I’m recovering from an eating disorder. I struggled with symptoms for 16 years before I sought help. I went to treatment because I was slowly dying. While in treatment, I struggled greatly with accepting my changing body. I had to weight restore, and it was hard to handle both mentally and physically.
About 4 weeks into treatment, my clothes began to be too small. This threatened my progress and trust in the process. I felt so bad about my inability to fit in my clothes. My clothes were my scale- they were always how I judged my body shape and weight. This is a common theme among women in recovery. With my struggle, I’ve also found victory. It’s a simple statement that can change the course of one’s recovery:
Don’t allow clothes to define you. Here’s how.
1. Get rid of your sick clothes
While I was in treatment, my husband and best friend packed up all my “sick” clothes. I call them sick clothes because they kept me stuck in my disease. Like many women in general, I’d kept clothes from college, even high school, because I was afraid of not having enough or not being able to replace them. The phrase “I might wear this” was thrown around often in my daily routine of rummaging through old clothes attempting to find something to wear.
Sometimes I tried on clothes “just to see” if they fit. If the item was tight, I went through a self-shaming routine. Then I’d use behaviors to compensate for the inability to comfortably fit in the item that should’ve been disposed of years prior. It was a cycle that had to be broken for me to stay on the path of recovery. The clothes had to go. My advice to you: if it represents sick to you- get rid of it.
Get rid of any clothes you have to engage in eating disorder behaviors to fit into.
2. Buy clothes that are non-restricting, and can grow with you
Jeans and restrictive clothing were not my friends when I went into treatment. I was in weight restoration and I didn’t need extra stress of having to “fit” into pants and shirts that were too tight or restraining. Yoga pants became my go-to bottoms, along with my husband’s t-shirts. Although they were good for my changing body, they were not good for my confidence. I was gifted with leggings and tops that were comfortable and cute, but they were not for working out. The clothes were exactly what I needed. The ability to wear one-size-fits-all leggings with flattering, yet non-restrictive, shirts helped me shift my discomfort with my growing body. I began to feel good about getting dressed in the morning. And the newfound comfort and confidence helped me heal my relationship with my body on a deeper level.
3. Add color and patterns to your life
One of my issues in my eating disorder was black and white thinking. There was little grey area in my life- and my closet showed it. I owned all black, white, and grey clothing with very little patterns. Actually, no patterns or colors at all. My best friend who got rid of all my clothing was shocked at the lack of color.
So I gave myself a guideline when rebuilding my wardrobe: no black, white, or grey clothing. I needed to shift my thinking by shifting my presentation of myself. Shockingly, it worked. The more open to patterns and colors I was in my wardrobe, the more open I was in life in general!
I began to walk with confidence, stand up straight, and even become more adventurous in eating and trying new foods!
It was like the two were connected. The more I was willing to break out of my shell in my clothing choices, the more willing I was to not identify myself with the old rules and restrictions on food that had held me captive in my eating disorder for years. Who knew wearing leggings with doughnuts on them could help me consume a doughnut?!?
4. My eating disorder is the least interesting thing about me
I struggled for a long time finding my identity in what was on the outside: my body, my clothes, my size, my fitness. All those outside, superficial things kept me painted in a corner with nowhere to turn. It was not until I completely had to give up control of all of those things I realized that they were not what defined me.
My body, my clothes, my food intake- they are the least interesting thing about me.
Before I went to treatment, since I defined myself through those aspects, they became my sole focus in life. I was missing out on my children, my husband, my friends, and my life. Once I consciously made the shift to looking within, I began to learn what truly defined me: my faith, my heart, my character, and my life’s journey.
Yes, clothing is important in recovery, but your clothes do not define who you are. They are a vehicle, like your body is a vehicle, to connect, to love, and to find joy in the present moment. That is what makes you you, and that is what makes life worth living.
Image Source: Flickr