Jeans: 455, Laura: 3, Part the Second

In Part the First I wrote about how I lost 32 lbs. via a change in diet that works for me and how I lost 4 dress sizes and suddenly found myself unable to shop at the same store I had shopped at for almost 10 years:  Lane Bryant.

However, I want to make a point about weight and sizes and the way we look at ourselves.  When I was 18 and joined the Army I weighed 148 lbs. and wore a size 10-12.  (Translated to modern sizes that would be a 6-8 now.)  I felt a little heavy and was THRILLED to drop 20 lbs. in basic and become a size 6-8 (modern 2-4).  When I met my husband and fell in love I gained what I like to call “Love Weight” because so many people who start new relationships do this – they gain weight.  And I went back up to 148 and topped out at 155 when I got married.  Here is a photo of my body during that time:

Piece of advice – don’t ever get a perm a month prior to your wedding if you have never had one before. Seriously.

THAT is not fat.  That is perfectly average sizing of size 12 in 1993, which would equate to size 8 now.  My problem back then was that I didn’t know how to dress myself.  (Some might argue I still suffer from this, lol.)  Pleated waist jeans with pegged legs and a floaty poets blouse tucked into jeans with a belt are NOT flattering.  On anyone.  At anytime.  I probably would have felt much better about myself if I didn’t look like I was trying to be an extra on that “poufy shirt” episode of Seinfeld.

The point I am trying to make is that I don’t think there has been a single time in my life I have been happy with my shape/weight/etc.  I have become more comfortable in my skin and accepting of my size, but the idea of “the perfect weight” is such a myth.  I don’t honestly know another woman who is happy with her weight/shape, and that is sad.  So much of the media plays into this in making us feel bad about ourselves, but that is a whole other post entirely, and much better covered by folks like Sally at the blog “Already Pretty.”

Just remember that things change.  Bodies change.  I have seen this saying on the Internets and it says so much about how we feel about our bodies:  “I wish I was the size I was when I thought I was fat.”   And sometimes those changes as you get older come with something you might consider a benefit.  My almost 90-year-old grandmother who weighs about 100 lbs. soaking wet recently had to go up a cup size in her bra from what she considered a very small size.  I asked her how this came about, and she said, “Now that I’m older my skin is loose and it fills up the cup!”  Every cloud has a silver lining, lol.

As to the jeans situation, I have to reiterate that no longer having one set place to shop for jeans was both exciting and frightening.  Exciting because I had so many more clothing options open to me, and frightening because A)I had no idea what size I was and B)I had no idea where to shop.

Lane Bryant Right Fit Blue Boot Cut Jeans, $59.95.

The jeans at Lane Bryant were perfect for me, because they fit my smaller waist, big booty, and swayback.  There was no gaping in the back.  The pants fit everywhere, except for being a little long in length.  Although I am 5’5 and thus considered the “average” height for a woman, I have never found “average” length jeans to fit, because I am very long-waisted and thus I have stubby legs and a large rise.  Few pants have ever fit me the way the “blue circle” jeans did at Lane Bryant.

When I discovered I couldn’t wear their jeans, I was a little panicked.  I remember going with my daughters to Old Navy to buy them jeans and they each tried on roughly 15-20 pairs.  The 15-year-old was frustrated and a little bit angry when she was done, having found one pair that seemed to fit properly.  “Why is this so hard?  Do we ALWAYS have to try on this many jeans to find one that fits?”  Another customer, the saleslady and I all said, “Yes.”

It IS frustrating for women that there is no set measurement system for women’s pants.  Why can’t they do it according to men’s sizing:  waist and inseam?  Well, the problem there lies in women having hips.  Our bodies are not all shaped the same.

Knowing this, I was not eager to get out there into the world of shopping again and find new jeans.  Initially I figured I would just go to Fashion Bug – they have the same “color” sizing as Lane Bryant, and their sizes go down to a size 0.  Then I discovered that like the store “Avenue”, “Fashion Bug” was closing.  I ran over and found 1 pair of jeans, but otherwise they were pretty picked over.

I tried the “fit system” at Target, and either the pants were too short in the rise, or wouldn’t fit my hips.

The Flirt Boot Cut Jeans at Old Navy, $25.00.

I tried jeans at Old Navy and even the “Flirt” version didn’t really fit my hips very well – and low-rise is just too low on my booty.

I went to Macy’s Women and the closest thing I could find was a 14 in one of their store brands.  But they didn’t go any smaller.

Michael Kors Sausalito Boot Cut Jeans at Macy’s, $79.95.

I tried True Religion, Lucky, Michael Kors. Inc., and various other brands inside of Macy’s regular store.  Apparently if you have a larger than 32 inch waist you are plus sized, as I couldn’t find any jeans higher than a 32 inch waist.  I tried those and again, too low cut – not enough booty coverage.  The closest ones were the Michael Kors Sausalito jeans in boot cut, in a size 16.  The length was just a little bit off, and I had bagging around my knees.  And for $80, I wanted those jeans to make my butt look AMAZING.

So I came home sad and frustrated, and asked the Hive Mind at FaceBook for suggestions, and went back out today, armed with a list of places to go.

Just so you know, it would appear that Lands End is not really carrying jeans for anyone other than plus sizing and VERY skinny jeans as per their website.  In Lands End World people are only wearing Chinos now.  FYI.

Levi’s had a very complex system of curve and length, etc., but all their jeans were “skinny.”  Curvy skinny bootcut.  Curvy skinny straight.  Curvy skinny jeggings.  (I just can’t even speak about jeggings.  The things that jeggings do to my thighs are so very not flattering….)

My body is not skinny.  I have only once been truly skinny – when I was 19 and hit 112 lbs. in the Army, as seen in this photo:

Cheekbones that could cut glass.

What we can learn from this photo is that A)my fashion taste in the 90’s REALLY sucked, and B)that I was too skinny, in spite of still having very athletic calves.  I believe this dress was a size 4, which when translated into 2012 sizing is probably a size 0.  No wonder I was sick all the time.  My body is not meant to be this small.

So the Levi’s jeans were Right Out.

The Gap Long and Lean Boot Cut Jeans, $69.95.

I checked the Gap website and looked at their sizing chart.  As per their chart, someone with my measurements should be wearing their size 18-20.  Which was a completely depressing moment for me because I had just gone through months of weight loss to not have to wear a size 18-20 anymore.  I told this to the Cheap Chick and she told me to go to the store anyway – that that couldn’t possibly be right.  So I went to the store and grabbed a pair of 16s and went to try them on.  And they fit comfortably in my hips and were too loose at my waist.  So I tried a pair of 14s (in the Long and Lean line – the Curvy line did not fit my booty properly) and it fit my waist and was slightly tight in my hips and thighs.  But because they have some Lycra in them I knew they would stretch, and so I purchased the 14s.  And breathed a sigh of relief that I might possibly have someplace to shop for jeans.

But I still had to try Eddie Bauer because several folks had also raved about them.  They had also recently implemented a “shape” system of sizing and I knew that I qualified as “Super Curvy” or “Supreme Curvy” or whatever the most curvy option was.  I got a 14 and a 16 and went to try them on.  The 14 fit better, but I had bagging at the knees because of the difference in my in-seam.  The kind of bagging that cannot be hemmed out – it just looks bad no matter what.  The helpful salesman was determined to find me jeans that fit, and he had me try on curvy trouser jeans and they fit really nicely.  They hung from my hips rather than my knees, and there was no bagging.  The hem wasn’t even terribly long.  So I bought a pair that was on sale.

I am going to return the Macy’s brand jeans because they really were not the greatest fit, and I am very happy to know that I can wear jeans at two major retailers.  But it took trying on roughly 40 pairs of jeans at multiple stores to find something that fit.

The thing you have to remember is that the SAME JEAN in the SAME SIZE may not fit the same.  Often ready to wear is cut in groups – 5 pairs at a time.  And while the top pair is cut perfectly to the pattern size, the bottom ones will differ.  So it is important to try on all the pairs of jeans you are planning on buying.  You might have gotten something from the bottom of the pile and something from the top.  They will fit differently.  I have 2 pairs of denim shorts I purchased two years ago that represent this very well.  They were listed as the same size.  I tried one on and grabbed a second pair.  I have worn the first pair for several years until it no longer fit this year.  The second pair of shorts STILL DON’T FIT.  I tried them on today when I tried on all of my other jeans to see if they fit yet.  They still don’t. So do yourself a favor and try on all your pairs of jeans before you buy them.

I also discovered something interesting during all of this.  I made a point of telling people that I had lost weight and didn’t really know what size I was and asked for help at each store.  The sizes they guessed were across the board.  But every single one of them wanted details on how I was doing it.  They all, almost universally, had “a friend” who was also trying to lose weight.  My response was that I had changed my diet and found something that worked for me, and that not everything works for everyone else.

My weight loss and clothing hunt saga might not be of interest to anyone other than me.  However, it is posted here in hopes that it might be helpful to someone else.  And if you are going through weight loss and working your butt off to get healthier and feel better?  More power to you, and GOOD LUCK.  It is hard, but the health benefits are worth it.  I can’t believe how much better my knees already feel, and how much more stamina I have.

The equivalent of what has been removed from my butt.

I put a 25 lb. bag of rock salt in the water softener the other day and realized that I had lost the equivalent of 1.5 bags.  It was a pretty amazing moment.

Jeans: 457 Laura: 1, Part the First

Eating the World’s Greatest French Fries at the Minnesota State Fair.

So just to clarify for those of you who may be reading this who aren’t of the female gender, but being a woman can REALLY suck sometimes.  Not just because of the monthly visits, childbirth and menopause (WOO FUN!), but just our bodies in general can be a massive pain in the you-know-what.

I haven’t written much about this here because it’s kind of boring, but I have been losing weight since about early May.  32 lbs. as of this writing, and 4 dress sizes.  How did I pull off this amazing feat of fat reduction?  I’m still asking myself that one.  Turns out that after the onset of connective tissue disease and after my hysterectomy low these many years ago (9) that I am unable to lose weight the way I used to:  by doing lots of exercise and eating whatever the heck I wanted.  Also?  I am 40.  I believe it is a known fact that the second you turn 40 that your body says to the little squirrel on the wheel that is your metabolism “WHOA THERE BUDDY!  Don’t go so fast!  Take a break.  You’ve EARNED IT.”  And suddenly that muffin you used to be able to eat with no problem becomes a dimple on your butt.

And so I had to figure out other options for losing weight.  Since lots of exercise was not going to work for me, it was going to have to be pure diet.  And when your diet consists of a lot of chocolate and french fries and very little in the way of nutritious content, the mere idea of eating better can be a rude awakening.

So I tried a calorie restricted diet.  I AM NOT GIVING UP ANYTHING ELSE, AS GOD IS MY WITNESS! may have been heard in my house.  Because, as I am fond of saying, when you can’t eat things like gluten or lactose or yeast, you find yourself wondering if your next meal is going to be cardboard with margarine.  However, calorie restriction is not something my body enjoys, and it rapidly rebelled with things like dizzy spells and exhaustion.  And weight gain.

The Atkins Diet, from B&N.

So I tried the Atkins diet/4 hour diet.  And it did suck.  And my body did rebel, and I did crawl into my endocrinologist’s office with hypoglycemia and circles under my eyes and she did look at me and say, “GOOD GOD, WOMAN, DRINK A MILKSHAKE!”  Or something like that.  Because apparently my body doesn’t like it when it is deprived of sugar.  Even after a month.  I had lost 8 lbs., but I felt like crap and never wanted to leave my bed.  My husband lost a ton on that diet, but we aren’t going to mention men and weight loss because it is an entirely unfair playing field.  Also?  I gained the weight back in about a week.

The Belly Fat Cure, at B&N.

SO I bought the book by Jorge Cruise (Mr. 8 Minute Exercise) called “The Belly Fat Cure,” because I had a lot of belly fat.  Turns out the meal plan was pretty simple and I could follow it easily enough – reduced sugar intake, reduced carb intake, lots of protein.  I could even have ice cream EVERY DAY which went a long way towards making me want to follow the diet.  However, my body rebelled when it discovered that the ice cream (Clemmy’s) has something akin to ragweed in it, and I wound up covered in hives.  About the same time I also found out the breakfast bars I had bought to replace my soy breakfast bars that were SO GOOD (and that caused me to turn into a sobbing teenager and which were subsequently banned by my OB/GYN for overloading my system with estrogen) had saccharin in them.  Turns out some people with sulfa allergies can react to saccharin.  Consequently I had 2 different kind of hives going on at the same time.  That was fun.

But finally I found a sugar free substitute that worked for me:  Splenda.  At this point I don’t care if it has carcinogens or is going to kill me eventually.  I can eat it, it doesn’t give me hives, and I don’t find myself crying during “The Big Bang Theory” anymore when I eat it.  It is a win-win all around, frankly.

So the eventual formula was:

1.  Eat more protein.  I tried having breakfast every day, but since I don’t eat gluten, I dislike breakfast.  I dislike eggs.  So I have been drinking a protein shake in the morning and this works.

2.  I eat 1 of several different low carb/low sugar microwave meals for lunch.  My favorite is the Beef with Merlot sauce by somebody I can’t remember, that actually tastes pretty decent.  This way I remember to eat something, and it doesn’t taste too bad.  Otherwise I will get 2 hard shell tacos from Taco Bell.

3.  I eat whatever dinner my husband or the children or I choose to make.  I just tend to eat less of it.

4.  I eat 1-2 sugar free chocolate ice cream bars a day, depending on how bad a day it has been.  My personal best was 4, but let’s not be too judgy – it’s been a long summer.  They are carb-smart by Breyer’s, and taste pretty good.  I also have a bag of sugar free chocolate chips and I will have a few if I get a hankering for chocolate.

My PRECIOUS…

5.  I have to get a certain amount of actual sugar in my body every day or I will fall down from fatigue.  I have small boxes of Junior Mints scattered around the house for this purpose.  Each mint is 2 g. of sugar and I have yet to eat an entire box at one sitting anymore.  Unlike the old days.

6.  I don’t eat a lot of carbohydrates from bread products.  I had reduced them because of the gluten, and now I eat very little GF carbs as well.  Occasionally I will have a GF bagel or roll, or pancakes.  But I have lost most of the craving for them.  And since my body usually retaliates by gaining several lbs. of water weight in retaliation, I don’t feel the urge to eat them.

7.  I drink a lot of water.

I have also discovered that I don’t feel the urge to eat as much anymore.  Don’t get me wrong, I will still eat a basket of blue chips when out with my friends, but I usually don’t fill up to the point of being full.  And I do not ever deprive myself.  Ever.  If I feel like I need those blue chips?  I eat them.  If I feel that I need a hamburger and french fries and a milkshake?  I eat it.  But I have discovered that those needs are few and far between.  And the french fries from McDonald’s taste horrible to me now.  Which was something I thought would never happen.

I have gone on weekend trips and gained a pound or so, and have always managed to get back on track.  There are weeks when I wind up simply maintaining, and that is fine.  Like I said, it has been a long summer and I am happy that I am just upright and functioning, frankly.  Losing my belly fat is simply a bonus.

This is what works for me and my very strange body.  What works for other people might be something different.  And you might think “Where is the fruit?” (I don’t like very many fruit items.) Or why don’t you eat X, Y, or Z?  Or don’t you know that A has carcinogens that will kill you, or that drinking protein shakes every morning for the rest of your life will clog your arteries?  (I made that last one up.) Why yes, I have heard these things, and YOU don’t have to do them.  But for now, they work for me, and I am going to take what I can get.  And the mere idea of counting calories or having to remember points or anything else added to my already rather hectic life is more than I can handle.

The envy of many small children for my “sweet cycle.”

Also?  I bought a bicycle.  One of these.  They are not the sexiest things, nor the cheapest things, nor the easiest to transport, but by God it is like riding in a recliner and it makes me happy.  Maybe when the weather is no longer crazy and my life settles down I will be able to ride it again.

All of this culminated in me discovering that I can no longer shop at Lane Bryant.  Where I have shopped rather exclusively for the past 9 years, and where they have jeans that fit my butt with swayback.

I have to tell you – it was rather frightening and exhilarating at the same time.  My husband said to me “Honey, I know you like that store.  Where are you going to shop now that you can’t shop there anymore?”  My response:  “Everywhere.”

Except that everywhere is a frightening thing.  While a size Large is generally a size Large in most places on the top part of the body (except for the fact that apparently all clothing has very skinny arms now), pants are still a mystery to most manufacturers for women.  Jeans?  Even more so.

This has resulted in my going in search of jeans that will fit my body, and it has not been fun.  But I am going to write-up my experiences at various places in hopes that it will be of help to someone who is in the same position.  Because it can be very scary to suddenly realize that you have no idea what size you really are, or what size society thinks you are.  And according to my research thus far?  Jeans manufacturers think I am 4 different sizes.

But that is for Part 2.