If you don’t follow me on social media, you’ve missed a few recent posts about body confidence and body acceptance. They have been very popular and resulted in a lot of comments and questions. Feel free to read in the embedded posts below. So, I wanted to address them more permanently and in more detail in a blog post.
What is body confidence or body image?
According to Medical News Today “body image refers to how an individual sees their own body and the feelings associated with this perception”.
I definitely agree with this and believe that body image has a lot to do with mental health. It can also in some respects, I believe, be linked to physical health too. When you hate your body you are more likely to mistreat it and do less. This is because you do not want your body to be seen by others, and in some cases, you don’t even want to see it yourself.
What is the difference between body confidence and body acceptance?
In my opinion, there is a huge difference between being confident about your body and accepting your body. Body confidence, I believe, is more about loving your body and being happy about the way you look.
Body acceptance is about not necessarily liking the way you look but accepting it and not letting it overcome you. I feel to move towards body confidence from a truly negative body image we need to start with body acceptance.
My experiences with body acceptance
I have always hated my body for as long as I remember. I am a woman with size 9 feet, I am tall (5ft 9) and have spent a lot of my life overweight. Unfortunately, I even have big wrists that some bracelets and watches don’t fit (they were even big when I was size 6!) which is very frustrating.
When I was a size 6 I still was not happy with my body. I liked it more than I did when I was a size 26 but not as much as I hoped! A while ago I talked about this with The Telegraph. I had been under the illusion that I would love my body so much when I was thinner!
My beliefs about my body meant it was all too easy to regain my lost weight. It didn’t seem so bad as slowly I didn’t even notice that I was hating it more and more as I gained weight. I guess if you never completely love it, it’s just a sliding scale.
How do I feel now?
Before I talk about how I have worked on my body acceptance I should share a little about how I feel about myself now. You may have some ideas from my posts on social media but I’ve not been as in-depth as I want to be with you here.
I don’t like my body. Like many people, I have bits that are far fatter than I would like. I definitely have more wobbly bits than I wish I did. Equally, I am not as fit as I would like anymore. There are things about me that will never change such as my shoe size. It changes a little with weight loss but not drastically!
Whilst I do not like parts of my body, I do accept it. I no longer look in the mirror and want to cry. If I see my reflection walking past a shop I am no longer disgusted. I no longer hide away in clothes so other people do not look at me. Equally, I do not walk around the town in a bikini, that would just be crazy!
What did I do to change my mindset?
Firstly, I would like to say this is not an overnight change, it has taken months of work. I can hopefully summarise these months for you. Whilst I am still not completely happy with how my body looks I accept it. I know that it is the way it is unless I put the effort in to lose weight!
The first thing I did was to stop wearing clothes to blend in. Instead I was brave and decided to buy something I liked the look of but was not sure if I had the confidence to wear. I bought some Locket Loves Leggings (more about them later!) in a fun design. They were bright, fitted and unique.
When my leggings arrived I wore them in the house. Other than saying they were colourful, Stuart and Ben both said very little about them. This gave me the confidence to wear them more. I wore them to the supermarket, no one commented, no one stared. I caught sight of myself in the mirror and remembered my leggings and smiled.
Whilst I had smiled at my reflection I also thought, “I love these leggings but look fat”. So, an improvement but not perfect but it was still progressing a little.
In time, I bought more colourful leggings and bright coloured tops to wear with them. I was loving this new style and wearing things like this more and more. No one commented negatively! A few people commented that they loved my leggings but didn’t have the confidence to wear them.
This really made me think. Maybe I was confident, I was wearing these bright clothes and loving them! Of course, then I wore them more and more until now I rarely wear anything without any colour. A huge difference to Jen who lived in black and considered wearing navy an improvement in the past!
Whenever I catch myself thinking about my chunky legs, my flabby arms or my belly I stop. I remember that I am a reasonably healthy person and my legs despite being fat, do the job they are intended to.
My legs help me be independent and drive places. They help me be the mum I am taking Ben out whenever I want to. My legs meant I could do the Great North Run (all be it when they were slimmer).
My legs hold me upright, they do their job and for that, I should be grateful. A bit extra fat, well, I can work on that but that doesn’t mean I should hate them!
How to wear shorts as an obese woman
I love my colourful leggings and we were due a heatwave so I ordered some Locket Loves shorts! Initially, I imagined only wearing them in the house or under a long dress to stop the dreaded chub rub. Then I was brave again and bought some knee length dresses with the view to wearing them under those too.
When it got blooming hot, 39°c which here in the UK without air conditioning is very hot, I decided to wear my shorts in the house to keep me cool.
After wearing them for a few hours in the house I decided actually, if I am going out anywhere why not keep them on, they are cool and it helps.
Then, you know what? I was cooler, I was comfortable and not dripping with sweat, and no one stared or commented! Not only that but no one cared from what I could tell. I also figured that what they think of me is their problem, not mine. I only need to worry about what I think of myself, I am cool, colourful and happy so that is what matters.
So that is how you wear shorts as an obese woman. You put them on and remember that they are serving a purpose, making you cooler!
How do I wear a swimsuit when I am obese and can’t swim?
I used to see wearing a swimsuit as a chore. I loved bikinis when I was slimmer as they were perfect on holiday for by the pool in the heat. On holiday no one knows you so it felt ok. That said if someone had said something negative about me in it, even as a size 6, I would probably have covered up and never wore it again!
As a 41-year-old woman who can’t swim and is significantly overweight, I never saw the point in swimwear. When staying at a hotel in the UK with a pool I rarely went in. I owned a costume merely for the one time I went in and could say then I had joined in with Stuart and Ben. I hated every minute of that time!
With my new mindset, I realised that I didn’t really care what anyone thought. I loved the idea of going in the Jacuzzi and steam room and I couldn’t do that fully clothed!
On the first day we were away recently I braved my swimwear and nervously went to the pool. Would I hate it and feel uncomfortable? I was surprised to find I didn’t. Actually, I loved every minute of it and went in the pool, jacuzzi and steam room every day of that 5-day break!
Currently I am around a size 22/24. Not one person commented about my size in swimwear, not one! Some super skinny ladies in very skimpy bikinis standing whispered and stared as I walked past them. I was surprised to realise I didn’t actually care!
I did not automatically presume they were talking about my size. Instead, I wondered if they just liked my tankini, maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. What they think is their thoughts, not mine so it really doesn’t matter!
How can you be more confident?
Remember this will not happen overnight.
The first step to body confidence is body acceptance. Try being out of your comfort zone a little, not massively, just a little at first. Maybe just add a patterned top you like with plain black leggings instead of that black jumper! Keep making little steps like this, when you catch yourself looking at yourself in a mirror negatively remind yourself that you love that top.
Next, you need to look at your body in the mirror. Pick those bits you hate and think about what you like about them, and what they do that is good. Perhaps you hate your flabby arms, but without those arms would you be able to work or drive?
Remember to not link personality traits with your negative body image. Don’t say I am fat, dull and boring when you look at yourself. Consider merely what you can see and remember to smile.
When you next catch yourself thinking about your bad bits remember those things and add those to your internal thoughts. I have fat arms becomes I have fat arms but I can drink gin with my friends, or but they help me to drive.
As you get used to this new mantra try to change it up a little and swap the but for and. So the focus is shifted a little.
In time you can gradually switch this up a little. It can become I love my top, I would like to lose a bit of weight from my arms but this top looks great!
It will not be easy and it will take time but why not start that body confidence process today? So many people have said I must be so confident to wear the clothes I do now. I am not sure this is true, I just smile more because I am wearing clothes I love.
I accept the body I have and remember that other peoples opinions of me are their opinions. Their opinions have nothing to do with me in the same way as their opinions of tonights TV has nothing to do with me. It is their beliefs and opinions not mine.
What are these Locket Loves leggings I keep talking about?
You may be wondering what these leggings I keep talking about are. Well they are amazing leggings and so blooming comfortable it is unreal! Whilst there are some active style ones for exercise there are also casual ones! They even do lounge pants, knickers, tops and much more.
The designs are unique and colourful! The sizes are good and the leggings that are size 3, size 20-26 actually do fit that range of sizes! There are frequently offers so if you are not sure at first buy then and see how you feel!
If these aren’t to your taste then watch out for next week. I have a Yours clothes review coming with some great ideas. The Jen who used to turn down reviews for clothes due to being so self-conscious is changing!
If you fancy trying clothes from Locket Loves then please use my referral code. Not only will it get you £5 off but it will also give me £5 off my next order! £5 off referral code.
I just grabbed a photo for you of my lockets drawer. I included my legs in the photo as I am wearing my favourite pair! They do swimwear too and I just treated myself to a swimming costume that I love already!
A few other articles you may find helpful
Body positivity quotes to help you with body confidence.
If you also struggle to love yourself as a person then maybe my self love programme will help?
Free gifts for you
Are you struggling to exercise, lose weight or feel good about yourself? The free resources and support programmes I have to help you might be just what you need! Check them out by clicking the image below!