlight of my day. I love spending a long time on my makeup and always learn new tricks. This is def my self-care of the day, every day- doing my hair and makeup, putting on a nice outfit and heading out to do what I need to get done that day.
I don’t look like a model after I do my makeup or dress nicely. But it is the act of doing it that makes me feel prettier and ready for the world. I don’t feel like makeup is a mask – I feel like it is putting my best foot forward in the same way that I’ll try to put the best parts of my personality forward. It brightens me (literally – I always wear color, never all-black) and those around me. People feel good around well-groomed, put together people. You don’t have to be perfect, just try your best to look good for yourself.
I love that you put your best foot forward Sara and have dressing up part of your day. As you said, it brightens you and I’m sure it also brightens all those around you. I love that you said:”You don’t have to be perfect, just try your best to look good for yourself.” Very inspiring! Thanks for sharing, xoKelly