Body Confidence

I have two intakes of clients per year. At the start of and the middle of the year I take on between 20 and 25 people to work with one-on-one. I work with these clients for a 5-month period, only choosing people who are already committed to making changes and will see it through. While 5 months can seem like a long time, it really flies by. And as these clients discover, it’s definitely worth it.

The majority of clients who come to see me these days do so because they want help with that messy business of how they feel about their body and their relationship with food. Sure, they normally have other health stuff going on, but first and foremost (or at least alongside) they need to tackle the inner workings of their thoughts and beliefs.

Maybe they experience fleeting feelings of happiness in their body but it’s outweighed by the almost constant feeling of not being enough. Food feels like the archenemy and an epic battle is waged daily. Thoughts about their weight and whether they should or shouldn’t have that piece of chocolate take up a disproportionate amount of their time, and this amount is growing.

Yep, this is what I specialise in.

One of the big things I have noticed with these people is a lack of confidence in themselves. When I say confidence, I want to just clarify what I mean because I think there can be surface level confidence and then deeper level confidence.

Surface level confidence is often how someone is perceived by others. Someone who walks into a room and immediately attracts all the attention. Someone who can get up and speak in front of a huge room of people. The natural extrovert who is in their element when all the focus is on them.

Deeper level confidence is confidence in yourself as person. You are happy with who you are and what you’ve got. You may still have insecurities just like everyone else, but you are ok with this, as you know that this is part of being human. We’re all ‘works in progress’ but you like the path you are on and are enjoying the journey. You are confident about who you are at your core.

Surface level confidence and deeper level confidence are separate things and one doesn’t necessarily lead to the other. I know plenty of people who don’t want to be the centre of attention and are much more introverted but have huge amounts of confidence at their core. Equally there are people who on the surface seem to exude confidence, they are the life of the party and have an air of togetherness. But underneath it all, they lack the confidence in themselves and are riddled with insecurities.

When people lack confidence in their body they believe this will change when they can improve their aesthetics. That if they lose weight, if they become ‘fitter’, if they do this diet, then it will change. When they get to this fictitious destination of ‘the better body’ then all their worries and concerns will disappear. That it’s a simple cause and effect relationship.

A great example of this is a client I am working with at the moment. She is someone who has dieted for the last 15 years. For anyone on the outside they would think it was working. She has the kind of body that most would kill for and is naturally very attractive. The kind of face and body that wouldn’t look out of place on the cover of some glossy magazine.

But on the inside, things weren’t working so well. No periods. Constipation. Poor sleep with lots of teeth grinding. But more than all this was a dissatisfaction with how she looked and what she weighed. No matter how hard she tried she could never quite get to that weight that she so desired. No amount of exercise or restricting would allow her to enter the Promised Land.

Fast forward 4 months and things are going much better. Her periods returned shortly after we started working together, she’s eating more, and her sleep has improved. She is feeling more confident and grounded in her body and is learning to work with it rather than against it…something she said she’d never done before. Everything’s not perfect, but it’s heading in the right direction and with a lot less effort than her old life.

She recently went on holiday and thoroughly enjoyed herself. She ate loads of food and spent little time thinking about it. (I always tell people when they are going away to forget everything I have ever told them about food and to just enjoy themselves). She had some late nights and probably drank more than the government-recommended amount but it was a holiday afterall. She hung out with friends and generally had a blast.

She said that she was looking at the photos and she weights more now that she used to. She had gone on holiday at the same time the year before and was looking at the photos for how she used to look. She was thinner and said part of her wanted to get back to there.

So I asked her ‘When you were that weight, how did you feel? Did you feel more confident and more comfortable in your skin?’

She shot back ‘Oh God no. I was obsessed with what I ate and with wanting to lose more weight. I was always so negative about my body. During that holiday I was always worried about how I looked, much more than this time around. Plus I had all the other stuff going on – no periods, crappy digestion – my health was terrible’. I let it all sink in as I could see she was having one of those ah-ha moments.

This is the problem with the way most people try to ‘fix’ their body image and confidence. They focus on trying to reach some aesthetic goal. A goal that’s unattainable because it keeps moving. And this illusiveness makes them feel like a failure, ironically perpetuating the cycle.

Feeling confident in your body has little to do with how you look. It can definitely help, but only if you allow it to. If someone who has the kind of body that would grace the cover of magazines is not happy with what is looking back at them, what does that tell you? For me it shows they need to work on their perception, not their reflection.



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Chris Sandel is the founder of www.seven-health.com. He is a nutritionist, working with clients on a one-on-one basis, as well as creating online trainings and products about health and nutrition. He is the author of The Health Trap: Why "Healthy" Eating Isn't Always Healthy which is available on Amazon UK and Amazon USA.

Chris has three free emails series. One is on how to quit dieting. One is on simple tests you can do at home. And the other is his take on the world's healthiest foods.

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