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  • Writer's pictureKelly Neilson, MDA RD LD

Clothes Shopping Tips for Bad Body Image During the Holidays

With the holidays here, there’s often more shopping as the weather gets colder, as winter outfits are needed to bundle up, and as you’re roaming stores for holiday deals and gifts.

During the holidays bad body image can heighten with the extra stress of the season. A new season can also mean that it’s time to add new pieces to your wardrobe if your current body is in need of clothes that fit comfortably.

A large part of eating disorder recovery is healing from negative body image and learning how to accept your own unique body, shape, and size.

Here are a few reasons clothes shopping can be overwhelming, and bring up a lot of emotions and feelings:

  • Processing how to accept your here-and-now body

  • Being OK with a new size

  • Finding clothes that fit and feel good

  • Facing dressing rooms and mirrors

  • Navigating size tags

  • You might not feel you’re worthy of new clothes or to wear certain pieces or styles

  • The pressure of unrealistic beauty standards set by society

Clothes shopping can cause uncomfortable thoughts from the eating disorder and triggers that lead to anxiety, panic, and a downward spiral. That’s why this list of clothes shopping tips for bad body image during the holidays is SO important to take with you and help you navigate the stores.

You deserve clothes you feel good in this holiday season, and that honor your recovery and your body today!

How to Shop for Clothes When You Hate Your Body

Recovery from an eating disorder can result in body changes as you start to nourish yourself well and treat your body more kindly. Bodies also change for many reasons as you ebb and flow through life, so it’s entirely NORMAL to need new clothes at the start of a new season.

These clothes shopping tips for bad body image during the holidays can help you manage anxiety, practice healthy coping skills, and stay recovery focused!

Shop at Stores that Have Inclusive Sizing

Stores that have inclusive sizing have an atmosphere showcasing body diversity, which makes it much more encouraging to walk in and see realistic mannequins or models on display.

It’s important to acknowledge that clothes shopping can be difficult for anyone, but society makes it harder for those in larger bodies to easily go shopping. The fashion industry has made good strides, but there’s still a long way to go. Continued change to be more inclusive and respectful to all bodies is a must.

A few size inclusive stores either online or store front within a range of price points include: Girlfriend Collective, Universal Standard, Old Navy, Nordstrom, Target, and Macy’s.

Take a Trusted Friend or Loved One

If you can, take someone to support you while shopping who understands your recovery and has a healthy mindset around body acceptance and diversity. They can be there to encourage you, help you process, talk you through difficult feelings you’re having, and keep you on task.

It might be beneficial that your support person is there for you rather than doing their own shopping in order to avoid comparisons.

Grab 2-3 sizes of Each Piece

Completely avoiding size tags is not possible, but do your best to take 2-3 potential sizes into the dressing room without fixating on the number. Sizes change from store to store and even within the SAME store based on cut, fabric, style, and fit.

Know that there’s nothing wrong with your body if the sizes don’t work. The clothing is wrong, not your body.

Shop for Your Here-and-Now Body

Buying clothes for the body you have right now is a meaningful step in working towards body acceptance. Clothes that honor your current body help you stay present in your body today and not think about the past or the future.

Try Clothes on Away From the Mirror

Without looking at the size, take a piece of clothing from your pile you grabbed and try it on away from the mirror. Continue to grab from the pieces you have until you find one that feels good. If it feels good, do a once over in the mirror and decide if you want it. Remember, the mirror is not for critiquing your body - your support person can keep you on track with this if so!

Buy What FEELS Good

Once you try clothing on, assess how it feels on you. Sit down, bend over, squat, cross your legs. Do you like the material? Does it feel restricting or is it breathable? Can you move around comfortably and engage in daily life while wearing them?

Asking these questions helps you remember that your body is for experiencing life, like ice skating this winter with family or walking through the neighborhoods admiring holiday lights!

Stop for a Snack

Fueling your body is important so that you have enough energy to shop! If you’re hangry then your mood can become irritable and you might get more frustrated making decisions. The experience is always more enjoyable when you’re nourished and fueled.

This might be a good opportunity for a holiday themed challenge snack - maybe stopping for a peppermint mocha with a gingerbread loaf, yum!

Check-in with Yourself

If you notice unhealthy thoughts getting loud, be compassionate with yourself because clothes shopping is a hard step in recovery. Allow yourself to sit down, take a deep breath, or get some fresh air to regroup.

Challenge those negative body image thoughts and use coping skills or have mantras ready such as All bodies are good bodies or My body is good no matter what it looks like. If negative body image thoughts during the holidays pop up, let the thoughts come and go.

Make a Plan

It’s helpful to decide what items you’ll be looking for so that you don’t become too overwhelmed with options. If you’re in need of jeans, plan to focus on finding jeans for that shopping trip.

Decide a budget, pick a few stores, give yourself enough time, but also place a limit on how long you’ll take. It’s common to get lost shopping for hours, especially if you’re struggling with body image issues and start getting frustrated in the dressing room trying things on.

If you find time going by and you’re feeling defeated, wrap it up and leave. It’s OK if you need to leave and set a date to try again another time.

Wear What Feels Authentic to You

Clothing is a way to express yourself, so be true to you! Some feel empowered wearing form fitting clothes while others genuinely like loose clothes. Maybe you’re going to a holiday party and instead of wanting to wear a sparkly red dress you’d rather wear a fun ugly Christmas sweater - own it!

Experiment with what you like and find your unique style! Just make sure to check in that it’s YOU that prefers your choices and not the eating disorder.

Bad Body Image During the Holidays? Connect with an Eating Disorder Dietitian

Take these clothes shopping tips for bad body image during the holidays and give yourself a pat on the back for this huge stride in recovery! Shopping is all about trial and error, and everyone, no matter their shape or size, has shopping days that feel successful and others that feel like a bummer.

If you’re getting used to a new size and body changes, be easy on yourself and remember that your body is on your side! Your new size may feel uncomfortable at the moment, but give it some time for you to feel at home in your body.

If you’re struggling with your relationship with food and your body, let’s connect! As a virtual eating disorder dietitian I’m here to walk alongside you this holiday season!

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