Many new clients come to my office with weight goals. Some want to lose 10 pounds, others more. There are women who want to reach their “wedding weight” and men who want to be under 200 pounds. The brackets on the scale are meaningful. I have a doctor’s floor scale and the each bracket represents 50 pounds. Other people declare that they do not care about “the number” on the scale that they just want to be a certain size or for their clothes to fit.  These clothing-based goals appear sensible but have some inherent problems.
Last week, the NYT ran a story about the confusing state of clothing sizes. “One Size Fits Nobody: Seeking a Steady 4 or a 10.” The article discussed what many women already know and that’s that your “size” depends less on how much you weigh or what size you are and more on the whim of the retailer. Depending on the store your size can vary by a few sizes.
Many retailers, responding to their, ahem, growing consumer base have resorted to a practice called vanity sizing. Vanity sizing involves labeling clothes with smaller sizes so that a size 10 customer feels as though she’s a size 6 because that’s what fits her. I don’t think most people are gullible enough to think they’ve dropped a couple of sizes unbeknownst to them; rather it just makes shopping confusing.  A company known as My Best Fit developed a potential solution. My best developed kiosks at malls across America. Basically, your measurements are taken and you are given a report indicating the size you should select at various different retailers. To me, vanity sizing is like the mirrors at a carnival distorting what you look like and the kiosks some sort of fortuneteller. Knowing your size shouldn’t be that hard.
Aware that sizes are unreliable many people rely on a certain article of clothing as their litmus test. I don’t know why but this piece of clothing is a pair of jeans more times than not. We’ve all heard about “skinny” jeans, I have a client who calls her test jeans “reference jeans”. Others know they’re in good shape when they can buy jeans- period. I caution using clothes as your arbiter of size or fitness. For starters, your body can change. I have female clients who, like Aidan who we discussed last week, get back into tip top shape after babies. Yet, your body may change. Sometimes your hips are permanently a little wider after childbirth or things simply redistribute.  Changing your workouts can also alter the way apparel fits. You may have a certain look when you were running and your “inches” may be different if you start kickboxing. Slip your skinny jeans on in these instances and you may feel discouraged but the truth is clothes that fit at one time may just never fit well again even if you look great.  I also have to add that laundering and dry cleaning can shrink clothes or at least we think it can…
So what to do? We try to be more evolved and not let a number on the scale determine our success with food and exercise but other assessment methods have their flaws. It may come down to what Crunch gym said so well in one of their ad campaigns, we just need to see when we “feel better naked” although I like the jeans concept better.
Are you a scale person or do you go by your clothes? How do you know when you’re making progress with food or exercise? If there’s a piece of clothing you use as a reference, what is it?


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