Before Kris and I left for the jungles of Belize last February, we made a trip to REI to buy travel clothes. This was a big step for me. For the past decade (or two), I’ve purchased most of my clothes from Costco and Goodwill. As you all know well, I’m not one for fashion. I want my clothes cheap.

But something has happened over the past year: I’ve discovered I actually like the clothes from REI — and I like the idea they sell. (Yes, I’m admitting that I’m happily swayed by the image that REI portrays. I want to be the outdoors-y/travel-y type.) So, before we left for Belize, Kris and I bought some new clothes from REI.

I knew I wanted a new pair of zip-off pants, for example. Five or six years ago, I picked up a pair of pants for $6 at an REI “used gear sale”. These light-weight pants had lots of pockets and the legs zipped off so the pants could convert to shorts. I’ve worn those zip-off pants nearly every day for the past five or six summers. But I couldn’t wear them to Belize. Though they were size large, they were too small.

In February, I was near my peak weight. I had topped the scale at 213 pounds on January 1st, and I still weighed nearly 210 when we made our trip to REI. As I tried them on, I was dismayed to find that I didn’t fit in any of the large zip-off pants. And I barely fit in the extra large. I bought a pair anyhow, and I spent a week in the jungle wearing zip-off pants that pinched around the waist.

Six months later
Today, I weight about 180 pounds, and my weight is dropping. My waist has shrunk from 42.5 inches on January 1st to 35 inches on September 1st. The clothes I wore at the start of the year — including my extra-large zip-off pants from REI — no longer fit. This is a Good Thing.

Throughout the summer, I’ve been buying new clothes, but only one piece at a time. I know I’m dropping weight, and I plan to have shed it forever. So, I’m not about to continually replace my wardrobe. Instead, I buy a new shirt or pair of pants now and then, and wear each piece of clothing constantly.

For example, I bought a pair of size 32 jeans at Costco in early August. Yes, I could have kept wearing my size 36 and size 38 jeans, but they looked ridiculous cinched so tight. Plus, my belts are now getting too small, also. So, I bought a pair of size 32 — my first size 32 in about a decade. At first, they fit just right. Today, they’re a little loose.

Note: It cracks me up that sizes for American men’s clothes are no longer accurate — at least not the stuff I buy. A size 32 pair of jeans fits me when I have a 36-inch waist, just as when my waist was 42-1/2 inches, I could wear a size 38 (though it was tight). That’s a full four inches of slop!

Kris and I are now preparing for our upcoming trip to France and Italy. Once again, we made a trip to REI (to take advantage of their Labor Day sale). And once again, I shopped for a pair of zip-off pants. This time, I was surprised to find that the medium pants were loose in the waist. It didn’t make sense to buy them, especially since I plant to keep losing weight. So, I did something I’ve only rarely done in my life: I tried on the small pants.

It turns out that the small zip-off pants are tight. There’s no question. They’re wearable, but tight. But I bought them anyhow. And I bought a pair of size 30 shorts that were also just a bit tight.

Extra small
While shopping for my small pants, I also tried on some shirts and sweaters. “That sweater is way too tight,” Kris said when I showed her a size small that I liked. “You’re not that small.” She was right. (Kris Gates is always right.)

Although my gut is shrinking, my upper body has only shrunk a little because I’ve also been building muscle. I’m no longer a large (or extra large) for shirts and sweaters, but I’m definitely a medium.

It’s edifying and exciting to realize that I can now wear size small for men’s pants and shorts. I can squeeze into size 30, too. Will I ever make it down to size 28? I don’t know. It’s not really a goal, but it may happen. I’m perfectly content with size 30, to be honest (or even size 32), but I also know that I have about 16 or 17 pounds left to drop, and that probably means another three inches off my waist. And using standard sizing, when I have a 32-inch waist, I’ll be able to fit into size 28 pants.

Now, that’s small!

(P.S. If you know somebody who would like a pair of plum-colored extra-large zip-off pants, please let me know. They have a 30″ inseam.)