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Posted on Jan 9, 2013 in Dear Diary, Fashion, Working Out | 39 comments

Now and Then

So, alas, this post isn’t about the absolutely marvelous 1995 movie, Now and Then.

No, sadly (though we can get into all the various ways in which that movie changed my life when I was 7 another time) this post is simply about, well, me. And I would apologize for that, only I’m pretty sure that if you didn’t like to read about me talking about myself, you probably wouldn’t be on a blog that literally has my name in the title. I mean, just scroll back up to the header if you need a reminder, haha. There’s a picture of me, too. Just saying.

Anyway, one of the things I like best about this blog is how it enables me to have open (and thoughtful and intelligent and generally awesome) conversations with you guys about topics that are really near and dear to my heart. These also tend to be topics that not everybody really likes to talk about. So when I was able to submit myself for an opportunity to sample ON’s new line of Activewear and discuss how my workout wardrobe has changed over time, I jumped. Like, seriously, jumped right out of my desk chair. Not just because I was so excited to get a $50 gift card to go pick up some new Activewear items (don’t get me wrong, I was totally excited for that — $50 goes REALLY far at Old Navy! I got FIVE things and only went like $8 over!) but because I was also immediately inspired to re-open and re-discuss one of those hard topics. But one of those really necessary ones: body acceptance, body image, and body confidence.

Let me paint you a word picture. I went to James Madison University for college. JMU is a beautiful little (well, not really so little) school down in Harrisonburg, VA–the furthest south I have ever lived. It’s a really gorgeous place, with the old (er, historic) campus on one side of highway 81 and the newer part of the campus on the other side, bridged by… uh… a bridge. And when I first enrolled, as a wee young Freshman, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and totally naive to the concept of skipping 8 AM classes (oh, how quickly that changed) one of the shining gems of the newer part of campus was–and I’m assuming, still is–UREC. The University Recreation Center.

Actually, I just realized I don’t need to paint you a word picture. I can show you a real picture. Heh.

G-Man 018

Pretty nice, right? And it was–er, is. It’s got tons of machines, an indoor track, raquetball and basketball and whateverball courts, group fitness classes… and a ROCK WALL. Sweet, right? Only, I never got a chance to test out the rock wall. Not once in my four years there. In fact, I could probably count the number of times I actually ventured into UREC on both hands. (Well, okay, maaaaybe it would take three hands.) ‘Cause here’s another thing you should know about JMU. We have a widespread reputation throughout the state of Virginia (perhaps further than that?) for having really hot girls. I know. I’m so proud.

So anyway, here I am, just one of thousands of faces, enrolled in a school that is literally known for the hotness level of its female students. Talk about pressure. And, of course, we all know I had my eating issues, and my body issues, and those led to my weight issues… and by the time I started realizing that my weight was getting out of control, by the time I actually wanted to DO something about it, well… things didn’t go very well.

See, at first I thought, Okay, here we go. I’m going to go to the gym every day and eat super well and things will work out, you’ll see! Except I was already ashamed of my body, ashamed that I had gained so much weight, and comparing myself to every Jessica and Lindsay I passed certainly didn’t help (seriously, there were, like, six Lindsays living in my Freshman dorm). Because you know what those girls spent their spare time doing? Working out. Doing yoga. Going running. At UREC. In spandex capris and tight tank tops, and sometimes just in their sports bras. To say it was intimidating is like calling a jaguar a cat. UNDERSTATEMENT.

So each admittedly infrequent time I would actually get up the nerve to go to the gym, I was so afraid. So afraid that someone would see me, that they would judge me, that they would know I don’t belong. So I’d put on my baggy t-shirts and my loose-fitting sweatpants thinking that they hid my bulges, and I would pull my hair back and stuff headphone in my ears and pretend like I wasn’t watching the taut-bodied, long-legged girl reading Glamour on the elliptical. I’d huff and puff for maybe 10 minutes and then would get too discouraged to keep going, because I was so certain that SOMEBODY was going to look at me and think, “Ew, why is she even here? It’s not like it’s going to help…” and then I’d make sure I grabbed a grilled cheese sandwich from D-Hall on my way home.

Yeah, I know. It was messed up.

But the point of this story isn’t to dwell on the sad-sack Gretchen. Eventually she found in-office gyms and home workout videos and a diet that finally worked, and she ended up pretty okay. The point is to focus on the things that made her feel like she needed to cover up, to hide, to feel ashamed. Because even though, yes, I was overweight, it’s like there was a rule that said I wasn’t allowed to like the way I looked, or wasn’t allowed to associate with the skinnies, or wasn’t allowed to look cute at the gym. It was all self-imposed. A symptom of my complete lack of body confidence. And the ironic part is that before my senior year, I wasn’t even “that bad.” I didn’t reach my highest weight until 2009, the year that I graduated. I’m sure that I think I’m still heavier now than I was when I started college. (I graduated from high school around 185.) But, man, 197 pounds feels really different on this side of the void, that’s for sure.

I wish I had some photos of myself in “gym clothes” from back then. (But of course I don’t. I would never have let anyone take that photo, haha.) I wish I had something to really show you how low I thought of myself back then, how I thought I needed to hide, that how I looked was somehow offensive. How I hid my curves and rolls and completely HUMAN imperfections under unflattering giant t-shirts and old pairs of stretched out Soffe shorts.

So I don’t have photos of exactly that, but I do have a couple of photos that might help show what I mean:



These photos are unrelated to gym apparel, obviously, but they make a point. Here I am, in giant, oversized sweatshirts–which I wore A LOT in the hopes that that they would fool the world into thinking I was smaller. Silly, right? Because in reality, all that wearing big, baggy, oversized stuff does is make you look oversized. Which makes you feel oversized, which makes you not want to show off the goods that God gave you. And the cycle continues.

So. We thank our lucky stars that those days are done, and we revel in the fact that the same girl who used to think like that and hide her body, well, now she wears stuff like this:


And like this:

I got a camera remote for Christmas and I am SO EXCITED but still figuring it out, haha. Can you tell?

And she doesn’t just wear them, she feels legitimately awesome in them. Confident. Unashamed. And yes, it helps that she’s lost a lot of the weight she put on during college and beyond. But her stomach still bunches up when she does crunches and things still jiggle when she’s on the treadmill and–gasp!–her thighs will always (ALWAYS) touch. But who cares? She doesn’t. And neither should you. What she does care about is the fact that the sweat-wicking technology in her tops helps keep her cool, and the spandex in her bottoms help her stretch and bend and reach without showing the world her buttcrack.

Old Navy has always been awesome about providing clothing that fits almost every shape and size of woman. It’s why it was one of my favorite places to shop THEN, and it’s still one of my favorites NOW. Because I appreciate the fact that they make it so that you can look good, no matter what number is stitched on the inside label of your jeans. I’ll go into detail about the actual utility of the pieces I’m wearing in a later post (for your reference though, I’m rocking the Active GoDRY Mesh Tanks and Active Fold-over Yoga Pants in both pics, with the Active GoDRY running top added in the second). The point is, workout apparel like this — clothing that clings and is fitted and has technology that helps make us better and faster and stronger… that is what’s important. And the fact that it all comes in awesome colors and flattering shapes and helps us look cute even when we don’t have that perfect body yet? That’s just gravy, man.

AdvertisementThis post is sponsored by Old Navy. Check out Old Navy’s Active wear in stores or at oldnavy.com. Active by Old Navy is 40% off until January 16th! I received a gift card and stipend for my participation but my words and opinions are 100% my own. #GetYourActiveON


  1. Smokin, girl! I tried to buy some activewear online last night but ON was out of a lot of things in my size. Wah. Gonna have to go TO THE STORE. The horror!!!

  2. You are rocking that workout gear! Funny (and related) story about JMU: One semester my Italian professor was straight off the plane from Italy. After maybe a week she said to our class, “In Italy we always talk about “fat Americans, fat Americans,” but when I look around, everyone is thin!” One of the girls in my class said, “Well, this is a little different because it’s a college campus… we have gyms and eating disorders…” She was not trying to be funny, either! Everyone in the class just nodded in agreement. It was sad, but such a true statement about JMU: lots of skinny people who are either in the gym too much or have eating disorders. Hah.

    Keep up the great work, lady!!

  3. You are awesome, and the new workout clothes are super flattering on you. Aren’t ON yoga pants just the best?


    (B) I was totally the same way in college. Our brand new spanking rec center was literally across the street from my dorm. Maybe a 90 second walking trip if the elevator was slow that day. And I hated going because of all the skinny tiny sports bra pretzel girls. I finally discovered that those skinny time sports bra pretzel girls don’t go to the gym before 8am. So I started getting there when they opened at 5am. Which was awesome, in theory, until I had to pull my first all-nighter to make up for all my skipped classes. Streak, done.

    • OH! I wasn’t finished…how in the world do you find ON pants that are long enough for you? All of the pants (jeans, workout, pajama, whatever) from there are always way too short for me. I have a bunch of jeans and cords from ON, but they are strictly for boot-tucking wear only because of the length.

      • I was actually super pleased with the length of these ones. They’re pretty perfect–floor skimming without me stepping all over them. But maybe your legs are longer than mine? I don’t really have a problem with jean length from ON either (and like, ALL of my jeans are from there, hahaha. The only pants I have from there that are too short are a pair of Rockstar skinny jeans that cut off at my ankles (even though they’re not supposed to). But yeah, I just tuck ’em into boots and all is well.

        (PS: If you’re looking for super long yoga pants, my UA “Perfect Pant” yoga pants are SUPER long even in just regular length. Like, I have to roll them up when I go outside because I step all over them and stuff. Plus, they are amazing pants.)

        • Just a note on long yoga pants — gap fit has these gbalance pants that come in a long inseam, and I (at 5’9) looove them.

          Gretchen you look lovely & ready to move! πŸ™‚ Thanks as always for sharing your story. The gym is sometimes motivating and other times not… and I think the difference sometimes has to do with how *I* approach it, rather than anything about the gym or the people in it πŸ™‚

  5. I love this. I’m there right now, actually.. finding it hard to go to the gym because I’ve regained weight and my work out clothes don’t make me feel comfy and confident any more πŸ™

    Maybe next paycheck, I’l have to give Old Navy a try.

  6. My school didn’t have a nice gym until my senior year, and then they tried to charge us for it.

    I do remember being determined to stick with the 30 lb weight loss I’d done during high school, but I gained it back and then some. Columbia, MO has a LOT of good restaurants. It’s a good thing I don’t live there anymore.

    And “Now & Then” is the best coming-of-age movie EVER. LOVE IT!

  7. As an avid gym goer, I find it kind of sad that people would feel self conscious about working out because they don’t think they’re fit enough to go to the gym.
    I’ve never once looked at someone who wasn’t a vision of fitness and thought: “why are they even bothering to work out?”
    I hope people didn’t give you that impression when they saw you there.
    If other gym goers are creating a hostile environment for anyone it makes it really hard to keep those people going to the gym.

    • You know, I have heard of stories where there have been toxic, hostile, or cliquey gym environments (or exercise class environments) but that really was never the case for me. It was just all a symptom of my own self-consciousness and self-esteem, I think. I mean, who knows, there are some pretty judgmental people in the world, so maybe some people do think that way, but I’ve never actually experienced it. So, hope remains!

  8. I have two pairs of ON workout pants (capris and full length) and I LOVE THEM. I wear them way way way too often, like, not just for working out. Oops. Also their sports bras are surprisingly good, too. And just so you know, I loved you then and I love you now πŸ™‚

  9. A+ for relevance for me: I actually listen to songs from the Now and Then soundtrack while working out in my favorite Old Navy cropped yoga pants. Regularly.

    KNOCK THREE TIMES ON THE CEILING if you love your Old Navy cropped yoga pants.

    • But… you’re… only… like… 5’4″…? Or something? How… can… we knock on the ceiling…?

      • I love you for thinking I’m 5’4″.

  10. Great post Gretchen!
    I love Old Navy Active Gear. They have the nicest stuff at great prices for all sizes. I have a handful of their workout clothes now and I plan on going before the sale ends to get a couple more items πŸ™‚

  11. GREAT post Gretchen!!

    I love how what is technically a product review post is so much more because you are an awesome lady. And writer. And storyteller. πŸ™‚

    …and I love Old Navy workout gear as well – I have multiple pairs of their crops, and a few of their tops as well. The zipper pockets on them are the best!

  12. I loved now and then. Definitely changed my life. Also I lived in Old Navy workout clothes on our adventure honeymoon. Cute, sweat wicking but didn’t look too workoutie.

  13. You look great! That said, I also wanted to give you a different kind of compliment – what a great way to do a sponsored post! It was interesting, and I read the whole way because the content was great, and now I am actually looking at the ON pants on their website. I think it’s more of an art than people realize to have your readers not totally scroll down through the sponsored post. Good job!

    • Thank you! I definitely try to put a bit of a different spin on my sponsored posts, especially when I know a campaign is already making its way through the blogosphere, hehe. I’m really glad you enjoyed it!

    • I agree! Thank you for this thoughtful post, Gretchen. I’m saying this as someone who generally HATES sponsored posts and reviews, but I really appreciate that you put a lot of thought into this. Also, thank you for your full disclosure! As a reader, I truly appreciate it.

  14. First off, I absolutely love the movie Now and Then! I haven’t seen it in forever, but I’m totally going to check for it on Amazon Prime tonight!

    And secondly, I can so relate to the whole feeling uncomfortable working out and self conscious in workout clothes. When I first started working out I could never imagine wearing leggings with nothing over top. I mean wouldn’t everyone be able to see every lump?! But now I pretty much live in my leggings and they’re my favorite workout attire. Oh, how things change!

  15. I LOVE THIS POST. As a JMU alum myself, I can totally 100% relate. There was so much pressure to “look good” since everyone around me was 5’2″, 100 lbs. Being a curvy 5’8″ I felt like such an amazon at the gym. I was one of those girls in the large t-shirts and baggy pants too, I just learned to avoid the elliptical room all together and b-lined straight upstairs to the track. I may not have been 100 lbs, but I could smoke those little girls with their short legs on the track. hahaha!

    Those clothes look great on you! I love Old Navy’s fitness line.

  16. Old Navy yoga pants are my favorite! I practically live in them when I’m not at work.

  17. You look great! And this post is exactly the way I felt throughout college. I went to the gym a handful of times but was always so discouraged. Since you’ve written the words exactly as I feel them I’m going to make today’s post on KnotLiving.Com about Gretchen-and your awesomeness. πŸ˜€

    • I’m so flattered, Amanda! Thanks for the love!! πŸ˜€

  18. Arghhhhhhh, Gretchen don’t step back, photos at the top of the stairs scare me πŸ™‚

    All in seriousness it’s amazing the shift in perspective that a few years and a little living gives us. What I wouldn’t give to go back and have a chat ith my 18 year old self!


    (ps) Old Navy … isn’t it about time you opened some stores in the UK?

  19. I definitely agree with you on the ON clothes. I’m trying to keep my motivation going (15 down, 50 to go!) and I’ve been craving some retail therapy badly. I don’t want to buy clothes at my current size, since I’m trying to not stay this size, so my compromise was to buy some ON workout clothes. I got a pair of compression pants, and a full-zip running jacket. They are both awesome!

    Now I just need to actually manage to get out and use them.

  20. Thank you for a great and thoughtfully written sponsored post! I definitely need to make a visit to ON.

  21. 1. I love the movie, Now and Then.
    2. I really wish I would have tried the rock wall too. I plan to go rock climbing this year!
    3. I’m glad you are comfortable with your curves now! You look so happy and healthy!
    4. Old Navy rocks! πŸ™‚

  22. I had some reward dollars from my Christmas shopping that needed to be spent and I am in need of some long-sleeved running shirts. I’ve been back and forth, unsure what to get because sometimes the sizing on Old Navy’s clothes is so wild and random. Seeing someone with a similar body shape (though smaller… you go, girl!) helped me choose. I snagged that zippered shirt in purple and several other items. Thanks for the great pictures!

  23. This is the best sponsored post I have ever read. Bloggers take note….

  24. Gretchen, I gotta admit I came over for the movie nostalgia β€”Β one of my favorites too!

    Glad that you can share this journey with everybody. And that you’re where you are today.

    AND PS your book is next up on my “to read” list. I’m buying it after I finally finish the hunger games (because i waited for the hype to subside before picking that up!)

  25. Wow, this post definitely hit home for me. I actually applied to and got in to JMU, but I ended up going to Elon University in North Carolina. Going to school there was really eye-opening. 95% of the girls on campus (and I’m NOT exaggerating), were tall, blond, skinny, and gorgeous. 85% of the entire school took part in Greek life.

    I don’t know what in the world made me want to go to this school… but I did. And it was awful. I felt so out of place and, honestly, I was. They had a really nice gym, too, and I actually did use it. I’m proud of myself for that. I spent a good amount of time there during my short 8-month stint in good ol’ NC.

    I don’t think that being there really affected my body issues long-term. I spent a lot of time comparing myself to those girls while I was there, but once I transferred to the public college in my home state, I pretty much forgot about all of that. But I still have tons of body issues in general.

    I hope that one day I will be in the same place that you are today… You look absolutely GORGEOUS and seem to be so confident in who you are and what you look like. I want to feel that way so badly. I want to LOOK LIKE YOU even more. Right now, I’m basically stuck in this horrible rut. I’m trying to lose weight, I really am. But I’m having such a hard time with it all. And it’s just really, really daunting sometimes. But looking at you and reading this post makes me think that somehow this could be possible. I really could be like you. I can reverse the damage that college did to me and be that under-200 pound cute girl again. And I do think it’s in me… somewhere.

  26. Love this post! My school was the same way, and was singled out in a NYT article back in the 90s about eating disorders and the gorgeous new rec center we had. I was bigger than most, and what I wouldn’t give to be back at that weight now! Perspective definitely changes when you step out from the college bubble and into the real world.

  27. Omg, I could have written this post about my own college experience (except in CT, no one ever wore just their sports bras because your tatas would freeze off). I went to a spin class once and had to get off halfway through the class and “stretch my leg” aka bend over while willing myself not to hurl, while all the fit girls looked at me in the wall to wall, full length mirrors (death). I also wore the baggy t shorts and old soccer shorts and had horrendous self esteem (that I still work on to this day). Major, major kudos on this post!! Loved it πŸ™‚

  28. I think I just fell in love with you. AWESOME post. You’re a great role model! (And a great writer!)

  29. Ha! I clicked on this post (haven’t read your blog before) because I had a thirty second daydream about the movie Now and Then earlier this week and wanted to watch it SO bad:) I have a couple things to say. Firstly, I really really enjoyed the thoughtful nature of this sponsored post, having read several Old Navy posts recently. I also related to it a lot at someone that went to a super hot school and struggled with what to where to the gym while significantly overweight. I agree, Old Navy clothes have been helpful to me at so many stages of my weight loss and there have been times that there have been Diva and Rockstar jeans in my closet from sizes 18-12:) Anyway, just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed this.


  1. Smackable | Honey, I Shrunk the Gretchen! - [...] in my post last week about the horrors of going to a college with a legitimate reputation for hot…

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