It is the moment that many in anorexia nervosa treatment and recovery fear – the moment when weight restoration has been achieved and, therefore, new clothes are needed.
Choosing clothing for your weight-restored body will undoubtedly be challenging; however, it can be another aspect that inspires your new beginning.
Building a Recovery-Focused Wardrobe
In recovery, everything in your life should shift from a disorder-focused lifestyle to a recovery-focused lifestyle. Your wardrobe is no different. What a recovery-focused wardrobe looks like for you may differ from others.
Ultimately, a recovery-focused wardrobe isn’t really about what is seen or unseen, displayed or not; it is about what is most comfortable to you. Tight clothing often triggers individuals with prior eating disorder experience.
As ANAD points out, “your distorted thoughts will tell you there is something wrong with your body when in reality the article of clothing may be poorly designed or is simply the wrong size .”
Work to avoid fixating on a specific size with new clothes after weight restoration and remind yourself that there is no legislation or requirement for retailers to follow size standards. Clothing is about so much more than appearance. In fact, it’s initial intention is to be functional and protective. The fun of clothing is that it can be expressive, as well.
While dressing previously likely had motives centered on your eating disorder, the new focus is on displaying who you have found yourself to be through recovery and what feels good for you with your clothing.
Coordinating with Your Team to Find New Clothes After Weight Restoration
Your team is important in all aspects of your treatment and recovery, and choosing new clothing is no different. Members of your team are there to provide you with support and validation while also holding you accountable and helping you take personal responsibility for your recovery.
All of these aspects are necessary as you weight restore and begin to need new clothing. Your therapist, support worker, dietitian, or loved one can help you truly explore the nuances of new clothing.
These individuals know it isn’t about just clothing for you. Depending on your history, it may be about identity, expression, comfort, safety, textures, materials, self-shame, body image, and so many other factors. All of these cannot be ignored and should be a part of the discussion when you are trying on new things.
A question of “is it cute” will not suffice here. Your team needs to ask you tough questions such as “how does this feel,” “what is happening in your body as you wear this,” “what thoughts are coming up for you,” etc. While this takes the fun out of shopping, it helps you emotionally process this transition effectively and thoroughly.
Preparing Your Coping Skills
Finally, it will be important to be prepared to use your coping skills. You are not simply shopping. You are trying on clothing in a body that may feel foreign or uncomfortable to you.
This is bound to lead to challenging emotions that are difficult to grapple with. Consider what coping skills will help you with this process, whether it be a cognitive reframing of your changing body, reminding yourself of your “why,” opposite action, thought-stopping, or grounding skills.
No matter what your go-to coping skills are, be ready to use them, and don’t be afraid or ashamed to use them when and where you need to. Engage in mindfulness, complete Box breaths, use the STOP skill, etc. from the changing room if that is what is needed for you to overcome this challenge.
Accepting and getting-to-know your recovered body is a process just like recovery itself. It is not expected to be easy or fast. Give yourself grace as you work through this transition, knowing that, one day, you and this body will communicate lovingly.
Resources: Fuller, K. (2020). Clothing challenges in eating disorder recovery. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, retrieved from https://anad.org/education-and-awareness/body-image/body-image-articles/clothing-challenges/.
About the Author:
Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.
As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published October 27, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on October 27, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC