If you're about to inhale a stinking cabbage drink up your snout through a spinach straw then please STOP. Right now. You can't avoid articles about dieting or changing your appearance in January, meaning it's hard not to get swept up in the 'you can look better' madness.
Well, sit back, pour that flask of green sicky soup away in the nearest pot plant and listen to me: THERE ISN'T ANYTHING WRONG WITH HOW YOU LOOK. YES, EVEN YOU THERE HIDING IN THAT MASSIVE SNOOD. YOU LOOK LOVELY. What there is something wrong with is how you feel about how you look. See the difference?
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If you're always thinking negatively about how you look, you'll feel bad about how you look. It's that simple. Even the most self-assured and confident person on the planet would start feeling insecure if they constantly listened to that little voice in their head whispering: "He's staring at your scar. She's thinking you shouldn't eat that Snickers."
There's nothing wrong with wanting to look nice. It's when worries and anxieties about your body start affecting your decisions and day-to-day life that it's time to take action. While there are no magic fixes (it takes time to change ingrained beliefs), the great news is that there are loads of things you can do to start reversing negative ways of thinking and behaving so you'll seeing yourself differently and feeling, yep, beautiful.
1. Stop weighing yourself every day
It sets yourself up for a 'pass' or 'fail' each morning which will dictate your mood and the rest of the day. Weight can alter by up to 4-6lbs in 24 hours and it tells you nothing about your health. We'd advocate ditching the scales altogether, but if you have to weigh yourself do so once a week at the same time wearing the same clothes (or no clothes). Hide your scales so you don't just stand on them automatically without thinking. Put them in a cupboard so you actually have to choose to get them out.
2. Pay attention to compliments
People with body image insecurities will dismiss compliments or ignore them – they don't tally with the view you have of yourself so they must be nonsense, right? WRONG. For one week write down every single compliment you get, e.g. "great work", "your advice really helped", "that was funny", "I love your trousers", "you look nice". By writing them down you'll be forcing yourself to pay attention. At the end of the week re-read through them all. Accepting your good bits – you wrote them down so they're true -will make you look at yourself more positively.
3. Find the good things
You need to learn how to focus your mental spotlight on your achievements and the good things about a situation so the next time you make a mistake or something goes wrong you won't beat yourself up about it.
So instead of: I can't believe I ate that whole cake → I'm disgusting → Now the whole day is ruined → I might as well eat more cake You can think: I can't believe I ate that whole cake → It was totally delicious thoughThe next time you're facing something tough or something goes wrong take a deep breath, find some positives in the situation - any positives at all - and then make a plan for dealing with the issue. For example, I shouted at my boss. At least I didn't hit him though. And I did have a point. I'll apologise tomorrow and explain why I lost my rag. Or I didn't get the job. But I'm proud I went for it. And at least I've got some interview experience for next time.
Next, for one week, before you go to bed write down three things you did well that day. Anything: making someone laugh, handing in a piece of work on time, only checking your compact mirror twice the whole day. At the end of the week read through your notes. See? You aren't a failure – there are good and bad sides to everything. Looking for the good in situations and in how you cope with them will bolster your self-esteem.
4. Cut down on social media and online celeb stalking
Be honest now: do you spend hours analysing celebrity bodies or pictures of yourself online? If so, how does it make you feel – better or worse about yourself? When we feel insecure we actively look for flaws, for things that back-up our view about ourselves. We'll pore over pictures of bodies that we think are 'better' than our own or pictures of ourselves that confirm our worst fears ("look at my fat legs!") or make us long for the past ("I wish I still looked like that"). This is incredibly damaging and unfair. Get rid of celebrity websites from your desktop or on your phone so they're not easily accessible and log-out of any appearance-related forums so you actually have to consciously choose to access them. Give yourself a two day ban and then ask yourself: "do I feel better or worse about myself not looking?" We'll bet big money (a fiver OK?) that you'll feel infinitely better.
5. Repeat after me: you are NOT a collection of parts, you are a whole person
Don't zone in on just one feature when you look in a mirror (and ban magnifying mirrors altogether) - take in your whole face or body. You need to stop seeing yourself as a collection of body parts ("my stomach is so gross"). By taking in the whole picture you'll be more inclined to simply look at rather than analyse your appearance as you're not dissecting individual details. So, not "how does my nose look today?" but "how do I look today?" Be really strict about this and stop yourself every time you catch yourself looking at that one so-called 'flaw' and you'll discover a new determination to see yourself as a whole person spilling over into other aspects of your life. You'll gradually start believing that your looks don't define you. Remember: you could look like a Greek goddess, but still be an arsehole. You are so much more than how you look.
This Book Will Make You Feel Beautiful by Dr Jessamy Hibberd and Jo Usmar is out now, £7.99