A Weighty Topic

alison gary

Most of my childhood I was an average size. I was neither thin nor fat, but around 8th grade I realized I wasn’t as slim as most of the popular girls. I also wasn't as rich, but that wasn’t something I could control. My weight was something I could control. By the time I graduated high school I had been in Weight Watchers a couple times, did a few random diets from the pages of YM and Seventeen, and various restrictions and fastings of my choosing. When I went to senior prom, I was my smallest – a size 2 and 104 pounds. I got there by starving and restricting and often heading to the basement bathroom where no one could hear as I threw up my dinner.

The summer after college I grew curves; I went from a B cup to a D cup in a matter of months. Freshman year my friends and I would hit the convenience store in the quad and gorge ourselves on Tostidos with queso and wash it down with Solo cups of Amaretto and Sunkist. That first year of college I made friends and lost friends, Karl left for bootcamp, my dad had a heart attack, and I finished the year at 135 pounds.

That summer, I lifeguarded at a country club and was inspired by my coworkers to be more fit. I took aerobics classes, worked out to recorded episodes of Body Electric on the VCR, and did crunches almost every evening. Even though I had enough confidence to wear a bikini to the pool, I still felt I was overweight and hated myself for the lacking self-control or willpower to be thin.  I'd go between gorging on snack bar food and drinking beers on the gold course after hours and spending weeks eating hardly anything but salad and grilled chicken.

Sophomore year, I moved off campus into an apartment with a friend. Together, we encouraged one another’s bad habits. We took money parents gave us for groceries and spent it on alcohol, subsisting off the giant bag of rice my roommate’s parents gave us, cans of tuna, food my roommate brought home from her waitressing job, and vodka. I learned to make myself throw up at the end of the night to both not get a hangover and not gain weight.  I joined a sorority where I knew that I got in not because of my GPA, but because I seemed fun and likely because I looked cute. And I knew part of being cute was being thin.

My weight was all over the place the rest of college; sometimes I tried to eat healthy and exercise and be inspired by my health-minded sorority sisters, but often it veered into territory where I was eating only tuna and lettuce and walking around Cole Field House 50 times with arm and ankle weights. And then I’d get over it – I’d get sick, I’d feel tired, I’d hate myself and next thing I’d be off the rails drinking and eating anything and everything I wanted. Senior year I broke up with Karl, got into a new toxic relationship, was drinking far too much and smoking pot.  One day I was extremely hungover and on a fast and passed out in the hallway of my apartment. I decided I was going down a dangerous path and moved back home mid-semester to focus on my health, my education, and my family.

Things didn’t change; I bounced up and down with my weight feeling as though any problem in life was due to not being thin. Every time my weight creeped up on the scale I hated myself even more.  I was lazy, I wasn't strong, I was a loser. Every time I lost weight I celebrated for a moment, but then began criticizing myself for not losing it fast enough, not being committed enough, not being strong enough. Atkins, Grapefruit Diet, Diet Fuel, Metabolife, Tae Bo, Weight Watchers, TrimSpa, Jazzercise, Bio Aerobics, South Beach… I did it all and didn't stick with a single one of them.

Soon after Karl and I married, we hit a breaking point. We were working opposite schedules and both hated our jobs. We ate out a lot, drank a lot, never got enough sleep, and were miserable. Karl up and quit his job and went to Mexico for a month to become a certified yoga instructor. He returned a vegetarian and I joined him. We began practicing yoga almost daily, regularly riding our bikes and hiking in the woods. I also changed careers and the combination helped me lose weight without even trying. This was a first in my life, the first time where I wasn't blaming my body and waiting for the future. I was living in the now and truly happy.  I kept this up until I got pregnant.

I started Weight Watchers again in 2010 because I was having a hard time losing the baby weight, but was still nursing and didn’t want to do something unhealthy again that this time could affect another body. Weight Watchers helped me re-learn how to eat healthy, and get back on the right track. And I don’t want to knock Weight Watchers because it’s a very reasonable program that has brought many people great success. But I quit it when I caught myself worrying more about points than nutrition. I started thinking, if I were thinner would my blog be more successful?  I caught myself heading in that terrible direction of the past and decided to quit Weight Watchers; I'd rather be overweight than caught up again in that cycle of self-loathing and yo-yo dieting.

So I cut down on refined carbs and increased my veggie intake, cut out diet soda and diet foods, and tried to move more. I came to terms with my body and decided any weight loss would be for health, not for vanity. Last year I did Whole30 not because I wanted to lose weight, but because I felt sluggish and toxic. I spent months of 2014 being sedentary, consuming all sorts of prescription medications, dealing with surgeries, physical pain and mental anguish. After reading It Starts with Food I felt Whole30 would be a way to nurture my body and rid myself of many of my food addictions. And it worked. After 30 days I felt better – lighter, stronger, healthier, and not chained to the foods I would sneak eat in the middle of the night or when I went to put the dishes in the sink at the end of dinner.  Now that Emerson is older, I can no longer use her as an excuse for me not eating properly or exercising. I went into a hole for a good portion of this winter, but have crawled out and am again regularly walking and exercising and making better choices as to what I put in my body.

A reader asked in a recent post’s comments who is the Real Allie, and I think that's a great question. The real Allie is a woman who continues to struggle with her weight, and with her relationship with food. The Real Allie however has learned that a certain dress size or number on the scale does not bring happiness. She has seen people wait on life and have that life end before getting the chance to realize dreams and she doesn’t want that to happen to her. She’s experienced growing up surrounded by women and images in the media who hated their bodies and doesn’t want to do that to her daughter. The Real Allie wants to live a full Life with a capital L no matter her size. And she wrote a previous post and this current post because she knows she isn’t alone in this struggle.

This topic is relevant to Wardrobe Oxygen because Wardrobe Oxygen is all about choosing quality over quantity. This is in regard to what you put in your closet, what you put in your mouth, and what you put in your heart. Quality for your soul, not for outside approval. Quality to nourish, to feel fulfilled, to be strong, to feel beautiful. And such quality can be found at any age, any pricepoint, with any lifestyle or personal style, and at any size.


  1. Kathleen
    May 31, 2015 / 10:58 am

    I realized a long time ago that my weight was not related to my willpower, but rather all the other
    things going on in my life. I know exactly what I need to do to loose weight, grocery shop regularly, cook for myself, get exercise. The question is always whether there is enough time in my crazy life to
    do those things. Generally, I make progress gradually pushing my weight down and then something happens (crunch time at work or the kids get sick) and my weight goes up. It has become something I work
    on when I can, and I don’t beat myself up too much when I resurface 5 pounds up after one of these panic-mode episodes.

  2. May 25, 2015 / 3:03 pm

    Beautiful. Thanks for sharing. The majority of women struggle with their weight. All for similar reasons you listed – college, stress, pregnancy, etc. I agree that women focus on pounds more than being healthy. I’ve recently committed to veganism and many people ask if it’s to lose weight. Um no… you can still be a “fat” vegan – sugar. Oreos are vegan lol doesn’t make them healthy. There were lots of reasons but one major reason was to be more aware of what I was eating. Glad you’re healthy now and I know Emerson will look to you as a role model 🙂

  3. May 21, 2015 / 8:28 am

    You don’t get to maintenance until you make your goal weight, and when I was with WW my goal weight was 135 lbs. I haven’t been 135 lbs since I was 22 years old. I don’t do WW any more, my goal is no longer weightloss, it’s enjoying this life, which I now know can happen at any size, it’s up to me. I am happy, I like my life, and that is what matters. 🙂

  4. Kim
    May 21, 2015 / 2:12 am

    A very good friend said this to me once and I keep it in my pocket for when I need it:

    “Life is rich when you actually live it; not when you’re too busy thinking about what you look like living it.”

    As someone who made a choice that between a newborn, a FT job (with 3hours/day travel time), writing a dissertation, a house, a dog, tenants, and a marriage, stressing out about baby weight was stupid, it was disheartening to feel that the rest of the world profoundly did not value me the same way as when I weighed less. It was hard to really and truly feel proud of the fact that I did in fact earn my PhD (and get promoted and get the kid into toddlerhood relatively unscathed and not lose the dog. Or the house. Or our tenants. Or the husband, for that matter) when a lot of people looked at me with sympathy instead of admiration simply because I had gained weight. I still struggle to nurture inner peace within this sort of cultural expectation of me as a woman to be thin and it takes actual conscious effort to remind myself that fat, thin, perky, droopy, pale, tanned, freckled: my life is wonderful, wonderful.

    That’s why I like your blog, Allie–not because you have great fashion really (you do!) or a great look (you do!), but more because you look like someone who has a lot of richness and joy in her life and you remind me to celebrate my own.

    • May 22, 2015 / 8:47 am

      I thought about your comment yesterday when I was getting ready for bed. The day started sleeping through my alarm not giving me time for a morning walk, then spilling coffee on myself. I got a ticket driving to work. I had my meeting technology crap out at me at work and I frantically revived it just in time for a scheduled event. An applicant was a no-show for an interview and my allergies were so intense I spent the whole day with a headache. But I thought… I still got to work on time, I still impressed my client at the meeting, I got home on time, had QT with Emerson, K and I snuggled on the couch and watched TV and had takeout pho, and I’m going to bed on time healthy and happy. You are an utter BAMF for accomplishing all that, and we are great successes and so much more than the shape or size of our bodies. People make the most ridiculous assumptions based on appearance, but history has proven that looks can be deceiving. Let us be part of the change, proving that life is indeed wonderful, and happiness isn’t connected to size or shape. Getting all cheesy here and quoting Ghandi, but we are being the change we wish to see in the world. <3

  5. Alexandra
    May 19, 2015 / 10:37 pm

    What a terrific post that is. Thank you for writing it. And: I was sure the first picture was Emerson. Your lovely daughter and you look so much alike.

  6. GlibGirl
    May 19, 2015 / 12:46 pm

    Great post! You are a real role model to me. xo

  7. Aimee
    May 19, 2015 / 9:30 am

    I love this. I think that whether it’s weight or something else, your post highlights the common struggle of man to reach a level of perfection that is just almost impossible to maintain. Thanks for your honesty.

  8. LT Kerr
    May 18, 2015 / 6:11 pm

    Oh Dear One! You are awesome! I love reading your blog; this post confirms another reason why I keep reading it — you are transparent and speak from your heart about issues that affect ALL of us. Thank you! If I could see you in person I would give you a humongous hug. So here’s a virtual one {{{Allie}}}
    Like others have said I started reading for the capsule wardrobes. I stay for those and for the words of encouragement and for the realness of your blog. Thank you <3

  9. eds_77845
    May 18, 2015 / 11:06 am

    Thank you for sharing. I am not overweight but have always had to work very hard to keep my weight down… definitely went overboard with that in my college days. I am 58 and several years ago decided to quit beating myself up and dieting and just focus on healthy. No forbidden foods. It was amazing how it actually got easier to maintain my weight. Most importantly though was deciding I was just tired of beating myself up…life is too short! I’ll probably never be at my “ideal” weight but I am just going to be okay with that.

  10. Pam S.
    May 17, 2015 / 9:55 pm

    Amen sister! I think one of the best things about aging is the wisdom that comes with it. Or maybe it’s just the desire to not have the parts start falling off the car. Healthy suddenly starts seeming way more important than skinny. Thanks for sharing such a personal story. I’ll bet most of us, regardless of our actual weight, can relate to this. You. Are. Awesome.

  11. E.W.
    May 17, 2015 / 8:29 pm

    fabulous post Allie! Thank you!

  12. Dawn
    May 17, 2015 / 4:20 pm

    What a cute little girl you were, so stands to reason you grew up to be a beautiful woman. I can relate to many of your struggles. And I read YM and Seventeen back in the day and hate that diet strategies were parts of those magazines. I hope they’ve stopped that. I was thin but not skinny in high school, and the not being skinny had me thinking I was fat. There’s a difference.

  13. Patricia
    May 17, 2015 / 12:21 pm

    Wonderful post. I, like many of your readers, struggle with my weight. I feel good about myself and love everything about my life except my weight. This past year I’ve put on 15 lb. But reading your blog has helped me dress this body in fashionable chic clothes. And yoga has helped me respect my body.

    • May 18, 2015 / 9:42 pm

      Yoga is so good for connecting with yourself, I notice the times I feel off is when I have let my practice lapse!

  14. tyladybug
    May 17, 2015 / 5:56 am

    Bless you, Allie! As someone who is traveling the same journey, I commend you for this post. We waste way too much time (myself included!) focusing on comparing ourselves to some idea of what the ‘perfect woman’ should look like. We are perfect just the way we are. Another reason why your blog is one of my favorites! 🙂

  15. Emily
    May 16, 2015 / 10:08 pm

    This is a fabulous post. Thank you for sharing. You are a great role model to Emerson 🙂 The number on the scales can be skewed by so many things (not least muscle:fat ratio and/or how much water you’ve been drinking, both of which are so important!) but being active, healthy and able to enjoy your life is BY FAR the most important thing.

  16. Kristin Kane
    May 16, 2015 / 7:49 pm

    Allie…I already knew you were a super strong woman that I admired, and I admire you even more now. Thank yout sharing this very personal post. I’m happy that you are working toward health vs. size, and finding the joy in finding a comfortable lifestyle focused on experience, joy, and time with family vs. the stress of your body size. You look happy, stylish, and confident in your posts. Thank you for sharing that progress with us.

  17. Carolyn
    May 16, 2015 / 7:06 pm

    I struggle with the concept of being ‘happy’ with my weight. I too have opted to forgo specific diets or ‘plans’ and try to focus on portions and avoiding cheese, sweets, pasta, etc. It is TOUGH! Especially when my hubby tends to not worry about when, how much, and what he eats. Tomorrow I am walking/ jogging in an event I thought I would be more prepared for and it is a big wake up call! But I am still going to do it because it is all about the experience. I encourage everyone to get outside their ‘comfort zone’ and sign up for a local charity event.

  18. Karen
    May 16, 2015 / 7:06 pm

    Thank you for the very insightful post. There are SO many of us that can relate to this subject. You’re a very good role model for showing how one can be stylish even if they aren’t designer sample sized! Your honesty is so refreshing.

    Also, may I just add that I thought that first picture was of Emerson! Cute!

    • May 17, 2015 / 10:09 am

      She does look a lot like me when I was little! And the older I get the more I look like my mom and my sister. The genes are strong in our female lineage! 🙂

  19. Linda B
    May 16, 2015 / 6:05 pm

    Again, you have shared from the heart in such a deep way. If I were a blogger myself, and not just a blog reader, I would hope to be able to write with the same kind of integrity!

    The “weighty issue” is a journey for so many of us. Without going into my whole life story, I’ll just say that WW has worked for me–but still, sometimes I struggle with self-doubt and self-loathing when I creep up a few pounds. I have been at goal or below for 8 years. I actually never have done the points thing–when I joined in January of 2007 there was the option to do it by eating from a more limited list of healthy foods (for the most part!) and paying really close attention to stopping when full. That has worked pretty well for me, though somehow in this last year not as well. Still under goal, but barely. I know I feel ever so much better when I am just a little lighter–I can move better! At my age (57), that really is important to me. I want to be as healthy and active as I can be as long as possible. The number on the scale is not ultimately what counts. Yet I would be dishonest if I didn’t admit I also like I look better when I weigh a bit less.

    • May 17, 2015 / 10:08 am

      Thank you for sharing your story, Linda! I did Core, I think I didn’t do it the most recent go-round because it wasn’t recommended for nursing mothers, or something like that. It is a pretty good option, and I am glad it works for you! And well, this IS a personal style blog and personal style is about how we look, I know I look better when I am smaller, I think we all know that I just have to not make it my goal because it sends me in a bad spin. <3

  20. Cherie Czaplicki
    May 16, 2015 / 4:06 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story, I don’t think that was easy. We all think we’re the only one with this struggle; more “real” conversations like this need to happen. I think there is strength in knowing others have our same struggle.

    • May 17, 2015 / 10:06 am

      I agree. It wasn’t hard, especially thinking my mom will read this and feel parental guilt, but not sharing doesn’t benefit anyone.

  21. Lee4
    May 16, 2015 / 4:02 pm

    Thanks for sharing this with us. Like many others, I love your blog for content like this (& pretty much all the other things you post!). Struggling with my weight is always an issue for me & I go through phases where I eat healthy & exercise…for a while. Stress at work, sickness, even getting busy with fun family things can throw me off. I have a yearly physical coming up soon & am dreading it b/c I haven’t done so well lately. All I can do, though, is start again.

    • May 17, 2015 / 10:05 am

      It’s never to late to start anew! I feel like all my comments on this post are motivational posters and require a cat hanging from a tree branch or a sunrise over the ocean, but there’s truth to all those quotes. We can do it, it’s never too late, and every step forward, no matter how small, is in the right direction <3

  22. Caro
    May 16, 2015 / 3:43 pm

    I can tell you put a lot of thought into this post. Thank you so much for writing your story, putting into words what so many of us feel & have lived. It is so difficult to get past the cruel chatter in my head to actually realize what has really been going on. By putting yourself out there, you have given me some real stuff to chew on this afternoon & it ain’t comfort food! 🙂

    • May 17, 2015 / 10:03 am

      This wasn’t easy, knowing that neighbors and relatives and my MOM read this blog. But when we hide the truth, we’re only lying to ourselves and that never helps the situation. Strength and love to you Caro! <3

      • Caro
        May 17, 2015 / 1:46 pm

        You always take the time to respond to every comment – yet another reason why I have such admiration for you. I know your family is so proud of you!

  23. Annie
    May 16, 2015 / 2:35 pm

    You are the best! Love you!

  24. sarabear01
    May 16, 2015 / 1:32 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. I have been on these same diets and wish to be healthier in general. I appreciate that you and others are starting to promote the realization that we are all different. Size doesn’t mean you are healthy and you can still look attractive and not be a size 0. Thank you!

  25. Michelle Van Ellis
    May 16, 2015 / 1:27 pm

    Thank you.

  26. CJ
    May 16, 2015 / 1:27 pm

    Thanks for sharing.

  27. Hilde M. Vonk
    May 16, 2015 / 12:16 pm

    Thank you for this post! My journey is much the same, and I have learnt to not judge myself for “falling of the wagon,” but congratulating myself for every day I manage to take good care of myself. Health and happiness.

    Also, I think your blog is probably as successful as it is BECAUSE you are not stick thin. I love your blog because I can imagine myself in your (type of) clothes. I have a hard time relating to all the super thin women in fashion blogs. (And also, I love the capsule wardrobes. Those got me hooked. The reality of your blog is why I stay.)

    • May 17, 2015 / 10:02 am

      I don’t want to be on a wagon any longer, I want to walk, even if I get blisters, because then I can FEEL. Health and happiness! <3

      • Hilde M. Vonk
        May 17, 2015 / 1:52 pm

        Exactly! Every little thing I do to further my happiness, make myself healthier, or make my family healthier and happier is cause for celebration. I don’t want days to pass by when all I do is worry about my weight. I have better things to do than that, fat or thin.

      • Dawn
        May 17, 2015 / 4:21 pm

        I am totally with you. I am not dieting ever again. I am making choices based on what my body needs, but never, ever, ever again going on a diet.

  28. Emily R
    May 16, 2015 / 11:22 am

    Oh, this was beautifully written. Thank you for being so honest with your struggles (the same struggles many of us deal with, no doubt).

  29. Sarah Johnson
    May 16, 2015 / 11:00 am

    This is why I read this blog! I started reading because I was working in a professional environment and loved clothes. I’m home now for past 9 months and yes, I pretty much wear whatever. I still read because of great reads like this. I struggle a lot too! I’m probably the biggest ever for me now. *sigh* I’ve been working through Crave and put it down because the truth is too real. Allie, your the best blogger out there. Thanks for being real.

    • May 17, 2015 / 10:01 am

      I’m reading the Emotional Eater’s Repair Manual and having the same issue. I need to put it down from time to time because it stirs so much up. But it’s worth it, bvreaking it down, being real, to get to the crux of the issue. Sending strength to you my dear <3

  30. May 16, 2015 / 10:32 am

    Love your blog for posts like this! Wish I could get my mother in law to read you – I think she’d learn a lot.

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