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.)

10 Replies to “Small”

  1. Eden J says:

    That’s so amazing and very inspirational! It’s been a LONG time since I’ve been down in the low 30s waist size, but I hope to get there again within the next year. It’s nice to see your hard work is paying off. Keep at it and congrats!

  2. depending on where you are measuring, the same thing happens in women’s clothing. sizing is based on actual at the waist size, even though most do not actually wear clothes at the waist, for fear of looking like grandpa with his polyester pants hiked up.

    Congrats on all of the progress. From not fitting a large to squeezing into small? That’s great. Congrats, JD.

    I like how assured you are that you’ll continue on the path you are on.

  3. Charlie Park says:

    Good Lord, JD! That’s so great. It’s great that you have the various REI sales as moments in time you can point to as datapoints.

    I know you don’t need me saying this to keep it up, but keep it up!

  4. says:

    Interesting observation about sizing. Have you actually measured the pants to see what you come up with? It wouldn’t surprise me if clothing manufacturers started fudging the numbers to make people think they’re skinnier than they are, but it’s also possible that the discrepancy is because of how you’re measuring your waist vs. where the clothing manufacturer thinks you should be wearing your pants. In other words, both you and the pants could be right, but you’re measuring different things.

  5. Matt says:

    While I’m cheering for you all the way on getting down to your target weight, I’ve gotta say I’m skeptical of you fitting into clothes that are too much smaller. I’m 5’7″ and 160 right now (admittedly should be closer to 150), and I haven’t fit into size 28 pants (or possibly even size 30?) since the end of high school – even when I dropped down to 135 at one point in college (which for the record was too skinny, since I lost all my fat plus a bunch of muscle). IIRC you’re a bigger guy than I am, so I’m betting 30 is the smallest you’ll hit. I’m actually surprised you can even think of squeezing into those.

  6. Ami says:

    Congratulations on the progress. Of course, I’m looking forward to all the ‘top secret tips to miracle weight/size loss’ posts. And on a money-saving note – if any of the now-too-big items are clothes that you really like, consider taking them to a good tailor to have them professionally altered to fit the new and improved you. (I wouldn’t do this with any items that will always remind you of a larger time, just with any favorites that you’d keep but for the size ;))

  7. Jan says:

    Congrats JD, I’m impressed. I should follow your example!

  8. Jaime says:

    Keep up the good work, its definitely not easy to lose weight.

  9. Andy says:

    Hey JD! Sucks I don’t get up early enough to see much of you anymore… I’m pretty consistently doing 9 & 12. But just wanted to add my congratulations to the growing list! I just bought my first 2 pairs of post-crossfit skinny jeans last week and was pretty excited to buy 31s (down from 35s). So I know how good that has to be feeling each time you go shopping after a fresh month of bitch-slapping your fitness goals!!!

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