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The pants factor

It has been so nice not weighing in publicly this month, not updating my sidebar, not having to explain any loss or gain to the masses. I still weigh myself every day in the morning (after I’ve gone to the bathroom and before I’ve eaten my oatmeal to ensure the lowest number). I still keep my fancy charts and spreadsheets. But it’s been nice moving those numbers into the “Thou-shall-not-blog-about” category.

I have however been slightly worried about accountability. When I went to San Francisco for the BlogHer convention I told myself, “Eat whatever you want to!” which my brain interpreted as “Gorge yourself!” I tripped a mental switch that made me think I could eat whatever I wanted to as long as I was in California. I found myself wandering around the airport before my midnight flight looking for an ice cream stand because if I had a cone in the west coast terminal it would be ok, but if I stopped for one in Indianapolis it would somehow be “wrong.” The next time I tell myself, “Eat whatever you want to!” please remind me that is a cracked-out idea. I did that last Christmas and thought I’d learned my lesson when I felt like I was going to vomit up the pumpkin roll, brownie, caramel cake and other goodies I’d ingested. I should not be allowed to eat whatever I want to because the world would quickly run out of food.

So, I’d like to not get fat again (and to stop splitting my infinitives), but I’m not going to start weighing in publicly again. Instead I introduce my new accountability tool: The pants factor. I will not buy new pants! Well, I will buy new pants eventually once these get holes or become threadbare, but I will buy them in the same or smaller size. I will not buy BIGGER pants. If they start to get tight, tough cookies, no more cookies for me. The denim cutting into my waist can remind me to eat a salad for lunch instead of going out for Cajun food with my coworkers. I’m surprised my pants aren’t cutting off my circulation right now, but they remain pretty comfortable, if a little tighter than they did before I ate half of San Francisco.

No new pants! That is my motto. Hopefully it will work.

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MizFit • August 8, 2008 at 8:29 am


I should not be allowed to eat whatever I want to because the world would quickly run out of food.

so powerful.

and I roll with the pants factor and not a scale…more than youd ever wanna hear about it at MizFit but suffice it to say that, when I sold my biz and started writing full time, I whipped out my manuscript FACT and added to fluffy saddlebags along the way.


ever since then I both write in pants (and not drawstring pjs) and have a pair that wont fit if Im up 5 pounds…

far better for *me* thank scale.



Roxie • August 8, 2008 at 8:33 am

Maintenance – thy name is tough.


Sara • August 8, 2008 at 8:33 am

I often wish that I hadn’t been so quick to add “buy bigger pants” to my to do list over the years. Maybe a better tack would have been to jot down “try not to devour everything you see” and put a check mark each day next to THAT directive.

Shrewd plan, pants as barometer. Good luck!


Jill • August 8, 2008 at 8:38 am

NO NEW PANTS – should be on billboards everywhere.


Erica • August 8, 2008 at 9:07 am

I am totally down with the no-new-pants rule… however, I went for a while with no scale and just judged by my pants, and developed this kind of pants dysmorphia. How is one pair of pants tighter and the other looser? Are these pants stretching out and these shrinking? How can I try on 10 pairs of pants in three different sizes and have pants from all three sizes fit AND other pants from all three sizes not fit?!?! Add in the washing machine, and it became a full-blown paranoia. And I gained 10lbs. So, I’m back with the 2-pronged (scale + pants) approach.


suzanne • August 8, 2008 at 9:29 am

That is such a good idea ;)


Merry • August 8, 2008 at 9:34 am

Thoreau would approve.


Jenny • August 8, 2008 at 9:44 am

My new motto.


Dyan • August 8, 2008 at 9:58 am

Will there be t-shirts available for sale?

I think the new motto:

No new pants.

And then the cover photo from your book on the back.


Bree • August 8, 2008 at 10:18 am

That’s funny because that’s exactly what I do! The pants don’t lie! Not too many of my pants get put in the dryer these days either. I don’t need the added pressure just in case they shrink. lol


Bree • August 8, 2008 at 10:20 am

…but Erica, you know exactly how the pants you wear on a regular basis fit and believe me I can tell if I put on or drop a lb.


Lydia • August 8, 2008 at 10:44 am

Oh the festivals (travel, holidays, birthdays, getting a job, losing a job, sunny days, weekends…how they sucker us in). Celebration and I sail down the river of denial.


JEM • August 8, 2008 at 10:53 am

I think that is fabulous! Especially since the scale can be tricky with water weight, and salty dinners messing with the number but the pants will tell no lies!


Amy • August 8, 2008 at 11:09 am

Dude, whenever I buy a pair of jeans in my current size instead of a smaller size it feels like a failure. If I had to buy larger jeans I might drive off a cliff. Pants are tricksy.


kqteaze • August 8, 2008 at 11:35 am

I know this feeling! I have two pairs of jeans, same brand, same size. One has always been tighter than the other. Last time I washed them I even held them up next to each other to compare. Yep, the tighter pair is a good inch smaller in the waist than the other pair.

The only time I have ever gone without weighing myself was when I was over 225…I was living in denial with wanting to believe “ignorance is bliss.”

I have lost 30lbs with WWs (and 70lbs more to go) but I am currently “stuck” and the daily home weigh-ins are kind of making me nuts. If I wasn’t afraid I’d gain, I think I’d stop weighing myself too.


Michelle • August 8, 2008 at 11:35 am

For me, while I’m still making my way down the scales, I need both the weigh in AND the pants. For the last few months, my scales have barely moved BUT my pants size has changed. I’ve uppped my activity level, adding both strength training and cardio to my almost daily yoga….so maybe I’m building muscle or something. These days the scale is NOT my friend but my clothes are…they remind me that I’m still making progress.

I look forward to the day when I don’t need both to gauge my progress. Kudos to you!


adrienne • August 8, 2008 at 11:40 am

This is what Jim and I refer to as the hermit crab theory of pants.

Hermit crabs in small shells grow more slowly than those in roomy ones.

If only squeezing into smaller pants would cause the same reaction.


Nancy • August 8, 2008 at 12:20 pm

Sounds like a winner to me, as long as they’re not EXPANDA-PANTS. (You know, stretchy with elastic waist bands). I can gain 45 pounds and those suckers still fit. Lost 24 pounds, have about 76 to go, so still need the scale at this point, if for nothing more than the added encouragement. But when more of the weight comes off, a nice snug pair of jeans should do the trick. Keep the faith, kids!


BoggyWoggy • August 8, 2008 at 12:26 pm

It might be the start of a revolution! Soon, pants makers all over the world will join forces to create advertisements about old-pants-wearers and the social dysfunctions they represent!

I’m going for it, too! I bought “big girl” pants yesterday, out of desperation, but haven’t taken off the labels yet. Maybe I’ll just return them today and focus on my wasteline.

Being the mother of a daughter with severe eating disorders and body-image distortion, I can say that I won’t let her read this idea. After 2 years of intervention, including a short stay at an in-patient, facility, wasteband OCD would just add to her list of psychologic pains.


deanna • August 8, 2008 at 12:53 pm

It will work.


KC • August 8, 2008 at 12:53 pm

I’ve recently lost about 80 lbs. My size 26 jeans are a thing of the past and I’ve burned through many sizes. I bought a pair of size 20 pants recently that fit perfectly. Then I found a pair of size 24’s from Target that I bought over a year ago and they have never fit and I never returned them. I was mad at first that I’d over-looked them on my way down the scale. Then I tried them on. They still don’t fit. Size 24, still too snug. When they fit, I will wear them, even if it takes til I’m down to a 16 or 18. And when I buy new pants, I’ll try them on and buy the size that fits, no matter what the label says.

Careful about letting numbers control you. I agree that you don’t want your current pants to get to tight, but don’t limit yourself when buying new clothes that have the potential to make you feel cute and happy just because the pattern is cut differently.


Lilbet • August 8, 2008 at 1:39 pm

No New Pants! Let it become a resounding mantra.

Well, it will be mine once I get to goal. But, there is no goal, really, is there? It’s a lifelong change.

But, I love the no new pants. These nonscale indicators of weight loss or gain are so important to pay attention to.


Barb • August 8, 2008 at 1:57 pm

One thing I don’t understand is…why is there no sizing regulations? A size 22 should be a size 22. You should be able to go into the store and pick up a size and know that it will fit. The style might not suite you but it should fit.

I bought a bra one day and really liked it so I went back a couple weeks later and bought 2 more (2 for 1 sale) in the exact same size and they are one size too small, which will be great once I get down to that size but I had to buy an extender to wear them now. Obviously the first one was sized wrong.


Lisa • August 8, 2008 at 2:30 pm

Yeah, I use pants as well. I gain during the summer because my measuring pants are jeans (same pair of jeans, straight from the dryer–I try to stop the mind games before they start), and I don’t wear jeans when it’s 85 degrees.


The Baroness • August 8, 2008 at 2:31 pm

Read my lips! No new pants!!

I hope you are successful in maintenance. You are doing the right thing! I hope you really enjoyed your “cracked out” eating fest, and that you are coming back down to earth now. :-)

Personally, I am having more of a problem convincing myself that the maintenance stage should be happening. It just feels so great to lose weight that it’s tough to want to stop. I’m making sure that everyone knows my problem though, so they can stop me if I go too low!


Valerie • August 8, 2008 at 2:35 pm

No new pants! I have told myself that sooo many times. I went to California in March, told myself to eat whatever I wanted because I was on vacation. Came home weighing 8 lbs more than I left. I was so proud! Now I weigh 20 lbs more than the day I left for California. I WILL NOT buy new pants either. It is so funny that I was thinking that and then I found your blog. lol Good luck and lets do this!


Sarah • August 8, 2008 at 3:22 pm

Good idea in theory. But do you have a back up something to wear if your pants get too tight? Clothes should fit properly and make you feel good about yourself– not guilt you into a salad for lunch.

I understand how clothes not fitting can motivate you, but I think one of the biggest mistakes women make is wearing clothes that don’t fit.

Just my two cents.


Stephanie Quilao • August 8, 2008 at 4:58 pm

I hear ya! My guideline: “Not buying elastic waist unless it’s gym shorts.”


Ang • August 8, 2008 at 5:07 pm

What a great idea! I have a habit of choosing clothes with elastic wastebands for special occasions when I know I will want to eat a lot. I really set myself up to make myself sick! A nice fitted pair of pants with a belt might help me.


Kalyn • August 8, 2008 at 9:26 pm

This has been my motto for several years now. I have gained and lost a few pounds since I reached size ten, but haven’t bought any pants bigger than that size for 2.5 years. (They do get tighter and looser, depending on what I’m eating though. It’s a good method.)


MB • August 9, 2008 at 12:17 am

Sounds like a great plan.


Unfortunately, I’ve made that vow before but found myself forced into new pants because of the holes from screaming thigh rub.

I have faith your pants will be fitting fine in no time – as long as you stay out of San Francisco.


Kathy • August 9, 2008 at 11:12 am

The pants rule will work, just two words of caution: Muffin Top.

If you gain first in your waist, low riders will not tell you the *whole* story, until the muffin begins to spill over your belt-loops, which by then it’s too late, and you have to look at it every time you look down… or in a mirror… ewww…

(Include an occasional reality check with some high-waisters, and avoid the stealth mid-section gain!)


Laura N • August 9, 2008 at 1:20 pm

No new pants…love it.


asithi • August 9, 2008 at 3:17 pm

What you are talking about is considered “vanity sizing” in the clothing industry, particularly in the women’s clothing industry.

According to Boston.com, “what was a size 8 in the 1950s had become a 4 by the 1970s and 00 today.”

So they stopped standardizing women’s clothing size a long time ago.


Jennifer • August 9, 2008 at 5:17 pm

Muffin Top is of the Devil. I think the NO NEW PANTS rule is safe and sane compared to the slough of despair that the scale can catapult one into via salt intake, monthly fluctuations, etc. And may I just say in general how refreshing I have found your entire blog. An island of sanity in between the dual delusions of the Fat Acceptance Movement and the Diet Police.


cheddar • August 10, 2008 at 12:50 am

The No New Pants rule for me worked horribly after I bought (at 50% off) two pairs of Eileen Fisher elastic waist wool pants. Eileen Fisher is a fashionable and somewhat pricey line for women who no longer have a noticeable waist. THese pants have lasted for almost 10 years and can expand like crazy!

The type of pants makes a difference.


Mark • August 10, 2008 at 2:33 am

Not a good idea. The combination of low-rise pants plus wearing pants that are too small is the origin of the “panniculus” epidemic. Your fat has nowhere to go but over your beltline. You form a pannus because more fat cells develop above the beltline. This never really goes away, even after weight loss. You pretty much gave to get lipo and an abdominoplasty to get rid of it.

If you go retro and get pants with the beltline at the waist (i.e., navel), there’s not so much of a problem. But that’s considered too much of a soccer mom look these days, although it looks much better on most women. But the muffin top rules, fashion wise.


Karen • August 10, 2008 at 10:18 am

I rarely weigh myself, so I always judge how i’m doing by how my clothes fit (not just pants, but shirts too).


Colin • August 10, 2008 at 10:39 am

Absolutely, it’s all about the pants. It took months to go down a size, and after all that work (and many new pants purchased), it’s surprisingly easy to get motivated NOT to go back up. Absolutely unacceptable!


Krissy • August 10, 2008 at 10:58 am

It’s interesting that different things work for different people regarding the scale. People say not to weigh everyday, but when I don’t weigh everyday, I tend to forget to do it weekly, and pretty soon I am 20-30 pounds heavier. I did it in a previous marriage, and have just done it again in my first year of marriage to a great man, but this has to stop. I also had a “no new clothes size” rule that I avoided breaking by finding the only brand of shorts at Walmart (or anywhere) that SAY size 10, but in reality have to be more like 14’s. I did buy some new jeans finally, and am at war with my underpants because they’re not comfortable anymore! I don’t know why some of us have to dedicate ourselves to a life of obsessive weight loss, when others seem never to gain. Bad karma, or an addiction to too many delicious things I guess!

I put my bodybugg back on my chubby arm this morning, and am going to weigh every day and track my actions again, even if it makes me want to hurl.


PJ • August 10, 2008 at 1:38 pm

Oh the games we play with ourselves!

Read an interview with Jamie Lee Curtis where she described how she gained 20 lbs and never even noticed because of the stretchy guality in many of today’s clothes. (she lost the weight)

Pants can be a good gauge, depending on the fabric, but I like a loose fit and it’s a little too easy to fool myself about any clueless expansion.

It’s all about finding what works for you . . .


karen • August 10, 2008 at 3:36 pm

I’ve been able to judge my weight for years by what pants fit me – and HOW they fit. Right now I need to lose about 25 pounds. :-)


Sally Parrott Ashbrook • August 10, 2008 at 8:20 pm

I used to refrain from buying pants thinking I wouldn’t go beyond a certain weight, but instead I ended up with pants that were wayyyy too tight, or I ended up seeking out the largest possible brand of pants in that particular size. I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, because it could totally work for you, and God knows you have it within you to choose to cut out or reduce the cookie intake. But I used to utilize all sorts of things I thought would be magical talismans against weight loss, and of course they didn’t work.

I wonder if your temptation to eat might also have to do with the fact that you’re suddenly much more famous—the fact of that has to be a bit overwhelming, and I would imagine the energy it takes to deal with the details of your life right now might be taking a lot out of you, as well. Or that may just be me projecting what it would be like for me if I were in that situation. :D


Sally Parrott Ashbrook • August 10, 2008 at 8:32 pm

If that’s true (and I have heard it many times before), then a Size 8 must have been the smallest size they made when a Size 8 was equivalent to a 00. And I doubt, somehow, that sizes started with an 8, so I find this oft-repeated statement hard to believe.


Ana • August 11, 2008 at 2:50 am

Ooh good idea. And how about it be necessary not just to wear pants but to wear WET pants. It restricts you more. Plus if you get cold, it’ll force you to workout into a sweat. And if you need to ‘go potty’, no problem–nobody’ll notice! lol.


Quix • August 11, 2008 at 12:06 pm

That’s how I was in high school/college – as long as I could still go to the mall and buy clothes in the juniors section, I was ok with myself. Then after a while, I was ok as long as I could buy something that was 13/14 or XL. Then – I just started wearing XL skirts with elastic waists because I told myself they looked nice (ie – I didn’t have to face buying a plus size). Then when I bought my first pair of jeans in many years for a trip to San Fransisco, they were 24’s. So I guess the warning is – it’s easy to bury your head in the sand for a long time without the scale if you try hard enough. But it sounds like you have your head on straight – so NO NEW PANTS it is!


Dee • August 11, 2008 at 7:09 pm

Wikipedia has interesting articles regarding Vanity sizing and the Size 0 or 00 (depending).



It would be nice if a 22 was a 22, but that will never happen. Each designer and manufaturer have their own measurements. In one of the articles, it states that the higher the price of the clothing, the roomier the size. Its the belief that if the size is smaller, you will feel good and want to buy more.


bobbie • January 31, 2009 at 5:33 pm

Who would have thunk it? No new pants of a larger size? I love it! So simple!! Why couldn’t I have thought of that? Oh yeh, I did, but I overruled it when I outgrew ALL my pants. Now that I’ve hit maintenance for the past 8 years, all is good, but before that, oy vey!! So, I’d like to know if you have stuck to this great rule? I am so going to write this on a sticky and attach it to my computer screen… just as a reminder…cause my size 6 blue jeans are pulling just a little too much around the hips as I’m sitting here writing to you.


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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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