How trying to find “active wear” pushed me over the proverbial edge

3 Jan

I won’t lie – I’m overweight.  I inherited the short, curvy genes of my Irish and Italian ancestors.  And possibly the sluggish thyroid as well (mental note, get thyroid checked.)  Oh, and some comfort eating tendencies.  Join all that with my anti-athleticness and yeah, hi there 50 lbs to lose.

Last month, the husband and I hit the “Okay, no more farting around, it’s time to really truly do something” point.  We bought an elliptical, because to be honest with myself, I am not motivated enough to go to the gym.  I am motivated enough to watch episodes of “Supernatural” on the tv while I’m on the elliptical at home.  I’ve been looking into how to cut out processed foods (thank you 100 Days of Real Food, my new best friend.)  We’re back to logging in our stuff on our My Fitness Pal accounts (oh, hi there accountability.)

All positive changes, all positive attitudes (or at least okay attitudes with some whining and groaning.)

And then I made a terrible mistake.

I thought I could buy athletic wear.

All I wanted was an all-weather jacket.  Something sensible and waterproof that maybe actually looked decent on me.  Something I could wear out while walking the dog, or going on that proverbial hike that my husband keeps threatening me with suggesting.  Something that will keep me from getting soaked, that can get all mucky and dirty, that I can then throw in the washer.  I have a couple lovely coats and jackets, but I don’t want to ruin them with the Great Outdoors.

Josh tagged along with me on this trip.  We started at REI, because I was pretty certain nothing would fit me there, but was hoping to be surprised.  And they were having a sale.

I learned at REI that not even the XL’s would fit me.  Or if I did get them to zip up, it was like wearing a boa constrictor.  Which isn’t fun, and not that flattering either. I tried on several different brands, proving that I couldn’t fit into any of their XL’s.  Despite the fact that the Old Navy wool coat I wore into the store was an XL.   There was no XXL in the women’s section.  Because women who shop at REI don’t need an XXL.

Fine.  Whatever.  I hate you anyway REI, with your overpriced gear catering to the already fit.

I suggested we try Eddie Bauer, because I have shirts and sweaters from the store, that fit.  And I knew they carried an XXL, which I might need to get a looser fit and be able to layer.

They were having a sale, which is always nice.  Josh and I started scouring the racks, finally finding an XL. I tried it on.  It was too snug.  I tried on a different style.  It was also too snug.  Josh suggested trying on a men’s jacket, and while it fit, the sleeves were about 8 inches too long, which while kind of cute on a 3 yr old, long flapping sleeves looks a bit ridiculous on a grown woman.  I went back to scouring the women’s side, and came up with nothing.

Now, I weigh myself pretty regularly.  I’m aware of my size.  I’m not trying to fit into a medium.  I wore XL clothing into the store, yet Xl jackets weren’t fitting.  The store had a limited selection, so we went home, me feeling ever so slightly fat and depressed.  I checked online, because I thought maybe they didn’t make an XXL jacket.

They do.  But the sale price (which was 30-50% off in the store, depending on jacket) wasn’t available online for the jackets I wanted.

So the next day, when we were in the car, Josh asked what I wanted to do, and I uttered the fatal words of “Let’s go to the other Eddie Bauer, see if they have the jacket.”

Stupid stupid idea.

We get there, they have tons of items there, lots of jackets, and yet…no XXL.  At this point, I’m feeling a bit self-conscious about my size – which shouldn’t be THAT big, really! – and I am not about to ask the perky little store workers if they have a size big enough for me.  Josh does ask, and the first perky little store bee says “Oh, we only get a couple XXL’s in, they must be sold out.  But you can take this to the counter and they can call other stores, or order it through our online site to get the discount.”

Great.  Now I get to tell another stranger I need the XXL.  Fine.  Whatever.  I want that 50% off.

We wait in line.  We get to the counter.  We explain I need the XXL.  The girl at the register goes “Oh, we don’t carry the XXL in the store, it’s only available online.  But if you go to the kiosk, I can send the manager over and she can put in the code.”



We go to the kiosk.  I find the coat online.  The manager comes over.  She explains that no, the coat isn’t stocked in stores in an XXL and the sale is only good for stuff in the store.  Not online.  She can’t change the price for me, because it’s only for in store stuff.  And they don’t carry the XXL jackets in stores for women.

They do for men.  But men are allowed to be bigger.  Not women.

At this point,  I don’t want the fecking coat anymore.  I’ve hit my done point, I’m feeling fat and ashamed for being at my weight, and I just want to leave except she keeps talking…

…and suggests that I try The North Face.

I laughed bitterly and said “I can’t fit into their sizes either.”

The (actually very nice) manager finally finished her apologetic spiel and I walked out of the store as quickly as possible, announcing that I just wanted to go home.  Or shove a cookie in my face.  Except cookies got me into this situation, so we should just go home.

And then I cried in the car all the way home and made my husband promise that if I even thought about trying on clothes before losing 20 lbs, to slap me and lock me in a closet or something.

And then I got on Facebook and got completely irrational with some lovely friends about weight and body issues (and because they are lovely friends, they were the ones apologizing when I was being the crazy one.  Again, I am sorry about that.)

And then I ate dinner and didn’t shove my face in a bag of chocolate chips and stayed off of social media until I could contain my crazy a bit more.  Self-control for the win!

A day or so later, I found myself in Target, and thought “Now I’ve bought yoga pants from here before…they carry short leg sizes.  Maybe I can try here.”

Stupid stupid woman doesn’t learn.

They had jackets.  They had an XL jacket in their Active Wear section.  I went to try it on.  I could at least zip up the Eddie Bauer ones.  The Target one, I couldn’t even get the zipper to meet.  I uttered quiet curses at the jacket as I hung it back up.

Then I tried the pants section of Active Wear.  And I’ve learned things have changed.  For instance, while I can still fit into the XL yoga pants of a certain brand from 3 years ago, the ones of current in the same brand, I’ll now need an XXL.  And if you need an XXL, their looser fit pants have legs the size of tree trunks.  And while they’re “short” legged, the rest of it is designed for the taller gal, so if I wear it two inches below the waist, as the tag states, the crotch is near my knees.  Or to get a well-fitting crotch, I can just wear these pants as a onsie.

The yoga pants got thrown back onto the shelf a bit angrily as I officially gave up.

I’m trying really hard not to salute all active wear makers with my middle finger, though it would be a heartfelt salute.  I’ve realized that active wear is meant for the already active, the already fit, the runners and yoga-ers and young moms with strollers.  It’s not meant for a forty year old who is trying to regain her own fitness, who inherited the short curvy figure of her ancestors, who has spent the past ten years living in a haze of child rearing only to remember to take care of herself.  It’s not meant for those who need an XXL but still want to look nice as they try to get back into shape.  It’s not meant for me.

So for now, I will deal with my slightly unflattering but actually fits me XL yoga pants, Old Navy tees, and the all-weather jacket Josh brought home for me yesterday.  It’s not fabulous, it’s not even stylish.  But it’s waterproof and fits and was bought with love and support.

By the way, Eddie Bauer?  Your tag line of “Live your Adventure”?  I will be doing that.  Just not in any of  your jackets.


36 Responses to “How trying to find “active wear” pushed me over the proverbial edge”

  1. wonkafonka January 3, 2014 at 5:43 pm #

    Oh my GOD, I am right there with you. Why do they have to make shopping such a demoralizing experience? And why do they discriminate against us by not letting us have the sale price? I have found it really difficult to find work out clothes that a) fit and b) don’t cost a fortune. I’ve given up on c) are cute. I got some shirts at Old Navy that I thought would be good for zumba. HA! In order to be big enough to not cling to my lumpy areas, the straps are too loose and too much cleavage gets exposed. You’re welcome, YMCA-mates! Gah. Good luck in your quest. It sucks! 🙂

    • phoebz4 January 3, 2014 at 5:47 pm #

      We should do zumba together. LOL!

    • Sven Svenson January 3, 2014 at 8:00 pm #

      Is there such a thing as “too much cleavage”? 😉 I say go for it until your exercise pays off and you’re in a size where you can find appropriate-fitting clothes.

      • phoebz4 January 3, 2014 at 11:35 pm #

        Some would agree with you there Sven, lol!

  2. Christine January 3, 2014 at 5:55 pm #

    I know you probably don’t want to have to do this but, since I have inherited the short curvy genes of my German and French Canadian foremothers whose idea of a vegetable side dish is potatoes and onions and since I am very familiar with the stress-cookie, I recommend trying a store which markets to the ample woman. Avenue or Lane Bryant perhaps. I know from experience that Avenue has short sizes. Once you get past the fact that you are shopping in a plus-size store, it should make you feel good that you wear the smallest size in the place.

    • phoebz4 January 3, 2014 at 5:58 pm #

      Sadly, most of what’s at Lane Bryant doesn’t fit me either. Because I’m only big in certain places, so stuff at LB fits me funny as well. Oh, and the one pair of jeans I got there a few years ago, that fit me perfectly…yeah, they stopped making. Grr.

      • Sarah Fisher January 5, 2014 at 4:01 am #

        Another problem with jackets (especially) that are made for Plus sized stores…well they’re not generally attractive. Apparently being above an XL, a woman suddenly needs to wear a shapeless tent for a coat, because obviously she wants to hide everything and walk around looking like she’s completely ashamed of herself by wearing loose, ill-fitting clothing. it really sucks that I can try on an XL at Eddie B, or anywhere else (Phoebe I’ve had exactly the same experience) and it fits like as if I was trying on a Medium. I just want pretty clothes that fit correctly without looking like I’m about to do a cameo on the Golden Girls. 😦

  3. Erika January 3, 2014 at 5:59 pm #

    Oh my goodness! I never comment on blogs that I follow, but you just hit a nerve with me on this post! You said exactly what I’ve been feeling and have been dealing with for a while. Thank you for reminding me I am not alone in this battle. I too have inherited the short, curvy gene and every pair of pants I buy have to be hemmed and shirts and jackets don’t want to fit around the curves. Why does it have to be so difficult!?! I feel your pain and wish you luck in your quest to improve your fitness and find active wear that fits! 🙂

    • phoebz4 January 3, 2014 at 6:00 pm #

      Good luck to you too! (And I’m wearing jeans I had to hem, after buying the “short” ones even, lol!)

  4. Angel Weiss January 3, 2014 at 6:02 pm #

    oh, I feel your pain! For me, it’s not just athletic wear that I have trouble with, but shoes as well. My feet are boats. There is nobody, (aside from a couple of stores that cater to cross dressing men) that sells pretty shoes that fit me. I usually end up in a pair of men’s flip flops or men’s sneakers, depressed about not being able to find a pair of jeans that fit properly. Lane Bryant carries a few items that I can wear for work or outings, but nowhere can I find casual clothes that fit me and aren’t made for men or overweight little boys.

    • phoebz4 January 3, 2014 at 6:07 pm #

      Oh man! I know the joy of living in Ireland was that all shoes were wider – I could finally fit into shoes (I have small extra-wide feet…so I can sympathize a bit with shoe woes.)

  5. Joy M Newcom January 3, 2014 at 6:12 pm #

    Something sinister must be going on. I, too, am larger than I have ever been except when preparing to give birth (in fact, if I were preparing to give birth again, I’d be well into my third trimester). Before the holidays, my favorite jeans (one of only two pair I owned because who likes to shop for jeans?) ripped out in the crotch area – from wear, I believe but I have some doubt. Well, I remembered where I bought them, so I wore the only remaining pair into that same store, found the same brand and grabbed what I was certain was the same size because I had on THAT SIZE in THAT SAME BRAND when I entered the SAME STORE I purchased the worn out jeans only one year before. Apparently someone in the jeans factory thought it funny to move the seam lines in or something because none of that type of jean in that size fit me anymore. When I could get a pair on and zipped (at this point I didn’t care about style or denim color, I just wanted that SIZE), I could barely move without worrying about developing a medical condition. I broke down and went up a full size and I am STILL grouchy about it. Grrrrr … Here’s to getting back on track and back into former sizes in 2014. Best of luck!

    • phoebz4 January 3, 2014 at 6:19 pm #

      Oh, there’s a post I need to write…the secret behind jeans and why you need to try on every pair…

      • Joy M Newcom January 3, 2014 at 6:26 pm #

        Please do!

      • saracvt January 3, 2014 at 6:45 pm #

        I actually really love Wal-Mart for this reason. Their Just My Size line of jeans is so dependable that I can walk and take an 18P (an 18! where in other stores I’d be a 22 or even a 24, depending) and not have to hem the bottom, because I am 5’3″. And I don’t try them on there, because they will fit. Is that not COOL?

      • phoebz4 January 3, 2014 at 6:46 pm #

        I think you’re just talking nonsense. Such a thing does not exist! LOL!

      • saracvt January 3, 2014 at 6:52 pm #

        Oh, yes, they do–I’m wearing some this very minute! Quite comfortable, too! My mom asked me the last time she visited (I inherited my height from my genes, along with childbearing hips) where I had found jeans I didn’t have to hem.

  6. Siobhan January 3, 2014 at 6:13 pm #

    Fabulously written! Think so many of us will be with you on this. Look forward to buying new gear when your looking & feeling great – Go girl – keep us updated! 💃

  7. TerriM January 3, 2014 at 6:20 pm #

    Boy this sounds so familiar! I have similar issues regarding activewear, and truly it’s enough to bring me to tears. I’ve realized that capris are my best bet, as there is a lot more flexibility in the length. If you are on Zulily (you should be!) I recently had good luck buying yoga capri pants and a performance T; both fit and are actually cute! Here’s a link to a current activewear event (this is not an affiliate link or any such!):

  8. Marci (@TheMarciFactor) January 3, 2014 at 6:25 pm #

    Awww…that really sux. I also have the size inherited from my ancestors (so to say) and find it hard to shop at the stores also. My problem is that I’m also a tad on the tall side. Soooo, the only jeans I can find that fit me are around $75 each. Though…I did just get finished shopping at Belk, and they have awesome stuff for us “fluffy” people.

  9. Sandra Tentler January 3, 2014 at 8:29 pm #

    Try Xersion, which I believe is sold at JC Penny. I’m short and was 50lbs overweight, but those fit me great from the start of my health journey to now. They come in short sizes! I say was 50lbs overweight because a year ago that’s what I was told, but recently found out that my body will never lose that weight because I’m built with this shape and really only need to lose 10-20 when compared with my lean muscle that I’ve worked so hard for. German and Italian here with twin skin:)

  10. Katie Mellon January 3, 2014 at 8:55 pm #

    You so beautifully summed up every experience I have had being a larger woman searching for workout clothes that don’t look like I raided my brother’s closet. Within the past year or so, CitySports ( has started carrying extended sizes in some stores and online. This was a wonderful find for me because they were the same clothes offered in the smaller sizes, they just fit me! This way I can blend in when working out with others. Athletic wear does tend to always run small, which doesn’t help the motivation to wear the clothes and have them do their jobs.

  11. Dana D January 3, 2014 at 9:55 pm #

    I am a super active 5’4, 200+lb girl……I get great yoga/workout pants from costco – I do stick to the capris as the length is more manageable. Ffor jackets – check out Lands End. They have a great selection in Womens sizes and even Petite Women’s sizes. Our Sears has a big Lands End Section, but not all of them do. You can usually find free shipping on-line and you can return to any sears if it doesn’t fit for free. They also have some good sales this time of year. For great athletic wear – I also choose ATHLETA – not all their stuff fits, but a lot of it does and it is super cool gear. They have larger sizes as well – only problem there is that it is really pricey. I am lucky to have an Athleta store in town to try things on, but I think you do as well – just not sure how long the drive is. GOOD LUCK and don’t give up looking. Comfy workout clothes definitely help to stick with it!

  12. wiffette January 4, 2014 at 4:43 am #

    That sounds awful. Maybe Old Navy?

  13. franhunne4u January 4, 2014 at 7:47 am #

    Plus-size lady here, too – shopping over internet only – the experiences in retail are just not encouraging to buy anything at all.
    My favourite sites are german or simplybe-euro (only delivering to Europe) – so I will not bother you with those websites, but I agree with you, that size does matter – and I have encountered the fact that the powers who make those sizes automatically think the bigger the woman is the longer her limbs, her body must be, too …

  14. Robin January 4, 2014 at 9:53 am #

    Good for you, with both you and your hubby committed to making changes! That’s awesome–and who needs a gym anyway, when you can do stuff at home. I have been active on myfitnesspal for 5 years (maintaining for the last 4) and started w/the elliptical and then moved onto different types of exercises, all of them I do at home. And it doesn’t matter what kind of clothing I wear or what it looks like–I just wear the same thing all the time, as long as it’s comfortable. Looks like you received a bunch of suggestions above so I hope you find a few things. And message me if you want support on myfitnesspal, not sure if you are into the social aspect of it….I find facebook and friends in person never seem to care about the daily angst we all deal with to stay healthy, I love the community I have met there…

  15. Christine January 5, 2014 at 12:56 pm #

    If it makes you feel any better, my underweight, size 0 to 2 sister-in-law who still manages to have curves has a really hard time buying jeans too. Very hard. Although she is so tiny and doesn’t starve herself or work out she has many good qualities. 🙂

  16. Chris January 6, 2014 at 2:10 am #

    Even if we were in shape the clothes still wouldn’t fit right because “They” don’t make clothes for women who have curves!
    I tell people I got the stocky work horse Italian genes and not the tall Sophia Loren ones!! ;]
    Chris =]

  17. maggiewholivesathome January 6, 2014 at 11:16 am #

    I think it’s great that you wrote this for yourself, but also to prove to other women that they’re not alone in this. Old Navy is pretty much the one store I can walk into and know that the XL will fit consistently. And if they ever stop making the Sweetheart cut jeans I will simply have no more pants. I loved your post, thought it was fab.

  18. Sunshyn January 6, 2014 at 3:35 pm #

    Thrift stores, baby!  And look in the men’s.  I will tell you a secret — XL today is not as big as XL ten years ago.  I have L’s from 10 years ago that still fit!  Everything is FITTED now.  Ugh.  Why would I want anything tight over my rolls of fat?  I would not.  I love thrift stores.  Honestly!   Never knock on Death’s door. Ring the doorbell and run — he hates that.

    Sunshyn Sunshyn’s Daydreams – goin’ where the wind goes… (ask me for the password)

    • phoebz4 January 6, 2014 at 6:29 pm #

      I live in the land of the Very Fit – the XL section of thrift stores is very small. (The furniture selections however are outstanding!)

    • Suzette June 11, 2014 at 9:36 am #

      Hi sunshyn,

      I know this is an old post, but maybe you will see this. I used to be a long time reader of yours and then had some PC issues and now don’t have the password any more for you blog. If you happen to see this can you send me the password again? Thanks!!

  19. craftmanicmommy January 6, 2014 at 4:58 pm #

    And this experience is exactly why I stopped shopping in Victoria Secret’s as well when they said they didn’t carry my size (at least in that particular piece). I Loathe shopping for every single reason you posted in every single size I have ever been from 0-20. I’m with you on the gym as well. Tonight me and the hubs go back. He commented this morning he’s about to bust out of his pants! lol

  20. Cair January 6, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

    I love you. You have described my life, sans the hubby who is supportive.

    No wonder I don’t own any active wear that wasn’t purchased a decade ago. Sigh.

  21. Renee Anne January 6, 2014 at 5:35 pm #

    There’s a reason I wore the same winter coat for 17 years: it fit with a sweatshirt under it and it was a windbreaker. Sadly, it was falling apart by the time we moved to California so it went to the bin.

    I’ve since not purchased another jacket.

    Also, Columbia makes a pretty decent coat if you can find the “right” one. I’ve had four over the past 20 years. I still have one, actually. It should also be noted that I qualify as “morbidly obese” even though I can run a mile without too much trouble.

  22. peggymsu89 January 7, 2014 at 3:04 pm #

    I never thought I was lumpy until the last few years. The end of the 40’s means things start to move around, so nothing fits right. The lower waists accentuate the baby belly and nothing fits right on my hips and thighs.
    I have gone into stores also wearing the exact same pair of pants I am buying and they don’t fit. I have come to believe they don’t design clothes for middle aged women anymore.

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