What Is 'Ambition Sizing'? Here's How To Fight Back Against The Practice We're All Guilty Of

Many of us have done it before. We save old outfits or buy something new off a sale rack, with the idea that we'd be able to wear it "someday," if only we exercised more, or ate less. While most of us might not think there is anything wrong with that, nutrition experts disagree. They even have a name for it: "ambition sizing," which refers to our need to change the way we eat or exercise, in order to get into clothes that we are looking to wear. 

Experts who specialize in disordered eating say ambition sizing can manifest in different ways. Some people may decide to either eat less or stop eating altogether in order to get into jeans or an outfit they haven't worn in years. Others may want to exercise more so that they get into what they feel is the right shape. To motivate themselves, people who engage in ambition sizing will have the outfits they aspire to wear hanging in their closets, as was the case with Kim Kardashian.

In a recent, high-profile example of ambition sizing, the reality TV star detailed her quest to wear Marilyn Monroe's famous "Happy Birthday" gown to the 2022 Met Gala. Kardashian's solution? "I would wear a sauna suit twice a day, run on the treadmill, completely cut out all sugar and all carbs, and just eat the cleanest veggies and protein ... I didn't starve myself, but I was so strict," she told Vogue

Who are most likely to experience ambition sizing

Experts like registered dietitian Mia Donley say ambition sizing is most likely to happen to a specific group of people. "In general, women, femme-identifying individuals, and members of the LGBTQ+ community may be more likely to take part in ambition sizing, as these groups have a high risk of experiencing body dissatisfaction," Donley said, via Well + Good. It's also likely to happen when people are getting themselves ready for a big event, as in Kim Kardashian's case.

Societal expectations have a lot to do with ambition sizing. Government data shows an average cisgender woman is actually 5 feet 3 and a half inches tall, weighs 171 pounds, and has a 38.7-inch waist, while studies show ideal beauty standards for cisgender women are said to be 5 feet 5 inches tall, weighing under 130 pounds, and a waist measuring about 24 inches.

Given that there is such a large discrepancy in the way people are, vis a vis the way they want to be, there should be no surprise that few are happy with the way they look. In a 2018 study carried out and published in Today, 65% of 1,500 participants who took part in a body confidence survey believed their lives would be better if they were thinner. The same number of women also admitted they had clothes in smaller sizes hanging in their closets, which they wanted to get into again someday. 

How to avoid the ambition sizing trap

In order to deal with ambition sizing, dietitians say it is important to develop a healthy attitude toward your body, especially since health isn't determined by the way you look — it is determined by markers that include your mental health, your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, as well as the amount of sleep you might be getting. Given this, you'll need to spend far less time thinking about the clothes you want to get into, and more about how well your body is functioning. 

The first step along the road to end ambition sizing is to detox your closet so you get rid of everything you no longer fit into or need. It's also important to be realistic about what you can and cannot get into, particularly if you've experienced life experiences like having children. And when you're out shopping, it's best if you buy clothing that makes you look and feel good, instead of picking things up because they're on sale, or you'll be able to wear them after you've lost "the last five pounds." Your self-esteem will thank you, and your wallet will, too.