Love the skin you’re in

It’s so easy to think that our weight is what makes us love or hate our bodies but I don’t think it is that simple. Body confidence is as much in our mind as it is in our reflection I think. Can you remember when you were last happy with what you saw in the mirror? Do you value yourself as a person? Do you believe others when they give you compliments?

I have always tried to be as open as I can about my weight loss, depression and other issues here on my blog because we are all only human and I know many of my readers have similar struggles and experiences to me. When I set out to lose weight back in January 2014 when I joined Slimming World I thought it would increase my confidence if I lost weight. Whilst losing weight has definitely helped my confidence it hasn’t been as straight forward as I had hoped. I have put a lot of mental energy into working on my confidence and learning to love my body more. It is a “work in progress” still and I still have times where I hate my body but these are less than they used to be and in time this is continually improving.
Since starting my blog I have had a lot of messages asking me about how my skin is now I have lost so much weight and how I feel about my body. These messages are mostly from people early in their weight loss journey with worries about their skin will look and how they will look at their target weight. I am often asked for tips of how to adjust to your new body as you lose weight. So here are a few things that have helped me and continue to help me when I have body confidence issues.

Have you received negative comments that have stuck in your head?
I think the key to this is considering who the comments were from. Were they made by the green eyed monster who doesn’t like that you are doing well? Were they made in the past about the body you had then? Does the person who made the comments have a place in your life or was it a stranger? I believe these are all things we need to consider and remind ourselves when we let the negative comments made about us affect the way we feel about ourselves.

Who do you see when you look in the mirror?
Do you see the size and shape you are now or what you were? It takes us a long time for our minds to catch up as we lose weight. Take a good look at yourself in the mirror and compare what you see to what you were and look at the positive changes. It is all too easy to look at the bits we don’t like in the mirror and focus on those. Is there anyone out there that actually likes their whole body? I doubt it! Smile at yourself in the mirror and you will look a lot better already!

Look at what you can change and what you cant change!
So you look in the mirror and you don’t like your reflection, are there any aspects of that you can change which will make you feel more confident? Could you change your hairstyle or colour? What about your clothes? There are some parts we cant change, well not without expensive surgery anyway, so we need to learn to accept these parts as who we are.

How do you dress?
Do you still dress like you did when you were bigger? Do you still cover up and wear dark colours? I know it is hard sometimes to try wearing new things when you have spent so long wanting to blend in and cover up but sometimes just by changing your clothes you can give yourself a whole new confidence. When you wear baggy clothes it is so easy to look in the mirror and see a bigger version of yourself but if you wear something more fitted you can see the difference more easily. Maybe try taking someone you trust shopping and ask them to help you pick out some clothes to try on. If you are anything like me you always avoided changing rooms but it doesn’t have to be like that, give it a try you might find something you love in a style you never thought of trying.

Stretch marks, saggy bits, loose skin and all those not so nice bits!
Who sees them anyway? So your body isn’t perfect but does anyone really have the perfect body? Look at all the models and celebrities who are airbrushed, have you seen them naked and without clever editing? Stop comparing yourself with fakes and compare yourself with what you were before. Now you may have bits you don’t like but you are healthier. I imagine most of the bits you don’t like are hidden well enough with clothes anyway! Who sees the bits of your body you don’t like? Only those you choose to show your body to will see it and unless you are an underwear model or considering that as a career the chances are that the only people who see you that undressed are people you love and who love you as you are. Obviously there is swimming and the beach, but look around for what suits your body and find something you feel comfortable with, sarongs hide so much and there are so many flattering swimming costumes out there. Will you see the people at the beach again? Are the people at the swimming pool really looking at your body? Can people see the stretch marks that far away anyway? Find something that works for you and remember that even if you don’t feel you look as good as you would like to, you sure look better than you did, be proud of that.

Is it your looks you don’t like or your life?
Is it actually your looks and your size you are not happy with or an aspect of your life? This is where counselling has really helped me to look at where my negative views have come from and to look at my life as a whole and how I feel about myself. With depression it is so easy to think everything is bad when the reality is that this is the depression talking. If you think you may have depression seek help, it can make all the difference to talk to someone or start medication that can change the way you think about yourself as a whole.

Be proud of your achievements.
You have lost weight, YOU did that, no one else but you! Be proud of how far you have come and make sure you are reminded of that every day. I know myself that by having all my Slimming World certificates up my body confidence has improved. I had them put away for a number of months and noticed a clear difference in how I felt about myself, that constant reminder of how far you have come helps so much. Do a side by side picture collage of your before and after pictures (or now pictures if you’re not at target yet). Look at all the differences and how much you have changed and be proud of that don’t hide it away. Look at the clothes size difference too! Don’t forget all the non scales victories too! Share your success with work colleagues, family, friends or on social media, whilst some people may say you are showing off or fishing for compliments ignore them. Do this for you, the compliments will help you feel better about yourself and seeing your comparison photos frequently helps you to accept who you have become.

Learn to accept compliments
If you are anything like me this is such a new thing to you because before you wore very simple clothes that covered everything and didn’t want to stand out so no one had a reason to compliment you. I used to wear black jumpers and black trousers most of the time even in the summer, when was the last time you asked someone where they got their black trousers from!? Now you are wearing different clothes and look so much better in your clothes you are bound to get compliments about both your figure and your clothes. I know this is so hard to accept at first but it does gradually get easier. I got to my target a year ago and although my weight has fluctuated a lot since I am still in the same size clothes and it hasn’t changed enough to change the way I look. I still struggle to accept it when someone says I look nice, I am getting better though and you can too! I have found the best way to deal with this is to have an answer ready to any compliment so you don’t panic! I know this may sound silly but for me it works, if someone compliments my clothes I tend to reply something along the lines of “Thank you I love this dress because it is just the right length, I’m too tall for some and look ridiculous!”. I find that when people compliment me on my figure I revert back to a shy Jen who says thank you and something like, “I wasn’t like this a few years ago!”. It is so hard getting used to being complimented but in time it gets easier, practising responses helps a lot too.

Accessories, make up and shoes!

Again, before weight loss, I like I am sure many people wanted to blend in and wanted to cover up so I rarely wore nice shoes or make up and jewellery either didn’t fit because of my size or seemed lost around my huge neck. It is amazing how much better you feel about yourself when you have jewellery on or a bit of make up. There is something about it I find that makes me feel more confident and more feminine. It is so easy to revert back to your pre-weight loss ways, recently I feel like I have done it a bit. I have often wore trainers and jogging bottoms (not just for running!) and put less effort into how I look. When doing this I have felt my confidence dip and my body image too so today I put on some jewellery and my skinny jeans and felt so much better about myself already. These little things can make all the difference to how you feel about yourself.

Is it all about the looks anyway?

When I feel down about my body I try to remind myself that my skin is just a shell, my body inside is so much healthier than it once was, because I chose to lose weight I will hopefully live longer and be healthier than when I was morbidly obese. I remind myself that these benefits by far outweigh the disappointment I have when I see certain parts of me in the mirror! Of course in an ideal world we would all love to be healthy and have the perfect body but in reality this is extremely unlikely! Due to me losing weight I stand a better chance of seeing my son Ben grow up and maybe have his own children. I have so much going for me now that I didn’t have before and I can do things I couldn’t when I was morbidly obese. How has your life changed? If you were asked to choose now would you choose your life before weight loss or now? I remind myself that when I was bigger I only didn’t have saggy skin because it was stretched over all the fat! I know which I would rather chose! The healthier life I have now is worth any imperfections I see in my body.

Remember no one is perfect so never compare yourself to anyone but yourself. Compare yourself to what you were and what you could have been if you didn’t lose weight. However don’t look back at photos of you before children and compare yourself with that because no one has the same looking body after carrying a baby. Be realistic, look at your age, your children and how far you have come, you are not an 18 year old underwear model with no children who has been airbrushed!

You can either go through the rest of your life hating your body or you can work on learning to love it. It is not easy learning to love your body when you have spent so long hating it but it is possible and it can be achieved in time. I am confident of that because although I still have times I do not like my body I have learnt to accept it for the way it is and love it when I can but like I have said, it is a work in progress! I have also learnt that actually in some positions no one loves their body because however perfect it is there are some poses that will never ever be flattering! Remember when you started your weight loss journey, you dreamt of a body like this, you wanted to be thinner and you have achieved that. No one is perfect but someone out there would love to have a body like yours, we have to accept that there are people that look better than us but remember that there are people that look worse too and we are who we are, no one else matters.

Remember no one is perfect and you spend every minute of every day with yourself so wouldn’t it be better to spend all that time with someone you love than someone you hate, love yourself. I know it takes time but work on it and be happy.

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