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When Your Clothes Are Too Tight

Whether you’re learning to legalize foods and enjoying them for the first time (or the first time in a long time) or are putting on weight because you’re not paying attention to your food intake, your clothes may be getting tighter. A waistband digging into your belly, a zipper that won’t quite close, or pant legs that bind your thighs all can lead to physical discomfort. And if you’re someone engaged in ongoing battle with food and weight, snug clothes can bring on feelings such as shame, disappointment, and panic as well.

People put on weight for a variety of reasons, including inability to exercise, aging, food allergies, medication, vacation, “the holidays,” and hormonal changes. “Normal” eaters might be a bit frustrated, surprised or perplexed by putting on a few pounds, but most take it in stride without an intense reaction. They might try cutting back on treats, increasing exercise, talking to their doctor about changing medication (if possible), or reading up on hormonal changes. Either they’ll view their new weight as temporary or accept weighing a few pounds more and buy clothes that fit them—without obsessing about reverting to their lighter self. What they don’t do is become furious at themselves, believe they’re less than human for bumping up a size, start fixating on thinness, starve themselves, or let the changes in their body ruin their day—or their life.

The difference between their reaction and that of people who struggle with food and weight is due to their beliefs. “Normal” eaters who are comfortable in their bodies view tight clothes as a problem to be solved not as a punishment for being bad. Because they don’t have an overwhelming attachment to thinness, it’s not the end of the world if they go up a size; they may not be thrilled with the change, but they’re not going to slit their throats over it either.

Conversely, for someone who’s been struggling to stay thin or lose weight, wearing tight clothes can be a debilitating, emotionally excruciating experience. Every nip, pinch, squeeze, and constriction admonishes: I’m bad, I’m out of control, I should be ashamed of myself, I’ll never stop gaining weight, it’s all my fault, and I should be punished. No wonder weight-obsessed people have difficulty knowing what to do about tight clothes: they’re too upset and self-abusive to rationally assess the situation and problem-solve their way out of it. If you’re one of these people and your clothes are tight, try imagining what someone who doesn’t have weight issues would do. They wouldn’t punish themselves by walking around in clothes that make them uncomfortable and neither should you. Being comfortable in your clothes will make it easier to relax around food.