Your Sweatpants Are Making You Fat

The year 2020 was the worst of times for our waistlines. Pandemic kept us indoors, worried, frustrated and eating our heads off. Remote work and worship kept us in sweatpants and athleisure. Now we can’t zip our old jeans.  

But this is fixable. And changing your clothes could help.

Chip Berg knows something about our recent weight gains. He’s the CEO of Levi’s, and he’s been measuring. After the pandemic, he told the AP, a quarter of his company’s customers had to size up.

Weight gain happens gradually. When your waist and butt spread a bit, so do leggings, stretch tee shirts, athleisure and sweat pants.

That’s why sweat pants don’t just make you look fatter. Stretchy, forgiving clothes allow you to BE fatter and remain totally unaware how much your body is changing… until you have to go somewhere special and you can’t zip your best dress or button your dress pants.  

Want more proof your sweatpants are trying to kill you? Advisory Board, a group of healthcare professionals, found another interesting trend. Though we all gained weight during the pandemic, the pattern was unusual.

Are Fitness Clothes Making You Unfit?

Normally, active young adults maintain their weight well. It’s the middle-aged adults who suddenly find they having difficulty keeping pounds off.

But in this past year, that pattern reversed. Only 25% of elderly adults gained weight in 2020. But in the Gen Z group (ages 18-14), 57% gained weight. 

And in case you are wondering, the middle-aged generations, aged 40-60, had middling numbers, but hardly good ones. And the trend was the same. The 40 year olds gained more than the 50 year olds, and the 50 year olds gained more than the 60 year olds. [i]

It is surely no coincidence that sales data show that young adults buy more athleisure (a.k.a. stretchy clothes and sweat pants) than adults over 50 do.[ii]Stretchy clothes mean stretchy people!

The number on the scale is not the problem here. It’s the added fat around the middle because it is highly associated with poor health. And that’s an emergency you should handle as soon as possible if it’s happened to you.

These Apples You Don’t Need

Weight around the middle—known as being apple shaped—is a danger sign.

This kind of weight gain is one of the key signs of metabolic syndrome, along with elevated blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides.  

When researchers pooled the data on 682,000 men and women involved in 11 different studies, they found that larger waist sizes were extremely predictive of bad health.

Men with a waist circumference greater than 43 inches had a 50% higher death rate   during these studies. Women with a waist measurement over 27.5 inches had an 80% higher death rate Most of the studies covered a 10-year span. [iii]

In the Nurses Health Study, women with waists larger than 35 inches had double the risk for death from heart disease.

Clothes Should Be Your Backup Weight Monitor

There’s a lot you can do to take off weight around the middle, but one fast place to start is in the closet.

Become more aware of what is happening by relying on “unforgiving” clothes to reveal gains. Keep at least one pair of pants at hand that fit snuggly on the waist. For women, keep a form fitting, non-stretch dress around as well. Then at least once a month put these clothes on.

Also keep a leather belt that shows wear in the place where you normally buckle up. Try it on regularly, even if you are just going to hang it up when done. Because if you need to let it out, it’s time to watch the diet.

Also, don’t chose stretchy clothes to wear every day. If when you are at leisure, you can wear jeans or zip-front shorts that don’t stretch. If they’re uncomfortable, the solution is to lose weight, not to walk around unbuttoned

Go Clothes Shopping With a Good Weight Intent

It’s important to have some one-size-fits-one-size clothes around. If you don’t have something that fits your ideal size perfectly, shop for it.

And don’t let the clothes industry make you a victim. One of the sly things about clothes that are made from soft knits and pants with drawstring or elastic waistbands is that you can lose 10, 20, even 30 pounds without buying new clothes. You can also add that much. They were designed to fit you fat or fit you slim.

We’ve come to love these comfy clothes, but don’t think the manufacturers are doing this for our benefit.

Truth is, this is a high-profit trend they will keep alive as long as possible. They can put three sizes of stretch pull-on pants yoga pants or sweats on the shelf that will suffice for women with waists from 24 inches to 32 inches, weighing 110 pound to 170 pounds. If they had to stock all-cotton jeans for those women, they would have to offer 9 or 10 different sizes, and still some women would not buy any of them because they didn’t fit quite right.

The Rest Takes Longer

Clothes can be your early-warning system. After that, you need to embrace a good diet and healthy exercise.

The best way to get weight under control quickly with good nutrition is to follow a keto diet. Keto diets cut the kind of carbs that give you little nutrition but lots of calories. You get a healthy dose of proteins and good vegetables. Healthy fats are also on the diet. Thus there are literally millions of possible enjoyable meals if you are willing to forgo rice, bread, potatoes and all sugary treats.

A little less stringent, but still careful, the Weight Watchers (now WW) diet also shuns starchy vegetables, starchy grains and potatoes, but it does make an allowance for small amounts if you just don’t have the discipline for full keto. It has plenty of good data behind it attesting to mild, slower weight loss. It is a slower approach, but also a healthy one.

Another very effective option is intermittent fasting.

Move It

And while you are in your exercise clothes, do some exercise.

Include resistance training to build and maintain muscle.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is especially good for kick-starting an exercise habit that will pay off with weight loss too. See 4 Amazing Unexpected Benefits of HIIT You Probably Didn't Know.

If you don’t do HIIT, aim for at least 150 minutes a week of aerobic exercise.

Now that’s what sweat pants of good for!














[iii]Cerhan JR, Moore SC, Jacobs EJ, et al. A pooled analysis of waist circumference and mortality in 650,000 adults. Mayo Clin Proc. 2014;89(3):335-345. doi:10.1016/j.mayocp.2013.11.011



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