For years I hated shopping and it made no difference whether I was a size 00 or 16. I've been up and down them all.
This was due to the puzzling issue of sizing. In one shop you could be a 14 and in another you could be a size 20 or 8.
I never really talked about it much and just refused to go shopping as it always made my whole experience one of disgust and self-loathing for my body shape.
Online shopping became the new normal. I assumed it was just me.
I was out of the whole shopping experience loop. In fact I could not relate to the words: "I love going into town shopping". These words filled me with dread.
I assumed it was not a big issue...
How wrong was I!!!
Since I published my book 'Seconds To Snap', my anorexia memoir. I've been talking across the UK in regards to mental health, body confidence and self-awareness. I always have a Q & A session at the end and every single talk or workshop I have done the 'sizing' issue is always brought up.
Some of the stories are so upsetting and this is across the size range.
There appear to be thousands of men and woman across the UK that feel so upset by this they don't dare go shopping. Yes there are also men effected by this. Some stores leave men feeling very self-conscious about their body shapes too.
I know there are some high street 'big names' that don't even go above a size 14.
As a former anorexia sufferer and now a very happy, healthy body confident size 14-16 (depends on the shop) I can totally relate to so many sizing errors through stores. I no longer go by label sizes, however when you're in a store that stops at that size it's pretty embarrassing for anyone.
Let me explain why...
Recently I was looking for special dress.
I came across the most beautiful looking shop front. I was drawn in by the beautiful fabrics, colours and designs of the outfits. I felt a very sad feeling as I took a step into the store. Instinctively I looked at the hanger sizes desperate to see the numbers 14 or 16. I was hoping to just gravitate seamlessly towards the offering and whisk it to the changing room.
However to my growing panic none went above a size 4. What was this? I knew by looking at the dresses I knew they would not fit me.
Embarrassed, flustered and downhearted I asked one of the lovely ladies behind the counter if they do anything that would fit me? Hopeful of some sort of miraculous reply... perhaps they had a huge stash out the back of 'bigger' sizes as perhaps they did not want to clutter all the small shop space.
Cringing (but trying not to show it) she led me to the biggest size in one dress she must have felt may have my body squeezed into it - which was a size 4 (obviously there was no stash of sizes anywhere else) - I asked what size is that in UK?
Size14 she said with a smile. I asked if there were anything bigger 'just in case', " no" as that design only went up to a 4 (14).
Still I took it into the changing room to try as I could always breathe in right?? or wrap myself in Spanx if needed from head to toe ??
Empty handed, leaving behind the beautiful dresses, feminine blouses and skirts. Never to darken the shop door again unless I came down a few sizes it would appear. (I would love to ask the shop's opinions as they are indeed alienating a huge amount of people each and every day)
Rushing home to the safety net of online shopping in three of four different sizes (just in case) and sending back the ones that don't fit came to the rescue.
I'm very conscious of this issue in the work I do. Especially as I do speak to a huge amount of ladies (and some men) who are going through a very tough time with the extremely complex illness of anorexia.
Numbers are often the marker for so much in the head of someone living in this hell, therefore I know that this issue could have a hugely negative impact on them in every single store across the UK high street.
So as you can see this effects everyone...not just one group.
Absolutely everyone across the UK.
Also not every single shop is like this - but to the majority of people I talk to it feels like it.
I'm about to do a filming experiment in high street stores - this will involve a group of people of all ages and size ranges. I've asked someone to help me - so waiting on a reply as I feel this must be dealt with head on and shown across the UK for what it is.
Let's make the high street shopping a great experience for the majority and not the minority!
Watch this space!