Clothes shopping while in eating disorder recovery can be incredibly overwhelming. If this is your first fall since you have been in recovery, you may feel a sense of anxiety or dread as you’re switching out the dresses, shorts, or casual athletic wear in your closet for sweaters, jeans, and other more cozy options. You may be thinking that normally, you are excited for this shift in clothing style, as the staples of fall tend to be more comfortable than some of your summer options. But as your body shifts and changes, you find that some of your clothes don’t fit the way they did in the past or aren’t as comfortable as you remember, leaving you with limited options for what to put on for the cooler days ahead.
First of all, if you’re feeling this way, I’m right there with you. And while not everyone has the means to go buy a whole new wardrobe, if you are feeling overwhelmed by the wardrobe shifts this weather brings, it could be helpful to invest in a small handful of staples that you will feel comfortable in throughout the next several months.
So, whether you are looking for some clothes that you will feel more comfortable in this season or if you are simply in the market for a few new additions to your fall and winter wardrobe, here are some tips for clothes shopping while in eating disorder recovery that can help ease the anxiety that can come with doing something where our focus is on our bodies and the [very normal!] changes they may be going through.
6 Tips for Clothes Shopping While in Eating Disorder Recovery
1. Before you shop, write a list of what you need
Have the items you are looking for in mind so that you have a focus when you go into a store. It can be overwhelming for anyone to just want into a clothing store without a specific goal in mind, and even more so (in my own personal experience) for someone who is struggling with the idea of buying clothes in bigger sizes than what they are used to buying.
2. Start with multiple sizes
If you are looking for a new pair of jeans, for instance, try taking the same pair to the dressing room in two or three different sizes the first time you go in. That way, if you don’t like the way one size feels, you can cut down on the back and forth or checking for new sizes and having to go back into the dressing room. This can feel discouraging and time consuming!
3. Do the “Comfort Test” when trying on clothes
When you are trying on clothes in a store, start with your back to the mirror. Before you turn around to look at yourself, take a moment or two to think about how the clothing item feels on you. Maybe more around, stretch a bit, and try to notice the feeling of the fabric or material. Notice if there is anything that feels particularly comfortable or uncomfortable about the clothing item.
If the clothing item feels comfortable, then turn around to look to see if you like how it looks. If it does not feel comfortable, consider just taking it off without looking at all. This can help you make clothing decisions based primarily on how you feel in the outfit, rather than how you look or how you think others may perceive how you look. I have personally started using the comfort test when trying clothes on, and it has helped me make “yes” and “no” clothing decisions with a more intent purpose – if it doesn’t feel good when I try it on initially, it’s a no for me.
4. Bring a supportive friend or family member
If the thought of shopping for clothes alone makes the process feel and sound even more daunting, consider bringing someone who knows about your recovery journey and will be supportive while you are shopping.
5. Remind yourself that clothing sizes vary (drastically) by store and brand
After years of clothes shopping, it has become overwhelmingly evident that there is no regulation standard for clothing sizes. At any given moment, I have similar fitting clothes of varying brands in my closet that span the size spectrum. When you are clothes shopping while in eating disorder recovery, remind yourself that clothing sizes are often inconsistent, and that not one iota of your worth is linked to the clothing sizes you wear. So if you are sizing up, sizing down, or going from one size to another when you leave one store and go to the next, try to remember to shop for your clothes based on how they feel on your body, rather than by the size you think you should be. And ultimately, we all look best in clothes we feel comfortable in!
6. Shop online
Maybe you do a lot of your clothes shopping online, or maybe you tend to avoid it because it can be hard to know what sizes to try, and -let’s be real – the thought of having to go through the return process if and when something doesn’t work out is a major deterrent sometimes. However, shopping online can be a great option if the thought of going into a store and trying clothes on is not something you are ready or willing to do.
Many of the above tips still apply if you plan to shop online for your next sweatshirt of pair of jeans: Search for clothes with a purpose, consider buying a few sizes if you are able (knowing you will return the ones you don’t love) and when you do get the clothes in the mail, try them on using the comfort test! Don’t stand in front of your mirror right away!
Some sites (like Amazon) even have “Try before you buy” options for certain clothing items that allow you to order and try on the items before you are actually charged for them. This is a great way to try out a few new items without the pressure of having to spend money up front.
Make Peace With Shopping While in Eating Disorder Recovery
Clothes shopping while in eating disorder recovery can feel daunting and discouraging. Therefore, approaching it with a plan is essential to helping us move through wardrobe transitions in a way that accommodates both the changing seasons and our evolving bodies. I have found that the more comfortable I am in my clothes, the less I think about my body throughout the day. And that has been a welcome change from some of my old habits and thought patterns. Your clothes should be a source of comfort and -if you choose- expression, not a source of stress! So, let’s make a plan for getting clothes that make us feel comfortable and confident this fall and in each season that follows. And if you need help making a plan for clothes shopping, connecting with a therapist is a great step toward making peace with clothes shopping while moving through the recovery process.
By: Erika Muller, Assistant for Wildflower Therapy LLC
All images via Unsplash
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