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I know what you’re thinking: She must have let herself go. And, in a way, you’re not wrong.
I noticed the start of weight gain in April 2017, but the turmoil leading up to it had lasted nearly two years. I remember stepping on the scale that month for the first time in longer than I could remember, fretting that I had possibly put on a few pounds. Though I didn’t change my diet, I had started taking Lexapro and Xanax, which my doctor prescribed as a means to manage my crippling anxiety.
I looked down, and discovered that I had gone from my norm of 136 to 140 pounds to what felt like a mind-boggling 151 pounds. (I can confirm that body dysmorphia is real.) My clothes still fit but my mind couldn’t stop tossing around the word “obese”—the term my nutritionist at the time used to classify my weight, despite being a 5’6” active female.
Some backstory: I’ve always been anxious, but never to the point where medication felt like a must. But, from 2015 to 2017, following endless ups and downs and gaslighting in a relationship that the idealist in me hoped would last forever but the realist in me knew deep down was dangerous and verbally abusive; during a time when I internalized the idea that the problem was myself, not my relationship; it felt like the only option.
My doctor supported it wholeheartedly and prescribed medications that she took herself. In hopes that the white slip of paper scribbled with pills would be the answer to my incessantly worried mind, I didn’t take a beat to ask: What are the side effects?
Four months and 40 pounds later, I knew. And just like that, I was back in her office with questions written all over my face—only this time, the boyfriend was out of the picture. When I told her my concerns about weight gain and asked why she hadn’t mentioned the side effects, I was met with, “Well, at least you’re not anxious, right?” I looked her dead in the eyes with a retort that refused to stay hidden behind a smile and a nod. No, I said, because now I’m anxious about my weight.
Knowing full well that being anxious about bodyweight is one thing (read: manageable) and being weighed down by an oppressive relationship is something entirely different (read: catastrophic), I decided then and there that I was done with the medication. While I took the refreshing clarity of my mind post-breakup into major consideration before making the decision, I’d be lying if I said it had nothing to do with the hope that ditching the pills would help me drop the weight, or at the very least, prevent more from tacking on.
I was now in a place where I was able to see beauty instead of a burden.
But then the craziest thing happened: I fell in love with myself. And in that process of working through grief, re-evaluating long-held beliefs, focusing my time on loved ones, honing my career, and consciously writing off men for an entire year—I gained another 10 pounds. But this time, it wasn’t a medical side effect or the physical manifestation of internal struggle and relational chaos—it was because I was simply happy. I was happy to be attending half a dozen events each week, sipping champagne and eating light bites, and reconnecting with friends who I had lost touch with as a result of what I tried to convince myself was love. And so, I ate the cake, gained the weight, and decided to take each day one stride at a time.
It wasn’t until one of my best friends who had also been struggling with weight gain looked at me and asked how I’d become so complacent with what I saw in the mirror that I stopped in my tracks. Not because it made me realize that, wow, I had in fact gone up five sizes (because trust me, of that, I was entirely aware), but because it made me appreciate the mental shift that I’d been able to achieve. I was now in a place where I was able to see beauty instead of a burden; to understand that this is me now, here, at this moment, and while I might (and admittedly hope) not be this size forever, hating myself while I am won’t do me any good.
Of course, getting to that point was not an easy feat. It consisted of countless face-to-face mirror moments where the voice in my head was anything but kind; a lack of confidence that felt like a light going off inside and made me invisible to the world; a never-ending disappointment every time I’d scan the rack and reach for an XL, only to find that, unless designed for a baggy boyfriend fit, it often wouldn’t cut it.
But then I rediscovered Aerie and was introduced to Eloquii. Aerie celebrated my curves with their Photoshop-free campaigns—ask me where my outfit’s from and there’s a very good chance that at least one item is from the oft-overlooked store. Eloquii taught me that there’s no reason to fear plus-size clothing, and now I basically live in their denim jumpsuits during the warmer months of the year.
As trivial as it may sound, finding these brands single-handedly helped me feel more comfortable in my skin.
By learning to let go of the label and number on the tag, instead focusing my attention on the feeling of wearing clothes that actually fit, I also expanded my wardrobe with Free People (their flowy silhouettes have become a staple), Good American (whose jeans flatter my figure without gaping at the waist), Unpublished Denim (their flares are everything), and Commando’s compliment-boosting leggings (I mean, have you seen the snake print offerings?).
As trivial as it may sound, finding these brands helped me feel more comfortable in my skin. But it’s the people I choose to surround myself with—both virtually and in real life—over the past three years that have had a major impact as well. Sarah Nicole Landry (@thebirdspapaya) and Noelle Downing (@noelledowning) teach me with every Instagram post that it’s powerful to love and be confident in the skin you’re in. My best friends help me push past self-inflicted style boundaries, reminding me that I’m not too big to wear certain silhouettes—or any for that matter.
But at the end of the day, I won’t lie: Thinking of growing from a size four to a 14 can feel like a gut punch at times. But notice how I say growing, not going. This wasn’t just a transformation for my body—this process forced me to expand my mind, challenge outdated beauty ideals, and develop a self-love that’s far from perfect but more enduring than I ever imagined. And I can’t help but wonder, what better side effect is there than that?
Ahead, peruse my favorite mid-size items available now.
Aerie Play Real Me High-Waisted 7/8 Legging
Many people think that leggings are leggings (or that you have to spend $100 per pair for them to be of swoon-worthy quality), but I’m here to say that’s not the case. These ultra-lightweight leggings hit perfectly at the waist and feel like a second layer of skin. The cozy fit, which falls just above the ankles, never slips or slides during wear, making these great for lazy Saturday mornings and intense Lagree workouts alike.
Commando Faux Leather Animal Print Leggings
These are my most-complimented piece of clothing. They gently smooth and hug close to my curves without cutting off circulation, all while creating a really cool contrast with whatever top I put on. (One thing to keep in mind: While durable during wear, if you have super long nails they can puncture the fabric when pulling them on, so be careful when slipping into your new snakies.)
Eloquii Faux Leather Jumpsuit
Jumpsuits are tricky for many body shapes and sizes, but I found that to be especially true once I went from a size four to 14. Fortunately, Eloquii delivers. Unlike most jumpsuits available in sizes XS-XL, Eloquii offers up to a 28 and the fit is figure-flattering (read: it won’t give you a camel toe). While they no longer carry my all-time favorite denim leopard one, this faux leather option has been an equally big hit. (It’s worth mentioning, though, that they start at a size 14, so as someone who borders between a 12 and 14, some of their items can be a tad big.)
Free People Innsbruck Pullover
Point blank: This is the softest sweater I have ever graced my body with. It’s hand-knit, oversized, and slightly cropped. It regularly sells out, but if you can snag one, be sure to order it a size or two down from your norm (I’m usually a medium in any loose tops at FP, but with this, I’m a small).
Good American Good Waist Jeans
Designed specifically for curvy bodies of all sizes (ranging from 00 to 24), Good American jeans are a dream for anyone looking to pull pants over their booty without causing major gaping at the waist. The one thing I don’t *love* about the jeans are the shallow pockets, but the bum-to-waist fit is so solid that they’re hard to pass up.
Unpublished Denim Janet High Rise Flare in Noir
Finding jeans that are stretchy enough to contour around my hips while still hugging my waist is a challenge — fortunately, this flexible denim delivers. I get more compliments on these flares than almost any other bottoms I own. Unlike many modern flares, these aren’t insanely wide, so they create an eye-catching silhouette without looking fully out of the ’70s.
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