The one thing that made me stop holding onto “goal weight” clothing
Approximately 68% of women in America are considered plus -size, but there’s a clear lack of industry representation and shopping options for this majority. In Plus-Size Diaries, columnist Olivia Muenter dives into all things plus-size, from sharing her personal experiences to speaking out about plus-size culture at large.
One thing I’ve always known about myself is that I am a sucker for nostalgia. I cried when my parents sold my childhood house. Throwing out birthday cards makes me feel anxious. My old journals and diaries are some of my most precious possessions. As you can probably imagine, this means I end up holding onto things for far too long, including clothing. For a long time, the idea of throwing away items in my closet pained me, even if I hadn’t worn them for years. I thought this stemmed from the same impulse to not get rid of childhood art projects or notes that my friends and I passed in high school. I felt attached to the memories of the clothes, the nostalgia. It wasn’t until my early 20s that I realized that, when it came to most of my unworn wardrobe, I was holding onto it not in spite of the clothes not fitting me anymore, but often because of it.
As someone who grew up with an obsession around weight loss and dieting, I had been thinking about the size on the labels of my clothing for as long as I can remember.
When a denim mini skirt would fit a little looser one summer than the previous one, I felt victorious. Alternatively, when I had to purchase a pair of jeans in a larger size, I felt like a failure.
As I got older and gradually sized out of my clothes from my early college years, like most people do, I felt a deep sense of shame—but also, always, a sense of determination. I told myself I had to fit in those clothes again, and that I would use them as bench markers. I remember keeping one tiny pair of pajama shorts in particular specifically for the purpose of using them to gauge how much weight I was gaining or losing. I would keep them balled up in a corner of my closet and try them on once a month, first thing in the morning. If they felt tight, then I dieted harder. If they felt loose, then I told myself I was doing something right. These are the types of conversations I had with myself for years.
I was obsessed with being smaller even when I was already small and my clothes were simply another motivator to get there. It wasn’t until I finally became fed up with restriction and shrinking myself that I gave up dieting for good. I started to put the same effort into accepting myself as I previously did into hating my body, and gradually I began to feel more confident, more balanced. By that time, I was in my mid-20s, I wore a size 14/16, and was firmly in the plus-size category of clothing. Once upon a time, the idea of being plus-size terrified me. Now, I’m finally accepting my body and myself as is, and the first step of that process was changing how and why I kept clothes. Soon after I made it a rule that I would no longer diet, I also made another rule: I would no longer keep clothing that didn’t fit me. Period.
I refused to keep “goal weight” clothing. I would no longer buy things that were slightly too small for me as motivation to diet more or workout harder. I simply purchased what fit me and sold or donated what didn’t.
Suddenly my closet turned into something that actually brought me joy rather than something that served as a constant bench marker of failure or success.
Clothing size no longer dictated how happy or sad I was. Instead, it was exactly what it’s supposed to be—just a measurement. Nothing else.
Recently, I was having a conversation with someone who was explaining how much they wanted to lose ten or 15 pounds. They complained that this was the biggest size they had ever been as if it was their biggest secret, their deepest shame. I knew what that felt like. I also knew that their largest size, the thing that tormented them, had been my smallest-ever size. But instead of feeling shame or embarrassment, I simply told this person the same thing I now tell myself when I’m tempted to hold onto a too-small pair of jeans as a way to shame myself into changing. I told them that bodies change. Clothes get too big or too small. It’s natural, and it’s okay. She brushed off the comment, but I needed to hear myself say it, anyway. I reminded myself that I don’t have room in my life anymore for shame—not when it comes to my body or my closet.
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