Body Shifts


Around the time I graduated from college, my body shifted. I hadn’t gained any weight, but I noticed that my clothes were fitting my curves differently. They were snug where they’d once been loose, loose where they’d once been snug. I mean, I didn’t go from an A cup to a D cup and suddenly lose my hips altogether, but there was definitely some shifting. And it wasn’t weight-related, and it wasn’t immediately visible when I looked at myself naked, and it wasn’t particularly troubling or worrisome. I’ll admit that I can’t remember the specifics of the shift, but I remember the sensation of realizing that my physical form had changed. Markedly. It struck me as odd because in the past, any body changes I’d experienced were mass-related. In this case, mass remained the same while shape shifted.

About ten years ago, my body shifted again. My legs thinned out a bit and my bust rounded somewhat. Again, no drastic change in weight, but my clothes began to fit differently and styles that one suited me looked odd while others I’d long shied away from started to appeal. Once again, I was perplexed. I talked to girlfriends and asked if they’d had similar shifts, and many of them had. We chalked it up to aging, hormones, changes in activity that we weren’t hyper aware of.

I can feel my body shifting again now. I’ve stayed at a pretty steady 150 pounds for many years, but somehow my size 10 pants are becoming ridiculously uncomfortable and I’m having to trade up for 12s. I haven’t noticed any softening of muscle or even a noticeable difference in the size of my hips and thighs, but wow. Pants fit differently now. And several pairs have been donated once that realization sunk in for good.

Although I do my best to love and accept my body, these shifts are a little unnerving. I don’t feel the need to control everything my body does or even keep careful tabs on its various statistics and measurements, but when it does change I like to know why. And although I’m sure that hormones, aging, and activity shifts could be contributing factors, it still feels strange to observe changes that aren’t the result of purposeful action or inaction. I feel detached and disconnected observing these shifts, like my body is making decisions behind closed doors while my brain waits outside in the lobby.

But because I’ve gone through several rounds of body shifts, and because my doctor assures me that I’m in good health, and because many of my women friends have been through similar changes, I am trying to look at this as an exercise in trust. I do my best to listen to my body and respond to its needs, but also know that some changes are silent by nature. I have no idea why this could be important, but perhaps there’s a biological reason why some of my personage needs to settle in around my lower body. So I’ll trust that my body is making informed decisions, and head for the size 12s.

Image courtesy Steve Maher

Originally posted 2014-10-30 06:20:12.

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25 Responses to “Body Shifts”

  1. Jocelyn

    Maybe it’s the cut of the pants these days. Your style has shifted to closer fitting pants and maybe they’re just cut differently than what you’re used to and now you require a larger size to feel comfortable. Probably those new 12s are the same dimensions as your old 10s anyway. You say it all the time -“it’s the clothes, not your body.”

  2. Martha Chang

    So EXCELLENT. I’m in the middle of some kind of shift as well. My weight is the same, but I just don’t feel right in my clothes. It feels partly like a style shift and partly like a body change and I couldn’t articulate it any better than you did here. Thanks for sharing it, and for your positive spin on it, because I needed to know it wasn’t just me — and I needed the words to give myself a positive attitude towards what’s happening. This is why I LOVE this blog.

  3. Jessica Beagle

    Finally. I’ve always said that my body has undergone shifts and changes at certain periods – around 21 and 30 – and everyone has always looked at me like they had no idea what I was talking about. But I knew it to be true. I spotted this article – (it’s an ad for underwear, really). I found it interesting even though the images do not seem to show much distinction. Thanks for writing about this!

  4. Susan Ashworth

    All I can say is – wait until you hit menopause. I’m still in shock at the changes, and it’s been years.

    • Incognita

      It was reassuring to me to learn that body shifts happen multiple times before menopause. Otherwise it can cycle into “Menopause hasn’t happened; what is wrong with me?”

  5. poodletail

    I wish my younger self had had the chance to read your words. There were so many tears, so many days my body and I were in constant struggle. My almost 60-year-old self has finally realized exactly what you’re talking about today. Thanks, Sal.

  6. bubu2

    Very interesting – both your article and the comments. I’ve definitely experienced bodily shifts over the years, but between birthing two children and some serious weight loss and gains over the years, I have never attributed it to just time passing and the body changing. (I believe Julie Delpy had some choice words about the effect of childbirth on a woman’s hips!) But I’m curious, and could not quite tell from your post: do the same clothes in your closet no longer fit as they do, or is that you need to size up when you go shopping? I had assumed the former but seeing some of the comments, it seems to be the latter. In that case, it may well be a shift in styles, fabrics and so forth rather than a shift in your body.

  7. Lisa Wong

    I’ve definitely undergone a shift. I used to be more of an inverted triangle, but in recent years my hips have become fuller and more hourglass-y. And like you, things were a lot better once I accepted I had to size up in pants and get rid of a few pairs that were too snug. 🙂

  8. layered bob

    Sal. As a blogger who claims to be body-positive, you of all people should know that specific weights can be VERY triggering. I’m 10 years past my eating disorder, but reading about people’s specific weight or size still sends a small part of my brain down dark staircase. It’s my own deal and I can handle it, but nothing about this article required sharing your “numbers,” except to insist that you aren’t gaining weight, oh no!

    • Sally McGraw

      Hi layered bob. I’ve talked about my specific weight, clothing sizes, and measurements before as part of my effort to be accepting of myself and also transparent, most memorably in this post: Although I’ve talked less about my weight, I’ve written lots about my pant/dress sizes and not received any concerned feedback. I mention it here because for me and many other women, it is helpful to be reminded that women can be happy and healthy and proud of their bodies at weights that are not socially sanctioned as “ideal” and dress sizes in the double digits.

      I was not aware that my mention of my specific weight would be triggering, and of course that was not my intention. I do my best to be all-inclusive, all-encompassing, and all-loving because I want everyone who reads this blog to feel welcome and respected and important and gorgeous and worthy. If you felt triggered this post, it was not due to callous carelessness or intentional malice. I am human. I try to consider all the angles, but I can’t always see them.

      • Sonja

        I would like to say something about this, although I’m probably not going to make me very popular. I’m a bit surprised that anytime Sally is posting an article on body image or figure flattery or whatever, somebody is feeling offended or pointing out that she has “done something wrong”. There are a million harmful and not body-positive blogs out there, and probably also a whole lot of body-positive ones that are not trying to be politically correct, that are sarcastic and mordant and don’t make any prisoners. So why turn on one of the few bloggers who always adds a diclaimer, tries do everything right and to take into consideration absolutely everybody?

      • Veronica

        Just wanted to add that I think it’s wonderful when I see women post their actual weights and sizes when they want to. I think it demystifies the all-consuming size metrics and gives them less power over us. I’m very short, so despite my very average, pudgy build, my numbers are smaller than average. I can’t mention them, for example when shopping and sizes are relevant, without getting some comment because we’ve learned to associate value to these metrics (size X is skinny) despite the obvious reality that you can see (I’m not skinny).

        This talk of body shape reminds me of how more than one friend has told me she didn’t want to weight train or play sports because she didn’t want to gain weight, even though intellectually she knew she would actually be leaner. Because the number on the scale was more important than the body itself.

        This a long winded way to say, thank you for this post!

      • CeCe Witherspoon

        Hi Sally and all,

        My opinion is that mentioning one’s specific numbers in terms of weight etc. can be transformative and personally liberating. The ‘beauty industrial complex’ pressures us to lie about or avoid discussion of our specific weights, ages, and so on unless we represent marketing’s ideal. Stating the bald numeric facts without shame can be an appropriately raised middle finger (at least for some folks).

        Also, I am troubled by the idea that people have an obligation to avoid writing things that are triggering. I don’t believe such an obligation exists. I think deliberate cruelty is usually pretty obvious, and that nice people try not to be deliberately cruel. Other than that, encountering triggering stuff that is not deliberate cruelty is simply the price we pay for having certain vulnerabilities.. It’s not fair, nor comfortable, but it’s the way of the world.

        Last, I have it that Sal gets to make the rules for her blog, and the rest of us get to make the decision of whether or not to read it.


        P.S. Just in case someone cares:

        273 lbs
        47 years
        no stranger to being triggered
        fabulous in ways that cannot be defined numerically

  9. Jessie Oleson Moore

    I find such things unnerving too – and I was so happy to read this, not because I’m happy that you went through this moment, but that it’s something I feel a lot of (women, mostly) have gone through. Thank you for sharing.

  10. pambamboo

    Curiously, mine is kind of the opposite: all my clothes fit but I can see that my body has changed and my weight hasn’t changed! I wear a lot of knits so that’s certainly part of it but, since everything in the universe (everything) is on a continuum of constant change…..i guess that includes my body too 🙂

  11. SMH

    I’ve had a couple of shifts, but nothing that alarmed me. The one I really noticed was post-menopause. My PCP told me that when your hormones retire, you lose the one that helps keep your tummy firm, and my experience is that it’s true. I could do sit ups until my funeral, but I’ll never lose this pouchy belly. I suppose that the evolutionary explanation for this is that it creates a little shelf for your boobs to rest on.

  12. Amy Blankenship

    I’ve had a different type of body shift. I started karate a few months ago and I really feel like my head has been transplanted to someone else’s body. Things hurt that never hurt before. I have odd bulges in places I didn’t expect. The hard mattress i loved hurts to sleep on. Things go back and forth between physically easy and physically difficult. I never in my life worried about eating too little, but tonight I’m drinking a cup of almond milk after class to give me the fuel to make dinner.

    Not that it’s all horrible. I love the heck out of it and I finally have calves. But the rapid changes have been a bit of a shock.

  13. Serene McEntyre

    This is really good! I’ve been going through this for a few years now. It’s a little unnerving when you start to feel like you don’t recognize your body and then there is the issue of trying to figure out how to dress this unfamiliar figure. No advice here….it’s just good to know I’m not alone in this!! Serene

  14. Kerstin Forsythe

    Thank you Sal! This was just what I needed to read today as I purchased a larger size pant thinking WTH? Did these get shorter? For a brief awesome moment I wondered if I had grown taller! (ha…sadly, no-although I did grow in my 20s and my feet grew a year ago!) You touched on a lot of what I was thinking in my own head. How can I have never asked my girlfriends about this? I think I figured they would say it all had to do with getting pregnant and having kids and I have never been pregnant. Thank you for your lovely, soft, kind words. 🙂