3 Ways to Navigate When Clothes Don’t Fit You (without another diet!)

Sharing three tips for how to navigate when clothes don’t fit you, without trying a diet or intentional weight loss!

When you leave dieting behind and begin to heal your relationship with food, you might notice some weight gain. When you have to diet in order to maintain a certain weight, that’s not the weight your body wants to naturally be at. Whatever weight you end up at once you have a more flexible and peaceful relationship with food is your healthy weight for your body.

When folks naturally gain weight as part of their healing journeys, often grief comes up around letting go of the thin ideal. And grief also comes up around letting go of the clothes that used to “fit them.”

But the reality is the clothes never fit them, they tried to fit into the clothes. It’s not your job to fit into clothes, it’s the clothes’ job to fit you. 

Diet culture sells us a lie that we should keep all of our too tight clothing as a motivator to lose weight. Since when is a pair of jeans digging into your stomach a motivating force?

You know what force that elicits? Shame.

When you wear clothes that are not comfortable on your here-and-now body, you have a constant physical reminder that you hate your body. It’s basically an invitation for negative body image thoughts.

So what do you do when your clothes no longer fit you? You find new clothes that feel good on your here-and-now body. Here are three tips on how to navigate this:

Clean out your closet.

If you’re still hanging onto clothes from high school or from 20 years ago, it’s time to let. them. go. Get rid of the clothes that are no longer serving you and no longer fitting comfortably on your body. No more convincing yourself that things fit when you’re having to squeeze into them and your thinking about the discomfort all day.

Also, keeping clothes in your closet that don’t fit you is almost as bad for body image as wearing those clothes all day. Because every time you open that closet door, you’re going to be reminded that your clothes don’t fit and queue all the negative body thoughts.

But imagine what it would be like to have a closet that’s been purged. Imagine a closet that only contains items that feel good on your body. What would it feel like to open up that closet door?

If you’re worried about the act of cleaning out your closet being triggering that’s a totally valid concern and this is not an easy task! Try out some of these tips if they feel helpful to you: 

  • Start by tossing out the things you know or are pretty certain don’t fit you. No need to try these on!
  • Try cleaning out your closet in increments if it feels too daunting to do all at once. 
  • Put on your favorite playlist (one rooted in empowerment or self-love would be great!)
  • If you’re trying on items that you’re not sure of the fit, face away from a mirror and just notice how they feel on your body. If they don’t feel good, simply take ’em right off.
  • Put the clothes that don’t fit out of sight. Donate them or store them in a box in the basement or attic (somewhere you will rarely see them).

Find new clothes.

I have to start this by saying there is a lot of financial and thin privilege wrapped up in this recommendation (and I myself hold these privileges). You might not have the financial means to buy new clothing and if you’re looking for plus-size clothing, your options and access are limited. Also, if your body is still changing you may not want to invest a lot in new clothes just yet.

Here are some options if access is challenging:

  • Shop at Goodwill or other thrift stores.
  • Use the Fit Liberty program at Universal Standard and exchange your items for free within a year if your size changes.
  • Check out this list of size-inclusive stores that my friend and colleague Rachel put together!
  • Especially if your body is still changing, buy clothes that have some give like flowy dresses, loose blouses, and stretchy pants.
  • Start a clothing swap with a friend or neighbor.

Once you find new clothes, you’ll have to try them on, which can also be triggering for poor body image. Here are my tips for how to try on new clothing to gauge how it fits:

  1. Grab/order a bunch of different sizes, including sizes that are above what you normally wear because sizing is ALL OVER THE MAP from store to store and brand to brand.
  2. Start trying on the piece of clothing FACING AWAY FROM THE MIRROR. This is going to allow you to focus on how the clothing feels on your body first before paying attention to how it looks on your body.
  3. With the piece of clothing on, move around a little in it first, and if it does not feel comfortable on your body, take if off BEFORE turning around to face the mirror. No reason to see a piece of clothing that doesn’t fit you!
  4. Once you have a piece of clothing on that feels good and comfortable on your here-and-now body with some movement, then turn around toward the mirror and see how the piece of clothing looks and if you like the color, style, etc.

Let yourself grieve.

Any time you let something go or give something up, there is likely to be some grief that follows. It’s okay to feel grief around getting rid of your clothes! It’s completely normal and understandable.

Certain items of clothing often represent significant and meaningful points in our lives. Maybe there’s a blouse that you wore on the first date with your partner. Maybe there’s a dress you purchased while on a special vacation.

Our clothes hold meaning to us. They also serve as a form of expression and so maybe in some ways it feels like you’re throwing away pieces of your personality.

One tip I learned from Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is to say thank you to your clothes before you put them in the box or bag to donate. It sounds silly but it’s a nice way to acknowledge those special moments or seasons in your life associated with the clothing.

In a way, it’s saying thank you for serving me during this former season of life and acknowledging that they are no longer serving you.

Let yourself feel all the feels when getting rid of clothes. It sucks to have to buy new clothes. And it may be inaccessible to buy new clothes depending on your level of privilege. 

When you let feelings wash over you and through you, you allow space for other feelings like gratitude. You might start to feel grateful for the new clothes and how they help you to feel more comfortable and think less about your body.

Maybe you start to feel proud of yourself for engaging in an act of body respect and kindness (yes, wearing comfortable clothes is an act of body respect!).

Maybe you start to feel more free. Liberated from the conditioning that told you your body wasn’t good enough and needed to shrink to fit a certain clothing size. Liberated to stop paying as much attention to your body, and shifting that attention to other things in your life that light you up.

What would you add to this list? Tell me in the comments below!

For more body image inspiration, check out my posts below:

How to Make Your Social Media More Body Positive

Body Positive Yoga Resources

The Beginner’s Guide to Intuitive Eating

Can You Lose Weight with Intuitive Eating?

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