Keeping Old Clothes and Other Traps that Prevent Weight Loss

Sliding into an old pair of jeans and noticing that they’re too loose is a huge moment in your weight-loss journey. Those old clothes are proof that all your stepping, healthy eating, and exercise is paying off with real results. But you need to get rid of them.

There’s a tendency to want to keep clothes you wore at a higher weight—as insurance, to prevent “jinxing” your success, for comfort, says psychologist and counselor Karla Ivankovich, PhD. However, much like refusing to delete an ex’s phone number, you leave the door open for toxic old habits to creep back in. “There is comfort in the devil we know,” she says.

Instead of holding yourself accountable to maintain change, you hang onto those 16s and 18s when you’re now a size 12 to cut yourself slack if can’t find the effort and motivation to keep up new habits. “Keeping our fat pants allow us to be forgiving of ourselves if we backslide, and we keep them around out of fear,” says Ivankovich. “Buying new clothes again, of a bigger size, would signal failure. Grabbing a pair out of your closet that you kept, just in case… well, it just feels less like failure.”

Be wary of emotionally-fueled weight-loss traps that may trip up your newly-formed healthy habits. Here are a few Ivankovich says to watch out for.

Weight Loss Trap #1: Keeping Old Clothes

Don’t give yourself that cushion, or allow for a subconscious draw toward the past that may allow you to yo-yo for years. “Possessions tend to remind us of our identity by triggering memories,” says Ivankovich. “Unfortunately, not all memories are good.” Catching a glimpse of those old clothes in the closet may affect your mood and your self-esteem more than you realize. “Releasing possessions makes way for new memories to be created,” Ivankovich explains. Toss your clothes along with the bad habits.

Weight Loss Trap #2: Connecting with the Scale

Watch how your daily weigh-in affects your emotional state. “If the scale is down, some people may be happy with that—but also more likely to ‘cheat,’ because you are seeing declines,” says Ivankovich. “However, if the numbers are up, it can ignite a spiral where you will eat more and exercise less, because it feels hopeless. It can quickly zap your motivation to simply make healthier food choices.” Remember: Weight can fluctuate everyday. If you start changing your habits based on dips and jumps, you may want to stop sneaking peeks at your weight.

Weight Loss Trap #3: Bouncing Friend Groups

Ivankovich says that weight loss often comes with a new group of friends with healthier lifestyles —like a friend with whom you take runs, or one who’s really into clean eating. “Since weight is tied to identity, and identity is tied to the company we keep, many will alternate friend groups depending on how they feel,” says Ivankovich. You may call up friends you like to grab dessert with when you’re low and feeling self-indulgent, and avoid your “health squad” so you don’t have to maintain accountability, which can sabotage your progress. Try to keep those who motivate you to make healthy choices in your inner circle.

Losing weight and maintaining your health is a lifelong road. “When there is an intense desire to return to a previous weight, or for some to simply lose weight, a lot of energy is spent trying to plan every moment of the day to include food, exercise, and so on,” Ivankovich says. “This planning can be mentally and physically challenging, leaving little time for spiritual rest.”

So, don’t forget to nourish your inner-self as your outer-self changes. Get a massage. Get a mani-pedi. Take a nap. Take a day off. You deserve it.

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