Some people love nothing more than to shop for and wear new clothes. But for on-and-off dieters, clothes can be a real source of misery. Their closets may be packed with wardrobes to suit their every size as they travel up and down the scale. Yet on any given day, few items may be wearable, much less appealing.
For these folks, clothing is a burden right up there with the continual struggle to lose weight.
I've talked with women who have taken over almost all the closets in their house in order to accommodate their wide-ranging wardrobes. A casual observer might assume that these women have a lot of clothes because they enjoy them. But, nothing could be further from the truth.
Instead, frequently buying and storing clothes shows how out of control they feel. These women often experience anxiety, shame and frustration at their fluctuations in weight.
Such frequent and significant weight shifts are a common result of "get thin quick" approaches to weight loss that have failed over and over again. Each diet may cause weight loss, but it is so temporary that it soon is time again for a different set of clothes. This perpetual up and down cycle is costly with respect to mental and physical health, as well as money and closet space.
However, there is a better way: becoming a better consumer of dieting information and rejecting approaches that haven't worked. Smart dieters accept reality and change their lives, one step at a time, through increased activity and nutritious eating as a lifestyle, not a temporary fix.
But by definition, healthy lifestyle change takes time. While you're undertaking that process, what's the best way to approach clothing and the different-sized wardrobes that may be invading your home? Here are a few tips:
• Clothes that are too big: Get rid of them. Keeping them gives the message to your mind that you could easily get back to that size, weakening your confidence in the changes you're making.
• Clothes that are too small: Get rid of the ones that are so small that you could wear them only during a fleeting and unrealistically rigid dieting period. Such items only clutter your closet and cause anxiety, because deep inside, we know it's ridiculous to expect that we can get to that size and stay there. But keep the clothes that are just a bit tight right now. You'll need them as you continue your long-term fitness changes. However, make sure you really like those items. (Why work so hard to get into clothes you aren't looking forward to wearing?)
• Clothes that fit but are unflattering: GET RID OF THEM! A key part of your healthy lifestyle makeover is to feel good every day. There's no room in your closet for clothes that give negative messages. Don't allow anything in your closet, and especially on your body, that does not reflect happy, fun and comfortable feelings.
What about buying new clothes? Wait until you've sorted through your existing wardrobe. Then take time to think about what you have and what you actually need to have a wardrobe that suits your life. Make a list of what you want and follow it when you shop. Don't fall into the trap of buying something simply because it fits or the price is right.
When you do shop, give yourself enough time in the fitting room to make careful decisions about how the clothes feel and look on you. Nothing should be pinching or tight.
Tight clothes make us constantly focus on our body and its discomfort. What good is that?
As you try on each item, put the "no" clothes on one side of the fitting room, and the "yes" or "maybe" clothes on the other side.
Then retry the "yes" and "maybe" clothes, being extremely selective about which items are the most flattering to your body. Trust your first impressions. Or if that's hard for you, bring along a friend you know can be both truthful and tactful.
In this way, you'll have a wardrobe that will reflect your commitment to health and allow you to enjoy your new life style, rather than fret over bulging closets that offer nothing to wear.
Lavinia Rodriguez, Ph.D., is a Tampa psychologist and expert in weight management. She is the author of "Mind Over Fat Matters: Psychological Barriers to Weight Management."