How Choosing Not To Drop A Dress Size Improved My Life & Bank Account

As spring approached, I was sitting on the tightrope between sizes 4 and 6. After a few years of the same summer wardrobe, I needed to throw out most of my shorts and tops at the end of last season. And as I began to think about buying new clothes, my first instinct was to eat healthier and exercise more. Why not be a little more toned and lean? I’ve been a size 4 before, and I felt really healthy at that size. Why not be a 4 again? I paused for a moment, and was surprised to realize that my current goals didn’t align with this idea at all. It was then I realized, right now, during this time of my life, I need to be a size 6.

Being a size 6 is very comfortable for me. Given my current lifestyle, it is a size where I feel relatively healthy without needing to exert a lot of effort. Pizza and cookies can be an aspect of my diet while maintaining this size. It is nearly effortless.

Making the choice to be a size 6 is something very few people in my life will ever know about. It is a choice most people honestly won’t even notice. But for me, this was huge. It was an unconventional decision I made for me, and me alone. I made this choice for three main reasons: my wallet, my time, and my growth as a woman.

For My Wallet:

For me, being a size 4 is not very difficult, but it can be costly. I live in Astoria, Queens and work in Manhattan, so there are plenty of healthy choices right at my fingertips, and I truly love eating nutritious food. During the week, I am away from my apartment for 11-15 hours a day. I consider this an average, even tame, schedule by New York standards, but my days are full. On top of this, I am a person who needs eight hours of sleep to function properly. I meal prep on the weekend so I have food for the beginning of the week, but once the work week begins, I do not cook.

If I doubled my weekly food budget, I could seamless salads to my desk daily, but I would not be able to save money. Even with a tight budget, I am already saving significantly less than I would like, so for me at this time, adjusting my food budget is not an option. At the beginning of the week, I eat my relatively healthy meal prep food, but the end of the week is dollar pizza or a burrito that I can get three meals out of.

Also, I had a thought while I was at the store looking for shorts: If I bought size 4 shorts and gained weight, I would need to buy new shorts again. If I lost weight while wearing a size 6, I could tighten the waistline with a belt. This could be the difference of $100, or even more. For me, this alone was significant enough to buy the size 6 shorts.

My Time:

I know what you are thinking. And yes, I think about it too. Jackie, you need to figure out a way to cook more. I agree that this is a great idea, but I find that I only have a couple of hours within each day to do one or two tasks of importance besides my job. The to-do list: cook, clean, exercise, socialize, spend time with my boyfriend, create, etc. On the weekend, I am usually trying to catch up on whatever I haven’t accomplished during the week, plus my meal prep. Yes, on the beautiful rare occurrences that I can marry two or three of these things it is amazing, but this is not always a reality.

The only way to have time to create within my current lifestyle and schedule is to let some things go. I need to sweep my floor and tidy my apartment, but I am writing this instead. I need to send e-mails and call friends, but for the moment that will have to wait. I am choosing to give my best hours today to this, even if it means I am not the vision of perfection I had always hoped to be.

Creating is my lifeblood. I hope there comes a day that I can prioritize my health alongside my creativity as many people do, but at this moment, I chose creating over the rest. For the past few years, my creativity has been a neglected piece of me, and it deserves this attention.

My Growth as a Woman:

Choosing to not be the thinnest I know I could be so that I can make the creations I need to make has been quietly empowering. Laying down my weapons and not trying to be perfect has given me more moments for what I consider truly important. Eating a couple of mini cupcakes and the hot pocket I just found in my freezer for breakfast instead of going to the store allowed me to crank something out.

I refuse to live up to the expectation that I should be able to do it all. I can’t, and that is okay. I hope one day I can devote more money and time to my health, but for today, I’ve chosen to devote just enough to get by. I know in my heart I am working as hard as I can and I am doing the best that I can. This is enough.

For me, these thoughts are revolutionary — especially as a woman who spent her teens and early twenties terrified of gaining a pound and trying to cover up every ounce of imperfection. What choices have you made that are less conventional? Did they help you or hurt you in the long run? I’d love to hear your stories!

Jackie Reilly is doing the best she can and that is more than enough. She lives in Astoria, New York and lives for senior dogs. She is in the process of creating a website.

Image via Unsplash

  • Charlotte Gransden

    This post is fantastic and it’s the kind of thing more people need to talk about. There is no need to be the smallest. I am a uk 16 at the moment and I feel the healthiest I have ever been. Physically and mentally

  • Such a good post.

    I’ve been pondering this concept myself. I want to be a certain dress size, but eating healthily costs both time and money that require a certain type of budgeting. I’m glad you’ve made peace with your current situation, but I still struggle with this…

    • Miss MK

      Eating healthily can be so much cheaper than hot pockets and pizza! Don’t waste your money on garbage food that will make you feel bad.

  • Jack

    Damn I feel two different things reading this…..
    1) GO GIRL. I agree that I think it’s super empowering to prioritize like that. It’s so important to realize we can’t have it all!
    2) But…but..your health!! I feel a bit cringey reading about the hot pockets and pizza and want to say Your body deserves better!! But you clearly know that already.
    I tend to prioritize sleep and health and cooking, but you know what? My friendships suffer as a result. I don’t get invited out often and if my friends don’t want to join me for green juice and a spin class, then I might not see them for a while.
    We’re all different and we are also always changing… isn’t that just the beauty of life!? <3

    • Beck

      Can we stop acting like occasional pizza or hot pockets is unhealthy?? I doubt she eats them every day and it’s ridiculous to think that to be “healthy” you must only eat organic, whole grain, grass fed, non gmo, blah blah expensive whole foods crap.

      • Jack

        I definitely have my fair share of indulgences as well but I
        think it’s important to realize these things ARE unhealthy for us, even in
        moderation. I think my main point is that the author is ok with her dress size
        when eating the unhealthy meals but there’s not much emphasis the physical and
        emotional well-being that eating nutritiously provides.

        fresh vegetables from local markets, brown rice, and tofu are not expensive
        foods at all 🙂

  • Emily

    I really needed to hear this– thank you! I am getting married in three weeks and have been fluctuating between sizes 4 and 6 throughout my year and a half of planning. It’s been a real mental struggle for me. Once the day is done (I have to fit into the dress after all!), I’m going to come back and read this.

  • Ella

    Great article!

  • Miss MK

    Jackie, I want to agree with you so badly, because I love your writing and your personality. I think TFD posts a lot of great articles, which is why this is so disheartening to see. This entire article felt like a list of crappy excuses to not take good care of yourself. It’s also a good article to help others justify the same thing.

    C’mon chica- you don’t need to seamless salads to your desk to eat healthily or cheaply – there are a ton of resources available to meal prep protein-heavy, tasty, fresh foods that aren’t just salads. And a lot of them can stretch into multiple meals, much better than $1 pizza. I would much rather read good DIY health food recipes than this bad example.

    “If I bought size 4 shorts and gained weight, I would need to buy new shorts again. If I lost weight while wearing a size 6, I could tighten the waistline with a belt. This could be the difference of $100, or even more.” OR you could wear all the old size 4 shorts you had before you put weight on and went up to a size six –or, you could clothing swap with friends. Or, best of all, you could not buy $100 pairs of shorts. You’re probably wearing them three months of the year at best.

    In the long run, the only one who pays for your health choices is you – so choosing not to invest in yourself and your health may save you a dollar right now so you can keep eating burritos on friday, but that extra weight puts stress and strain on your body that can cost you in the long run. Weight isn’t a good indicator, but if you know for a fact that you’re healthier as a size four, don’t lie to yourself. Watch your portion sizes, exercise (a great way to spend time with your SO, by the way, since you mentioned him!) and stop writing an article’s worth of excuses to help others give up on their health as well.

    • Summer

      I get what you’re saying here and I agree with you that personal health shouldn’t take a backseat to the rest of one’s life, and I also agree that it doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming to eat healthy meals. But, I think it’s important here to note the very small difference between a size 4 and a size 6. Those sizes are often interchangeable depending upon brand and garment type. Regardless, this girl is talking about increasing ONE size, not three or four sizes and just saying “oh well! easier to eat pizza!” While yes, I feel like this was written in such a way that amplifies extremes in eating habits, overall my impression was that she is simply accepting herself at a very slightly larger size in the natural way that tends to happen as people age and become more comfortable with themselves and their priorities. I do acknowledge that this can be a slippery slope, that casually accepting an increase in weight by one size every year is exactly what leads people to wake up one morning and not recognize themselves anymore, but I don’t think Jackie is exactly throwing in the towel just yet.

  • Anon

    I feel like there are two different issues being confused here.

    One is that people often do settle into a higher weight in adulthood and it’s far healthier physically and emotionally to make terms with that than to struggle to maintain the weight you were at when you were 15. That makes total sense and I think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with accepting you were a size 4 when 18 and are a size 6 at 28. The other is the idea that food options are split between hot pockets and kale smoothies from seamless.

    Can you cook with your boyfriend or work out a deal where you each prep food separately and share? Or stockpile really easy lunch recipes? (I like making a quick batch of non-boring sandwich spread, like smashed chickpea salad, so I can just throw it together in the morning, grab fruit and go). Or way lower expectations about dinner. We probably saute kale and make eggs once a week.

    Your body shouldn’t have to be your main project. In fact, if you have to struggle to get down to a size 4 or to maintain it, that’s probably not your set weight and pushing for that might just cause yo-yo dieting. But recognizing that is separate from eating well.

  • Kara

    “As a woman who spent her teens and early twenties terrified of gaining a pound and trying to cover up every ounce of imperfection…”

    This is the fundamental reason why I just can’t get on board with an article like this. I have not spent my life that way. But Dear Women Who Have, please take a deep breath and realize that you are MORE than your weight, frame, size (be it a size 2 or 22). You are your personality, your humor, your brain, your compassion, your wit, the list is endless.

  • Simi

    The author says she is no longer “trying to be perfect” so she can focus on what is more important. This is a statement often made by people with an all-or-nothing approach to fitness and nutrition. I used to be this way. If I didn’t have time to make a healthy lunch, I’d also throw in the towel and get a take-out burger for dinner. If I didn’t have time for an hour-long workout, I wouldn’t even try to break a sweat in 20 minutes. The all-or-nothing approach to fitness and nutrition makes it really easy to give up because it makes prioritization of fitness and health seem impossible.

    The way to get around this is to just try to do better rather than to strive for perfection. The author is extremely busy but she could try to incorporate 3-4 days a week of just 20 minutes of activity. The author could also make more of an effort to meal plan. Sure, even after meal planning on Sundays, I occasionally run out of food on Fridays and eat something indulgent for lunch. But, for example, the author could take simple steps like keeping her fridge stocked with eggs and yogurt to prevent her from ever eating a cupcake followed by a hot pocket for breakfast.

    We don’t need to be perfect, we just need to try to do better for our bodies as we age and life gets busy. Framing our options as “be perfect” or “give up” makes it too easy to give up.

  • RocketGrunt215

    I really dislike how some people are reacting to the author eating a burrito once a week and the occasional cupcake as if they need to stage an intervention about her health. This isn’t an article about a woman eating healthy all week and then binging on the weekends; she’s just choosing not to let her life revolve around being one size smaller.

    I wish we all didn’t so strongly believe that lower weight = better health. I’m naturally very thin (yay genetics!) and I used to eat garbage all the time (one friend sat me down and had a serious conversation about how she was worried I was going to develop diabetes because of how much candy I ate). When I finally started acting like an adult and exercising and eating healthy food instead of lying around and having candy for dinner, I gained weight. For me, taking care of myself and my body means keeping my weight up.

  • Phoebe Purtill

    A lot of people are being negative but I like this article and I stand by the author. You’re not giving up on eating healthy. You’re not even resigning yourself to a size six forever. And it’s not as if a size six is the end of the world. It’s still healthy.

    You’re putting your budget and your career path ahead of your vanity. The only reason to want to be a size 4 is for appearances. The difference in actual physical health is minsicule. You want to be a creative person rather than a narcissistic person, and you want to save rather than spend on clothes. Good. Thank you for flexing your creative muscles and writing about it.

  • KO

    I agree with you, but I also want to push back. Your dress size doesn’t speak to your mental or physical health– it speaks to your build, and that’s it. The difference between a size 4 and a size 6 is likely much more rooted in aesthetics than health- both are relatively slim. However, you can still be a size 4 and unhealthy if you don’t exercise or eat well. And being unhealthy in the long term is much more costly than buying new clothes.

    I am a size 8-10 but recently completed a triathlon. I eat a healthy plant-based diet and am far more fit, happy, and healthy than when I was a size 6. While I would love to lose weight, my focus is on my physical and mental health, not on my appearance. I cringe a little with the implication that a size 6 is somehow “bad”- I’d love to be that size. But again, size isn’t the focus. Health is!