For many, clothes shopping can be distressing and unpleasant. With the mirrors, finding a size that fits, salespeople waiting on you, the comments that are said when you step out of the change room, it is no wonder many people feel awkward and self-conscious. While working towards recovery and/or learning to have a healthy relationship with your body, food, weight and exercise, your body may change. Go through your wardrobe and get rid of anything that does not fit. Wear clothes that fit today instead of hoping you will one day fit into 'X' size or acts as a reminder that you never want to fit back into 'Y'. Get rid of your 'sick' clothes. You are where you are in your body today and nothing in this moment can change that. Accept this and dress accordingly. Thrift shopping can also be fun alternative to the mall for those who like to save money or know their body will continue to change due to necessary weight gain, or other changes, etc.
Regardless of having and eating disorder or distorted eating, these tips may help make clothes shopping a little less distressing and tolerable. If you have any other helpful tips, please feel free to e-mail me!
#1 - Shop with a friend or family member that is safe, supportive and encouraging. Have a conversation with them, let them know what you need from them. If you try on something that does not fit, let them know how you would like them to respond. For example, would you prefer to hear, "let me grab another pair and we can see how they fit" or "I think those are too tight/big". If you try on something that really does not look good, would you like to hear, "I liked the pink shirt better" or "My grandma wears shirts like that". Think honestly about what you want/need and let your support person know. Maybe you would prefer them to say nothing as simply having them there is all you want. Remember, styles do differ amongst friends. If you find an outfit you really like, trust yourself! Maybe you only have a certain amount of times you are allowed to ask your support person what they think of your outfit. Your friend or family member can also act as your 'fetcher' for different sizes, etc. if something does not fit.
#2 - Tell the salespeople what you want from them, or do not need. If you would prefer not to have them check in on you for sizes, let them know! Inform them that if something does not fit, you will go out and get it yourself. If there are no mirrors in your change room and you have to step out to see what you tried on, let them know if you would like them to comment on your appearance or that you would like them to not say anything unless you ask.
#3 Remember that sizes differ from store to store - bring in multiple sizes. Ever notice how you may be a certain size in one store, while in another, something different. It is not your body changing instantaneously from store to store. Stores simply having different sizes from one another. Remember, you are more than a size, just like you a more than the number on the scale. Help yourself, be proactive. Bring into the change room a range of sizes as well as the mentality of, "I'm going to pick whatever fits the best" opposed to thinking, "I'm going to pick the smallest size" or "I'm going to pick whatever can hide my body the most".
#4 Cut out and throw away the tags. After purchase, and I emphasize the AFTER part, cut out and throw away any tags that indicate size. If it is too triggering to constantly see it, get rid of it. Help yourself in this way. There are two camps on the idea of being aware of your size or weight. One side says, 'the number is irrelevant so why know it', while the other side says, 'avoiding is not the answer, learn to accept it'. I think both are true. Depending, however, where you are in recovery, it may not be helpful to constantly be reminded of the size or number. Do what is pro health and recovery/well-being for you!
#5 Coping strategies. Make a list of affirmations and counter statements prior going to the mall that remind you of your worth and value regardless of size, etc. Put them on your phone or in your purse/wallet so you can use them while trying on clothes. Do not forget the basics, such as deep breathing, radical acceptance and mindfulness. Take a moment and try to pick out which song is playing in the store. Do you know it? Is there a scent in the store? How do the clothes you are trying on feel? Are they scratches like wool or smooth like silk? What colour is the shirt, skirt or pant? Being aware of these things can help bring you back to the present moment instead of obsessing in your head.
#6 Plan Ahead. Think what you need and what stores you think you will want to go. Sometimes, endlessly roaming the mall can be a high risk situation. If you do not know what stores you need to go to, or want to browse, give yourself a time limit. This could also help for those who lean too far into retail therapy and overspending. Do not let shopping give you an excuse to not have your snack or meal or to binge. If you are shopping over these time periods, be prepared. Either bring your snack/meal or plan to have it at the mall or out on the town. Again, have an idea of where you wanna go so you aren't left 'conveniently' in a lurch to restrict or binge.