What, other than weight gain/loss, can make clothes stop fitting right?
November 22, 2011 11:46 AM   Subscribe

My clothes aren't fitting right anymore, but I haven't gained or lost weight. What's going on?

Over the past couple weeks, my clothes have been fitting strangely -- too tight around the middle (shirts, coats), too weird around the waist (jeans -- I'm pear-shaped and short so almost all jeans fit strangely, but this is new.) Needless to say, this is kind of disconcerting, especially when I have to dress myself for work and parties and the like. I'd figured that I just gained weight after moving.

Problem is, I just weighed myself for the first time in half a year (I don't own a scale at home -- too much mental fuckery -- but my family does, and I'm at their place for Thanksgiving.) I have not gained weight; in fact, I've lost a few pounds. It's the same scale as before, same location in the house, etc. Nothing has changed, except how my clothes look.

So... what's going on? I swear I've gained weight, just looking at myself, but the numbers disagree. Could all my clothes have worn/disintegrated at the same time, all at once? Is there anything I can do about this? And yeah, the simple answer's "just go buy other clothes," but it's the holidays, so that isn't the best time financially.
posted by dekathelon to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (27 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Assuming you're not pregnant, maybe you've lost muscle pounds but gained fat pounds? Weight would be the same but you'd be fluffier. Or possibly you're misremembering what you weighed before if it's been six months since your last weigh-in. Or maybe the scale is old and crappy and doesn't work properly anymore. Have the rest of your family weigh themselves and see if they weigh what they're expecting to weigh.

As far as what you can do about it.... go for a nice long walk every day until your clothes start fitting properly again. That's my go-to too-tight-pants solution. Plus it's a great time of year for brisk evening walks!
posted by jabes at 11:53 AM on November 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

Your body composition could have changed. You might have lost fat and gained muscle, or lost muscle and gained fat. The places where you carry fat or have more muscle mass may have shifted.
posted by sarae at 11:53 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

In my experience, "weight" has a lot less to do with how we actually look and feel than we've been led to believe.
posted by aganders3 at 11:54 AM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

I don't know how old you are, but when I was in my early 20s my body shape changed pretty dramatically even though I wasn't doing anything differently and my weight stayed the same. I think it was the last few gasps of puberty trying to leave their mark.

I have no idea if this is a regular occurrence, but maybe sometimes these things just happen.
posted by phunniemee at 12:02 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is there a chance you might be pregnant? That's the first thing that sprang to mind.
posted by xingcat at 12:03 PM on November 22, 2011

Maybe what's changed is where you're carrying that weight. My own actual number on the scale doesn't fluctuate much, but the size of my waist and the size of my hips fluctuate a lot depending on whether I'm working out or not.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:03 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: OK, updates:

* I am 100% not pregnant. (OK, not 100%, but I've taken three separate pregnancy tests this month after being about a week late for my period. All negative, just finished my cycle. Sorry for TMI. And yeah, this is starting to sound like a symptom or explanation?)

* The scale's probably fine. I asked my mother, who's the other person who uses it, if she noticed anything weird, and she said she's gained weight. So if it's broken, it's broken in an inconsistent and bizarre way.

* I guess I could have had my body shape change dramatically? Honestly, it's more like I'm really bloated around the waist lately, way more than usual (including usual for this time.) My diet and exercise hasn't dramatically shifted in the past month or so, though, so it'd just have to have... happened? I'm 23, if that changes anything.

Again, sorry for TMI, if it is? I don't know. I just miss having my clothes look and feel right.
posted by dekathelon at 12:10 PM on November 22, 2011

Do you eat a substantial amount of salt?
That may cause the bloating, though has no implications on your weight I've found.

Have you been drinking more alcohol than normal?
Alcohol tends to make it seem like you weigh less (dehydration) but adds to the midsection.

Weight is SO deceiving. If you want to change the midsection, start measuring inches. If you're really worried it's something abnormal, go see a doctor, for real.
posted by hillabeans at 12:15 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

My body has changed A LOT in my 20's (ie- the body i have now is NOT the body I had at 21, or 25, or 26) If i gained weight and lost it again- my body wasn't the same after... even at the same weight... I used to be a 32D, now I'm a 34B... no pregnancies.... so I'm thinking.....in the last 6 months, was there a few weeks were you might have gained a bit and lost it without noticing?
posted by misspony at 12:17 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Okay: let me preface this by saying that what I'm about to suggest is a totally wild-ass, extremely unlikely, off-the-wall suggestion and that you should definitely NOT worry about it in the slightest: HOWEVER! Because I carry the BRCA1 mutation, I am obsessively aware of the various symptoms of ovarian maladies. One of the most common symptoms of ovarian issues is abdominal bloating. I am NOT saying that this is the case with you - there are literally a hundred other explanations which are more likely - but that you MAY wish to visit your doctor, just for your own peace of mind.
posted by julthumbscrew at 12:18 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Stress, hormones and other factors can change where fat is deposited on the body. Higher levels of stress hormones, in fact, tend to shift fat on women from the bust and hips to the belly.

If you just moved, that could definitely be increasing your stress, especially if you've been eating and sleeping more irregularly as a result, or your move was a result of other stress factors. (And an irregular cycle could be a similar stress symptom).

There can be medical causes associated with shifting patterns of fat deposits as well. It's worth bringing up with your doctor at your next regular checkup, who may recommend some bloodwork to ensure there's not an underlying hormone or metabolic issue.

But more immediately, try to stick to a regular schedule for eating and sleeping, avoid excess alcohol or stimulants, and do something physically active every day, even if it's just a brief walk. You know, the usual stuff you know you should be doing anyways.
posted by psycheslamp at 12:30 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Honestly, it's more like I'm really bloated around the waist lately

....you're probably bloated then. There are numerous causes and causes of causes. If its noticeable enough to be causing you problems with your clothing I would recommend seeing a dr just to make sure there's nothing wrong. You also mentioned your period being late so that's an indication that something different is going on with your body (not necessarily BAD things, it could just be the stress of the move getting you all out of sync temporarily)
If you don't want to go to the dr, I'd pick up some 'water retention' pills and those yoghurts that claim to reduce bloating and see if either of those help.
posted by missmagenta at 12:34 PM on November 22, 2011

I also had a substantial body shape change in my 20s. I've heard that this happens anecdotally from women friends, too. Bear in mind that it may have happened more gradually over time and you didn't notice for a while until your clothes started getting uncomfortable.

Is it possible that you're using a different/repaired clothes dryer that's shrinking all your clothes? That wouldn't explain the just the waist bit, though - shirts would generally get shorter more than narrower.

Nthing to do healthy things that make you feel good and wait a few weeks to see what happens unless you're in pain or have other weird symptoms.
posted by momus_window at 12:41 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Problem is, I just weighed myself for the first time in half a year ... I have not gained weight; in fact, I've lost a few pounds.

Your clothes-fitting issue is only a few weeks old but you're comparing your weight to six months ago? That's not a proper comparison. You'd have to compare your weight to a few weeks ago for "not gained weight" to be meaningful. Bodies frequently fluctuate up and down; I've seen as much as 10 pounds difference in my own in a week. It's possible your weight have changed a lot over the past few weeks, returning from being lower to what it was a half-year ago.

While it's true that weight doesn't necessarily have anything to do with dimensions and size, there is *some* relationship for most people most of the time.
posted by Mo Nickels at 12:55 PM on November 22, 2011

Yup, I'm going to join the chorus of gradual body shape changes that have recently gotten drastic enough to notice. I'm 28 now, and my body shape and composition shifted noticeably around 19/20, and then again around 23/24. I actually think it's doing it again because my pants have gotten a wee bit tighter around the waistband in the last few months, and like you, I have actually lost a couple pounds (dammit, body, y u no make sense?!). Anyway, I didn't go through much weight fluctuations during the 23/24 shift, or the one I'm noticing now, and when I noticed it, it seemed drastic and sudden, though it likely took place over 6 months to a year.

So yeah, you could be bloated, totally possible, or your body composition could be shifting.
posted by JuliaIglesias at 1:10 PM on November 22, 2011

Do you wash your clothes in hot, warm, or cold water?
posted by samsara at 1:33 PM on November 22, 2011

I'm going to say you're probably just bloated, possibly tied into your period being abnormal this month. I had that happen recently -- my period was a week late, and my jeans were really tight for a couple weeks. After I had my period, I went back to normal. Since this is a sudden change, I'm betting it's a temporary hormone-related thing. It happens, no biggie. (I'm 26 btw, for similarity's sake.)
posted by DoubleLune at 1:42 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

All negative, just finished my cycle.

posted by sunshinesky at 1:48 PM on November 22, 2011

Two possibilities:

1) Cotton fibers tend to shrink in the dryer. If you dry your clothes completely under heat, they are likely to shrink in funky ways, making them ill-fitting.

2) if you're leading a more sedentary life than you used to, your muscles could be giving up mass to less dense fat, which would account for an expanded waistline with no actual weight gain.
posted by georgikeith at 2:09 PM on November 22, 2011

If you want an extreme possibility to consider and have access to a physician to check out all the markers for it, that's one of the symptoms under the PCOS umbrella.
posted by batmonkey at 2:27 PM on November 22, 2011

Bloated or constipated. If your period was unusual, you might have an ovarian cyst, which is annoying and can be painful but is usually benign and not uncommon.
posted by elizeh at 4:13 PM on November 22, 2011

Weight doesn't mean anything, you can be fatter while weighing the same.

Lose the fat (not weight) and you'll fit in your clothes again.
posted by midnightmoonlight at 4:55 PM on November 22, 2011

Muscle weighs more than fat, but is more dense. Could you have swapped fat for muscle? The scale would say the same thing, but your body would be a different shape.
posted by custard heart at 9:38 PM on November 22, 2011

This exact same thing is happening to me too, I'm 22. I agree with phunniemee that it's the "last gasps of puberty."
It's really strange, my breasts are getting slightly bigger, waist is getting smaller, hips are getting bigger (pants don't fit me the same either). Long sweaters that fit my last winter just look awkward now.
posted by ad4pt at 11:17 AM on November 23, 2011

If its any consolation, if you told me that I'd have the legs I have now at 30, when I was younger I would have cried in joy... so body change isn't all bad.... as for the muscle vs. fat thing... a few months ago I put on a few dresses and they were tight, I then started walking 20 min to work and back again and they fit in 2 weeks....
posted by misspony at 12:22 PM on November 23, 2011

Did you use the same scales to weigh yourself each time? Two different scales could be off from each other yet both give consistent readings. Especially true if using the old spring style scale vs a modern digital strain gauge model (or doctor's balance type).
posted by 6550 at 6:49 PM on November 23, 2011

I think I should have elaborated with my previous question, and only a few here have hinted towards this alternative explanation....you may be (yet slowly) shrinking your clothes if washing in warm to hot water or drying under heat. If your weight hasn't changed in a long time, maybe try on some clothes you haven't really worn since you started noticing this phenomenon?
posted by samsara at 7:40 PM on November 23, 2011

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