5 secrets to feeling good and looking good (even if you don’t like your body)

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Do you find yourself looking in the mirror and disliking what you see? Are other people’s definitions of beauty making it difficult to feel good about your body, no matter what the scale says? Perhaps you want to embrace the concept of body positivity but you just can’t get there.

feeling-good-and-looking-good

We live in a culture that places enormous pressure on us to achieve physical ‘ideal' appearances. This can lead to obsessive dieting and destructive habits that result in feeling unhappy with ourselves, no matter what we weigh.

The $60 billion diet industry sells us the notion that if we just lose weight, we’ll feel good about ourselves. Invariably, we lose weight and feel good for a while, but eventually, we realize that the only thing that changed is the number on the scale. You still feel the same way about yourself.

You’re not alone. Lots of people think it’s impossible to feel good about their appearance when they feel bad about their weight. Can you relate? Maybe you tell yourself that you need to lose weight before can wear clothes that you like, and feel attractive.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

In fact, staying in the “I can’t feel good about myself until I’m skinny” mentality is exactly what keeps us in a yo-yo cycle of dieting and deprivation, followed by bingeing.

When we give up dieting, we also give up the belief that we deserve to be treated well only after we lose weight.

As a psychoanalyst, I know that identifying and working through what’s eating “at” you is the primary key to change your relationship to food. Self-esteem is also crucial for our relationship to food and others, and one measure of self-esteem is the way we think about our appearance.

You may think you have to be a certain weight to look good and feel good. This is why I put together some strategies to revamp your perspective, your wardrobe and your life.

I also want to clarify something: I’m not proposing that you have to look any certain way to be attractive or feel good.

It does not matter what your style is, how much makeup you wear, or the color of your hair.

What matters is how you feel about yourself and how you treat yourself. When you feel comfortable in your own skin, and you feel good, you’re less likely to distract yourself with food.

Changing the way you dress really can change the way you feel about yourself (anyone who ever watched the TV show What NOT To Wear knows what I mean).

In this blog, I’ll share five ways you can feel good and look good, no matter what your weight.

#1 Challenge the belief that only skinny can be beautiful.

How many times have you canceled social plans or turned down invitations because you didn’t feel good about how you looked?

A quick Google search of “Curvy models” will pull up thousands of images of women feeling good in their skin at the size that they are at. One of them is Iskra Lawrence, who posted on Instagram:

As a model in the industry 13 years I’ve seen nearly all the pics chosen of me for lingerie & swimwear shoots are the ones where my stomach looks flattest.

Which for a long time lead me to believe that’s how I should look. 

Because even if I did happen to have a few shots where I’m in a position you can see back fat or rolls someone had decided it’s more “beautiful” “aspirational” or will inspire more customers to buy the product if those so called “flaws” don’t exist.

Iskra now works as a model for Aerie, American Eagle’s underwear and lingerie line. Aerie has stopped retouching their models and asks the women to look comfortable and happy. This tells women (and especially young women, most of Aerie’s customers) that the “flaws” in these models don’t mean that they aren’t beautiful. And that means our “flaws” don’t stop us from being beautiful.

Challenge the belief that you can’t be beautiful today, right now, as you are. Skinny does not equal beautiful. In fact, I know many thin women who feel insecure and unsatisfied with how they look (that goes for all the guys out there with six-packs, too).

Part of the problem with believing that skinny = beautiful is the belief gives us a tangible way to compare bodies, and by extension, success. I hear this all the time. People think skinny women must have more successful careers and relationships.

They must be happier.

They must be more successful!

The skinny = success formula is not true. It is because we equate thinness with other positive qualities that we think we must be thin to be happy.

When we erase the idea that skinny = beauty = success = happiness, we must find other ways to measure ourselves.

Clearly, nobody told Oprah Winfrey that the only path to success was by being skinny. Oprah was successful because she was engaging, interested, and authentic! The only thing stopping you from feeling good about the way you look is your belief that there’s something wrong with you.

Let’s challenge that idea. Iskra Lawrence and many others are out there proving that looking good is not equivalent to a number on the scale.

And consider your own biases and assumptions about what being thinner actually means.

The point is not necessarily to accept your weight as it is (although that is a perfectly fine choice). It's to feel good about yourself while you're in the process of losing weight.

Our society hasn’t always promoted the idea that thin is better.

Look at this advertisement 

from a different era:

Finally, I love this quote from British journalist Hannah Betts, questioning why thinness is the ultimate ambition.

It is time we stopped reducing ourselves. Time we remembered that a body is more than stomach, hips and thighs. It is heart, lungs, and brain.

It’s actually possible to have fun and look fabulous, even while doing something difficult like changing our relationship with food and ourselves.

When we realize that we don’t need to lose weight to live the life we want to be living, we stop obsessing over calories and start feeling better.

That’s when the weight comes off more easily. Why? Because we lose weight when we are happier and feeling good.

If you think losing weight will make you happy, think again.

It may, for a brief period of time.

Ultimately, feeling happy is actually what will help you lose weight!

One way to feel happier is to feel comfortable in your clothes and with your style. That brings me to….

#2 Know what clothes you feel good in.

This will be different for each person. Some women feel their best in a pencil skirt and heels. Some feel their best in jeans and stilettos (that’s me!). Some love to take it casual with tennis shoes and a baseball cap. There’s room for everyone here!

So, take a moment to consider the following:

• Does putting on makeup make a difference in how pretty you feel?

• If so, what are your make-up “go-tos?”

(Do you love eye shadow, blush, foundation, mascara, or lip stick? Or, do you love all of it? J)

• On a busy day when you have limited time, will styling your hair or putting on makeup help you feel prettiest?

• Which hair styles do you most prefer?

• Do you feel better wearing certain colors over others?

• Which cuts and fabrics do you feel most confident wearing?

• Which outfits are your favorite?

• Do you have jewelry or accessories that you are particularly fond of?

• Does your sense of beauty remain constant regardless of what you wear or look like?

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. The fun part about fashion is it’s an easy way to express your own personality and values.

Are you professional or casual?

Structured or romantic?

Do you prefer bright hues, jewel tones, or neutrals?

V-necks or button-downs?

Flared jeans or skinnies?

If you’re struggling to identify your own “style personality,” take a walk into your wardrobe and find the five or ten pieces of clothing that you like most. These can be shirts, dresses, pants, shoes, jewelry, bags, whatever! Spread the clothes over your bed.

Take a step back and analyze to see if there are any repeating themes. Do you favor certain styles, colors, or cuts over others?

Another way to identify your style personality is to hop online and do some guilt-free, online “window shopping.” Put the things that you like most in your bag, regardless of price! You’re not going to buy these items; you’re simply putting together an idea of what styles you like most.

Pinterest is ideal for this activity as well. If you’re trying to regain a sense of what you like to wear, create a Pinterest board! Start pinning looks or outfits that you like that you like.

Over time, you’ll have a greater understanding of not only what you like and feel good in! I wanted to share this quote about the difference between beauty and attractiveness from Dr. Vivian Diller, a psychologist who specializes in the psychology of healthy aging and beauty.

Beauty is a rigid, static physical image. Attractiveness is a fluid, variable psychological experience, one that moves from the inside, out and back again. Beauty can be inherited, Photoshopped or surgically attained. Attractiveness develops, evolves over time and can be ageless.

Again, the moment we realize that we don’t need to lose weight to live the life we want to be living, we stop obsessing over calories. We stop dieting and start living.

When you wear clothes you feel good in, you feel good. Yet, many people don’t have a lot of money to spend on their wardrobes. They have a mortgage or rent to pay, they need to save for their children’s education, pay back student loans, or save for retirement.

Words like “fashion” and “style” get connoted with “expensive” and “platinum credit card.” That’s why my next tip is all about how to look and feel good, without needing to keep up with the Joneses (or the Kardashians!)

#3 Shop on a budget.

Looking good doesn’t have to break your budget or replace paying the mortgage! Here’s where some of the previous tips come in handy. If you know which things help you feel most beautiful, you’ll know where to prioritize your investment.

If you know that for you, having a great make-up job is what matters most, then that’s where you’ll want to spend your beauty resources. Sign up for newsletters from your favorite beauty stores and brands so you can catch when your favorite products are on sale.

Maybe you’re not really into makeup, but your hair matters a great deal to you. If so, budget out a few extra dollars a week to save up for getting your hair touched up every so often.

For those who like fashion, it’s possible to be creative. Not only are there great second-hand stores in most cities, there are even online thrift shops. Sites like ThredUp.com or Swap.com make buying high-quality or designer clothes affordable. If you only like new clothes, sign up to get emails from your favorite brands so you know when they have deals going on.

Budgeting out even a few dollars a week will add up and you can spoil yourself with a new shirt or pair of shoes every now and again!

This does not mean that fashion = happiness. Fashion doesn’t equal happiness, just like skinny doesn’t equal beautiful. Body image is just one aspect of self-esteem, which is the overall feeling you have about yourself as a person.

Even small, inexpensive changes like wearing mascara, putting on a nice outfit, or styling your hair can give a you a positive boost.

If we get caught in a rut where we never feel beautiful, pretty, handsome or worthy of attention and love, we will treat ourselves like we aren’t beautiful, pretty, handsome or worthy of attention and love.

Our self-esteem must not be based on our appearance, but our appearance is a part of what makes us feel good. When we are more confident, we are more likely to be social and enjoy our lives. That means having fulfilling connections with others, instead of staying home and filling up with food.

#4 Believe you are worth the effort.

I know a lot of women who don’t dress like they want because they don’t feel like their body is “good enough.”

(Ummmm…. what does that mean, exactly?)

No matter who you are, where you have been, or what size you are, you deserve to feel confident in the skin that you are in.

On the days when you feel particularly low and mopey, take an extra 10-15 minutes to get ready. We know from research that mood impacts clothing choices. If you’re in a good mood, you’ll find something that reflects your great energy.

Of course, we don’t always wake up feeling good. On these days, you can use clothes and a little extra beauty love to lift your mood. Wear something you feel good in, put on your favorite lipgloss, and blow out your hair – you’ll be surprised at how good you feel after!

Don’t forget to post a picture of yourself on my community page so we can support you supporting yourself. Use the hashtag #lookgoodfeelgood. And if you’re not yet a member of the Food for Thought Community on Facebook, join us here.

Also, pay attention to the automatic thoughts and questions you have about your appearance. How many times have you asked your partner, roommate, or friend, “Does this outfit make me look fat?”

Eeeeeeek, eliminate that phrase from your vocabulary. It never goes well.

What other people think isn’t the point. Assume your partner thinks you’re hotter than the sun. And more to the point, make sure you think you’re hotter than the sun.

When you know this to be true from the inside, nobody else’s opinion will matter.

#5 Only wear clothes that fit you well

Shopping can be a torturous process. You go to the mall to buy a new pair of jeans (or worse – a bathing suit!!) and look in the mirror and think, “YIKES. I look like that?”

Your cellulite has suddenly quadrupled overnight, there are bulges everywhere, and your self-esteem plummets.

Well, it’s not you, it’s the lighting. Your cellulite has not grown, your wrinkles have not expanded, and you have not gained 20 lbs. in the last two weeks.

Nobody, not even Angelina Jolie, looks flawless under the awful lighting of the department store dressing room. Whatever negative thoughts come as you shop, I give you full permission to blame it on the lighting!

Clothes shopping can be an arduous experience. It’s hard to face the dreaded try-on of shame where piece after piece doesn’t fit as it “should.” So here’s some food for thought:

There is no way you “should” look. There is no “wrong” or “right” size.

One barrier to feeling confident in their own skin is wearing clothes that don’t fit well. It’s important that you wear clothes that make you feel comfortable and that you feel confident when you wear them.

And if that means trying on twenty shirts to find two that you love, bring it on!

Remember what’s important is that you are learning to listen to your body cues. You are developing a new, healthy relationship with yourself.

Part of this new relationship with yourself is feeling confident and attractive in your own skin today, not someday. Someday is not a day of the week.

Shopping can also be fun, when you try on the right clothes for your body. Remember, you deserve to look and feel comfortable.

Keep in mind that it really is possible to feel GREAT about yourself without losing a single pound (or while you’re on a weight loss journey).

If you find yourself struggling to appreciate your body, know that you are not alone. With the pressure to look a certain way that is perpetuated by society and the diet industry, it can be difficult to feel good about ourselves no matter what our weight is. However, there are things we can do to challenge these narratives and start feeling better.

Start by questioning the belief that only skinny can be beautiful. Find clothes that make you feel good when you wear them and focus on dressing for yourself instead of worrying about impressing others. Most importantly, remember that YOU ARE worth the effort it takes to love your body- so put in the work and see how amazing you can feel!

Leave a comment below with your own tips for appreciating your body!

 The Author



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Dr. Nina Savelle-Rocklin is a psychoanalyst, author and radio host specializing in binge eating disorder. She is the author of The Binge Cure: 7 Steps to Outsmart Emotional Eating and Food for Thought: Perspectives on Eating Disorders, and co-editor of Beyond the Primal Addiction. She hosts The Dr. Nina Show radio program on LA Talk Radio.