Tips for Clothes Shopping on Bad Body Image Days

Do bad body image days make you hate trying on clothes? Take all the fun out of shopping?

I understand.

After recovering from an eating disorder (ED) in 2016, dealing with both rapid and gradual weight gain has been tough. And, it forced me to replace nearly my entire wardrobe over a span of several years.

In the process, I felt all the emotions about sizing, dressing room mirrors, and especially about my own body.

I’ve felt—and dealt—with those emotions, because I knew I could never go back to my eating disorder again.

But, I realize that body image issues don’t always stem from eating disorders. Maybe that’s you. Maybe you struggle with how your body looks when you go shopping, and you’ve never had an ED.

Regardless of the why behind your struggle, I hope to encourage you and help you change your mindset the next time you go shopping.

How I feel about clothes shopping today

Real talk: I still have the occasional bad body image day. Guess what? That’s normal. That doesn’t mean I’ve failed at anything.

You see, progress is not about your feelings. It’s about how you respond to them.

It took years for me to get here, but I can now try on a pair of jeans without letting the size that fits bother me. I can look in the mirror and if the shirt is too tight, I try the next size up. Or two sizes up. Whatever fits is okay with me, regardless of what’s on the tag.

Honestly, it AMAZES me that I can shop without worrying about sizes now. At one point in my life, I believed that’d NEVER be possible.

It feels like a miracle and massive freedom at the same time.

I want that freedom for you, too—if you need it.

So, I’m sharing a few tips below, and hoping that at least one resonates with you today.

Focus on the fit, not the size

Do you wanna know something crazy I learned after recovering and gaining weight? Wearing the size that fit me was more flattering than trying to squeeze into a smaller size. Even if the smaller size zipped or buttoned and I “technically” fit into it, there was little satisfaction because it actually drew more attention to areas of my body I struggled to love.

The more I embraced whatever size fit, the more freedom I felt in buying clothes. The objective changed from buying the smallest size possible to buying whichever one buttons, zips, or fits the way I want it to.

There is more confidence in wearing the size that works for your body than trying to make your body work for a size. I promise!

Sizes aren’t consistent

Have you noticed? There’s no size consistency from one brand to the next. Heck, even within the same brand sometimes! And that doesn’t even factor in slim fit and oversized fit styles.

On any given shopping day, I could fit into two or even three different sized jeans, and anywhere from an XS to a Large top. It sure doesn’t make shopping easy!

If you’ve experienced this—the frustration of size fluctuation—don’t let it discourage or derail how you feel about your body.

Instead, I challenge you to see the bright side. The reality that the size a brand chooses to put on a tag truly means nothing. It’s an arbitrary letter or number with no standard.

What does size 10 even mean? Medium compared to what? Even the jean sizes based on waist circumference (28, 29, 30, etc.) can vary based on fit, fabric, low rise, high rise, or whatever hip measurements the manufacturer decided to use.

I could go on, but I hope you get the point. Sizes don’t just mean nothing psychologically. They mean nothing physically. Literally NOTHING.

Remember that the next time you fit into a size you don’t expect.

No one knows what size you’re wearing

Did you ever think about that? The people around you only see the outside of your clothes. They don’t see the number or the letter(s) on your tag.

And even if they could see the tag, anyone who is fixated on the size YOU wear has their own issues to deal with.

The next time you let fear of other people’s opinions keep you from buying the size that fits, kill that thought. You are more than a tag that isn’t even visible. A tag that doesn’t define you. No one needs to see it, but even if they did, that size—whatever it happens to be—tells them absolutely nothing about who you are.

Online shopping is trial and error

To be fair, it likely is for everyone. Buying without trying on is always a gamble. But, when you struggle with gaining weight or body image, knowing what size to order or how it will fit can feel like a major guessing game. Not to mention, online returns can be both annoying and expensive, depending on the retailer.

A few things helped me:

  • Don’t just guess. Review the size guides. While they aren’t 100% accurate, they are a good place to start.
  • Read the reviews. I can’t emphasize this enough! Too many times to count, reviews have steered me toward a bigger—or smaller—size than I would have otherwise ordered. And, the size fit!
  • If possible, try something on in a story before you buy on line. Or even something similar from the brand. Yes, I did mention that sizes can fluctuate even within a brand, but it may give you a more educated guess. I also like doing this to comparison shop. Say I try something on in-store that I LOVE, but it isn’t on sale. Google it! You might just find it cheaper online and you already know it fits!
  • Embrace the returns. Like I said, it’s trial and error for everyone. Don’t let getting it wrong the first time keep you from trying again. And, on that note…
  • Find online retailers with free returns!

Wear what you love

It’s easy to get caught up in the latest styles. The newest trends all the influencers are wearing. This season’s must-have looks on the rack.

The reality is… trends change so quickly that it’s hard to keep up. What’s popular today won’t last, unless it’s a classic statement.

I love that more and more people are embracing an “anything goes” approach to fashion these days— buying and wearing styles they love instead of what might win the approval of others or help them fit in.

It’s okay to be unique and express your personality.

Wearing what makes you happy gives you the freedom to buy and wear whatever feels comfortable on any given day. Whatever makes you feel like you.

Don’t feel forced to wear a trend that doesn’t feel right.

Feel your emotions

Ever felt like crying in a dressing room? Me, too.

It’s okay to have those emotions. Let yourself feel them. That’s important!

If you find yourself continuously avoiding how you really feel, you’ll likely never stop feeling that way. It doesn’t work like that.

My recovery and weight gain taught me that it’s not only okay, but NECESSARY to sit with emotions that scared me. Emotions I didn’t want to feel.

Applied to clothes shopping and body image in general, that means:

  • Facing yourself.
  • Acknowledging your feelings.
  • Asking yourself questions, like “Why am I feeling this way?” or “Why does this bother me?”
  • Then, dissect your answer. Is it really true? Or, is it based on a lie that society has pounded into your head?

I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that any negative feelings you have toward your body ARE based on lies. I know mine were!

Lies that my life was less valuable in a bigger size. That everyone else cared how my butt looked in my jeans. That gaining weight somehow meant I was lazy or incompetent. That I would be happier and more fulfilled if everything I wore made me look like a model.

Of course, today, we see ads with models of all shapes and sizes. And I LOVE that! But, it’s not what I grew up with, so that impossible standard was hard to shake.

An impossible standard that was a lie.

So, I encourage you to get real with yourself. Feel those feelings. Identify the lies—and replace them with truth.

It’ll take some time and practice, but don’t give up! Friend, if I can, you can. I believe in you!

My hope is that you’ll get to a place where shopping feels like fun and freedom, no matter your size.

Now, who wants to go shopping?!

P.S. If you are in the process of recovery and have—or want to have—a relationship with God, I wrote a devotional book that might help.

It’s available on Amazon (ebook and paperback) or Barnes & Noble (paperback only).

One thought on “Tips for Clothes Shopping on Bad Body Image Days

  1. Pingback: Life After Eating Disorder Recovery: What I Learned – adventure and the girl

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