No matter what your scale says, being comfortable in your own skin is up to you. It can be tough, in a society that prizes unrealistic images. But it's possible, and it starts with what you say when you look in the mirror.
One of the first rules of achieving a healthy and happy body image is to stop allowing "put-downs" in front of the mirror, says Lori Osachy, body image expert and lead therapist at The Body Image Counseling Center in Jacksonville, Fla.
"Even if in the beginning that means you have to jump in front of the mirror and shout, ‘You're awesome,' and then immediately jump back out, that's OK," she says. "The goal is to retrain your brain how to think positively about your reflection and your body."
Over time, telling yourself that you're beautiful, even if you don't believe it at first, will improve your confidence, she says. The psychology behind this technique is called "cognitive behavioral therapy," a method that psychologists and therapists use to stop negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones instead.
Robyn Silverman, PhD, body image expert and author, agrees that "faking" confidence will eventually turn bad body thoughts into good ones, though it takes time.
To speed up the process, Silverman suggests posting notes with positive messages on your mirror to remind yourself of your good qualities. Those notes don't always have to be about your looks. Jotting down things about your character will help you develop a more positive attitude toward your reflection.
Be Your Own Body Image Advocate
You would never tell your friend she looks fat in a bathing suit, or tell your coworker his arms are scrawny, so why would you tell yourself that?
"Treat yourself as you would treat others, and you'll find negative thoughts will lessen over time," says Leslie Goldman, MPH, body image expert and author of Locker Room Diaries.
Ditch the things in your life that make you feel inferior, whether that is body-bashing friends, fashion magazines with supermodels, or TV shows that portray men and women in an unrealistic, sexist way, Silverman says. If a family member or roommate makes you feel bad about the way you look, talk to them directly and establish a "fat-talk-free policy," she says.
If an advertisement or TV commercial makes you feel bad about yourself, examine it closer and look for the ways it's trying to sell you something. "Remember, if we didn't feel inferior to the models in the ads, we wouldn't want to buy the product," Silverman says.
Look Beyond the Scale
All too often, people get hung up on the number on the scale, rather than paying attention to how they feel, Silverman says. People of all sizes do that, and it doesn't help.