Today, I went into a sports store and bought clothes I wanted, without even having to try them on. I picked them off the rail and paid for them. All good. Sounds pretty simple, right?
Well, for at least 15 years, that wasn’t the case. I couldn’t just walk into a clothes store and buy what I wanted. I would always shop in fear, mindful people would be looking at the fat boy who was looking at the stylish clothes that weren’t in his size.
We all get to that age when we want to buy our own clothes. You don’t want your parents doing that for you any more. I recall that moment in my early teens. Except I was a big lad. Back in the late 90s/early 00s, if you were vertically-challenged, there was very little choice in clothing!
So, I regularly bought clothes from George (at ASDA). They were one of the first UK retailers I recall catering for bigger people.
Nothing wrong with wearing George at all, except back in those days, the clothes I was wearing were definitely aimed at an older age group than me but I had no choice but to wear those! To be honest, I was just grateful I could get clothes somewhere.
In 2004, I went to the United States for the first time. I was amazed to find that in malls and outlets, I could find cool-looking clothes (including designer clothes!) that actually fit. (Though let’s not discuss America’s obesity problem here.)
Like the tee I’m wearing in this photo. A Hilfiger tee I bought in the States! I’d bought quite a few clothes then because I was just so happy I could wear clothes aimed at my age group that were ‘cool’ and actually fit.
Around 2009/2010, I’d got so big that I could only ever buy suits from a place that catered for large men. I was in my early 20s. Friends and cousins would buy their clothes from Topman, Burton etc.
There was no way I could shop on the High Street. It was George all the way. I can safely say that was a very depressing time.
Just look at that picture. I can’t even tell you the pain and self-loathing behind that half smile. I wish I could go back to that boy 10 years ago, smack him round the head and tell him to wake up. I’ve learnt SO, SO MUCH since then.
That top is XXXL (UK standards). Those jeans? 46” waist.
It was mortifying. I absolutely loathed myself. I’m only now getting to a point where I don’t define myself by what I look like.
It was only when I got home from my trip to the shops today that I thought, “Wow, you wouldn’t have done this 10 years ago. You bought clothes that you like the look of, that you’re pretty confident will fit”. (I tried them on and they do!)
I now wear XL, with a 36” waist. More work to be done but it’s so good to see how far I’ve come.
Going from XXXL to XL has been a long but worthwhile journey. I’ve learnt about self-compassion, body image, how society treats fat people and so much more. I don’t share these thoughts to fat-shame my former self (or anyone!)
I should also point out I’m not obsessed with looks. This was a very personal thing for me. How I looked represented my mental state and the worse I felt, the more I ate and drank. A vicious cycle. So, now, to experience shopping in a different way, in a “normal” way, it tells me what a positive mental state I am in and that then impacts every part of my life.
It’s been quite the journey and there is more to come. Going through this all has helped me appreciate the present so much more.