June 21, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Clothing Shopping, Body Changes and Acceptance

I recently returned from a trip to Israel with my entire family, a very special two and a half weeks filled with some work, some vacation, and a whole lot of connecting to the people around me and to our homeland. While I was there, I decided I would take advantage of the plethora of affordable clothing options that meet the checklist of how I dress, and do some serious shopping.

As I discussed this with my mom, she asked if there was any special reason I wanted to get some new items. Beyond the enjoyment of new clothes, I reflected on this and recognized that my body has changed. This is not news to me; in the past 10 years my sizes have changed time and time again, and I know that many of the clothes in my closet fit the body that I had in the past, but do not fit me now.

When I told her this she responded, without any judgment, that this is likely because of the way my eating has changed through the years. I recall the confused look on my face as, in recent years, my eating really hasn’t changed—even though my body has. We talked about this together, and of course I received her permission to share this conversation as I believe it to be an important gateway to a discussion on this common misconception—that what we eat results in how we look.

Sometimes this is the case. But most of the time there are so many important factors that impact our body’s shape and size including genetics, age, life stressors—to name a few. There is a misconception that we are all meant to look a certain way, and that if we simply eat a certain way, our bodies will then result in us looking like X. Putting aside the very important notion that this expectation stems from a place of fat-phobia and culturally influenced body image perceptions, it is simply not true.

If one person eats and exercises the same amount as 10 other people, all of these individuals will likely have very different body types based on differing variables. This is what leads so many people to feel as if they are failures because their bodies do not respond the same way as others, not understanding the nuance and the misguided pressure and false idea of worthiness that comes from even trying to do so.

Our bodies are designed to shift and change with age. Chasing the body one had when younger is less about the body and more about chasing the experience of that younger self, the idea that if the individual can hold onto the body type, much like a transitional object, then “it will all be OK.” We are inundated with messages that promote the idea that “if you eat like me, you’ll look like me,” not realizing that those individuals typically pay exorbitant amounts to look that way (but make it seem easy). We must remember our core values and realize that looking like the idealized person will not necessarily help us achieve a sense of esteem or worthiness.

My body has absolutely changed through the years. I recognize this, know the influence of our fat-phobic diet culture, and move on with my life. This took time for me to achieve, and if you had told me—especially in the throes of my eating disorder—that it would be possible, I’d have rolled my eyes. That being said, I recognize that I am still in a clothing size one can find in regular stores and I experience the privilege that some others definitely do not; I can fit into chairs at the doctor’s office without pain, I am not told to simply “lose weight” if I visit the doctor with an ailment. This must be taken into account as there are times when individuals make it sound easy but don’t note the important and world-changing differences of being marginalized based on weight.

So I told my mom that actually my body has simply changed just because, and that it would be OK if that happened as a result of the fact that I’m eating differently, but that this is not the case. And I embarked on finding clothes that fit me in this ever-changing body of mine.

And I did! I found some new pieces that fit me now. My clothes are meant to fit me, not the other way around. I know that I am lucky in that I was also able to afford these new items as this is not possible for so many—which leads to pressure to fit into the same outfits.

There is so much nuance, and my story is by no means everyone’s. I hope that there is space to take a moment and ask yourself whether you change yourself to try to fit into some theme in your life, rather than reflecting on whether it should fit you.

My body has changed. It will continue to change, just as my soul has changed and will continue to change. And I know my values. I know that I will continue to change and grow, and I also know that this will provide opportunity if I can embrace this evolution—which is bound to happen—rather than shrink any aspect of my life.


Temimah Zucker, LCSW, works with individuals ages 14+ in New York and New Jersey (virtually at this time) struggling with mental health concerns and specializes in working with those looking to heal their relationships between their bodies and souls. Temimah is an adjunct professor at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work and a Metro-NY supervisor at Monte Nido. To learn more or to reach her, please visit www.temimah.com 

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