“I love clothes shopping, said no fat girl ever.” I saw this statement the other day, and I had to disagree. Now, don’t get me wrong, clothes shopping can be an exercise in frustration for sure. Not a lot of stores want a piece of the multi-billion-dollar plus-size clothing market, because…they are fools, I guess? And there is a serious lack of style, variety, and sizes even in stores that do want plus-size money. Also, there’s the sad fact that even plus-size stores only go up to certain sizes. So, there are clearly a lot of issues involved with shopping while fat. But! Let’s say you’ve found a store or two that carry clothes in your size. How do you make shopping fun, instead of an exercise in frustration and self-loathing? Big Fit Deal is here to help, with The Fat Girl’s Shopping Survival Guide. With gifs!
Step One: Breathe
Seriously, take a deep breath. It’s just clothes. Shirts, pants, dresses, skinny jeans – they are all inanimate objects, and they don’t actually have the ability to make you feel bad about yourself. If at any time you feel frustrated or upset during the shopping process, stop and breathe. It’s going to be okay. You can get through this.
Step Two: Bring Reinforcements
Call up someone who is patient, kind, and has a good sense of humor, and tell her (or him!) you’re hitting the mall. You need positive reinforcement, a keen eye, a loving heart, and someone willing to laugh with you. The best kind of shopping buddy is one who won’t let you bully or shame yourself, but who offers support and encouragement. If you don’t have a friend like this – if everyone you know is currently riding the Body Shame Train – go alone. Really. You do not need someone standing outside the dressing room, googling cleanses and encouraging you to feel lousy about your body.
Step Three: Let Go
This is a tough one, but I know you can do it (and you will be so happy when you do!): Stop caring about numbers. No one knows what size pants you wear, so why do you care what number is printed on the tag? And even more importantly, whatever that number says has absolutely zilch to do with your worth. Wearing a size 18 pants (or an 8 or a 28) doesn’t mean you are worth less than someone who wears a smaller size. It just means your pants are bigger. Here’s a numbers tip: Buy the size that is comfortable, that fits. I know you’ve squeezed yourself into something that doesn’t feel good because you liked the size, but how do you feel when you wear it? Probably uncomfortable. Try putting on the size you really need, no matter what the tag says. You’ll be surprised how good you feel when something truly fits!
Step Four: Be Patient
None of this is easy. You’ve spent your whole life being told that your body isn’t right, and the clothing industry reinforces this every time you step into a store, by making plus-size clothing hard to find, often unappealing, and usually more expensive than straight-sized clothes. Wearing something with a double-digit size can feel like the most embarrassing and shameful thing in the world. But it’s not. It’s just a number, just a size. Learning to let go is not an instantaneous thing, so please, be patient with yourself. Try, and if you fail, try again. It will come.
Step Five: Be Kind
When you do slip up, and berate yourself for no longer (or never being, like me!) a single-digit size, when you fall down that shame spiral again, please try to be kind to yourself. The next time you are tempted to say mean things to yourself because of your size, try this: Would you say those things to your mother, your daughter, your best friend, a child? Would you tell any of the people you love that they are worthless because they need a bigger pair of pants? I hope not. So don’t say terrible things to yourself, either. Be kind to yourself. Eventually, if you practice long and hard at it, that kindness will turn to love.
Step Six: Celebrate
Once you’ve had a successful shopping trip – and that could mean you walk out of the mall with overflowing bags, or you simply bought a pair of jeans in a size that is comfortable and truly fits, despite the number on the tag – take a moment to congratulate yourself. You’ve accomplished something important and wonderful, and you have a right to celebrate. That celebration can take any form, from an impromptu dance party in your car, to sharing a delicious meal with your shopping buddy, to a moment of quiet contemplation when you get home. When you celebrate your accomplishments, you’ll feel good, and want to accomplish more!
Okay, that’s what I’ve got for shopping advice. I hope it will help you to walk into a store with your head held high, try on whatever strikes your fancy, and leave with clothing that makes you feel good. We will all have slip-ups. And it’s very important to acknowledge that we have a long, long way to go before clothing for all sizes is made available and affordable. But self-loathing is something we can all learn to stop bringing into the changing room with us.