Shopping for clothes is not always as fun as the movies make it out to be. For many, clothes-shopping brings up body image concerns, self-consciousness, and a lot of other yucky feelings. These issues are even more intensified in the mind of someone with an eating disorder.
It isn’t just the thought of, “I wish I looked different.” The eating disorder voice says, “You need to look different.” I particularly remember shopping for my prom dress in high school, an activity that my friends seemed excited about. I don’t remember how many dresses I tried on, but I rejected each one for the same reason – I didn’t like how my body looked. I cried in so many dressing rooms during that search for my prom dress (and most other clothes-shopping experiences). It was just miserable. I felt like my body was recovering, but my mind was not yet caught up.
The clothes-shopping angst lasted for years. Even to this day, I do not add shopping for clothes to a list of the things I truly enjoy. I have learned some strategies to make it more bearable, though. Here are some tips on shopping for clothes during recovery:
1. If I am not in the mood to try something on, I buy it and try it on at home. If I don’t like it, I return it.
2. Comfort is the most important thing – if I don’t have an “I love this and feel good in this” reaction when I put something on, I put it back, because I know that I don’t truly love it 100%.
3. I focus on color/style/graphics when I am looking for clothes. My favorite clothes are ones that have positive messages or feature causes I believe in. For example, I have a tee shirt that says, “Thank you for not talking about your diet,” and I just bought some shirts to celebrate Pride! If I see something in a nice color and think it looks good on the hanger, I try it on. But I also remember that things can look very different on the hanger than when I try them on.
4. I don’t pay attention to numbers – if I see something that looks like it might fit me, I take a few different sizes to the fitting room.
5. If shopping for clothes is hard for you, I recommend bringing a supportive person with you. They can tell you if something fits or not, and they can also help you find clothes so that you don’t have to look at sizes.
6. There are companies that will pick out your clothes for you and deliver them to your doorstep. Google “clothing delivery services” and you will see a bunch of options to choose from.
7. If you need a bunch of new clothes, you don’t have to tackle everything at once.
8. Think about getting rid of/donating old clothes that no longer fit. This can be very hard, I know. If you can’t yet get rid of them, pack them in a box and put them in your basement/attic/storage area. Always remember that you are so much more than a clothing size.
You can read more recovery tips in an older post, How to Create a Pro-Recovery Environment for yourself.
“Your self-esteem won’t come from body parts. You need to step away from the mirror every once in a while, and look for another reflection, like the one in the eyes of people who love you and admire you.” – Stacy London
Alison is a passionate advocate for mental health awareness and recovery. She graduated from Salem State University in 2015 with a bachelor's in psychology, and returns to the school annually to speak about eating disorders and share her recovery story. Learn more about Alison on our Blog Squad page.