I’ve noticed a few questions about weight in the column recently, and I have my own. I’m a 38-year-old woman, and over the past year I’ve gained about eight pounds, which is just enough to make me feel self-conscious and make most of my clothes a little too tight. Right now, I’m not actively trying to lose weight. I’m just trying to adjust my diet and exercise so I don’t gain any more. My question: What do I do about my clothes? I hate the thought of spending money on new clothes, because I do hope to get back to my old weight sooner or later. I’ve also heard people say that if you buy new clothes, you won’t have any motivation to lose weight. But I feel like I have nothing to wear, and I hate getting dressed in the morning. What should I do?
Buy some new clothes, DD. Tomorrow. There is absolutely nothing to be gained by wearing clothes that don’t fit. People who talk about uncomfortable or unstylish clothes being “motivation” to lose weight are really saying there should be a punishment for gaining weight. Don’t punish yourself, DD; be kind to yourself. It’s all but impossible to be relaxed, comfortable and happy in clothes that don’t fit. And if you have a job and a little money, there’s no reason not to let yourself be relaxed, comfortable and happy.
You’re going shopping tomorrow, so you have today to go through your closet. Try on the clothes you have in there; you probably have some things that still fit. You also probably know which they are, because you’ve been wearing them three days a week. Try everything on, and be ruthless about separating out the clothes that you don’t feel good in. You don’t have to give them away (although you certainly can if you want), just get them out of your closet. Pack them up in a box and store them somewhere, ideally, out of your bedroom so you can forget about them for now. Then, take stock of what you have that you like to wear and start thinking about what items you need to look for.
When you go shopping, you’re not looking to replace your entire wardrobe. You just need one or two of each kind of item—one or two pairs of pants, one or two new shirts. Think about getting a mix of casual and professional clothes, so you have something to wear to work and at home. Get clothes you like and feel good in. If these clothes end up being too big sometime down the line, you can have them altered.
I’m a reasonably intelligent, informed, professional guy, or at least I like to think so. I recently realized, though, that I haven’t actually read a book in about two years. I read headlines, and I read news online, but I haven’t read a book, cover-to-cover, in a long time. That’s not to say I haven’t bought a lot of books—I have a Kindle and have downloaded a bunch of books, intending to read them on the plane or when I have free time or whatever, but that never seems to happen. Same thing with physical books, which I occasionally buy and sometimes receive as gifts: They never get read. Is this just normal now that the Internet brings you everything you need to read, or am I just hopelessly illiterate? I was…
Once An Avid Reader
I’m not so sure the Internet brings you everything you need to read, Reader. You’re right that it brings you articles, opinions and news, but, as you know, it doesn’t usually bring you entire books. There’s a lot to be said for reading an involved, developed story. Also, a lot of books are just interesting.
But I don’t think what you’re describing is uncommon. The thing about the Internet is that it’s so fine—like grains of sand—that it fits into any amount of time you have available, no matter how small. You have one minute while you’re waiting in line? That’s enough time to check your email. You have 30 seconds while you’re waiting for an attachment to open? That’s enough time to open another tab and scan headlines. The problem is that our attention is increasingly fractured. Which, over time, makes the task of reading an entire page (or several pages) in one sitting seem unusually large. In The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr, he talks about how this impacts our thinking.
But the Internet seems to be here to stay, so here’s the solution to your problem: Buy books you want to read. Books you’re dying to read. I went through a years-long period during which I checked out so many books that I thought I should read. Books that I didn’t want to read so much as I wanted to have read. We’ll call these aspirational books. Of course these books got returned to the library, unread. A similar phenomenon happens at the supermarket: You find yourself buying three bags of fancy lettuce because “you eat salads now” but they just turn brown and liquidy in the fridge, because you don’t actually like salad, you like the idea of yourself as someone who eats salad.
The solution, as my librarian friend taught me four years ago, is to completely let go of what you think you should be reading and read exactly what you enjoy. She advises this litmus test: If you’re not eager to return to a book, if you’re not anxious to find time to read a little more, give up on it and find something else to read. To do this, you have to be willing to read whatever truly entertains and interests you—romance novels, bad historical fiction, detective stories—and be aspirational in some other area of your life. She also recommends writing down the title and author of each book you finish, along with the date on which you finish it.
Then, like anything else you want to do, make time for it. I suggest reading right when you get home from work for 15 or 20 minutes (set a timer if you need to). The time won’t open itself up otherwise.
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