5 Tips to Build Your Body Confidence
by Judith Matz, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker, the director of the Chicago Center for Overcoming Overeating, Inc., and co-author of The Diet Survivors Handbook and Beyond the Shadow of a Diet. She has contributed to DailyHap on the topic of weight loss.
Weight loss is one of the most popular New Year’s Resolutions each year, as millions of people promise to take off the pounds through dieting. But as scientific evidence shows, weight is not simply a matter of calories in and calories out, and the reality that our bodies are not as malleable as we’d like to think is beginning to sink in. An increasing number of women are no longer willing to settle for waiting to lose weight in order to be happy.
Earlier this year, television anchorwoman Jennifer Livingston took the time to tell viewers that a letter criticizing her as a role model because of her body size was nothing short of bullying.
Stella Boonshoft, a New York college student who writes the Body Love Blog, let the people know of her mission to promote self-acceptance in a photo of herself wearing a bikini that went viral.
Body confidence means taking care of and feeling—good in the body you have, without apology. However, it does not mean “anything goes!” Instead, with the utmost respect, care, and compassion for yourself, you can lose the shame and enjoy life in 2013 and beyond.
Here are five tips to help you build body confidence during this holiday season:
1. FASHION: Build a wardrobe in the colors and styles you love now. Sure, there are going to be clothes that don’t fit your body type, but there are lots of options out there.
Insteadof using up more of your precious energy thinking about what doesn’t fit you, imagine that the body you have is in vogue (just look at paintings in an art museum to remind yourself that idealizing thinness is a recent phenomenon!). When you dress yourself with confidence, you’ll find that people take notice of the care and positive feelings you project in the world.
2. HEALTH: Practice sustainable behaviors that promote the well-being of both your body and mind. Focusing on the number on a scale leads to a cycle of weight loss and regain for about 95 percent of people, and this weight cycling is actually detrimental to health.
Instead, treat your body as something that deserves your attention to achieve its optimal health. Your physical health is much broader than a number on the scale. Self-care behaviors such as exercise, honoring physical signals of hunger and satiation, eating a wide variety of foods, getting plenty of sleep, and managing stress through mindfulness practices are sustainable behaviors that offer benefits to promote health throughout the year, regardless of whether any weight is lost.
3. FOOD: Learn to honor your appetite. It may be tempting to try another diet or weight loss plan, but restrictive food plans and programs typically work only in the short-run, followed by overeating or bingeing; out of control eating then leads to the next diet, keeping you caught in the diet/binge cycle.
Instead, reconnect with your natural physical cues of hunger and fullness as you become an attuned eater. When you end the deprivation of diets and give yourself permission to eat all types of foods, you’re in a much stronger position to decide what will truly nourish you. Trusting your body may feel scary at first, especially if you are a yo-yo dieter, but when you become confident in your own ability to decide when, what and how much to eat, you’ll feel both satisfied and nourished. Best of all, rather than relying on willpower, as described in the Diet Survivor’s Handbook, you’ll experience the feelings of relief and peacefulness that come from developing a healthy relationship with food.
4. PHYSICAL ACTIVITY: Discover what type of exercise or activity offers you increased energy, joy and/or make you feel stronger and more flexible. When you focus on exercise as a means of losing weight, you’ll probably feeling guilty when you miss a workout—you might even quit if you don’t see the number on the scale go down.
Instead, reflect on what types of activities bring you pleasure and fit your lifestyle. Do you like to dance? Are you interested in yoga? Does a long walk with a friend appeal to you, or are you happier listening to music as you walk indoors on a treadmill? Rather than thinking of exercise as punishment for too many calories, you’re likely to feel empowered and improve your health as you take the focus off weight loss and experience the physical and emotional benefits that come from being active.
5. FRIENDS AND FAMILY: Focus on spending time with the people you care about. If worrying about your weight makes you feel uncomfortable or even causes you to avoid get-togethers you may be missing out on important opportunities for connection.
Instead, remember that your relationships with family and friends provide invaluable connections. Building support in your life not only offers enjoyable and meaningful experiences, but also, these social networks are great for your physical and emotional health. If there’s someone in your life who won’t give up the focus on your weight, you need to decide how to best take care of yourself. No matter what, stay compassionate with yourself, and keep in mind that who you are is much broader than your body size; no one has the right to be disrespectful to you because of your weight.
Body confidence is the wave of the future. Just imagine if our culture (and each one of us makes up the culture) embraced the idea that people naturally come in different shapes and sizes. As women like Jennifer Livingston and Stella Boonshoft pave the way, make 2013 the year to drop the shame and instead, live your life fully with body confidence.
In the words of Thoreau: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” He never mentioned anything about losing weight first!