Christmas is still a few weeks away, but if you’re anything like I was, you’re probably already panicking about what people will think about your appearance when the holiday rolls around. When I was still stuck in diet culture, around now was the time I’d be going on a diet so I could ‘look my best’ by Christmas.
For many of us, we don’t see some or many of the people we see during the festive season, year round. Changes in our bodies (weight gain or weight loss, ageing, new disabilities or a deterioration in them, gender transitioning etc.) are often a source of worry – how will people respond? What will they say? Whether the comments are positive or negative, they impact us, the anticipation causes anxiety for a lot of people. Imagine if diet culture wasn’t a thing. Imagine if our society didn’t have an obsession with thinness, youth, fitness and conformity? Then any changes wouldn’t be a problem, would they? It’s only because of our cultural values and beliefs that it is.
Whatever your plans for the holiday season, If the ‘lose weight before Christmas’ bug has got a hold on you, because you think that’s what’s needed to ‘look your best’ then I have 3 thoughts to share with you today:).
Trying to lose weight will backfire
You would not be here reading this if going on a diet had resulted in permanent weight loss. You’re almost certainly in the 95% of people for whom diets don’t work! Diets not only don’t work for long term weight loss, they also cause up to 60% of dieters to increase their weight set point over time.
So please, banish the idea of a diet! Don’t fall prey to the marketing messaging of a $$$-billion+ a year industry. They want your money. They do not care about YOU or your health (mental or physical). Their business model relies on repeat customers, not because you don’t have willpower, but because their product is faulty!!! Imagine an airline pilot announcing that only 5% of the passengers will arrive safely at the destination. Would you get on that plane? No, I didn’t think so.
What does ‘look your best’ mean?
I think we need to have a serious chat about this.
Have you ever thought how ‘looking your best’ has come to be defined?
We tend to think we ‘look our best’ when we’re THIN!
Or wearing make up… or with our hair done a certain way… or without wrinkles… or with a tan (but not ‘too dark’).
Because all around us we see images of thin cis-gender, able-bodied, usually light skinned, young looking bodies, with curves only in the ‘right’ places. Lumps and bumps don’t get a look in. We do not see diversity in the images around us. We are incredibly fatphobic as a culture. We have been conditioned to WANT that ideal appearance – and if we can’t have it exactly (which very few of us can), we should at least work hard to comply as best as we can. Of course, this makes some people very rich…
Yet… diversity EXISTS! Open your eyes when you’re out and about. Really SEE people. There’s a huge diversity of shape, size and presentation of the human form. Yet we’re fixated on the image we’ve been taught to believe has value, is worthy and attractive.
How can you look your best?
If you can’t shift the belief that looking your best requires you to lose weight (because that’s what it is – a belief, not a fact), then please remember that trying to get thin will almost certainly end up backfiring on that plan.
So what can you do instead?
Don’t you think that people who are enjoying themselves ‘look good’?
If you’re shrinking and trying to be invisible because you’re ashamed about your appearance, I promise you it’s not a good look!
So what can you do to enjoy the moment?
In my experience, relaxing helps. How can you do that? What helps you to feel more relaxed?
What will help you enjoy what IS here now is letting go of how you think you, other people, or the circumstances should be and instead, allowing everything to be as it is, without resisting it, without fighting the reality. Who’s cracking a joke? Who gave you a juicy hug? Who revealed something about themselves you didn’t know?
Where and with whom can you connect?
Enjoying yourself will be reflected in your whole demeanour. Focus on that:).
Wear clothes you like and that fit well
Ill-fitting clothes don’t look good no matter what size you are. Dress in something you like, that’s comfortable and that fits your here-and-now body. 99% of my clients resist buying new clothes that fit. 100% of them are SO GLAD THEY LISTENED! I know it’s not easy for everyone to just go out and buy new clothes, especially now. Perhaps you don’t need to spend much or any money at all! Can you swap with someone? Go to your local charity shop? Borrow?
Instrument vs ornament
Focus on how you’re feeling on the inside – think of your body as an instrument for life, an instrument through which you’re experiencing this moment of spending time with people you care about, rather than an ornament for the viewing pleasure of others. You’re not an ornament! You’re a human being and you don’t owe prettiness (however that is defined) to anyone.
Focus on the inside (not the outside)
Paying attention to what is going on inside you (your body’s sensations, your emotions and your thoughts) will help you stay in touch with yourself, recognise and meet your needs – and by doing so, you’ll look your best! Truly, someone who is self-aware and supporting themselves is likely to feel more relaxed and happy – thereby looking their best ;).
Here are some things to try to avoid:
- Worrying about showing your ‘best side’ to the camera. Thinking of certain bits of you as ‘better’ (more ‘flattering’ ‘thinner’) is simply going to fuel your body image distress.
- Cocking your leg or arm to give the illusion of being smaller. This too will keep you hyper focused on your body.
- Looking at yourself in the mirror with critical eyes, honing in on ‘problem areas’ and then trying to hide them.
- Trying on multiple outfits in a frenzy.
- Don’t go on a diet or mess around with your food with the aim of shrinking your body.
- Put your attention on the inside of you – how are you feeling? What do you need?
- Wear clothes that fit, are comfortable and that you like.
- Do what you can to relax.
- Don’t be hyper-focused on your appearance before or during the event – this just drives body image distress.
- Follow the joy!