I’m going to a friend’s wedding on Friday and tried on my favourite dress last night. It’s a fitted, strapless lime green silk dress, knee-length with a ruched ‘crumb catcher’ across the chest. I fell in love with this dress a couple years ago when I saw it at Pam Chorley’s Fashion Crimes on Queen Street in Toronto, but couldn’t afford it at the time. Then I went back a few months later and discovered it on a clearance rack for $25. I snatched it up faster than you could blink. But then last night, much to my horror, I discovered the dress no longer fits. My lats have gotten so big from working out that I’m practically popping the seams around my chest.
Jason laughed when I told him. “Most people work out so they can fit into clothes and now you can’t even fit into yours!” It’s true. This dress is just one more wardrobe casualty that’s happened since the effects of CrossFit have started showing on my body. I have shorts that won’t do up because my butt is bigger (glutes?), jeans that are too tight because my legs have gotten thicker, and now my favourite dress will be relegated to the back of the closet until… who knows when. In fact, I’ve gained a lot of weight, thanks to the gym — a whopping 17 pounds, according to my latest calculation. (I don’t own a scale, so that’s a rough estimate based on trying out friends’ random scales.) Surprisingly, the weight gain and no longer fitting into my clothes doesn’t bother me at all because I’ve never felt this good before.
I’ve come to think that physical fitness isn’t given enough credit when it comes to feeling good about one’s body. I just finished reading The Beauty Experiment by Phoebe Baker Hyde, an American expat living in Hong Kong who goes on a “beauty diet.” She gives up beauty products, jewellery, new clothes, makeup, etc. for a whole year and reduces her daily routine to mere minutes — brush hair, splash water on face, pull on clothes, done. Her experiment is a worthy and noble one, and she raises some very valid points about how our world places unrealistic expectations on women to attain that nubile, fertile, pre-motherhood body that simply doesn’t work for older women and makes them feel awful about themselves. She’s absolutely right; it is impossible to reach that ideal if you’re relying on makeup and Botox.
But what about physical fitness? I used to spend tons of money on cosmetics, hair, and manicures. The more stuff I slathered on my body, the more confident I felt that I’d be perceived as beautiful, even though there was insecurity beneath it all. In the past year, since starting CrossFit, those things matter much less because my body feels good, even when I’m makeup-free and greasy-haired. My advice to Mrs. Hyde — and anyone else who feels enslaved to an extensive beauty routine — would be to get physically active, find something you love doing, and incorporate it into your daily life. You will start feeling inwardly healthy and powerful, and then many of the other stresses and dependencies associated with the beauty industry will melt away because they’re superfluous to the bigger issue at hand, which is about truly feeling good about oneself.
So, that’s my long-winded justification for not really minding that my favourite dress doesn’t fit… even if it does make me a little bit sad. I’d rather have torn-up palms from doing pull-ups than not be able to do them at all, so I suppose there are trade-offs.