Giving grace to my body was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. By grace I mean allowing it to be whatever shape it decided it wanted to be when I allowed myself unconditional permission to eat my favorite foods (Cody wrote an awesome post on that here) in an intuitive way and move in a way that made me happy and felt good.
Grace doesn’t mean I totally love my body or I think it looks good in all types of clothes. Grace to me means acknowledging that my body is what it is and I should dress it appropriately. Once I figured out that my “maybe I’ll fit into those smaller size jeans” jeans weren’t fitting me appropriately anymore I sort of adopted a new way of dressing myself that allowed me to feel cared for and confident. Those too small jeans were from a life I lived before finding intuitive eating and intuitive movement and hanging on to them wasn’t helping we work towards body acceptance.
(Hiking is one of my favorite forms of movement. Taking time to move outside and take in some nature is one of my fav forms of self care)
At that point I knew I didn’t want to keep my poorly fitting clothing any longer but I also loathed the idea of shopping because shopping and I were never bffs. Whether it was breakdowns in the dressing room or being happy with an item and then feeling like I wasn’t cool enough to wear it or was too confused as to what I should pair it with, the whole experience had always been stressful in the past. I didn’t want to deal. No way.
But, I knew I would have to buy some new clothes eventually, so very slowly, I began to give away what didn’t fit or didn’t make me feel good. Remember…this was slowwwww. So if the idea of this seems scary for you right now, that is okay. After giving away clothes, I began making a list of everything I thought I needed for a new, feel-good-in-my-body wardrobe. The giving away was relatively easy because at this point I was about to leave Chicago (where I completed my undergrad) and head start a new chapter in grad school. The newness of that move felt refreshing. Don’t let me fool you though, the shopping part was definitely the hardest. If you are struggling with body changes right now and the idea of shopping for new clothes or allowing yourself to have clothes that fit is daunting for you, maybe the things I did for myself will resonate with you.
Here were some of the “rules” I made for myself before shopping:
- Purchase what I need first (basics) and then I could get more fun stuff once I got used to the process (and had more money because grad school = budget!)
- Only purchase the item if I felt confident. Confident not in a prideful way but a self-assured way.
- Shift my perspective to make shopping an aspect of self care rather than a place for self criticism.
This could be fun!
(My favorite LOFT stretchy dress and jean jacket that are fierce staples in my wardrobe)
With these rules in mind, I chose to go shopping during quiet days at the mall- not a Saturday or Sunday- and chose to tackle one or two items at a time and then leave. Again, this was a slow process, as is learning to trust your body or work through intuitive eating. We are in no rush here! There’s something cool about the process. I learned a little more about myself and my body through it all and I’m still learning. Isn’t that relieving to know we never really arrive? We just keep understanding ourselves better.
When I began, I wanted a new basic wardrobe so these were the sort of things I was looking for; 1 pair black jeans, 1 pair dark skinny jeans, a new business casual pant, basic plain t-shirts, a jean jacket, a leather jacket, a blouse or two, a new dress, new athleisure leggings, some new flats that went with a lot of things…
I started with bottoms. Ugh jeans. I looked all over only to find the place that fit me best was Madewell. Prior to Madewell I felt sort of meh about everything. I also had never tried on high rise/high waisted pants before and I was mind blown at how confident I felt in them! Cue the dressing room jeans dance. You guys, my life has changed because of high rise denim. I think Madewell is a bit pricy but the thing is…the jeans last for years and if you are a student you get a 15% discount – score! I ended up having great luck at LOFT for business-y pants and they have 40% off sales so often it makes shopping feel like a total deal.
Things I learned: I like jeans to be stretchy, high rise, and dark wash. I actually learned to appreciate my waistline and the natural curves of my hips.
Blouses and shirts were next. With a lot of trial and error I learned it was uncomfortable when shirts squeezed too tightly on my upper arms (like bicep area) , when I can’t move my arms around (like in a tight blouse), and when things were too tight on my tummy area. My body naturally carries weight in my tummy (this is why high rise jeans rock) and I have always had strong shoulders and arms (thanks gymnastics!) and I had to accept that. There is zero use fighting these things. These parts of my body I hated in the past and tried to change, but after understanding that that’s just how my body rolls I could make peace with it and focus on what I could change – the clothing I wear. Clothes should fit your body, not your body fitting the clothes. That’s why there are so many different fits and silhouettes of clothes!
I did a lot of basic t-shirt testing and blouse testing. Eventually, I found ones I felt confident in and I bought them in neutral colors so I could wear them with anything. Throw on a different statement necklace or scarf to switch it up and I had a whole new outfit.
Things I learned: I need tops to be flowy around my upper arms and have enough room for my shoulders to move + not too snug on my tummy. Jackets just needed to be loose enough on my arms so I didn’t feel confined.
(Interrupting the clothes photos with a travel food pic. Let’s take a moment here. I had THE BEST fish and chips in Seattle. I went on my clothing journey at the same time as I was making more intuitive eating decisions and I remember how wonderful it was to choose this off the menu because it sounded amazing!)
The last item that took a while to find was a dress. I wanted to find a dress style that made me feel confident. I learned those were more structured dresses that didn’t come close to my belly or dresses that were tight in the chest and top and then puffed out at the hips. Once I told myself I didn’t have to wear tight dresses that hugged my tummy (I felt like a lot of my sorority sisters in college wore styles like that and therefore I had to? Dumb thought looking back. #college) it felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. Permission in a powerful thing yo. I ended up finding some good dresses through my stylist at stitchfix and could try those on in the comfort of my own home. No dressing room drama involved.
Things I learned: I don’t have to wear tight dresses – even if they are “in style”. I feel most confident when a style of dress is slimmest at the waist and flows out.
(My favorite J Crew dress + my Oma (grandma) a very special, strong, and loving lady – if you follow me on social media you know her from my stories with her cute Austrian accent)
Once I made it over those shopping hurdles the rest was downhill. It has been SO much more fun to dress myself! Like…THIS CAN BE FUN. What? The self confidence boost that well fitting clothing can give is something I never knew existed. Shopping was sort of an intuitive experience for me when I allowed myself to look at it that way. It allowed me to accept & honor my body versus forcing it to potentially, one day, fit into some pair of old jeans. Hoping for that and wanting to find body acceptance and intuitive eating are mutually exclusive. I realized that my body is unique to me and I am the one who should feel confident in my clothes. I don’t have to follow trends or where clothes that other people are wearing.
Allowing myself to feel that was a wonderful process. And so freeing.
I hope sharing my own process was helpful – share in the comments any of your experiences with shopping for new clothes or your journey in body acceptance!