I was recently speaking with a group of women about food and body image, when one mom asked how to deal with clothes shopping for her teens.
Her daughters are both in big bodies and shopping in mainstream stores can be very difficult for them. Mom wanted to know what she can do to support a positive body image despite these challenges.
I shared a few points:
1.Clothing should fit her, she shouldn’t change her body to fit the clothes
When trying on clothes, make sure to emphasize that it’s the clothes that don’t fit, rather than her body being a problem. HER BODY IS NOT A PROBLEM!
I recall speaking with a six-year-old whose blouse buttons kept opening and she said frustratedly, “Ugh, these buttons are so bad that they don’t stay closed!” She didn’t put herself down for not fitting in the shirt, but rather recognized that the shirt was the problem and it needed to be improved.
When shopping together, rather than you saying something does or doesn’t fit, ask your adolescent how it feels? Let them decide if something feels good before deciding how it looks. Clothes serve a purpose and need to feel right.
2. Your daughter is more than her body
Build up your adolescent’s self worth beyond their appearance. Help them create an appreciation for who they are over how they look.
This is an exercise you can (and should) do all the time, not in the change room. Know the greatness of your kids and point them out to them. Help your adolescent recognize their value beyond their appearance.
Read this post for four tips to help your adolescent develop positive body image
3. Shop in stores with inclusive sizing
Shop in a store that carries clothing your adolescent will fit in! Check out this list of 41 best plus size clothing stores & outlets
4. Validate her pain
It’s not fair that stores don’t have clothing that works for her. It’s painful and demoralizing. Validate those feelings and that pain. Allow her to feel it and sit with her in that frustration and hurt.
5. Advocate for more inclusive sizing in stores
Stores want to make money. So if they see there’s a need for more sizes and they know people will buy them, they’ll be more likely to stock them. Talk to store owners about selling a broader range of sizes and buy the clothes (if you like them and they work for you) when they sell them.
6. Discourage changing her body to fit in straight sizes
Trying to change her body involves risky behaviours including restricting food or excessive exercise. These are harmful both short term and long term for developing adolescents, and don’t even guarantee long-term weight loss.
Bodies come in all sizes and shapes and trying to change that can be very harmful.
Helping your adolescent feel confident and comfortable in her current body can support her physical and emotional health long-term, and prevent negative eating habits and risky behaviours.