Back in January, I wrote about how I’d prepared for my utterly natural cycle of winter weight gain by buying my favorite jeans a size up, and two sizes up. And I grew into them, just as I’d anticipated I would, and that was fine.

And now it’s September, which is typically my fittest time of year. I’ve been biking for several months, and spending more time outdoors, and eating my weight in raw vegetables on a regular basis. And I feel fantastic and have barely given my weight a single thought in months because I look healthy and strong and just about how I want to look.

But I never did go back to the smaller size jeans. They’re WAY too tight. In fact, the size up – which I’ve been wearing since winter – is even a little snug right now. And not in the thighs, which would make sense due to biking, but in the waist. Where, according to the tape measure, I’ve lost two full inches since spring.

And yet, a skintight black sweater that I’ve had for three years and ONLY ever worn as an under-layer is now plenty loose to wear on its own.


So, for about the twentieth time in my life, I am faced with the bizarre reality that weight shifts. And I don’t mean gain or loss, or anything drastic that can be noted with the naked eye. I mean that bodies reconfigure themselves in astonishingly subtle ways, and we never even notice it until a dress that has fit for YEARS suddenly pulls around the bust, or a skirt is suddenly too loose in the thighs. Sometimes we can be the exact same weight, and engaged in the exact same exercise routine, and our bodies still feel the need to rearrange and redistribute our personal bulk. And I have no science for this – no explanation or research to back it up. But I’ve experienced it so many times, and talked to so many women who know the drill, that I feel comfortable declaring it a legitimate phenomenon.

And I’d bet my bottom dollar it’s down to hormones. But whatever is causing it, weight shifts, bodies change, none of it is bad, none of it can be predicted. Frustrating as it is, you’ve gotta trust your body to have some super-secret biological reason for Personal Mass Realignment, and work around it. And throw your hands up and laugh when it happens again in three years.

Image courtesy Toni Blay.

Next Post
Previous Post

46 Responses to “Shifting”

  1. Meli22

    hm. Last year my chest went from a barely 36B to suddenly a very full 34C. THAT was weird- aren't they supposed to stop growing long before 21?! They shift alot throughout the month. I also do the bloating thing in the middle of the month, so for a week I have to be careful about what I wear so I don't make it more obvious than necessary. As far as pants go- I have went in the last 2/3 years from a size 2 to a size 6. The pants that fit two months ago are loose now though! I am almost a whole size down, not sure if I like this. I actually like my figure at this point, but want to be healthier.

  2. Cindy

    I totally agree with this. When I was about 25 I lost 90 lbs. I felt great. Then I got pregnant and over the next 10 years gained back every ounce of the 90 I lost. Last Oct. I decided to get fit for good!. I've lost 70 lbs so far and it's totally different this time around. #1 it took longer to lose #2 it was harder to lose and #3 I've lost it in different places. It's all good though. I've learned to celebrate how fab I feel and not focus so much on the "problem" areas.

  3. Anonymous

    First comment here, though I'm a regular reader.
    (like the blog btw!and pardon my english, I'm frenchspeaking)
    I have the exact same thig going on: somehow, over the course of three years, my waist got thinner (good thing, a waist is SUCH a blessing for dressing well: I just belt my waist, wear an a-line or fifties style full skirt and I look slim), but my hips and thighs expanded (a lot! noticed it because i wanted to try an old jeans). My weight is the same (more or less, sometimes half a kilogram more or less…).
    I was very unhappy about the pants, untill I realized that what was going on was actually a good thing. I dress so much better now that I have this very femine waist.
    Hope the next shift will be as good as this one!
    (oh and I think I can relate to your hormones theaory, 2and a half years ago, I switched birth controll…)

  4. fröken lila

    actually, since i started wearing skirts and dresses which define the waist a lot, my waist has grown smaller, giving me more of an hourglass-shape than i had before. and i do think it is because my body notices where my clothes nip in and where they sit losely, and thus it rearranges my bodymass accordingly. also i guess i move differently due to wearing more skirts and less pants, which might also play a part in this change of shape…

  5. Imogen Lamport

    I noticed a bit shift in my weight around age 27 or 28 when I suddenly got love handles – which I'd never had before. Then again around 38 I suppose – but I'd had 2 kids and how much was related to that I'm not sure.

    I don't think that weight ever stops shifting – so many clients of mine will agree as often they come as they no longer know how to dress their bodies because of these weight shifts.

  6. Queen Michelle

    Recently! I went up a full cup size for no reason at all, and now I'm losing quite alot of weight, also for no apparent reason! I don't have scales so I don't know what I weight but I know everything is much looser than it was. Odd.

  7. The Barely Tattoo'd Artist

    When I was developing, I basically had a Kim Kardashian/J.lo booty (to which I still have)…then after moving away and moving back several times, I lost all my "puberty weight" (I was a size 16, pushing into 18, but those who remember me back then can't believe it) down to a size 10, where I've been for probably the past 5 years…

    Although recently, I've noticed that instead of filling out more on the hips, thighs, and butt like I normally do, I've gained a small pooch in the stomach area, though I'm the only one that noticed…and then there's the issue of birth control and how I went from a very small 34 barely B to a decent 34 C…and I'm still flucuating…very weird, but I'm still wondering what else my body has in store for me as time goes on…

  8. Kasmira

    Like another commenter or two, my waist has gotten smaller as I age. Not that I'm complaining…

  9. Sarah R

    Well, the last time when I gained weight in my stomach area ONLY, Sal, was when I was pregnant. *cough cough*
    Just sayin.

  10. Heather

    Oh yes, there are shifts over the course of the month but also shifts over the years. This makes perfect sense as hormones and age both mess with where your weight distributes itself. In 2 years you'll probably be able to fit into your size down jeans again- who knows? 🙂

  11. Jane Winkler

    At age 40 and having had one baby, I'm just as fit as I was when I got married 12 years ago, as far as aerobic capacity and strength go. I'm only 10 lbs heavier, which I think is pretty good. But the sands have shifted, so to speak. Gravity will not be denied and various bits are heading south.

  12. enc

    During the last year, I've noticed things shifting. I know why, and I can explain it all with logic and reason, but the emotion of it all is confusing.

  13. WendyB

    Oh yes, I'm always noticing shifts — they're not too extreme with me but it definitely affects how clothes fit.

  14. eednic

    i lost a significant amount of weight recently (about 15 pounds which is a lot for my height). and part of me thinks…hmmm…maybe i should really be losing 20 so I can weigh as much as I did back when yadda yadda yadda. and then i realize, well, back then I wasn't over 30 and my body looked different. and i'm curvy (always have been) and have, you know, PARTS. and no amount of weight I lose will ever diminish those PARTS. so do I really want to lose 5 more pounds and weigh this arbitrary weight from my 20s? or can i just be satified that i am healthy, well-proportioned, active, and dressing my body well? ahahhaa. so yeah. i can totally appreciate the shifting concept. it's there! and i'm finally starting to get over the idea that i can control it!

  15. LPC

    I asked my doctor. In my case, it's my belly that has expanded, although the weight has been the same for 4-5 years. She said it's fat on the INSIDE. Oh good lord.

    Of course, there was the first battle lost with my waistline after two babies. I returned to my original weight, but those little critters got all up in my ribcage, taking the little waist with them for good.

    It's OK. Worthwhile trade.

  16. Nina (Femme Rationale)

    ugh, i recently experienced this as i was nearing 30. i've def. become a lot curvier – like clothes tighter in the hips. but i weighed a lot less 2-3 years ago and yet i look and feel thinner now even tho the scale says my weight has increased 10 lbs. AND i don't work out regularly so it's not increased muscle mass. i've def. had to rethink my wardrobe.

  17. bekster

    I agree that this happens, and I agree with another commenter that my waist gets smaller when I wear skirts/belts/etc. that are tighter on it, BUT, at least part of the time, I think the way our clothes fit may have to do with our clothes and not always our bodies. I recently found out how much some of my pants/shorts have been shrinking in the wash, and that made me feel a little better about them not fitting as well. (I know they were shrinking because I had bought multiples of the same thing in different colors, and the ones I wore and washed more often were significantly tighter.)

  18. Mar

    That's definitely happened to me! Last year, right at the beginning of college, a whole bunch of my pants and a few shirts abruptly stopped fitting. I don't even know if I had started jogging regularly at that point — I just moved into the dorms, and at some point in September or October, about a third of my jeans were abruptly too tight. I think I actually lost weight that semester, too. It was very strange.

    On the bright side, I think I look fantastic now! My boyfriend says he thinks I've "filled out" a little bit and look more adult, which I take to mean that my fat has moved from my tummy to my hips and butt. Sounds great to me. I feel so curvy and bodacious.

  19. Annie

    My body has changed completely over the years. After baby #2 I grew breasts I never had before and they didn't go away…it took two solid years to lose the excess baby weight and then I was ultra skinny. Then along came baby #2. Larger breasts again; again they didn't go down (well, the size didn't but they're definitely heading in a more southerly direction). I'm at 150lbs – a full 15 pounds heavier than I was before baby #2 and my weight won't budge no matter how I change my eating habits, how much I exercise or how much I lift weights. Oddly enough I *do* fit into my pre-pregnancy size 6/8 clothing now – except in the chest area. People say I haven't lost weight because I started weight training – muscle mass and all. Harumph. I doubt that. I agree with you, Sal. Something else is at work here and it's frustrating as hell. I don't want to be super skinny again, and I'm thankful for my health – including my few extra pounds and matronly breasts (and two beautiful healthy children!) I'd just like to know what's going on and what to expect down the line…

  20. Hanako66

    this has totally happened to me! I think that it shifts in and out of my boobs…is that even possible? They fluctuate with my activity level and weight loss like crazy! I feel like it goes from there to my tummy.

  21. Amber

    My body shape has changed a lot in the past year, and it's mostly due to me increasing the level of excersise I've been doing. I'm probably the fittest I've ever been, and I don't think I LOOK any bigger, but my calves have increased, meaning that a lot of my skinny jeans (which I used to wear AAAALLLL the time) are tight on the leg. On the one hand it's a good thing because it's forced me out of the jeans and into some of my other clothes, but on the other hand… well, most people don't join the gym in order to go UP a size and I don't really relish the thought of having to replace perfecly good clothes 🙂

  22. K.Line

    Sal: It's like you're reading my mind (and a post I've been writing in my head for weeks)! I have noticed subtle shifts but they are so morphy I don't know what to make of them. On the scale, I appear to have gained a bit of weight (though for purposes of my sanity we're going to call it water retention). My clothes all fit. I do think my stomach is a little bit less firm than usual lately. That could be because I bake constantly these days and, while I'm measured, I do eat some of what I cook. Or because I've been so busy and stressed at work that I don't find the energy to do yoga that's anything other than "relaxation-style". Could also be hormones or age or a blip on the screen.

    But I'm obsessed with it. And then mad about being obsessed (of course I'm a ruminater so why should this surprise me??)

  23. La Belette Rouge

    Strange and unpleasant things are going on in my waist region. Hoping that upping my walking will stop this strange shifting.xo

  24. Erin

    So this might not be a completely illogical shift, but I honest to god thought I was done with puberty (I'm almost twenty for crying out loud) and all of a sudden in the last couple months I went up two bra sizes, and lost three inches around the waist, and gained those three inches plus some on my butt and belly. That's definitely to be blamed on hormones, but good news is that is spurred me to finally clean out my closet and get "big girl" clothes. Bad news is I need to actually buy bras that fit….
    bodies can definitely be surprising, but I do like the way I look now. I figure I'm just going to let my body do its thing and I'll try to keep up 🙂

  25. Sal

    spacegeek: Doesn't seem simple to me! People here have described increased boob size post-puberty and pre-pregnancy, softening waistlines despite exercise, and many other phenomena that don't appear to have any identifiable biological reason. And some of these changes extremely subtle! I still want to know what would cause our bodies to gently shift our mass from place to place. Age and hormones are clearly the cause, but where's the why of it?

  26. kristophine

    This is in the process of happening to me, I think. I was weighed at the doctor's just a month or two ago–I try not to have a scale at home, I get obsessive and it's not the weight that matters but my health, which I can assess by walking up stairs quickly or trying to lift things–and I'm the same weight I have been since tenth grade, give or take three pounds. And yet, my favorite brand of jeans, where I have worn the same size for seven years, suddenly no longer fits. I cannot wedge my butt into them. It feels like I have somehow added weightless mass to my ass.

  27. Little Gray Pixel

    Very interesting post and comments. I've noticed some shifts of my own, but none that I was pleased with. I wish some of the fat in my upper arms would "shift" somewhere else!

  28. fleur_delicious

    I actually thought I was gaining weight this summer, becuse my face looks a bit fuller to me lately, my cheekbones aren't as prominent. And my petite 34Bs look and feel fuller. Yet, my skinny jeans fit (seriously, I just went into the bedroom and pulled them on to check). I can't explain it. I always lose what little breasts I have before any toning of stomach/butt/thighs happens.

    I've been walking 4-5 miles/day, about 4 days/week on average for the whole summer. And I walk fast: people could do a slow jog at my normal walking pace. And I haven't been eating GREAT, but I haven't been eating terribly, either.

    no complaints from me, though. Sure, I could be thinner, but I'll take this. (Thanks, body – we look hot.)

  29. Nadine

    Too tight in the waist = pregnant in my book. Ahem.

    Larger bust = PMS. Smaller = period.

    I used to have a TINY waist when I was young in the 80s – I'm sure it was from all the waist-cinching styles. I had to suck it in all the time! Post-kids, I am again as small as I ever was, but without the hourglass waist. I think it's because I'm now a dress-wearing maniac and will go a long way to avoid wearing a belt, and pants all sit lower nowadays anyway.

  30. Kelly

    I haven't really noticed this much in my life, but I also don't measure myself very much – I don't take my measurements unless I'm shopping online and consulting a size chart, and I don't have a scale so I just weigh myself at the doctors or I sneek it in if I'm in a friend's bathroom and they have a scale there! I'm afraid I would start putting too much emphasis on it if I kept a scale in my house. So basically…if my jeans get tight, I assume I've gained weight, and I have nothing else to consult!

  31. lisa

    It's been so interesting to read the comments so far as well as your post, Sal. I'm experiencing some shifting right now: most of my clothes still fit but some of them are tight in funny places where they didn't used to be.

  32. Hammie

    Two babies gave me bigger bits all over which have slowly shifted over 11 years. But I got left with bigger feet! bigger ribcage and back and bigger fadoobaders or bingo wings as you might call them. None of which held any part of a baby!

    I think any gain or loss you have made is proportional and I for one are glad to see you eating well and buying bigger pants! xx

  33. rb

    Ugh, I was just thinking about this. I wish I could be as positive about it as you are! But my weight is up right now and it's not in the same places it was last time. I have the muffintop thing going on, which I never had before. I know it's normal – weight shifts from the rear and thighs in childrbearing years to the midsection in midlife. You only have to take a quick glance at a crowd to see it. But I didn't think it would happen to ME!

  34. Laura.

    i totally love "personal mass realignment". it's so true. i don't understand it at all, but i also don't mind it, i guess–today, at least. 🙂

  35. Lady Smaggle

    Oh my god! Story of my LIFE! I have 'thin' jeans that fits me most of the time but not recently so I've been gyming and eating well for weeks and now my bras don't fit me (too loose) but the jeans are possibly tighter. Grrrr!

  36. Mardel

    I'm a relatively new reader, but I just wated to say hi and toss my two cents in.

    Everything changes as we age it seems. I put on weight through the waist and tummy in my late 30's and 40's. I started exercising again after prolonged absence following health issues with my DH, and although my tummy area is pretty firm now, and I have a waist again, it is still thick. My Dr. says it is internal fat too, like LPC, and you can't lose that through exercise, because the fat is beneath the muscle layer. It seems to happen to a lot of people as they reach middle age, but I am not yet sure if it is something that should be accepted or if it is something we just give up about. When is "normal" good, and when is "normal" something that is not good but accepted because it is common? My own doctor feels that this internal fat is far more dangerous for health than the kind that lives under our skin, but I don't really know and have not done any research on this. I should probably write a blog post about that someday. I'm pretty erratic on that front right now though.

  37. Rosie Unknown

    Hmm, I haven't noticed any shifting, but it totally makes sense! Great post!

  38. Cecilia

    oh, I can so relate to this! And my question is: how in the heck am I supposed to "invest in good-quality pieces" with all this shifting going on???

  39. Peldyn

    Wow, that is what I have been going through for the past two years! Just when I get used to a new body shape it changes! I lost my thighs and butt, and then got back some of my butt, but not the thighs so much. Lost the boobs (pout) waist got small and then got wider after I had abdominal surgery in June, WTF? Gained mufffin top suddenly in all my jeans. Super weird! I feel like Alice. What size will I be next?

  40. miss cavendish

    Funny how that happens. I wonder whether it's also how styles change. For instance, low-waisted trousers have been in vogue for years, and if I try on a relic pair of cigarette pants from the 1980s, they feel too tight because I'm not used to that cut. But yes. Things change. Perhaps a combination of gravity and activity (change in lifestyle) and (gaining or losing)muscle?

  41. Elizabeth Bennet

    Last year I became pregnant, and my boobs grew a whole cup size practically overnight. I lost my baby a couple of months in, sadly, but they never went back to their original size.

    I've been the same weight, give or take a couple of kilos, since I was 16 (I'm now 25) but my body shape keeps changing! It's so hard to keep up, eh?

  42. Sharon

    My neck as gotten bigger in the last year or so. I look at pictures from then and don't think it looks any bigger, but all of my necklaces fit differently than they used to– long necklaces are shorter, short necklaces are chokers, and chokers live up to their name. I don't wear a lot of crewnecks or turtlenecks, but the few I have are unwearable because they make me feel like I'm being strangled.

    The precise spot of my natural waist slides up and down and up and down all the damn time too. Again, not enough to make an observable difference, but enough that skirts that sit at or just below my natural waist are suddenly several inches longer or shorter and pants are suddenly unwearable.

  43. Kate Coveny Hood

    Since pregnancy, my hips and thighs are slimmer (maybe all of the squatting down and running up and down stairs after children?) and my waistline is thicker. BUT for once in my life my stomach is flat (when I stand up straight I mean – and I'm only talking about muscles – the post pregnancy skin will never be as tight as it onces was…). I guess that after getting all stretched out, the muscles that made my stubborn little pouch unknotted. But yeah – my body looks very different as I've gotten older: small chest, chubbier knees, smaller butt, thicker waist…it all shifted.

  44. Casey

    I love that you posted about this (and suspect hormones as the cause behind it; I blame everything on hormones! haha!). My weight shifts from time to time; lately I've been noticing that my waist isn't as teeny-tiny as it was. I haven't put on weight (if anything, I've managed to maintain this year!), but bulk that used to be in my thighs seems to have shifted a tiny bit up to my waist. It's not a huge difference: my husband doesn't even see it. But it's still interesting how the body adapts and subtly changes over time!

  45. mjb

    Someone commented about the problem with buying classic clothes to keep forever as a problem with weight shifting – I wonder about my sewing hobby and if just when I have my current fit issues figured out they'll all change! Especially when I see myself getting pregnant in the next few years. I'll always have narrow shoulders, though, and expect my hips to be two sizes bigger than my waist, whatever those relative sizes are. It is good to keep assessing "what looks good on me NOW" in relation to what fashions we prefer and feel good wearing.