Let's say I have a girlfriend who has been unhappy with her body for ... well, for as long as I've known her. She is one of the most naturally beautiful women I've ever known, and her generous, open, loving personality just serves to amplify the startling physical beauty that shines out from her silky hair, ladylike hands, creamy skin, perfect-pout lips and dive-into-me eyes.
But she battles her body, and loses.
She adjusts her food intake, and then adjusts it some more. She tries meal schedules and diets and avoidance of certain foods. She counts calories. She exercises twice as much as me and twice as hard. She varies her workout routine, and monitors her heart rate to optimize her efforts, and pushes herself to her physical limits.
And she stays the same shape and size, and she stays unhappy. And while it doesn't matter a whit to me if she gains weight steadily for the rest of her natural days, it drives her insane with frustration. And seeing that hurts my heart.
My girl constantly compliments me on my taste and style while simultaneously lamenting her own unsatisfying wardrobe. I've offered to shop with her countless times, but she always declines, saying she doesn't want to invest in new clothes until she's in a better place with her body. And for a while, I understood that. I've been there. I've shopped for a transitional body and been frustrated when I had to cast off newish duds after just a few wearings because they no longer fit. But recently, I began to push harder and encourage her to get some outfits into rotation that work for her right now, at this weight and in this shape. And here's why:
Even if she finally hits on the magic combination of diet and exercise that allows her to shrink, why should she feel uncomfortable, uninspired and unhappy with her appearance in the meantime? Wouldn't it be possible to bring in a few key pieces -- just a few -- to make the rest of her wardrobe more flattering, functional, and fun? And what if she doesn't change her waist size for another year or more? For five years? For ten? Will it have been worth it to feel frumpy and grumpy that whole time?
My weight and body configuration have shifted more times than I can count. (Or anyway more times than I can recount without boring you all into a stupor.) And the most important lesson I've learned from all those body shifts is this: Dressing for your "today body" is a positive, empowering and a beneficial practice. Buying too-small clothes that you plan to fit into "someday" is ill-advised and seldom serves as the motivator you hope it will be. Wearing shoddily made or ancient or stopgap clothes until you've reached a different or better physical place just makes you impatient and uneasy while you're working toward your goal. Dressing for a body you no longer have or don't yet have encourages you to live in the past or future, and keeps you from enjoying the present.
If your clothes do not fit the woman you are right now, maybe you should get rid of them and get some different ones.
Note that I did not say "new" ones. I recognize that anyone in the throes of a physical transition won't want to max out her credit card on items that might be worn just once or twice. Exploring thrift, vintage, swap and hand-me-down options for these purposes is a fantastic way to keep yourself looking and feeling great -- even in transition -- on a budget. Don't get new, get different.
I believe that part of learning to love yourself is learning to see yourself. And that means seeing yourself as you are right now, not as you hope to be in six months or as you used to be six months ago. And that can be so hard: Facing down the numbers on the scale, or the sizes on a rack of skirts at the Gap, or even just the mirror. The emotional effort it takes to see ourselves in our "today bodies" can be tremendously draining, I know.
But there is real benefit to be gleaned from dressing your transitional body well. Looking good now can get you hooked on looking good: It can establish a habitual desire to feel awesome when confronted with a mirror, and can even fuel style and body-related goals. Even if your body is changing shape, you are likely to maintain the same basic proportions: The process of learning to dress your transitional body will provide knowledge about your figure that will carry over even if you shift again someday. But more than any of that, dressing in a way that flatters your figure right now will make you feel good RIGHT NOW. And you deserve that.
So what are you waiting for? Why are you dressing for a body you don't have, and neglecting the beautiful one you've already got? Start dressing for your "today body," and worry about your "tomorrow body" ... well, tomorrow.