My “skinny jeans” hang in the closet, begging for me to try them on. I know they are too small, and that especially after eating a rather large burrito for lunch, I definitely won’t be able to squeeze my full body into their tiny legs. I decide not to try them on, because I know the outcome will ruin my day. Nonetheless, they remain on their hanger, waiting for the day when they will fit me again.
When I say “skinny jeans,” I’m not talking about the super-slim fitting style of denim that one wears with boots or cute flats. No, I’m talking about the jeans that fit me when I was skinny. Some might say I’m skinny now—or at the very least athletic—but I often don’t believe them. After years of fighting anorexia, I confess I often still have a distorted body image. I know that what I see in the mirror isn’t always what’s actually there—after all, there isn’t any human way I could gain 30 lbs overnight, right?
Regardless of our pasts, the reality is that we don’t need to have walked through the psychological disorientation of an eating disorder to fall into the bad habit of hanging on to poorly fitting clothes—nearly every woman I know does it, even those with relatively high self-esteem and minimal body image issues.
According to a 2010 article in TIME, a “U.K. study found the average woman has 12 items of clothing worth $459 gathering dust in their closet because they are either too big or too small for them to wear…. That’s a total of $8.5 billion worth of clothes waiting for the day when they might fit again.” Clearly, hanging on to improperly fitting clothes in the name of vanity is a phenomenon among women in developed nations everywhere.
So what’s wrong with hanging on to clothes that don’t fit properly if it’s something that most women do?
The problem with hanging on to too-small clothes (and even too-big clothes), is that it prevents us from loving our bodies as they are right now, in this moment. Keeping clothes around that don’t fit our current bodies reinforces the idea that we aren’t good enough as we are. Hanging on to larger clothes after we’ve achieved a healthy weight only serves to remind us that we were once overweight, and can bring back unwanted feelings of inadequacy.
The truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all. Not only are women diverse, ranging in all kinds of sizes and shapes, but also as individuals we often waver in size as time goes on. Not many women are the same size as they were in high school, nor their pre-pregnancy size. Life happens and weight fluctuates. The important thing is to accept the way that we look today, and dress ourselves with kindness.
Is there anything wrong with pursuing a healthy body weight? No, not at all! But just because we intend to be a different size one day doesn’t mean it’s healthy for us to cling to clothes that don’t fit. When we finally do reach that size our body feels most comfortable at, we can treat ourselves to new clothes that fit, rather than settle for old clothes that have so much baggage attached to them.
WHEN TO GET RID OF ILL-FITTING CLOTHING…
- If you haven’t worn it in a year. If all four seasons have passed and you still haven’t touched a pair of jeans because they are too small (or way too big), it’s time to send them to goodwill. It may be difficult to let go, but it can be helpful to remember that your item(s) of clothing will benefit someone in need rather than make you hate yourself.
- If your weight hasn’t changed in a year. When your body has settled at it’s normal weight (one that it can be sustained by your normal eating habits and activity level), you know that you’re in your body’s comfort zone. Whatever clothes don’t fit you at that state aren’t worth hanging onto—you shouldn’t need to starve yourself to wear a pair of pants!
- When you are recovering from an eating disorder. As someone who has recovered from anorexia, I can say with confidence that getting rid of my old clothing was absolutely essential to my recovery. Clothes that are associated with the psychological trauma of an eating disorder will always have a negative connotation.
WHEN NOT TO TOSS YOUR CLOTHES…
- When you are pregnant. Unless you’re Michelle Duggar, chances are you won’t be wearing maternity clothes forever. If seeing your pre-pregnancy clothes makes you feel bad about your baby-carrying body, simply hide them until a few weeks after your delivery.
- When you are training for a race. Training puts your body in an ultra-fit state that is not the norm. If you’re not a professional athlete who is constantly in training, your body will likely return to somewhere around it’s original size. Even if you’re training as part of a weight loss program and intend to keep off a significant amount of weight, it’s still important to hang on to your original clothing until you reach your goal weight and are simply maintaining your size.
Do you have ill-fitting clothes hanging around in your closet? What’s keeping you from ditching them?
This article was originally posted on The Conversation.