You're following a healthy meal plan (at least, most of the time) and working out. You're getting healthier, and you know that before long, you'll look as good as you feel. But still, the weight loss seems so slow. And while that's healthy, it can also be frustrating -- you want to be thin, and you want it now!
The solution: Use your wardrobe as a secret weapon. No, it won't actually help you lose weight. But the right clothes can help you look a lot thinner while you're in the process of slimming down.
"It is totally amazing, but any woman can look 5, 10, even 15 pounds slimmer automatically by simply using a few fashion tricks to fool the eye," says Lourdes Figueroa, founder and chief executive officer of UdefineU, a DVD program that teaches women how to become their own stylists.
According to Figueroa, many of those "perfect" bodies we see parading around in movies and on TV are nothing more than the result of some very clever shopping.
"Essentially, they use clothes to balance their bodies and put everything in proportion, which is really what dressing slim is all about," says Figueroa, now a size 8, but once a size 20 herself.
Linda Arroz, former editor-in-chief of Big Beautiful Woman magazine, heartily agrees. "The body is a sculpture, and you can shape it and visually reshape it, depending on your objectives," says Arroz, now a spokeswoman for the Plus Size Collection at Spiegel.
It's All About Balance
But where to start? Here's the experts' advice: Take a deep breath, then a long, hard look in a full-length mirror -- stark naked!
"You have to look past the extra pounds and focus on your overall body shape, the proportion between your top half and bottom half, and details of your basic bone structure, such as the width of your shoulders, the length of your neck, the width of your hip bones, " says celebrity stylist Laura Siebold, director of LiveStylist.com.
These areas, Siebold tells WebMD, are keys to balancing any figure type.
"If your top is decidedly larger than your bottom, then achieving proportion is about choosing styles that simultaneously minimize your top half while accentuating your bottom half -- and again, a full-length mirror can be your best friend," says Siebold.
Likewise, if you're bottom-heavy and top-light, Siebold says, look for clothes that bring the eye upward. Think great necklines and bright colors near the face, and dark colors on the bottom.
"Your goal should be to achieve a visually balanced, symmetrical look between top and bottom so when you look at yourself in the mirror you see an unbroken line, and no one area jumps out," says Siebold.
In addition, Arroz notes, you can fine-tune your balancing act by paying attention to body details like your torso (long vs. short), bosom (high, low, large, or small), hips (wide side-to-side or wide front-to-back), and recognizing where you carry the most weight.
"Any one area of your body that doesn't look right in relation to the rest of your body is the area that you need to address with corrective clothing," says Figueroa.
Size Matters -- Size Tags Don't
Size Matters -- Size Tags Don't
While visual balance is important, so is wearing the right size. That sounds simple enough, but Siebold says it's an area where we often make major fashion faux pas.
"We often think that if an article of clothing fits around our body that it fits our body, but this is not the same thing," says Siebold. Clothes should gently curve around your body, without clinging but without hiding your shape, she says.
"A plus-size girl's best friend is definitely her tailor, because oftentimes just a dart here or a seam there can give even the most inexpensive outfits a designer look -- and yes, that will make you look thinner," says Figueroa.
As unflattering as baggy, shapeless clothing can be, wearing outfits that are too small can be an even bigger fashion disaster.
"When you are a size 6, trying on a size 8 to get a better fit isn't a big deal; but when you're in an 18 and you need to size up to a 20, you feel like a horrible failure," Figueroa says. "Going up a size isn't just a fashion move, it's a whole psychological experience, and so we often avoid it."
To shake those feelings, she says, learn to ignore size tags and go for what looks best on your body. To make sure you have the right size, make sure there's about a finger's width of space between your skin and the garment. "More than that and your clothes are going to make you look shapeless; less than that, and you are squeezing into too small a size -- and either one is going to make your look heavier," says Figueroa.
Love the Size You Are
Nutritionist Samantha Heller, MS, RD, reminds us that sometimes, looking our best also means accepting that our bodies may never be the size we want -- and learning to live with the size we are.
"Our cosmetic weight, the one we think we look best at, is not necessarily the physiological weight at which our bodies are the happiest," says Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Medical Center.
On one hand, she says women should not be hesitant about going after their weight loss goals. But she also says it's important to be realistic about what those goals should be.
"Regardless of the pressure from the media to be rail-thin, we have to do our best with diet and exercise and learn how to not just accept ourselves, but revel in our beauty and health -- no matter our size," says Heller.
8 Simple Rules for Looking Slimmer
To help set you on the path toward looking your personal best, our experts give these eight fashion rules for dressing thinner and more chic:
- Use single-color schemes. This could mean wearing one solid, dark color -- like brown, navy or black -- or different tones of the same color. It could be shades of beige, aqua, or coral, or any color that brings out the best in your complexion. If you think color makes you look larger, try wearing the same color on your entire body and see what a difference it can make.
- Choose fabrics wisely. Avoid stiff, hard, and heavy fabrics, as well as clingy, over-Spandexed fabrics that magnify every bulge and ripple. The best choice: Fluid fabrics that drape the body and softly follow your curves. Your goal is to see your overall shape, not the shape of every body part.
- Do a balancing act. If you have broad shoulders and/or a large chest, avoid shoulder pads and any shoulder detail like ruffles, puffs, or trims. Also, skip boat necks and wide scoop necks. To balance a large top with a smaller bottom, go for a sleek V-neck complemented by a full skirt or wide-leg pants. If you have a small top and large bottom, seek out shoulder and neckline attention. Choose a C-scoop neck or V-neck top and a narrow silhouette on the bottom, such as a straight skirt or slim-cut pants.
- To camouflage large hips or a tummy, toss the pleated pants and elastic-waist slacks with lots of shirring. Choose a sleek, straight line with front slit pockets or no pockets, and elastic in the back. To minimize your buttocks and tummy, look for pants cut at, or slightly below, your natural waist. The general rule here: The higher the waist, the larger your butt will look.
- For a taller, slimmer look, the hem of your pants should almost touch the floor, with a slight break in front at the top of the shoe. Pants that end just below the ankle can add 10 pounds to your appearance.
- To further camouflage a large tummy, whether you're wearing skirts or pants, go for an overblouse in a slim-fitting knit or well-tailored woven fabric. Make sure it's no longer than hip length. The only exception is with tunics, which should be tapered to gently outline the body and worn over slim-fitting pants.
- Avoid anything boxy, particularly jackets. Instead, look for semi-fitted styles, particularly those with princess seaming. These are the curved seams that run down the front of the garment from shoulder to waist, or sometimes the entire length of a dress.
- Don't overlook the power of shoes to balance your body and make you look slimmer! Looks to avoid include thin, strappy sandals (particularly if your foot is chubby or wide), and tiny or thin kitten heels. Instead, look for a chunky heel -- and, if you can stand it, a high heel, which can make you look 5 pounds thinner no matter what else you're wearing. Styles to avoid include ankle straps, Mary Jane straps, and square-toe shoes, all of which can make your feet look squatty and your legs shorter.