For most of my life, my pants controlled my happiness.
I had been 40 pounds overweight and I remember waking up every morning wondering if my pants would zip up.
Had I eaten too much the night before? Why had I been lazy and skipped that workout?
I would stumble into the bathroom and analyse my belly in the mirror, wondering if it looked smaller than the night before. And as I got dressed, my pants were the last I’d put on, trying to avoid the moment of truth. I’d hold my breath and feel a wave of anxiety as I hopped around the room, pulling my pants up. Would they zip?
And when they did, oh my, I felt down into the core of my soul that it would be a good day, and my face would instantly light up. Just a simple slide of the zipper was an instant self-esteem boost.
But regardless of whether the day started off great or not, I’d still worry come each meal that I wouldn’t be able to fit into them tomorrow. It was like my pants told me whether or not I was allowed to have another serving of food even though I was hungry.
An easy solution would have been to just buy a larger, more comfortable pair of pants. But as someone trying so hard to lose weight, my self-worth depended on how low the size of my pants were. I would have rather purchased a tight pair of pants in a smaller size, than to get ones that actually fit.
But that all changed when I moved to Tokyo.
As I strolled the streets of the shopping districts, weaving around waves of women who were at least a head shorter and much tinier than I, I started to wonder if I’d find any clothes that would fit me at all.
I came across a cute dress in a store front that was clearly too small for me. When I asked the sales woman if she had a bigger size, she said that they didn’t carry them.
I thought she meant that they were out of stock in the larger sizes, but I soon learned that many shops have what’s called “Free Size”—which is their way of saying “One-Size-Fits All”. So for every blouse and dress, they only carry one size that is meant to suit all customers.
And I, unfortunately was not that customer.
There were other shops that carried clothing in two sizes: small, or medium. But even those were small—so from my American perspective the sizes were actually extra small and small.
As I navigated myself around these stores, I thought I would be even more discouraged and disappointed in my size. I had spent so many years trying to fit into smaller sizes and it seemed like this was a moment to be extra disappointed in myself. But for some reason, I felt more comfortable in my skin.
And when I curiously thought about why I didn’t care if I fit into those clothes or not, I realised that I didn’t feel required to fit into them. Growing up in the U.S., I felt compelled to always be smaller. But in Japan, I knew that based on just my height, bone structure, and proportion, that I wouldn’t fit into the clothes even if I was at my dream weight.
It was kind of like walking into a clothing store for tweens and knowing that none of the clothing was designed for me—it’s not disheartening; rather, it’s clear. I knew from the start that those clothes were not meant for me. There was no pressure or expectation to squeeze myself into them.
I was different from literally every person around me, and that was perfectly fine.
I started to feel this weight lift off my shoulders. My mission was no longer to fit into clothes that weren’t meant for me—it was to search for ones that were designed for someone like me to begin with.
Instead of shopping in the mainstream boutiques, I decided to search for European brands because I knew that they would carry a size for me. And that brought up another adventure with clothing options because European brands have a different sizing system than in the U.S. I had no trouble telling a sales clerk to bring over several sizes into the fitting room so that I could just select whichever fit, because I had no personal attachment to these numbers.
My focus shifted from fitting into smaller sized pants to picking the one that felt the best.
Armed with my new wardrobe, I felt excited for the first time to wear my new fashions around town, with my attention focused on how it fit and coordinated rather than what the size on the label was.
My pants no longer had control over my happiness.
The strange side-effect of this experience was that I started losing weight—40 pounds, actually. I wasn’t hard on myself because I didn’t have any pants to worry about, and I was finally able to allow myself to eat the amount that felt right instead of the small amount that made my belly push up against tight pants.
If anyone had told me that wearing clothing that fit properly would help me lose more weight than having a constricting band around my waist as a reminder of portion control, I would have jumped into wearing comfortable clothing many years earlier.
So, forget all the magic pills and grapefruit diets. Getting comfortable with your weight and making headway with your weight loss goals could be as simple as ignoring the clothing label on your pants.
Author: Katheryn Gronauer
Editor: Erin Lawson