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Peek into a woman's closet, and tucked amid all the clothes is something that almost every woman keeps. She strives to wear it again someday, no matter how unrealistic or out of style it may be. What is it? Her "skinny" jeans. Whether yours take the form of pants, swimwear or even an old suit or dress, women and men alike keep these too-small clothes for years. Some are even brand new, tags attached, bought as inspiration to lose weight so that garment would fit.
Recently, I started to wonder: Is it detrimental to hold on to your skinny jeans? I must confess that up until three years ago, I, too, had my own little cache of one-day-I-will-fit-into-these-again outfits. As with many trends in fashion, if you hang on to something long enough, it will eventually come back in style. I am not sure whether fashion itself or the desire to be a smaller size again was my motive. Not only did I still own the little black sundress I wore the night my husband and I met 27 years ago, but I also had my very first pair of Levi's 501 button-fly jeans tucked away in a drawer. But I’m not alone.
In 2006, a Talbots National Fit Study poll asked 2,200 women ranging in age from 35 to 65 about their clothes-buying habits. Here's what they found:
More than 33 percent admitted to having clothes in their closet that were too small for them to wear.
Surprisingly, 85 percent “determined if something fit them by looking at the size tag,” not by how the clothing actually fit.
Forty percent purchased clothes that were too small in hopes that they would one day be able to wear them after losing weight.
Shockingly, 25 percent of the clothes women buy never leave their closets!
Does holding on to clothes that don't fit really motivate people lose weight, or could it be holding them back? Here's a list of honest reasons why keeping too-tight clothes might actually hurt your self-esteem, weight loss efforts and more.
They become a constant reminder that you are not at your "ideal" size. While it may seem motivating, this thinking can lead you down a destructive path to lower self-esteem and self-worth. And not only for people who are losing weight, but also for those who have experienced a change in body shape due to childbearing and/or age. When you are constantly measuring your self-worth based on the body of your youth, you'll never learn to embrace the person that you are today.
Keeping clothes from yesterday is a symptom of living in the past. Only after you let go of the past can you learn to accept yourself in the present with self-confidence and a sense of empowerment. You are no longer mourning what was and can live with what is. When I finally let go of my skinny jeans and sundress, I stopped trying to be the innocent 20-year-old from years past and gave myself permission to start a new chapter of my life, as the older, wiser and more mature woman that I am.
When your skinny jeans don't fit, you can feel like a failure, even when you're making real progress. Simply living a healthy lifestyle does a body good, regardless of your size or weight. But just as many people rely too heavily on the scale to measure their success, trying on clothes that don't fit can set you up for failure, too. Remember that the scale—or the size of your jeans—doesn't always determine your progress accurately.
Striving to fit into your skinny jeans may lead you to unsafe dieting practices. It isn’t uncommon for some women to strive for a weight that's too low and then resort to extremes in order to reach it. While you may admire your youthful looks, returning to them now might be unrealistic for you.
Longing for your former figure can prevent you from finding true happiness today. According to a February 2003 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry, a fear of failure drives many women to squeeze back into their skinny jeans. Instead of embracing who they are today, they won't accept, love or reward themselves until they reach "perfection." Many women believe that fitting into their skinny jeans can bring joy and happiness back into their lives, but simply holding on to those skinny jeans may be feeding their inadequacies.
With the media and Hollywood constantly inundating us with suggestive images about the perfect body, it isn’t surprising for countless studies to reveal that more women suffer from poor body image than men do. So how do we reverse this trend of negative body image?
Every February for the past 21 years, the National Eating Disorder Association has held a National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. NEDA works tirelessly helping women to develop a more positive body image. In 2008, the theme for the week was “Be comfortable in your genes. Wear jeans that fit the TRUE you.” Women were encouraged to donate their skinny jeans to release themselves from the constraints of longing to be the size they once were, therefore creating a sense of self-acceptance.
No one should allow the size of his or her clothes to determine their self-worth. Much like your weight, a clothing size is just a number, and sizing varies wildly from brand to brand. It's much more important to wear clothes that flatter and fit you, regardless of what the tag reads. Sometimes, simply wearing a well-fit pair of jeans can boost your confidence. Refusing to buy a larger size, even though it's more comfortable and flattering, or squeezing into a smaller size, even though it's too tight, can make you feel worse about yourself.
Today, I encourage you to open your closets and drawers. Gather everything that doesn’t fit you TODAY, especially clothes that are too small. Free yourself from the past and the silent criticism of your skinny jeans once and for all! Here are some ways you can get rid of your old clothes instead of sending them to a landfill:
Donate your clothes. Local shelters, Goodwill organizations and other nonprofits usually accept gently worn clothing. Giving back to the community allows us to help those who need our assistance, so this is a win-win.
Resell your old clothes at a consignment shop or online (eBay and craigslist are good ideas). You could make a few extra dollars, and you might find a deal on some "new" things in the size you currently wear. While many women don't want to buy new clothes until they've reached their goal weight, feeling pretty and attractive is important for everyone, here and now. You deserve to feel good about yourself and your wardrobe every day.
When I finally let go of my old clothes, I realized that I was not the clothes and the clothes were not me. These days, when I open the closet, I don't see all the clothes I can't wear and think, "What if?" Now I open the closet and think, "What will I wear today?"
Letting go of your skinny jeans can release you from the past—and the unrealistic expectations that you may have put on yourself. By living in the present, you can accept yourself and your life at this moment. It allows you to move ahead in your life with dignity and self-respect. By focusing the positive and looking forward, you build greater confidence, which can increase your chances of success.
Nancy is an avid runner and health enthusiast. A retired pediatric nurse, she received her bachelor's degree in nursing from Texas Woman's University and is also a certified running coach and ACE-certified personal trainer.
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