Life After Diets
The Myth of the Goal Jeans
How to cleanse your closet and your soul in three easy steps
In 2006 I bought my very first pair of size 2 jeans. They were 7 For All Mankind, very trendy at the time, and they cost a small fortune, but I was so incredibly proud of them. The year before, after graduating high school as the “fat girl,” I had joined Weight Watchers so that the literal weight of that label would not follow me to college. And I had been successful. I lost over twenty pounds that summer and felt proud of my body when I stepped foot on campus that fall.
Over time, though, my restrictive diet and intense workout regimen began to take its toll. I didn’t have the mental or physical energy to maintain the lifestyle that had brought me so much success and keep up my grades and work a part-time job and make friends and do activities. It wasn’t possible.
So, the weight started to creep back on, and I panicked.
It certainly isn’t easy, but getting rid of uncomfortable clothes that do not fit, and that make you feel bad about yourself are doing you more harm than good.
Over the next decade, I’d battle constant yo-yo dieting, disordered eating, and bulimia. I’d see my weight swing wildly between 120 and 200 pounds, often in relatively short periods.
Quickly, those size two jeans were relegated to the back of my closet, stored in bags with other goal weight clothing. My wardrobe grew to include pants and dresses from size 2–16. I kept all of it because I had no idea what size I’d be from one month to the next.
That practice of keeping clothes that don’t fit can take an emotional and psychological toll. Those size two jeans, to my disordered mind, were there to encourage me in my diet efforts, to keep me on track when I felt exhausted by the whole thing. In reality, they were just a reminder of everything I thought I had failed at. They weren’t motivating me, they were mocking me; they fueled self-hatred, reminding me of a time when I was thinner and therefore better.
These days, all of the clothes in my closets and dressers fit me comfortably. After I started taking an intuitive eating approach to my diet, my weight stabilized. It was incredibly hard to believe that I could stay the same size for any extended period of time, but committing to that belief was a significant part of recovery for me.
That practice of keeping clothes that don’t fit can take an emotional and psychological toll.
It certainly isn’t easy, but clothes that are uncomfortable, that do not fit well or at all, and that make you feel bad about yourself are doing you more harm than good. Here are my tips for cleaning out your closet and taking that weight off your shoulders for good.
Start by being kind to yourself
Cleaning out your closet and removing items that, as Marie Kondo puts it, do not bring you joy, is an act of self-care. Leaving those items in your closet is stressful and serves only to frustrate your efforts at actually prioritizing and taking care of your health in a holistic and non-restrictive way.
Having goal clothing that can only fit when you’ve shrunk yourself to a size that your body is not comfortable maintaining shifts the focus from health to size. If you have goals that include adding more nutritious foods to your diet, enjoying more movement, or just taking better care of your emotional and physical needs, it’s easy to lose perspective. Smaller clothes are a tangible way of tracking progress, but the types of health behavior changes you should be focused on don’t necessarily have such concrete ways of being measured, nor do they necessarily lead to a smaller body.
Be kind and gentle with yourself in this process. It’s meant to be healing.
Getting rid of clothes that are too small does not mean you’re giving up or letting yourself go. It means that you’re seeing your body as it is and accepting it as enough, rather than as some temporary state. After all, how can you love something you view as temporary? How do you respect something you view as inherently in need of change?
Take out all of your clothes and start sorting
Generally, the rule of thumb is that you should sort items you’re getting rid of into piles of things to keep, things to sell or donate, and things to throw away. Instead, start by sorting all of your clothes into things that are too small, too big, or fit just right. If you’re unsure if something fits but are too anxious about trying it on, assume it doesn’t, and just move on. This process is about catharsis, not punishment.
Do not, under any circumstances, keep any item of clothing that almost fits but is a little too small to wear comfortably as you are right now. If you have to do something extreme to fit into those clothes, they aren’t meant for you. You wouldn’t shave down your toes to fit into a particular size shoe, don’t hurt your body by trying to force it into a certain pants size.
Similarly, a few loose-fitting sweaters or t-shirts are fine, but try to avoid holding onto clothes that are too big. Clothes that aren’t flattering can be just as detrimental to the way you view your body and yourself.
Put away all the clothes that fit, and only the clothes that fit.
Decide what to do with all of it
Now, the hardest part. What do you do with all the things that don’t fit? Well, there are plenty of options that don’t include sacrificing them in a ceremonial bonfire.
If you can, consider donating them to a local secondhand shop. Professional clothing, in particular, is frequently in high demand, so if you have slacks, suits, and blouses that don’t fit, consider donating them so that someone in need or who is just starting out can make good use of them.
If the thorough cleansing of your closet left you with the bare minimum and you need to replenish some of it, try selling it online. Sites like Poshmark and ThredUp allow you to sell clothing in good condition and have relatively small fees for sellers. You can choose to use the income from your sales to buy from other sellers on those sites, and replenish your wardrobe with well-fitting items. Bonus: buying second-hand means less waste and a smaller environmental impact.
Finally, you can always give your clothes away to a friend or family member who might make use of them. This can be tricky because seeing those items might be triggering, so really take into consideration how you might feel seeing those clothes fit well on someone else. It’s okay to be selfish or even a bit petty here. This process isn’t just about doing good, it’s about making sure you feel good.
Ultimately, at the end of this process, you should feel relief, not fear or sadness.
If you’d like to read more about my quest to destroy diet culture, check out these stories as well. Thanks for reading!
Can a Diet App for Children Ever Be Good?
How WW (Weight Watchers) missed the mark with Kurbo
In Defense of the Peloton Woman
How an ad and the subsequent outrage speak to our culture’s mistaken correlation between thinness and health