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Struggles of a Chronic Dieter: Shopping Edition

Why the Size of Our Clothes Is Ruining Our Lives

Struggles of a Chronic Dieter: Shopping Edition

I hate shopping for clothes.

I do not know any woman who does. We may put on a brave face for our friends—lie through our teeth when we say how much we love shopping—but as soon as we are by ourselves in that dressing room, the reality hits. We usually have a pile of clothes that are just the same pieces in three different sizes. Because even if you know what size you are, you never really do. It changes from store to store and even in the same store, you could be two different sizes depending on what cut of pants and shirt you have picked up.

This change of sizing is what really gets to me as a woman. I hate that if I feel better when I fit into a smaller size, I feel better about myself, but when I fit into a larger size that I would have liked, I feel uncomfortable with my body in a way I wasn’t when I walked into that dressing room.

I remember the first time I became aware of what the sizing of my clothes really meant. I was 13 and I had to find a new outfit for a family gathering. I remember my mother picking out shirts from the young adult section and I came to the sudden realization that my shirts were XL. I didn’t feel large—or extra-large for that matter—but my mother made a point to tell me that it didn’t mean anything—just that I was "larger chested" than other girls my age and that was why my shirts were larger.

Now, I was an average-sized girl who had a larger chest. But, seeing my shirts labeled as XL, I felt uncomfortable and from then on, whenever I tried on clothing and it was larger than I had wanted it to be, I feel like a failure.

But why? Why should the size of my pants and shirt equate to my worth as a person?

For me, it has to do with being a "chronic dieter." I am always watching what I eat, trying to exercise four to five days a week, and when the clothes that I try on the store don’t fit correctly, I feel like all the effort I make every day doesn’t mean anything.

I would like to say that this isn’t every woman’s perspective, but I know we all have our difficulties in the dressing room. For Americans, it is because of vanity sizing. We have begun shrinking our clothing sizes for vanity purposes, making woman feel like fitting into that smallest size is the ideal. For reference, the smallest size of pants I have ever seen is 00 pants at American Eagle. American Eagle is a predominately young adult store that caters to woman of a certain size—that is anything under a size six. I remember seeing those 00 pants and wishing I could fit into it, but that wouldn’t be possible because it would mean I would have to lose not only fat but probably bone to be able to fit into it. But for some reason, I wanted to fit into it more than anything else. At the time, I was a 0 and my brain told me that I should be able to fit into the smallest size possible.

And it has everything to do with the ingrained idea that my worth—all my efforts—were all for naught unless I fit into the smallest size.

So, why do I tell you all this?

Because I want to tell you how I have begun to work past that thought process.

For one, I stopped focusing on what size I was but how I looked in those clothes. I focused on all the good I was doing for my body on the inside with my nutrition and exercise and not how it looked when I didn’t fit into the size I wanted. It has taken me a long time to look past when a size is larger than I expected, but when I look in the mirror, I am much happier because I have been taking care of myself.

I have always been so focused on how I looked when the clothes didn’t fit right instead of how I looked when I found clothes that actually fit. And I have to admit, when I looked past that size and simply focused on finding clothes that fit me, I looked pretty darn good.

So, please readers, look past the size and focus on the good you are doing for yourself even if it’s not a size you like. It will help your mental health tremendously because that size doesn’t matter unless you make it matter.

ms_jessica _stewart
ms_jessica _stewart
Read next: The State
ms_jessica _stewart

A freelance writer who loves romance, regency novels, and her cat Baylee.

See all posts by ms_jessica _stewart