Clothes shopping at any stage of the shape shifting/size changing game should be an enjoyable time for every woman. It’s an opportunity to clear your head, give yourself space and time away from work or the fam to enjoy seeing yourself from a fresh and fabulous perspective.

It’s like playing an adult version of ‘the children’s game, “Dress up’. It should be tons of fun.

But you can’t immerse yourself in the joy of the experience, if you’re not in the right frame of mind. Before you head out the door, you’ve got to first have the right attitude.

If your goal is to feel better about your body, boost your confidence, channel your inner sassy, and blow past your body hating ways, then you’ve got to treat yourself to a self-image makeover, That means being willing to see yourself from a different perspective.

Wiping the Slate Clean: Start Where You Are

Many women regardless of size, struggle with body issues. For years no matter how fat or thin I was, I couldn’t stand my thighs. I truly believed that they were what stood between me and happiness.

One day I looked at myself, standing naked in the mirror and for the first time ever I realized that my thighs had been supporting me all along. And just like a solider in battle, each scar and bump, lump or bulge could tell a story. The truth was that for a lot of years I lived believing I was a victim. And for all the years that I felt powerless, I ate. My thighs were the result of years of overeating, because food was the only way I knew to avoid feeling my feelings. When I realized that I was fighting a losing battle by continuing to hate my thighs, I knew that I had to figure out a way to make peace with myself and end my body wars.

One of the tools that I used to change the way that I felt about myself and my thighs was to read the book, “Heal Your Body” by Louise Hay. The mirror exercise I will describe is one of the tools from her book.

Setting the Record Straight

As a professional coach, I’ve learned that people treat us the way we treat ourselves. If you’re used to putting yourself down and trash talking your body in front of others, they will inadvertently pick up the habit and eventually get used to talking to you in a similar way. The best way to correct them without putting undue stress on your relationship is to let everyone in your family know that any criticism or comments about your body is off limits and will no longer be tolerated.

By making it clear to the people around you, that you respect yourself, they will be more appreciative and respectful of you. It won’t happen overnight, but if you commit to correcting them each time they fall back into old patterns, you’ll uplevel your self-confidence.

Back in 2010, I had a part-time job working as a Sales Associate for Avenue, the women’s retail plus size clothing store chain. Having the opportunity to work in such close proximity with so many women, I noticed that my customers did many things that created a lot of unnecessary frustrations for themselves and others. I like to call these Fitting Room Frustrations.

Find out if you’re making these same mistakes and learn what you can do to make your next shopping trip fun.

FRF #1 – Expecting the worst. Lots of larger women dread the prospect of clothes shopping because they’ve had many negative experiences in the past. It doesn’t have to be that way.

What to do instead: As world famous success coach, Tony Robbins says, “your past does not necessarily determine your present.” You can change the way you feel by making the choice to do things differently.

Plan to have fun. – Rather than going with the worst case scenario movie rolling ’round in your head, set an intention to have a great time and plan on enjoying a fabulous shopping experience. This is your time to explore new looks and get the most bang for your buck.

FRF #2 – Body Dysmorphia – “The I’m fat and ugly syndrome” – According to statistics, in the U.S, 4 out of 5 women strongly dislike or even hate their bodies. If you feel that way, you’ve probably got a lot of negative feelings toward your body. Harboring these emotions, prevents you from being able to see yourself as you really are.

dark-skinned plus size woman by oceanWhat to do instead: Do your homework. Realize that as a plus size woman, you’re not alone. In the U.S., 62% of women are plus-sized. According to the modelling/fashion world, plus size is now considered any size larger than a straight size 6. No matter what size you are, stand proud. Spend some time on the internet or watching TV to look for plus-size women role models who embrace their bodies. Keep your eyes peeled each day for gals with similiar body types to yours. Their style of dress can inspire and inform you.

Watch empowering body lovin’ TV: The cable TV show, “How to Look Good Naked” hosted by Carson Kressley is a fabulous tool that you can use to change the way that you think and feel about your body. I like to call it a 60 minute self-image makeover.

Using a combination of tools that help the women to see themselves in a more realistic light, the show is a powerful inspiration that can empower any woman to be more accepting and loving of her body.

Whenever I can, I watch the show or I visit the site because it has so much to offer. It is an incredibly healing experience to see women just like you, who move from hating their bodies to loving them, exactly as they are. No surgery or dieting necessary.

You can view previous episodes of HTLGN online through iTunes, and you can also peruse the site and pick up a ton of useful information on what types of clothing silhouettes will flatter your particular figure.

Another of my favorite sources for plus size fashion and information is Plus Model Magazine. PMM is an online fashion magazine for the plus size community.

FRF #3 – Spreading yourself too thin. Many women come into the store, either with kids or griping husband in tow, feeling the pressure to multi-task, and the need to please. By demonstrating to your family that you’re okay with squeezing your needs in to fit their schedule, you are making the statement that you’re not really worth the time or trouble to take care of yourself. This almost always guarantees a miserable shopping experience for you, creates feelings of resentment towards hubby and/or the kids and gets you a one way pass for an “I’ll show them. This’ll Make Me Feel Better binge” that could be waiting for you just ’round the corner.

What to do instead: Take the time to plan out and schedule a trip for yourself or you and a friend on a day when you have some time. If you do bring someone along for the ride, make sure they are supportive and helpful. No whiners or meanies allowed.

Consider this some special high quality “me time” and if need be, hire a babysitter or arrange to do a kid watching exchange with someone you trust. Unless you know exactly what you want to purchase and don’t need to use the fitting room, leave the little ones and other poor shoppers at home. It’s too trying for you to try on clothes while also attempting to keep the peace.

FRF#4 – Being stuck in a box – Wearing the same boring things all the time or trying to hide your curves in baggy clothes. 

Having the experience of supporting my customers and helping them to shop for new clothes, gave me great insight into how many plus size women feel about their bodies.

Here’s one example that stands out in my mind. One day a woman came into the store and she asked me to help her find a nice sweater or jacket. She told me that she wanted to hide her hips and get something that gave her a lot of coverage. I looked at her and laughed gently as I teasingly asked her, “What are you hiding from? She told me that she couldn’t possibly bear to show her behind and feel comfortable without having her thighs fully covered by plenty of fabric. I explained to her that it’s a common misconception to believe that wearing baggy clothes hides our figure flaws. If anything it emphasizes them.

Noticing that she had a pretty curvy pear-shaped figure, with full hips and larger thighs, I suggested that she try on a soft boucle tweed knit sweater cinched with a leather tie belt. I explained to her that in order to show off her curves to her best advantage, she would want to choose items that had a belt because that would work to visually draw the eye down, emphasizing her smaller waist.

I also told her that with her lovely auburn hair, I recommended that she choose the blue and green sweater, rather than the black and white.
When she tried it on, she looked fabulous, so curvy, vibrant, filled with life and so very pretty. But seeing more of her curvy body than she was used to, was upsetting to her, and in the end she decided not to buy the sweater. Sadly she refused to step out of her comfort zone of hiding behind black and dull
shapeless clothing. How ’bout you? Can you relate to her dilemma?

What to do instead: Pearls of wisdom – In many plus size stores, the sales associates are often plus size women themselves. They understand what it’s like to struggle with excess weight and because they ‘get it’, they’re eager to give you the benefit of their personal experience combined with
their fashion expertise. Once you find a sales associate you like enough to trust, be willing to listen to their suggestions and be open to seeing yourself from their eyes.

Ask for help. Rather than hunting around in a big store, feeling frustrated, alone and uncertain, get some help. By doing this, you’ll see more possibilities and feel less pinched. If you need something in another size, color or style, ask for help. If you want assistance to put an outfit
together, tell someone what you’re after. The sales associates in the store are there to make  your shopping trip a wonderful experience.

With a little planning, and some time on your hands, you can enjoy a great shopping trip. Remember this is fun time for you. Put on some makeup. Slip into some comfy shoes. Scope out some local plus size stores, get ready to try on lots of different clothes, be fearless with color, play with accessories and above all, have some fun.

How ’bout you? Ready to stop all the body shaming. Whether your challenges are with the size of your thighs, or the wrinkles ’round your eyes, reclaim your power from your mirror and take a stand. The problem is not your body. The problem is hating your body. Click below to join my 30 Days to Lovin’ the Skin You’re In FB group.