I recently heard of a psychotherapist giving his client advice that losing weight would improve her confidence 😩🤬. This is not uncommon – and it doesn’t only come out of the mouths of therapists (though it’s abominable that it does – the therapeutic space is not a place for ADVICE or fixing. It’s a place for honouring and supporting the client to process their feelings, thoughts and experiences). People in bigger bodies are constantly told things like ‘you’ve got such a pretty face, if you lost weight you’d be awesome/ perfect/ so sexy’ etc.
The only reason why anyone would think that weight loss would improve their confidence is because of the validation they receive from the people around them if/ when they do. The other side of this coin is when negative comments stop upon weight loss.
The thing that would solve people’s lack of body confidence in one fell swoop isn’t weight loss, it’s the CESSATION OF COMMENTS about people’s bodies. Jonah Hill spoke out about it recently on his social media. He reminded people that positive AND negative comments about his body aren’t helpful. And he’s right. We might THINK that positive comments are helpful because for 5 minutes we feel happy or validated.
Let’s unpack that for a moment… After the momentary feeling of pride or happiness (or emotional safety) – what’s the next thought?
‘I’m only pretty/ sexy/ because I’ve lost weight’
‘I have to keep this up!’
‘I have to try harder – lose more weight – then I’ll be better/ prettier/ sexier’
‘If I regain weight, I lose my attractiveness/ people will judge me’
‘My looks are the most important thing about me’
And the feelings that follow? Anxiety, panic, emptiness, sadness, hopelessness and so on.
This is the trouble with diet and beauty culture: this idea that our confidence, self-esteem and sense of self-worth are all easily achievable in x number of pounds or kilos time.
But that’s like saying you can only be confident if you have blue eyes, or if you’re over 6 feet tall.
Even if it were true, how do we achieve this? All dieting does is make us feel sad, obsess over food, binge and ultimately, regain the weight and then some. For most people, it’s a no-win situation.
Feeling at ease in our own skins is our BIRTHRIGHT
There is no good reason why any person of any gender, sexuality, race, age, ability or size should NOT feel at home in their own skin. None at all.
There is money to be made from consumers (that’s you) believing that you have to look a certain way to be safe, to feel ok. How many industries would go bust if every single person on the planet decided that their appearance is JUST FINE right now?
Diet companies would go belly up.
The beauty industry would be limping along selling the basics: hair cuts, probably some razors (mostly for men’s facial hair), nail files, probably some moisturisers, soaps and deodorants. That’s about it.
The fashion industry would no longer be such a big contributor to our waste and slave labour problem. It wouldn’t be dead, because people need clothes (or do they 🤣😎😜).
Wanna know HOW to feel more confident in your here-and-now body?
Unfortunately there’s too much invested economically in undermining our body confidence. Until that changes, there are things we can do to help ourselves NOW:
1. Disengage with diet talk and body bashing
Just DON’T! When you hear other people lamenting about their bodies, don’t go there. Don’t ‘try to make them feel better’ by telling them they’re not fat or not ugly. You won’t make them feel better whatever you say. And you’ll be perpetuating the cycle and reinforcing yours and their fatphobia. Change the subject. Or better still, acknowledge their feelings – tell them you’re sorry to hear they’re feeling so rubbish about themselves; that unfortunately it’s a product of our culture that feeds off our insecurities etc.
Also don’t bash your OWN body! Not to yourself. Not to others. If you do, please apologise to yourself.
2. Wear clothes that FIT YOU!
Believe it or not, clothes that don’t fit is NOT motivating! All it does it trigger your body shame. You will absolutely look and feel better in clothes that fit and this will have a positive impact on your body confidence. I know it’s hard to buy bigger clothes because of all the messaging you’ve internalised about being bigger – and the fear that buying new clothes means you’re on a never-ending upward trajectory. You’re not. While making peace with food you may gain weight. Depending on your history, it might be more than you’re comfortable with physically and/or emotionally (most people are emotionally uncomfortable with weight gain BECAUSE OF ALL THE BS WE’RE TOLD ABOUT BIGGER BODIES AND WHAT THEY MEAN.
Do yourself a favour and make a plan to only have clothes in your wardrobe that FIT you well (and preferably that you like too). I realise this is a function of privilege. It shouldn’t be, but it is :(.
3. EMBODY your body
We’re taught from a very young age that how we look is a very important part of who we are. We’re taught to think of ourselves as objects, here for the appraisal and viewing pleasure of others. This is probably the most pernicious conditioning we receive when it comes to our relationships with our bodies. Body image healing requires of us that we exist INSIDE our own skins. What we tend to do is have imaginary eyeballs outside of us, looking at us from every angle, monitoring how we look, what we say, our movements and so on. This takes us away from looking OUT at the world and being fully invested IN life!
Beauty Redefined have a beautiful slogan: your body is an instrument, not an ornament.
Practise being IN your body – noticing how it feels, your movements, sensations and how this changes over time (moment to moment).
One thing that can help you to embody your body, reduce body shame and build body confidence is to STOP body checking. This means you’re not scrutinising your appearance in the mirror. You’re not purposefully checking yourself out in window reflections. You’re not watching for the minutiae of changes. You’re also not weighing or measuring yourself.
Here’s a challenge…
How about an experiment? Commit earnestly to these practices for 21 days and let me know what happens. Remember there’s no perfection here. When you notice yourself engaging in body shaming practices, stop. Apologise to yourself and reframe. Every time you do this, you’re retraining your brain :). It’s all good.