More than 90% of UK women are dissatisfied with their bodies, with two-thirds believing that their life would improve considerably if they were happier with their weight, hips, thighs or waistlines. According to scientific research, body confidence is linked with overall happiness. The good news, though? Your body doesn't necessarily have to change - the way you treat it does. Read on to discover 10 simple steps you can take towards body confidence - today...
1. Change your focus.
People who exercise regularly feel better about their bodies - whether they lose weight or not. Stop telling yourself, "I must start going to the gym or I'll always be fat and ugly," and focus on health and enjoyment instead. Challenge yourself to walk somewhere new each weekend, or to try a new exercise or dance class, and focus on how the activity makes you feel.
2. Show your body some gratitude.
"Instead of saying, 'I hate my thighs,' ask yourself: What do your thighs allow you to do?" advises body image expert Robyn Silverman. Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to skate on an outdoor ice rink with their friends or families at Christmas, for example.
3. Don't get caught up in competitive self-criticism.
More than two-thirds of women blame their lack of body confidence on other women's obsession with body image. When a friend gripes about her appearance, don't attempt to one-up her. Give her a compliment, instead, suggests life coach Jayne Cox. "Celebrate yourselves and focus on your positives."
4. Give yourself a break.
More often than not, though, it's our own internal voice dragging us down. Experts often say, if you wouldn't say it to your best friend, sister or mother, you shouldn't say it to yourself. But it's not always that easy. Silverman suggests giving your negative inner voice a name. For instance, if the root cause of your dislike of your nose was a boy at school making fun of it, name it after him. When it pipes up, you can say, "Joe, you're not welcome here". It's important to recognise that, "it's not your voice; it's not the truth," Silverman advises.
5. Think positively.
Think of three things that you like about your face or body, or three compliments that other people have given you, and write them down on Post-it notes. Stick them to your mirror and repeat them out loud to yourself whenever body anxiety threatens to creep in.
Meditation can help you to accept that your negative thoughts about your body are just that - thoughts, not facts. It can also enhance your awareness of what is going on inside your body, which, in turn, has been linked with more realistic external perceptions.
7. Pamper yourself.
You may think you don't like your body, but show it some love and you'll reap the rewards. Something as simple as applying perfume can have a tangible effect on body image. In one study, a group of women who judged themselves to be heavier than they actually were judged their weight more accurately after applying deodorant! Build simple pampering rituals into your daily life, from exfoliating and moisturising (all over) to DIY mani-pedis - and never skip the basics. Does this constitute a legitimate excuse for splashing out on a weekly massage, though? Yes, actually - they've been reported to improve body confidence by researchers. 8. Rejig your wardrobe. You may want to "hide" in your baggy black staples, but switching them for well-fitting, flattering clothes could make you look - and feel - longer, leaner and more confident in an instant. Most major department stores offer free bra fitting and personal shopping services. Be brave and book an appointment - today. And don't be afraid of colour... 9. Stand up straight.
The quickest, easiest way to enhance body confidence? Simply stand - or sit - up straight. It'll make you look taller, slimmer and more confident too, of course - bonus. 10. Keep it in perspective.
Be aware of the motives behind the messages you process on a daily basis. "Society tells us to not like ourselves purely from a marketing and advertising perspective so we buy their things to feel 'good enough'," counsels life coach Jacqueline Hurst. "The truth is you are good enough right now at this moment and as soon as you learn that body confidence comes not from your figure, but from your thoughts, you're halfway there."