A Cure for the Dressing Room Blues

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Editor’s note: This post is dedicated to the ladies, but also may be enlightening for gentlemen.
Summertime can often sabotage self-image. ‘Tis the season for shopping for clothes that show more skin. For many women, trying on clothes, especially in front of a three-way mirror, is a traumatic experience—it’s downright disheartening and depressing. A day of clothes shopping can leave even the most upbeat and confident woman feeling less than satisfied with her body.  

Take heart! The “dressing room protocol” can help.

Evelyn Tribole, registered dietitian and co-author of the book, Intuitive Eating, recommends the dressing room protocol to her clients. 
  • On a day that you’re feeling neutral about your body, go shopping for a significant piece of clothing. Perhaps it’s a dress for an upcoming special occasion, a bathing suit for vacation or a new outfit for work.
  • Choose clothes two sizes bigger than you think would fit. This is because manufacturers’ cut and sizing is not standardized and changes often.
  • In the dressing room, put on the clothes without looking in the mirror. Then, do the “wiggle test” to see if the clothes fit comfortably and feel good next to your skin: stretch, bend over, sit down, and cross your arms across your chest—all the while not looking in the mirror.
  • If the clothing isn’t comfortable and/or doesn’t fit well, you know it’s not right for you and you don’t need to bother looking in the mirror. If the clothing fits well and feels good, look in the mirror to see if you like the way it looks on you.

Another helpful resource is an article I wrote about how to find clothes that flatter your figure that includes tips and advice from an image consultant.

If body image issues are persistent, Tribole recommends the book, The Body Image Workbook: An Eight-Step Program for Learning to Like Your Looks (2nd ed.) by Thomas Cash, PhD.

When I’m feeling down about my body, I find that I’m usually comparing myself to others. This is a big trap that’s very important to avoid. When I fall for it, I remind myself that I’ll never look like someone else, but I can be the best me I can be.

How? It’s all about self-confidence. In a book about men and love by Alexandra Penney, she writes:

Very, very few people have super bodies and/or flawless faces, and it’s important to keep this thought in mind.

If you ask one hundred men, “What is sexy?” ninety-nine of them will probably say something like “self-confidence” or “self-assurance.” The other one will say “big boobs.” I don’t think those ninety-nine are lying. They really don’t care that much if a woman is beautiful or has a goddesslike form. What they really think is sexy is the woman who is confident and feels good about herself and her body…If you feel that you are sexy, men will feel that you are too.

What does it take to feel sexy? Simply this: the more you are comfortable and at ease with yourself and your body, the more sexy and attractive you will feel, and you must feel sexy in order to by sexy.

Still having a tough time believing that self-confidence trumps size and shape? The poem “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou puts it all in perspective.

Now, go girl: Do whatever it takes to help you feel better about yourself. Find clothes that fit your figure. Get a flattering haircut. Take advantage of free makeovers at the cosmetic counters in department stores. Wear sexy underwear. Find fun physical activities. Pamper yourself. And remember: Your smile is your best asset!

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