PSLs are back at Starbucks, everyone has started school, and Hallowe’en decorations are already on display at department stores. Autumn is coming quickly! And the change in seasons also brings with it a change in wardrobe – fall fashions are filling the stores at the shopping centres. For some people, this is a really exciting time! But what if clothing shopping – anytime of year – doesn’t make you feel excited? What if it makes you feel uncomfortable, anxious or dissatisfied with your body?
We already know there’s a vast difference between the media’s portrayal of how we’re “supposed” to look and the way real men and women actually look – in fact, this has been going on for decades1! It’s no surprise that many of us are dissatisfied with our bodies, no matter our age or our gender2. And when we don’t love our bodies, going shopping becomes a chore. We come home from the mall defeated, feeling even worse about our appearance. But shopping remains a necessary part of life, so we’re left with this question: is there any hope of shopping becoming less exhausting and more fun for me?
The truth is, shopping may never become as exciting to you as a trip to Disneyland is to a seven-year-old. But we have no doubt that shopping can become much more enjoyable than it is for you right now! To make things practical, we’ve compiled some tips from the blog over at Eating Disorder Hope with some of our own ideas to help make shopping just a little better for you.
Planning Your Shopping Trip
- Before you head out to the mall, invite someone to come with you! Choose a friend or family member who you feel comfortable with and who will help combat any of your negative thoughts or comments about your body3,4.
- Set a goal of what you want to buy– and keep it simple! Shopping for one specific item at a time can make the outing feel more manageable right from the start1. Before you even head to the mall, look through your closet and make a list of what you need/ want to add to your wardrobe. Then, choose one or two items to buy on your shopping trip.
- Choose which stores you’ll go to ahead of time. Prevent burnout by planning to go to only go to a few stores, not every store in the mall3.
- Set aside a reasonable period of timethat you’ll spend shopping – don’t have an unlimited time limit. If you haven’t found what you were looking for once time has run out, don’t let it get you down. The stores just didn’t have what you were looking for – try again another day at some different stores3.
While You’re Shopping
- When you start browsing the clothing racks at a store, take note of aspects of a clothing item that have nothing to do with the size– focus on the cut of a pair of pants, the style of a top, the colour of a piece of clothing, or the pattern of the fabric4. Let those details help you decide what items to take with you into the dressing room.
- Always bring three or four sizes of an item into the dressing room and try on the largest size first4. Remember, clothing sizes are not regulated. Check out our previous post on vanity sizing for more details on how inconsistent sizing is from store to store. Fitting into one size at one store and a totally different size at the next has nothing to do with your body and everything to do with the brand or style of the clothing item4.
- Don’t just base a purchase off how it looks in the mirror. Ask yourself questions like:
- Does it feel comfortable? Can I move freely in it?4
- Is the length of the pants/sleeves/hemline too long, too short or just right?4
- How does the material feel?4
- Is the outfit appropriate for the occasion I’m buying it for?5
- Does it fit with my personality or help express who I am?5
- Avoid buying clothing items that hide your body or accentuate areas that you find hard to love.Only buy what makes you feel confident and comfortable. And when you do find something that you feel good in, get it!
- Take breaks3. Don’t just “shop ‘til you drop” – make your shopping trip into a fun outing by doing things besides just shopping! After you finish at one store, step outside to breathe the fresh air, go grab a bite to eat or talk with your shopping partner about any feelings you’re experiencing.
- Speaking of feelings, be mindful of your emotionsthroughout the shopping process – checking in with yourself will help you catch negative thought patterns or anxious feelings before they become overwhelming. If you do notice these things, reframe your thinking. Replace the negative thoughts with positive affirmations or thoughts of gratitude. And if you’re finding shopping to be too overwhelming or triggering, give yourself permission to call it a day!
After Your Shopping Trip
- Reflect on what strategies worked and what didn’t work during your shopping experience. If one of our tips just wasn’t for you, that’s okay! But if something did work well for you and helped make shopping just a little bit better, do it again next time.
Remember that one successful shopping trip won’t necessarily make you feel totally body positive or completely in love with the way you look. But one small positive experience after another will help you to reach body neutrality – a middle ground between a negative and positive body image – where you can accept your body as it is right now and not put too much focus externals (for more info on how you can strive towards body acceptance, check out our post on “Body Positivity or Body Acceptance”). And, once you reach a point of body acceptance, then you can start to develop a positive body image – you can begin to notice and appreciate the unique beauty of your body and what it does for you, accept parts of your body that don’t fit with society’s impossible “ideal”, focus on your body’s assets, embrace size diversity and have an overall better relationship with your body5.
- Spitzer, B. L., Henderson, K. A., & Zivian, M. T. (1999). Gender differences in population versus media body sizes: a comparison over four decades. Sex Roles, 40(7), 545-565. doi: 1023/A:1018836029738
- Tiggemann, M. (2004). Body image across the adult life span: stability and change. Body Image, 1(1), 29-41. doi: 1016/S1740-1445(03)00002-0
- Karges, C. (2017). ED recovery and 10 clothing shopping tips for women. In Eating disorder hope. Retrieved from https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/blog/clothes-shopping-tips-women
- Haldeman, E. (2017). Clothing shopping struggles: building a recovery-focussed wardrobe. In Eating disorder hope. Retrieved from https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/blog/clothes-shopping-struggles-wardrobe
- Fabello, M. A. (2016). What if body acceptance doesn’t work? How about body neutrality? In National eating disorder information centre. Retrieved from http://nedic.ca/blog/what-if-body-acceptance-doesnt-work-how-about-body-neutrality