Strategies for Decreasing Stress and Increasing Mindfulness for clothes Shopping during Eating Disorder Recovery

There will come a time while in eating disorder recovery when you need to shop for new clothes. This could be because of body changes, size changes, lack of appropriate clothing for a certain occasion, or a change in personal style. Whatever the reason, going shopping and trying on clothes in a dressing room can involve heightened emotions and an emphasis on the body, which for some can lead to increased Eating Disorder (ED) thoughts and urges, or increased engagement in ED behaviors. Here are 6 tips for making the experience of shopping for clothes in a dressing room more tolerable during ED recovery:

1. Identify several intentions and grounding statements ahead of time

Setting Intentions Before Shopping Is Critical, It Helps Set The Tone For The Experience, And Focus Your Attention. Examples Of Intentions Might Include:

  • “I Will Only Look At Dresses Because I’m Looking For A Dress To Wear To A Wedding.”
  • “I Intend To Select Clothes That Bring Me Joy And Express My Personality.”

Grounding statements are simple statements that help ground us to the present moment, and to the intentions you set. Utilize these when you start to feel anxious or overwhelmed. Examples may include:

  • “My goal is to feel comfortable at my cousin’s wedding”
  • “I deserve to wear clothes that express my personality and fit my current body”

2. Be mindful of who you bring, if anyone at all

If you choose to bring someone shopping with you, make sure they are aware of your recovery and the goals for this shopping experience. Go over what is helpful and not helpful ahead of time. If you don’t have a supportive person who can come, it will be more effective to go alone.

3. Wear comfortable clothes that are easy to take on and off

Choose an outfit that you feel good in, that fits well, and that is simple to take on and off. This will minimize distress while in the dressing room.

4. Pay attention to hair, makeup, and accessories

Because you will be spending time in front of a mirror, consider wearing jewelry that you love or has sentimental value, styling your hair in a way that is comfortable, or wearing makeup that helps you feel empowered. The goal is to feel comfortable and like yourself.

5. Take in 3 different sizes and try on the largest first

Clothing sizes vary so drastically that it warrants taking in 3 sizes at a time to see which fits you best. Try on the largest size first, because if the largest size you brought in is too small you don’t have to bother trying on the other two sizes. This will lessen the amount of time you spend in the dressing room, and the amount of distress as well.

6. Have a plan for after

No matter what the outcome of the shopping experience, there needs to be a plan for after. Consider rewarding yourself in some way or spending time with a loved one.

You can do this

The experience of shopping for clothes can be a trying one, and it is an experience that needs to be prioritized and taken seriously when it comes to ED recovery. Shifting the narrative from scary to empowering can help change the impact of the experience, and lead to increased confidence the next time you need to go shopping.

Article by Nicole Bentley, LCSW

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