The Weight Loss Expense I Didn’t See Coming

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In 2016, I reached the heaviest weight of my life — 216 lbs (98 kg). My weight gain was primarily brought on by an out-of-control drinking habit, and when I got sober at the end of that year, my weight started to slowly drop back down.

I’ve lost a total of 59 lbs since then. The majority of the weight loss came from abstaining from alcohol, but I also used exercise and occasional calorie counting to help along the way.

For the most part, my weight loss has been a positive experience. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, I’m feeling better, and exercise has gotten easier. There has been one enormous downside though: losing weight has been much more expensive than I ever had imagined.

Why? Because I’ve had to replace almost every item of clothing I owned.

An Entirely New Wardrobe

When I started to lose weight, I spent time considering the costs, but my entire focus was on food. I wondered about things like whether healthy food would cost more, and how much I would save by eating less and not drinking alcohol.

It turns out that there was a much bigger cost that I never thought of at all: clothing.

In the past two years, I’ve lost over a quarter of my starting body weight. That means that essentially every item of clothing that I owned when I was at my heaviest no longer fits me. T-shirts, pants, even suits — none of it fits me at all anymore.

When my weight loss began, I kept wearing the old clothing, even when it didn’t fit very well. I was reluctant to buy new clothes because I knew that I still wanted to lose more weight. I didn’t want to have to keep purchasing a new set of clothes every few months.

I’d make my belts a little tighter to keep my pants up and try my best to ignore my billowing shirts.

Somewhere around the 20 lbs mark, this strategy was no longer working. My pants were barely staying on and I was uncomfortable all the time.

I looked into getting my clothing altered at a tailor, but I had already gotten so much skinnier that it couldn’t easily be done.

I decided to start buying new clothes, but I was still reluctant to buy too much clothing at once. I knew I’d have to replace it all again soon.

I ended up just getting one suit and two or three of everything else. For about a year, I made do with a very limited wardrobe, replacing just one item at a time and only when I absolutely needed to.

I did laundry constantly that year because I only had enough clothing to last about half a week.

In retrospect, I wish I had spent more time in thrift stores, picking up some cheap clothing to use as I was losing weight. I think it would have been a better option than going back and forth between the same couple of shirts all year. (These kinds of obvious solutions always seem to come to me too late.)

It wasn’t until I finally hit my target weight that I started buying more clothing again. It’s a relief to have a stable weight again, and not have to buy clothing with the expectation that it will only fit for a few months.

I’m still replacing my old wardrobe at a very gradual pace. I never thought of myself as someone with a lot of clothing, but when you have to replace almost everything you own, the cost quickly adds up.

Certain clothing — suits and dress shirts — have made the costs sky rocket. Even a “cheap” suit is still a couple of hundred dollars.

I think that for many outsiders looking in, weight loss seems like it should be a straight-forward process. When I was losing weight, I constantly read things like “all you have to do is eat fewer calories than you expend.”

I’m not against calorie counting, but focusing solely on the mechanics of weight loss makes you miss a lot of the bigger picture. The weight-loss process is full of hidden surprises and difficulties, from the emotional to the financial.

Written by

I’m a lawyer and teacher from North Carolina. I write about sobriety, mental health, running, and more.

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