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Its All In The Numbers

Offer a woman the choice between a dress she likes a lot, that fits well but is size 12, and a dress she likes, which also fits well but is labeled size 8, and she'll take the lesser preferred every time.

Why are we so hung up on sizes? Men don't care. If something is too snug, they just go to a larger size. If the fit is a little tight for a woman, she'll buy it anyway, and swear to lose a few pounds so it fits more comfortably.

Many years ago, I worked in the garment district. I was shocked to learn that, as manufacturers, we were allowed to change a label two sizes in either direction if that was necessary to fill the retailer's order. Two sizes is a big difference! That's when I learned to ignore labels, especially during sales. Often the only reason something really nice is still hanging on the rack, despite deep price reductions, is that the marked size is inaccurate. I acquired a lot of inexpensive, beautiful clothes that way.

The female obsession with sizes has not been lost on the production folks. A size 8, for example, is now two and a half inches bigger around the waist than its size 8 counterpart 30 years ago. There are now sections in stores carrying size 2 and size 0 (what?), just to make us feel good. Pay more for your clothes at a fancy department store and I guarantee you'll fit into a smaller size than at the local K-Mart.

Where's the reality? As a nation, we are getting fatter all the time. Does the fact that we fit into "smaller" sizes contradict that?

No, it's just one more instance of the mutual-fooling-ourselves in which we so delight. Let's be honest and look at the size of our bodies, not our clothes.

Virginia Bola is a licensed psychologist and an admitted diet fanatic. She specializes in therapeutic reframing and the effects of attitudes and motivation on individual goals. The author of The Wolf at the Door: An Unemployment Survival Manual, and a free ezine, The Worker's Edge, she recently published a psychologically-based weight control e-workbook, "Diet with an Attitude" which develops mental skills towards the goal of permanent weight control. She can be reached at She provides support and guidance in use of the workbook through her regular blog,


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