Perhaps you have "skinny clothes" in the closet: A minidress from last decade. A pair of jeans two sizes too small. A new top that's a touch too tight to wear right now.
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These are the garments we keep in hopes that we'll be thin enough to fit into them one day. They're supposed to motivate us to reach our goal weight and achieve the body of our dreams.
But here's the thing: Clinging to clothes that don't fit your body will not inspire you or give you willpower to win your battle with weight loss. They will, however, make you feel bad about yourself and your current size and harm your mental health.
Why Keeping 'Skinny Clothes' Is Harmful
Here's how hanging on to those too-small clothes can do more harm than good.
1. It Makes You Feel 'Less Than'
Tight clothes that don't fit your body can make you feel inadequate. They can spark self-deprecating, negative thoughts like "I am not enough" or "I need to be another version of myself," Jhalani says.
What's worse, this way of thinking can quickly spiral into anxious and depressive thoughts, she says.
2. It Reinforces the Thin Ideal
The whole idea behind "goal-weight clothes" is the aspiration to achieve a smaller size or skinnier body. But this practice just underpins the distorted notion that weight loss is good and thinner is better, Jhalani says.
Simply put: Size does not — and should not — dictate your physical and mental health, Jhalani says.
3. It Can Promote Disordered Behaviors
Every time you visit your closet and see that piece of clothing, you're exposing yourself to a micro-trauma that triggers anxiety and feelings of low self-worth, Jhalani says.
When severe enough, she says these self-critical thoughts can prompt patterns of dysfunctional behavior like over-restricting food and excessive exercise, which can damage your physical and mental health.
4. It Limits Your Ability to Accept the Here and Now
When you hold onto the hope of something fitting you in the future, you're not embracing who you are in the present, Jhalani says.
And waiting on weight loss that may or may not come delays the happiness you deserve now. You're not able to be fully present or live life to fullest if you're focusing on a future that hinges on the scale.
What to Do Instead
Nothing positive can come from keeping clothes that don't fit you. Here's how to let go of these garments and learn how to love your body as it is right now.
1. Get Rid of Your Goal-Weight Clothes
It might be a struggle to sack your "weight-loss clothes," especially if you feel like you're giving up on yourself by getting rid of them. But hear us loud and clear: You're not a failure if you can't fit into your goal-weight clothes.
In fact, the opposite is true — it takes strength to realize when something isn't serving you. When you chuck the clothes, you also toss out the toxic energy they were bringing to your life.
Rather than burn them in a bonfire or throw them in the trash, consider recycling old clothes by donating them to those in need, like homeless or domestic violence shelters, Jhalani says. This might make you feel even better about parting ways.
2. Nix the Negative Self-Talk
"Check yourself when you engage in negative self-talk and body-shaming dialogue," Jhalani says. Similarly, create boundaries with or steer clear of friends and family who promote body-shaming behaviors.
Jhalani suggests replacing critical thoughts with those of compassion. For example, imagine what you would say to a self-deprecating friend, then apply that empathy to yourself, according to the Centre for Clinical Interventions.
If you need help with showing yourself compassion, Jhalani recommends working with a mental health professional for support.
Replace self-critical thoughts with those of compassion by imagining what you would say to a friend and then applying that empathy to yourself.
3. Show Self-Compassion
Self-acceptance isn't always easy. But "it is OK to grieve the loss," Jhalani says. Be patient with yourself as you learn to embrace the idea that your worth is more than your external appearance.
4. Buy Clothes That Fit You Now
Rocking outfits that fit you now reiterates the idea that you're enough just as you are, Jhalani says. Plus, you'll feel good in clothes that enhance, flatter and celebrate your body.
5. Reconfigure Your Goals
"It's OK to aspire to be fit, healthy and attractive," Jhalani says. But these wellness goals shouldn't be tied to achieving thinness. Instead, focus on becoming a more vibrant, active and emotionally healthy version of yourself independent of body size, she says.
6. Be in the Moment
Accepting who you are and staying in the here and now are so important to living a happy, fulfilled life, Jhalani says. Being present can help relieve anxiety and depression and quell harmful thought patterns, according to the National Institutes of Health, all of which can benefit your work toward self-acceptance.
The person who you are today is a combination of all the good and not-so-good life experiences, she says. This complexity is what makes you human, so remember: Your whole is greater than the sum of your parts.