Monday, October 24, 2016

Stacy and Clinton (ad)dress gastric bypass on WNTW

January 11, 2010 by  
Filed under Body Image

Source: TLC

I have been a fan of What Not To Wear since its first season (anyone else remember Wayne, the male co-host before Clinton?) and have nearly always appreciated Stacy and Clinton’s take on how to dress oneself.  One of their main mantras is “Dress the body you have now, not the body you wish you had” which is always refreshing to hear on television.  They never encourage someone to lose weight or work out and tone up.  They simply speak to the person openly and honestly about the shape of his or her body, without judgment, and how to maximize its benefits and camouflage the less flattering aspects.

So I was particularly interested to see that the first episode of the new season was going to feature Courtney, a woman who lost 170 pounds after gastric bypass surgery as well as plastic surgery.  I always wanted to be on the show (even though I believe I do a fair job of dressing myself within my slim budget), and here was my chance to see how the particular issues of dressing oneself after the significant (and sometimes quick) weight loss that follows gastric bypass.

Like many post-gastric bypass folks, Courtney has a split fashion personality; she either dresses in clothes that are too big for her or ones that are far too tight.  When, for the first time in your life, you can zip up a pair of size “whatever” pants (*insert dream size here*), it can be simply too amazing to believe you can get them on, nevermind the fact that you look like you’re wearing denim plastic wrap.  I was never one to be really hung up on the number on my clothes, no matter what size I was at, but there were still those moments where an ill-fitting or oddly-colored piece of clothing was made tempting simply by the number on the tag.  (I’m still holding onto a size “S/M” shirt that no longer fits simply because I think it’s the only medium, nevermind small, item I have ever owned.)

Courtney stated how when she looked in the mirror, she didn’t actually “see” herself – an experience I remember quite strongly.  In particular, there was one day at the gym where I looked in the mirror across the room and thought, “Oh, that woman has the same t-shirt I do.”  It was a full four or five seconds before I realized I was actually looking at myself.  Now imagine that mental disconnect in effect as you look at racks of clothes and try to figure out what to bring into the dressing room.

My husband watched the episode with me (disclosure: I have made him a full WNTW fan) and his questions and comments were interesting since we met after I had lost weight so he wasn’t around to follow my shopping experiences post-surgery.  He expressed frustration at how difficult Courtney was finding it to shop and thought she should be less troubled about needing to get things tailored since (as a veteran watcher of the show) even my husband knows that a lot of people need to get clothing tailored.  I, on the other hand, felt my heart go out to her.  I had a difficult time explaining the experience, except to say: imagine walking into a store and having no idea what will fit, no idea what your size looks like, and no idea what flatters you anymore.  Then add to that the lifelong expectation that “being thin = shopping is easy.”

The truth is that shopping was never more difficult than it was in the first half year following the bulk of my weight loss. Most of us don’t lose weight in proportion to how we carried the excess weight (and loose skin also changes one’s size requirement), so this changes the proportions we need to dress and the curves and angles we need to take into consideration.  Yes, it feels great to shop in a store you previously couldn’t buy a single thing in, but it’s a huge let-down when you still can’t find anything that fits right.  I had to admit to my husband that my post-surgery shopping experiences included many dressing room tears and that I never thought my post-weight loss life would include wishing I was a size 26 again because shopping was simpler then.

I think Stacy and Clinton did a very fair job of representing and addressing the issues involved with dressing oneself after losing a significant amount of weight, be it through surgery or other means.  They’ve had other weight loss people on the show, and I know there are dozens of reasons to have a mind/body perception disconnect, but because of the speed at which weight can (sometimes, not always) come off after weight-loss surgery, I appreciate that this was specifically mentioned a few times during the episode.  It’s remarkably unsettling to be folding your own laundry and not recognize your own clothes because they look far too small to fit on your body.  (And, yes, it goes the other way, too – it is also unsettling to not recognize an item of clothing because it looks larger than your body requires when, in actuality, you know it fits perfectly.)

The opening to the show wasn’t perfect, with its doom and gloom lighting and sound and the statistics about obesity in America, and a few statements bothered me, like when Stacy said Courtney “accomplished the ultimate and lost 170 pounds.”  Clearly, for many people, this is not the ultimate accomplishment, but I’m willing to cut them a little slack on the more dramatic statements because the episode proved itself pretty well.  Stacy and Clinton even acknowledged that Courtney “used eating as a coping mechanism, which a lot of people do.”

The week of February 21 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (and some sources identify February as National Eating Disorder Awareness Month).  I would love to see Stacy and Clinton do a series of episodes in which they help people who are suffering from various stages of body dysmorphia or dissatisfaction due to eating disorders and/or the related recovery; I think I’ll be writing them to suggest it.

Have you ever faced some unexpected truths in a dressing room?  Ever look in a mirror and know you weren’t actually seeing yourself?  Anyone see this episode and have thoughts on it or Stacy and Clinton?


35 Responses to “Stacy and Clinton (ad)dress gastric bypass on WNTW”
  1. Jan says:

    I have an eating disorder and over the last twenty years my weight has fluctuated between seven and a half stone and seventeen stone. I have clothes from size eight to size twenty six in my wardrobes. I feel disgusting whatever size I am and buying clothes is a nightmare. I won’t go in a changing room and look in the mirror. I don’t have a full size mirror in my house. I buy clothes because I like the look of them on the hanger or the color is nice or they look good on someone else.

    • Simone says:

      Dressing rooms are evil. That bad florescent lighting, the full-length mirror, the cramped, dingy space…everything seems calculated to produce low self-esteem and meltdowns. 🙁

      • Candice says:

        That’s so true. I wonder what kind of sales they think that helps? I wonder if sales would improve if dressing rooms were more hospitable.

  2. Mish says:

    It’s something that I’ve struggled with. I think what it comes back to is loving YOU.

    No matter what the clothes size is, the weight on the’s about silencing the negative self-talk that hinders us from establishing a harmonious relationship with our body.

    We don’t dress our bodies well, in my opinion, because we either don’t know how to or don’t believe that we deserve it.

    What happens, more times than not, is the person has a new found confidence and self-worth. They glow. It’s not just about the clothes. It’s about dressing your soul.

  3. I missed the episode even though I am a fan. YES! I remember Wayne. I, too, have always wanted to be on the show but I typically don’t try on my clothes. I just buy whatever I need and deal with it at home. This year is different tho. I gave myself the gift of a couple of new outfits for Christmas. I actually tried them on and for the first time since I can remember, I bought an accessory to go with one of the outfits. I am taking the WNTW attitude WHILE I am working on losing weight. I need to feel good about how I look to succeed. I will have to check my on-demand for this episode. Thanks for sharing!

    • CandiceBP says:

      I think that’s a great attitude to have. I love how Stacy and Clinton always stress to dress for your body now, not how it was or you hope it will be – even if you’re in the process of changing (losing/gaining/toning, whatever).

      I’m glad someone else remembers Wayne! The switch to Clinton was a great move on TLC’s part.

  4. shelly says:

    Not sure if it would be a good idea for stacy and clinton to do a show with people who struggle with eating disorders and/or body dysmorphic disorder. They aren’t trained therapists and putting an ed person in a full length mirror and critiquing the way they dress could be disastrous. That is not a good idea. Unfortunately, what an ed person sees is distorted no matter how you dress, even if you do have cute and stylish clothes on. Clothes don’t fix what is going on on the inside.

    • CandiceBP says:

      That’s an excellent point and I really appreciate you making it. It didn’t occur to me that someone in a certain stage of recovery would not be ready to look at themselves positively (or be pushed to do so).

      It raises an interesting question for me of when we consider someone recovered “enough” to possibly participate in something like this.

      • Shelly says:

        I have been asking the same question myself, but my question is a bit different. For example, when it is it ok to stop tip-toeing around someone with an ED? For me, I am at a place where I can talk about it openly. I have been in recovery for two and a half years and I could go on this show without having any issues…But when does a recovered person know when it is time? For me, it was hard to pinpoint and unfortunately, when a person thinks they are ready might not always be the case (which usually results in a relapse.

        Another thing….I was out with family member the other day for lunch. A comment was made about calories and fat. And I could tell people were like uh oh. So I laughed and said…”ya know, a couple years ago that would have bothered me, but now, I could care less how bad this sandwich is (pesto, and garlic herb cream cheese) because it is so good.” and then we all laughed and started breathing again.

        How do we know when we have truly reached that point? How do others know?

        • CandiceBP says:

          I think it’s nice that others care enough to even worry about those points – and I guess the only way they know is if we tell/show them, like you did with the comment above.

  5. It took me nearly 6 years after I lost a large amount of weight to stop replying “XL” when asked my t-shirt size. I wear an S in Mens t’s… M or L in Ladies. STILL, it’s a struggle to not grab immediately for the XL. The person in my mind is slowly starting to match the body I have, but – it’s a long, and ongoing process. My recent tummy tuck has helped, because now I can feel more “normal” in sizes that fit me, without the rolls of extra skin making the cloths hang funny.

    • CandiceBP says:

      It took me a long time to stop looking for the largest size in the plus store . . . and then I moved to “standard” sizing stores and once again had to look for the largest size for a while (and now can’t shop in standard stores anymore). It’s quite a roller coaster for the mind.

      Congrats on your success and I hope you’re feeling well after your surgery (it made a big difference in shopping for me, too).

  6. lissa10279 says:

    What a great post, Candice! And thanks for the reminder about Eating Disorder Awareness Week coming up. Coincidentally, it’s during heart health awareness month, and most women who die of EDs, its related to heart failure.

  7. Stephanie says:

    Wow! Reading this I had a “lightbulb” moment. I’ve always disliked shopping for clothes for many reasons, but I hadn’t really considered the disconnect before now.

    A couple of years ago I was an 18-20-ish, now I’m in that 8-10-12 range (depending on the designer since it’s such a bother for clothing manufacturers to have standard sizing. 😉 After many frustrating trips to stores and many tears in the dressing room, I finally enlisted the help of my friend to just go pick things /she/ thought would look good on me just so I could get a better sense of what my body is like right now. Some worked, some didn’t but it gave me a better concept of what my shape is.

    As much as I hate shopping, I would love to have Stacy and Clinton take me by the hand and say, “THIS! THIS is what you should wear.”

    Either that or get a personal seamstress and have everything be custom made!

    • Simone says:

      Oh yes, the joys of nonstandard sizing. There was a point in the past year when I had t-shirts sized small, medium, and large, from different companies. All of them fit me at the time.

  8. DITTO! I had a gastric bypass over four years ago; lost 160lbs. I can realate to all you have said. It feels alittle ungreatful to complain, but i remember feeling frustrated that although the clothes were smaller I had trouble finding ones that looked right becuase of the extra skin. I still couldn’t wear shorts (back of the knee ski) and most shirts for girls iin the summer (arm skin, and depending on the material back hang!)confidently. I had gained back 60lbs, and went through all the drama that came with it. Untill I FINALLY decided to love and accept myself. Since then I have experiences the most effortless change in my lifestyle ever (read more in my blog Now I am back to my lowest weight clothing size (don’t know what i weigh, i don’t weigh myself) but becasue i am doing pretty intense exersizes, my body is more toned then ever. My latest dressing room delema….almost ever shirt looked OK (its winter, arms hand is still an issue! but the back looks good now!). I was baffled…didn’t know what to buy. For SO LONG (my entire life i have been big) I just bought what looked the best, not what i actually liked. I am not really sure i ever developed a style??? It felt really weird. Oh and i can totally see myself in the “to tight” because it fits thing…made me laugh. I tell myself its because i want them to last longer since im still losing but unfortunatly there is still some satisfaction in those damn numbers sometimes!!

    • CandiceBP says:

      I felt *horribly* ungrateful complaining – especially when I got tired of people complimenting me on how I looked. It seemed absurd that I would hate to hear it, but I did after a while. It’s definitely a very complicated process.

      The idea of being able to “develop a personal style” is one I remember, too! For so long we just wear what we have access to, which is generally limited. It can be so overwhelming to have stylistic choices.

      Thanks for the great comment and link to your blog!

      • heart says:

        LOL. My dad made me look at a picture of me from 90 pounds ago last night & I was so pissed. He said, “But it shows how good you’ve done!” [sic] I guess he meant it, but to me it just shows how huge I had let myself get & was not the least bit affirming. Those compliments on how great we look and “where did the rest of you go?” are a double-edged sword, aren’t they?

        • CandiceBP says:

          I found myself getting annoyed that no one wanted to talk about anything else anymore. It seemed like the only interesting thing anyone thought I could bring to a conversation was information about weight loss – and, truly, there are few things I like to talk about less, no matter where I’m at in my own personal journey.

          And, of course, there’s the, “You look SO good!” which implies, “. . . unlike before.” LOL

  9. heart says:

    I totally have bought or kept clothes b/c of the size on the tag! Although recently I’ve done a sort of reverse and expunged everything from my wardrobe that says XL, except sweatshirts. It’s been hard with items of clothing I liked, but I know they no longer fit & have to go.

    I’ve stopped weighing myself & hope to stop stressing over sizes soon. It’s SO confusing. In high school (25 years ago), I was a size 14 at (guessing) 5-10 pounds less than I weigh now. So why am I an 8 or a 10 now? I know the southward movement and increased squishiness of everything is a factor (I was doing ballet at least 4 days per week & pretty muscular in high school). And there’s the fact that pants don’t come up to the waist anymore. (size 8 pants with a rise that fits at or just below the waist dont’ fit, my butt’s too big) But supposedly the measaurements in inches for hte sizes haven’t changed since the early 80’s, so I have this “yay” feeling from having a wardrobe of size medium clothes coupled with a “wtf” feeling from knowing that before I got fat I’d’ve had to weigh 20 pounds less than I do now to wear these same clothes.

    Anyway, great post, Candice. I’m also a WNTW fan, and for the same reasons as you, it seems.

    • CandiceBP says:

      Thanks for the great response. I have had friends who were the same height and weighed the same or more than me wear clothing 2 sizes smaller. I will never fully understand how clothing is sized; I just work under the knowledge that we all carry weight differently. Viva variety, right? 🙂

    • melponeme_k says:

      US fashion companies stopped using standard sizing sometime in the 80’s. The only way a woman will know her true size is if she sews/knits her own clothing.

      Size 8 in stores today is the equivalent of a standard 16. The fabled size 0 is really a standard size 6.

      You see how much the industry fudged this all up? Its good to know these standards because it empowers shoppers when looking at clothes.

      Here is the link to the Butterick Standard size chart (all sewing company charts will be the same)

      • heart says:

        Wow. That actually explains it quite well, thanks!

        It also explains how those “size 16” plus-sized models don’t even look chubby. They’re size 8!

        • Meems says:

          Actually, this means that the “size 16” models are really closer to a 24 in non-vanity sizing.

          I suspect that the reason they don’t look chubby (to everyone) is because they’re also generally pretty tall.

      • CandiceBP says:

        That’s really interesting and really curious. It’s all just a number, who cares what the number is?

        • melponeme_k says:

          It doesn’t matter what the number is, not to us at least. We the consumers should only care about the measurements.

          The only purpose of the size number is for the convenience of store buyers when they order retail stock. Ordering a size 8 is a lot easier than ordering with a list of measurements.

  10. Meems says:

    I did see this episode, and, while the show itself was pretty good. The intro really pissed me off, though. Besides the gloom and doom, and the fact that I’m not convinced gastric bypass is necessarily the best solution to emotional eating (therapy maybe?), it made me really angry that Stacey called obesity a disease. It’s not, and I think that opening undermined their typical love, appreciate, and dress the body you have message.

    It took me a long time to be ok with the size my body wants to be. I don’t always like picking out 12s and L or XLs, but it’s not really a reflection on my character or worth.

    • CandiceBP says:

      Yeah, the intro was hard to get through. The episode’s quality would increase significantly if that part was just lopped off. I flinched at the “disease” description, too, and felt disappointed by the intro overall. I was so relieved that the rest of the episode didn’t match the intro at all.

      It is SO hard to not think our size is our worth since we’re told so often that it is. Good for you for being okay with the size your body wants to be. It’s something I hope everyone can achieve.

  11. Jackie says:

    Shopping as a size 26 is NEVER easy , I don’t care what the options are. To say your shopping was simpler as a size 26, I as a size 26 almost find this insulting.

    • Candice says:

      I think everyone’s experience varies. I always had good luck with Lane Bryant’s clothing; the way it was cut fit my pre-weight loss body pretty well. Sure, I didn’t have a variety of options, but I was still fine with the choices I had. It was simpler to clothe a uniformly plus size 26 self than it was to clothe a body that should have been one size but was complicated by excess skin and uneven areas of fat loss.

      I’m sorry that your shopping experience isn’t easy. I always wished for more variety, but never found the experience difficult.

  12. This was a great adventure, thank you for sharing it with us!

  13. Carol says:

    I was hoping someone would tell me they found clothing that is adjustable in sizes so that I wont have to continually be buying clothes. I was thinking wrap around skirts and things like that.

  14. Anna Weston says:

    There are many stores out there carol. Check lmgthf.. You may get something trustworthy!

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