April 23, 2009

Ever notice how some women always know how to strut their stuff, even if they happen to be the heaviest person in the room? The truth is, body confidence isn't as elusive as you think. Developing it simply requires making small adjustments to your attitude every day. "The key is to concentrate on something positive about yourself instead of fixating on your weight or perceived flaws," says Jean Petrucelli, Ph.D., director of the Eating Disorders, Compulsions, and Addictions Service at the William Alanson White Institute in New York.

Try these easy tips so you can start feeling more self-assured today.

1Lose your obsession with the numbers. Keep track of improvements beyond losing weight, advises Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., professor of sociology at the University of Washington in Seattle. Says Schwartz: "Zero in on how strong you feel. It will help you gain an appreciation for what your body can do."

2Applaud your efforts. Ann Kearney-Cooke, Ph.D., Shape advisory board member and author of Change Your Mind, Change Your Body (Atria, 2004), uses a golf score counter to tally the times she does something positive for her body. "If I eat fresh fruit, I click it. If I go for a fast walk to blow off steam instead of diving into a bag of chips, I click it," she says. "If I've accumulated 10 clicks by the end of the day, I'm happy."

3Exercise Outdoors. Working out in a gorgeous place puts you in touch with soothing natural beauty, Schwartz says. "Mixing up my surroundings helps me feel less anxious, because I'm more focused on my environment than on how I look in the gym mirror."

4Help someone in need. Volunteering to assist those less fortunate than you can put your own worries in perspective, suggests Barbara Bulow, Ph.D, associate director of the Columbia University Psychiatric Day Treatment Program in New York. "The more you pay attention to the needs of others, the easier it is to forget about your own anxieties."

5 Give yourself a regular mirror check. "When I look at my reflection, I practice thanking all my body parts for how well they keep me healthy," says Rhonda Britten, author of Do I Look Fat in This? (Dutton). Reminding yourself why you should be proud of your body will make you feel more attractive and confident. And who wouldn't want that?