Not going to lie. I have been struggling with body image lately. It probably has a lot to do with the warmer weather and everyone else’s obsession about summer bodies. I have learned to ignore most of it, but I am going to try and challenge myself a bit this summer. I would live in my workout clothes if I could and since my career choice is exercise physiology I basically can live this way, but I have found it to be harmful for my recovery. Harmful because it is safe and makes all other clothing feel overwhelming. For outings that require attire other than shorts and a t-shirt, I find myself constantly changing clothes multiple times because nothing looks right to my eyes. When I worked as a research assistant I was constantly challenging myself on this because I had to wear business casual to work every day. I quickly learned that I could not look in mirrors and I had to physically ask myself if this outfit feels good today. I would also be in the shower and decide what I was going to wear that day beforehand so that when I reached the closet I could grab it and go. Not remain staring at the clothes for several minutes until I was late, making me even more anxious. The past year has been a lot more relaxed and if I wanted to I could always be in my “safe” clothes. That is exactly why I need to challenge myself because the longer I avoid other clothes, the harder it gets to combat body image. Another reason it has been challenging is because I really need to go shopping for new clothes, especially summer ones. I recently went through and donated a lot of my clothing. For a long time I held onto my “sick” clothes because my disordered brain thought that if I fit into them again I would be thin and happy. Lies. I know now that I would be sick and miserable. So the first challenge is shopping. I still hate it, but now I actually look at clothes I want and try on all sizes to get the right fit for me. I am also visiting my mom soon and she is one of the few people I can shop with because she lets me take my time and keeps the commentary to a minimum. I will have to let you know how it goes, but if you do struggle with clothes shopping here is some advice that I have learned to make it a little less aggravating.
- Go earlier in the day and on weekdays if you can to avoid a lot of people. I find it easier to take my time and relax some if all the dressing rooms are free and people aren’t constantly in the way.
- Don’t focus on the sizes. Every brand is different and you can’t rely on a size or number to define you. If you like what you see, grab two or three different sizes and try them on randomly without checking the size first. Choose what feels the best on you and what you like the most. Also realize that different body types allow for different types of clothing. I am a badass muscular jump roper, aka there is no way I am fitting my calves into skinny jeans and that is okay!
- Go alone or only with someone who knows you struggle and can be helpful. Again this gives you the ability to take your time without any judgment. Everyone has different styles and tastes and it is much easier to get clothes that you like and feel comfortable in if you are alone or with someone who can be neutral.
- This may be hard for a lot of people who struggle with an eating disorder, but please eat before you go shopping. People sometimes don’t want to feel any bloating or feel any type of fullness before trying clothes on because it helps body image, but I feel quite the opposite. If I eat before I shop I am not hungry and therefore I’m less focused on food and less agitated. If I don’t eat and I buy something when I feel “light” it then triggers me when I wear it later. In my brain I will only want to wear the clothes under the same conditions I bought them in which leads me to restrict.
- Challenge yourself. If there is a type of clothing that you want but never buy it because you don’t think it “fits” you right, buy it anyways. I love summery dresses but in the back of my mind I always think I have too athletic of a build to wear them. Screw that thinking, I plan on buying at least one or two because I want them! Don’t let yourself get focused on the mirrors either. Check if it looks good, but don’t obsess over little flaws that you think your body has. Rely on your other senses to tell you if it is something you want to buy.
By following my own tips I hope to come home from my visit with my mom with some new additions for my wardrobe. Then the challenge will be wearing them more often and not allowing bad body image days to ruin outings. I am trying to work on choosing an outfit and then moving on and not letting myself think too hard about something that doesn’t really mean much. I have spent far too much time thinking about how I look rather than thinking about how I feel and how grateful I am for every day.