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CLEARING OUT YOUR CLOSET

Carol Coven Grannick
Judith Matz

Imagine a wardrobe filled with beautiful clothes that fit your body and feel comfortable! In the past you may have felt that when you were "thin enough" you would finally deserve to buy clothes you love. However, one of the most important activities you can do to promote self acceptance is to clean our your closets and drawers of anything and everything that no longer fits. Next, begin to build a collection of clothing to suit your body at its present size.

Although women of all sizes feel better when they wear attractive clothes that fit their bodies, we hear many objections to closet clearing. Here are some of the obstacles and experiences women report as they work toward clearing out, and filling up, their closets.

"If I get rid of the clothes that used to fit me, I feel like I am giving up the hope of ever losing weight."

A familiar diet rule for many people is that looking at a small pair of jeans will motivate you to eat less and, therefore, lose weight. Yet let's think about what really happens when you see something hanging in your closet that you are no longer able to wear. How do you feel when you open the closet in the morning and can't wear an outfit because it is too tight? Chances are you feel angry, depressed or defeated. Not only is this a terrible way for millions of women to start their day, but there is a strong possibility that these uncomfortable feelings will lead you to the refrigerator to calm yourself. So, rather than providing motivation to eat less, looking at your "thinner" clothes can actually cause overeating.

When you clear out your closet of clothes that don't fit, you grant yourself acceptance at the size you are now. Giving yourself permission to dress in clothing that reflects your current body shape and size says nothing about what size you will ultimately be. Furthermore, recognizing your entitlement to have a great wardrobe now paves the way to experimenting with styles and colors that are just right for you.

"I spent a lot of money on clothes when I lost some weight. I feel like I'm wasting money by giving them away."

It is understandable that you experience feelings such as sadness or regret as you think about putting away the clothes you recently bought. Ask yourself how you are getting your money's worth by having them hang in the closet when you cannot wear them. If you feel strongly that you do not want to give these clothes away, consider putting them in storage or giving them to someone who you know will enjoy them. While buying new clothes can be expensive, remember that you are making an investment in yourself. Of course, clothes of all sizes range in price; you will need to find stores or catalogs to match your budget. As you think about allocating money for clothing, however, think about how you prioritize your available income. Are you an equally important "piece of the pie?" Or do you allocate to yourself whatever is left over after other necessities? Those of you with families may find this a particularly helpful question.

As with all guidelines in the Overcoming Overeating approach, you need to move at the pace that is right for you. Karen, a woman in one of our Overcoming Overeating groups, stated that she couldn't bear to part with some of her favorite clothes. She felt very upset all week because she knew her Overcoming Overeating group would ask about her progress on this front. She said she felt like a failure. Karen was surprised and pleased when the group reassured her that if she didn't feel ready to take this step, she should leave her clothes just where they were. When Karen felt the compassion of group members, she became compassionate with herself as well. Interestingly, as soon as she gave herself permission to keep her clothing, she felt comfortable beginning to shop for new outfits. She realized that she no longer needed the old clothes to hang where she could see them; in fact, Karen now needed the space for her new wardrobe.

"I have cleared out many of the clothes that no longer fit me, but there are some outfits I just can't let go of."

Often, women will keep favorite clothing in case they become that size again someday. In this situation, ask yourself if you would actually wear the outfit again. After all, styles change and clothes can quickly become outdated. One night in group, each woman brought an article of clothing that was difficult for her to give away. When it was her turn to speak Margie began to laugh. "I kept thinking that if I lost weight, I would wear this suit again. I spent quite a bit of money on it and it was very stylish when I bought it. But, when I took it out of my closet to bring tonight, I noticed the lapels! They are so wide, I wouldn't be caught dead in this jacket!" As she took the plastic bag off the suit, the rest of the group joined in her laughter. The outfit was quite fashionable in the 1970s… Margie now felt free of the need to keep the suit.

Another reason people have difficulty giving away certain clothing is because of the memories they attach to a particular item. Perhaps the mini-skirt hanging in your closet brings back fond memories of being single. Or that classy suit reminds you of an exciting job interview you had and the pleasure of getting the position. Perhaps a bathing suit reminds you of a leisurely vacation you once took and which you wish you could re-create at this hectic time in your life. But remember: Even though you associate the clothing with these events, the experiences remain in your memory and are not actually contained in the clothing. Giving away that mini-skirt doesn't mean you no longer recall what it felt like to be single. And, would you ever really wear it again? If it still feels important to keep a specific item because of the memories attached to it, make sure that it remains a relic of an earlier time in your life rather than another way to say that your body is not okay just the way it is.

"I hate shopping."

As diverse as we are in body size, so are we in our feelings about shopping for clothes.

After years of yelling at yourself for not fitting into certain sizes, it is no surprise that clothes shopping may feel uncomfortable. For some of you, bad body thoughts increase noticeably as you enter the store. If you hate the thought of looking for clothes, try to be compassionate with yourself. By doing so, you will be in a better position to ward off and decode any bad body thoughts that occur during the excursion.

As you work toward dressing your body at its current size, you need to make a concerted effort to stop the yelling. As with all bad body thoughts, first apologize to yourself and then try to put the thought aside. Focus on the fact that you are entitled to have clothes that fit well and that you truly enjoy wearing. Here is a sample of some strategies used by women in the Chicago OO groups.

"If certain clothes don't fit my body, it's because these clothes were not designed for my body. My body is not the problem."

"If clothing sizes had no judgment attached, it wouldn't matter what size I was. I would just choose clothes that fit me comfortably and I would allow my sense of style to determine my choices."

"I buy everything I think I want to try on, but take it home with me to try on later. Then at some point when I have some private time, I shower, comb my hair and maybe put on some make-up and jewelry. Only then do I try on the clothing. It's private; I'm not rushed; I'm not in a hot dressing room and no one is asking me 'How is it going?'"

It is important to know which stores in your area carry clothes that are designed for your body. If you know women who are close to your size and wear clothes that you admire, ask them where they shop. Check for ads in local papers or in publications designed for larger women such as Radiance and Big Beautiful Woman. Send for Freda Rosenberg's catalog of large-sized catalogs. Make sure that the salespeople maintain a non-judgmental attitude. A knowledgeable staff can help you find styles to match your body size and shape. You may also find it useful to bring an understanding friend with you on you shopping trip whose feedback you trust and whose company you enjoy.

At this point in the Overcoming Overeating approach, you may be cleaning out your clothes with this new attitude for the first time. Even if you cleaned out your closet earlier in your work with Overcoming Overeating, it is important to recheck your wardrobe from time to time. Are you still holding on to clothes that no longer fit? Do you have clothing that you really like? Going "back to basics" keeps your OO foundation solid and strong.

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