Saturday, March 15, 2008

Giving up dieting? Continue…

Repeat this on different days. Notice how your moods affect the way your body looks. We believe the saying 'look good and you will feel good'. But the reverse is also true: 'feel good and you will look good'. When we feel positive our bodies can look perfect and we examine ourselves with pride. If we are upset all we can see are the dimples and loose flesh. This is expressed perfectly by Kathrin Perutz in her book Beyond the Looking Glass:

On a good day I can see dark brown eyes, long lashes, a sensual mouth, smooth skin and an endearing nose. On a bad day these are eclipsed and only the bags under my eyes, wrinkles, kinky hair, fat lips and pug nose are visible. On a terrible day, there's almost nothing to see at all except a blur of indefensible humanity as I avert my gaze. And on a glorious day the beautiful eyes behold me, full of love, humour and intelligence.

We need to learn to distinguish between our negative perception of our bodies and the reality. And we should like the reality.

Diet Start

Perhaps even greater than our fear of examining our own bodies is the fear of exposing them to others. Have you ever undressed with the lights off in front of someone else? Or do you lie in bed with your partner making sure your stomach is pulled in and your thighs are hidden? Or maybe you have found that lying in certain positions on the beach is unacceptable?

In Britain we very rarely expose our bodies to others. Most of the year is spent under layers of clothes which disguise and hide a multitude of sins. When we do take our clothes off it tends to be in the privacy of our own home, and only with the very few people we feel confident with. We assume that others will be as critical of our bodies as we are because there is no evidence to suggest otherwise. If no-one ever sees you with no clothes on, how can you know whether they will criticise how you look?

And yet on holiday it is a different matter. Last year I went to the South of France. For the first day or so I lay on the beach looking at my white body which looked in a state of shock at being so exposed. I lay on my back because I look better that way and I put my clothes back on to go for lunch. Then I noticed that I was surrounded by nearly naked people of all shapes and sizes, some wearing perfectly fitting bikinis, others bursting out of theirs, and I stopped worrying. Within a few days I was totally happy. Most people stop caring on holiday. There are too many other things to do and enjoy. And once we have exposed our naked flesh to the critical world and no-one has criticised, collapsed from the shock or laughed, we realise that we are fine, and we can get on with everything else.

But this feeling often goes when we get home. So how do we learn to get used to others seeing our body? The following hints may be helpful.

First, try the exercise described above with someone else. A friend can make it more fun and a partner adds an element of excitement. Compare your bodies and point out to each other which parts you don't like. I remember being at college and getting ready to go out with a group of women friends. As we were all getting dressed one woman suddenly said 'God I hate my nipples, they're so small'. We then all compared bosoms and everyone seemed to have their own personal complaints, but no-one could understand why anyone else was worried. Small nipples turned out to be about the same size as everyone else's, and we all had at least a few hairs growing from them! Women very rarely see other women's bodies unless they are clothed and disguised. It is very easy to believe that you are different from everyone else because there is no-one to compare yourself with. Simple exposure is the easiest way to realise that even the apparently most perfect body is still similar to your own.

Another technique is to try walking around with no clothes on. Get used to watching the television and cooking dinner whilst naked. Don't shy away from communal changing rooms in shops and go swimming in the local public baths.

Learn to feel confident about how you look, and understand other people's reactions to you. If you feel positive about your body others will respond positively. Examine your own reactions to other people. You don't notice everyone else's flab so why should they be so interested in yours?

Oscar Wilde once said 'To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance'. As women we need to stop criticising and put our bodies into perspective.

... andjoyohoxing