Eight thoughtful tips for a formidable task during your recovery journey
When you are in eating disorder recovery, nothing may feel more daunting than clothes shopping. Even if your body has not been changing, the experience of looking through the racks of clothes, getting upset by size tags, navigating the dressing room, and talking with salespersons can be trigger central!
Most salespersons are not educated about eating disorders and size inclusivity and may focus on helping people find items that make you look “thinner and slimmer.” Additionally, they may try to upsell more expensive merchandise. Persons with eating disorders often have a fear of using resources on themselves, so the idea of spending money on oneself may also lead to a resistance factor to buying new clothes. When this necessary task looms on the horizon for you or your loved one, the pull of avoidance can be strong. Some may even reconsider important plans in order to circumvent the enormous chore of trying on clothes.
Why Clothes Matters
Feeling comfortable and relaxed in clothing is crucial when you struggle with body dissatisfaction. Clothes that don’t fit right draw attention to the body and can ramp up discomfort and anxiety, leading to eating disorder behaviors in an effort to assuage those unwanted feelings. Some persons also like to “hide” in larger clothing as a solution to not feeling like they can “look good” in anything. In addition, persons with eating disorders may hoard “sick clothes” in their closets in an attempt to hang on to the false hope that dieting, disordered eating behaviors, or thin-focused thinking gave them.
So how can you make clothes shopping a more comfortable, enjoyable experience? Here are eight tips to consider for your next outing:
1. Focus on the fitting rooms.
If possible, choose a department store with fitting rooms that have soft lighting (instead of glaring fluorescents), a three-way mirror, and a large enough changing space for you to easily move around.
2. Bring a supportive family member or friend with you.
Instead of using the salesperson for help with finding garments, bring a person who you trust to help you navigate the experience. Additionally, there may be a few professional shoppers here and there who have experience with eating disorders. If you can find one, interview them before you go shopping and assess your comfort level with this person’s knowledge about eating disorder recovery.
3. Let your shopping buddy focus on sizes.
Show them the garments you like and ask them to sift through the racks for the correct sizes. They should grab two or three different sizes of the same garment for you to try on to ensure that you find one that works. Remember that sizes are not standard and often depend on the brand or country of manufacture.
4. Ask your family member or friend to come into the dressing room with you.
When you are in the stall, turn your back to the stall mirror and resist looking into that mirror. Mirrors in the stalls are often lower-end and not flattering. They can be warped or poorly lit. Have your supportive other give you one item at a time to try on. Resist looking at the size tag.
While trying on the garment, if it feels like it doesn’t fit, stop right there and give the garment back to your supportive other. Send them to find a different size if needed. If the garment fits and you think you may like it, walk out of the stall to view it in the three-way mirror. Those mirrors are often higher quality and have better lighting. Plus, if you feel confident enough to leave the stall to view it, it is a good sign that you may have found something you like!
More Tips For Clothes Shopping
5. Have your supportive other cut the size tag off your garments immediately after purchase.
Bring some scissors with you! You can also bring a waterproof black marker to cross out the size if you want to save the tag for washing instructions.
6. Look for clothes with stretch.
Because your body will adjust to regular nutrition during your recovery journey, please don’t expect clothes to fit the same as they did before. If you are in the process of interrupting eating disorder behaviors and adjusting to a regular meal plan, it is best to find clothing with stretch to give your body room to flow in and out of the adjustments it needs to make.
Opt for loose fitting or stretchy pants rather than snug denim or tight waist bands. If appropriate, consider getting fitted for a new bra or focus on undergarments that have stretch. Nothing is more uncomfortable than ill-fitting underwear! Items that allow room in the midsection are preferred too. Tunics, button-down shirts, linen tops, flared shirts, and blouses may be good options to try over fitted tees and sweaters. Don’t forget comfortable shoes too. Tight shoes, boots, or heels with no give for the feet are not worth the agony!
7. Focus on staple items that can be mixed and matched in neutral colors.
If you want to add some flair, you can accessorize.
8. Get rid of “sick clothes” and other items in your closet that remind you of eating disorder days.
I strongly recommend that you enlist your supportive other to help you clean out your closet. Box up the sick clothes and anything else that you haven’t worn in the last year. Consider donating them to a local shelter or charity. Please do not give these clothes to family members or friends. It can be too triggering to see them on others!
A note for supportive others: You should include the recovering person in the discussion of this process. Unless directed by your recovering person or their treatment team, do not secretly go into the room and rid them of their sick clothes. This task is an important opportunity for therapeutic healing during eating disorder recovery.
Shopping on a Budget
Before I close, I want to share a few additional tips focused on shopping on a budget. These thoughts are shared with gratitude from a discussion in The Eating Disorder Foundation’s 50+ Virtual Support Group.
Now that you’ve got some guardrails in place, it’s time to pick a store, find your supportive other, and set a date to shop! Know that it will be hard. It may bring up unwanted thoughts and emotions. But remember: You are incredibly resilient. Lean into finding clothing that is comfortable and expresses your unique style and creativity to bring you forward in your new recovery identity. You can do this!
Check out my website or reach out to me via my contact page. I offer free, 30-minute consultations to new clients.
Yes, the holiday season is a busy and exciting time, but it can also be hard. Whether you’re an individual in treatment or recovery or a support person for a loved one, you’re bound to face some roadblocks between now and the New Year. I recently spoke with my colleague Roxanne Sardone of Grounded Nutrition Therapy about this topic, and I’m thrilled to share our conversation with you. In today’s blog post (as well as the video above), we discuss why the holidays are hard as well as five tips to help you handle the most challenging moments.
Why the Holidays Are Hard
To start, with the holidays comes a disruption to your regular routine. It’s difficult to know what to expect, how to eat, and what to do in the days following. “It’s a total change in your daily schedule,” Roxanne explains. “Life can be hard enough to navigate even with the predictability of breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”
On top of the uncertainty, there are a lot of emotions associated with the holiday season. The pressure to make the holiday just right raises everyone’s anxiety. There’s also an increased need to show up and navigate social situations, which can make you feel both uncomfortable and exhausted. As you begin making plans, it’s important to set boundaries about what you can and can’t do.
And, of course, there are family dynamics at play. Given the increased stress, conflicts during the holidays are normal. It’s not unusual for you to feel tension among your family members. If you have a large family, I recommend splitting your time among a few smaller groups to help you all stay calm. When needed, practice your breathing techniques to ground yourself.
I also want to add that the holidays can be a time filled with loneliness. You may be reminded of a loved one that you’ve lost or relationships that have changed in recent years. Give yourself space for these emotions. It’s okay to have a cry about your loss or to take some down time and just be alone with your grief.
Five Reflections to Help You Navigate the Holidays
Here are five tips to help you navigate the challenges of the holiday season:
Watch the video above for more tips to help you navigate the holidays during treatment or recovery. It is my hope that these ideas allow you to handle this season with optimism and give yourself some much-needed grace!
For more information, check out my website or reach out to me via my contact page. I offer free, 30-minute consultations to new clients.
Recovery from an eating disorder, addiction, or other mental health challenge is an incredible undertaking that requires courage and stamina. The individual has to make choices towards recovery in the presence of distress and discomfort. We cannot expect every day to go perfectly and must understand that there will be moments of doubt, mistakes, or simple slips in staying the course. In fact, those moments can provide very useful information about triggers, places of pain, and areas of focus. Still, recovering persons, support persons, and providers may understandably worry about these instances as a sign of an impending relapse.
Below is a Stoplight Plan that can be useful in recovery, especially when working with support persons and clinician team members to determine more support is needed. It is particularly important to assess progress overall, not moment by moment or even day to day. Progress assessed over a week’s time is recommended, so that one can focus on the successes and achievements as well as the areas of struggle. Furthermore, it is important to have a plan of action in writing and shared with others, one that clearly defines goals and progress measurements (i.e. Bonnie will attend two support meetings this week.).
When a recovering individual is on a green light, it means that, over the last week, they have maintained or made progress in recovery as measured by their treatment plan, nutritional plan, behavioral contract, and/or another goal. We are looking for progress rather than perfection. We are also focused on the ability to quickly recover from any moments or behavior choices that take one away from recovery.
It is advised that support persons and clinicians emphasize strengths, successes, and behaviors that are working rather than focus solely on problem areas. Reinforcing positive actions will help individuals feel competent and confident in recovery, and they will be more likely to choose these behaviors in the future.
A recovering individual on yellow is someone who is struggling and needs support and care to get back on track. Overall, progress is going in the wrong direction, and the recovering person, support persons, and clinicians are concerned.
At the yellow stage, it is recommended that a discussion among all support persons and clinicians is had to circle the wagons of support and help the individual reset and focus on goals. A clinician may call a “huddle” or start a written communication (with appropriate consents in place). The recovering individual has one to two weeks to demonstrate that they can get moving in the right direction. This time is a great opportunity to assess adding in some additional supports like online groups, family time, or an extra session with a clinician.
A red light means that the recovering person has not had success with getting back on track and it is time to discuss more intensive treatment options. This discussion is meant to be a motivator, not a threat.
A fear that many recovering persons have is that their clinicians and support persons will give up on them and tell them that can’t help them anymore. And, while it is true that there are times when the individual’s behavior requires support beyond what a clinician or support person can offer, it is also crucial to give the message that you believe that they can do it with added support. As long as the person is medically and psychiatrically stable, the clinicians and support persons can elect to give it another week for the individual to move back into recovery before referral to more intensive care.
The use of the Stoplight Plan can greatly reduce anxiety and worry about what to do when challenges arise during recovery. It also outlines how to give an individual both space and support as they undertake this difficult journey. Please feel free to share this plan with others.
Never give up hope!
Check out my website or reach out to me via my contact page. I offer free, 30-minute consultations to new clients.
Bonnie Brennan shares thoughts, inspiration, skills and resources for recovery