A new survey finds women keep an average of four or five items of clothing that don't fit—but at what cost?

By By Moira Lawler
November 01, 2016

You know those jeans you keep folded in your closet that are too tight to button but you swear you'll fit into again someday? You're not alone. Yahoo Style recently surveyed over 1,000 women and found most of us have four or five pieces in our closets that are just like that.

One out of every 10 women (and one out of every seven millennial women) even report they've bought clothes that don't fit but that they hope to squeeze into down the line.

The thing is, holding onto too-tight clothing could be doing a number on your self-esteem. "When the goal size isn't realistic, healthy, and sustainable, the end result could be poorer body image, guilt, and shame when that goal isn't reached," says Samantha DeCaro, Psy.D., the assistant clinical director at The Renfrew Center of Philadelphia. (See also: The Science of Fat Shaming)

Dieting and working out like a maniac before your friend's wedding so you can squeeze into that *one*dress can backfire if it doesn't zip on the big day. Eventually, that lack of self-love could lead to serious issues with food.

Here's why: "Holding onto clothes that don't fit sends the clear message to yourself that your body isn't acceptable the way it is," DeCaro says. "This kind of negative self-talk only promotes shame, and shame can be a powerful fuel for an eating disorder and other self-destructive cycles." Depression and social anxiety, for instance, could be right around the corner.

Maybe you've convinced yourself it's OK to hold onto those jeans or that dress from college since they motivate you to get fit. That way of thinking seems logical, but it still suggests there's something wrong with your current shape. And that's a problem. "Motivational strategies should never involve shaming the body you have right now," DeCaro says. (One woman shares her powerful story: Losing and Regaining 100 Pounds-Twice-Taught Me to Love My Body.)

A better approach is to find motivation in the way eating healthfully or hitting the gym makes you feel, rather than the number on a clothing tag, DeCaro says. And if those clothes in your closet are bringing you down, toss 'em. "Those reminders, more often than not, make us feel worse about ourselves," says Karen R. Koenig, a psychology of eating psychotherapist, author, and blogger. "Our best bet is accepting our bodies as they are now and working toward making them healthier, not slimmer."


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