By Corrie Pikul
They're healthy -- but not stick-skinny. They eat well -- most of the time. And while they don't love shopping for a swimsuit, they're totally fine with being spotted (even photographed) wearing one. So what do they do that you can emulate to feel just as body-confident?
They never just say no.
And they never say, "I can't," either. When researchers studied the different ways in which women refuse temptation, they found that those who reported that they say "I don't" are not only more likely to keep their resolve, but they also reported feeling stronger senses of autonomy, control and self-awareness. In the study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, the researchers concluded that saying "I can't" makes us feel deprived -- and when red velvet cupcakes and deprivation go head-to-head, we all know who wins. On the other hand, the women in the study who reported that they say "I don't" reported feeling so empowered that some kept using this strategy after the study ended.
They hold their head like they're balancing something on their chin -- à la F. Scott Fitzgerald's Jordan Baker
Research has shown that "power poses," like standing tall with shoulders pulled back, chin up and not tucked into your chest, can boost your levels of testosterone (the hormone linked to having a sense of power and self-confidence) and lower the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. (In photos, this power pose helps you avoid looking like you have a double chin).
At the beach, they pick a spot farthest away from the friend who refuses to take off her sarong.
Confidence can be contagious -- and so can low self-esteem. Women are strongly influenced by their friends' body issues, found a 2012 Canadian study published in the journal Sex Roles, and if our friends feel pressure to be thin, we do, too -- regardless of the shape either of us are in. If your good friend starts obsessing over calories, maybe steer her toward the topic of exercise because the study found that conversations focused on working out had less body dissatisfaction.
They don't waste time looking at other people's online photo albums.
Yes, multiple studies tell us that poring over friends' edited, curated, Instagram-filtered Facebook photos can make us feel kind of crummy. Still, more than half of the 600 young women in one study admitted that they compare themselves to others when they view photos -- and about the same number said that they wished they had the same body or weight as the person pictured.
They take mirror vacations.
Women tend to look at themselves in the mirror between 30 and 70 times a day, says Kjerstin Gruys, the author of the memoir Mirror, Mirror Off the Wall, and a sociology PhD candidate at the University of California, Los Angeles. Gruys, who had long struggled with poor body image, decided to go for an entire year without checking out her reflection and says that living mirror-free helped her break her obsession with what she looked like. "My husband told me I seemed more relaxed, and he noticed I was covering myself up less when we were alone together," she says. You don't need to smash the reflective surfaces in your home; Gruys says that going camping for a weekend can be just as effective
They dress for their curves (and their lumps, bumps and ripples).
"Always be on the lookout for pieces that fit the odd part of you," says fashion blogger Chastity Garner. On her website, The Curvy Girl Guide, Garner posts photos of herself in outfits that highlight one of her favorite features (her curves) and also flatter, minimize or disguise the parts she's less fond of (her secret!). Garner suggests building a look to camouflage the tricky body part -- T-length skirts that cover chubby knees, for example -- and buying items that fit the largest part of you, and then getting them tailored to fit from there.
They Zumba for Zumba's sake.
Doing any type of exercise on a regular basis makes people feel better about their bodies -- even if they haven't seen any physical results yet, found researchers at the University of Florida. Exercising a few times a week also helps you build immunity to life's minor stressors and slights, explains clinical psychologist Jasper Smits, PhD, in Exercise for Mood and Anxiety, helping you brush off insensitive or thoughtless comments.
They always carry a lightsaber...
... a.k.a a packet of nuts, an apple or some other snack to defend against that desperate hunger that overtakes us when we've gone too long without eating. They know that quickly scarfing down even the healthiest of meals makes us feel bloated and that bingeing on fatty foods (which we're more likely to do when famished) makes that feeling last longer, because fat takes more time to digest than protein or carbs. That's why nutritionists are always telling us to keep hunger at bay with healthy snacks.
They respect their legs for helping them hold that Warrior One pose.
Women who practice yoga reported higher levels of satisfaction with their bodies, a lower likelihood of self-objectification and fewer eating disorders than women who do aerobic exercise or none at all, found Jennifer J. Daubenmier, a social psychologist who studies mind-body heath approaches. This probably has a lot to with how yoga cultivates an awareness and appreciation of different body parts, Daubenmier explained (think of an instructor urging you to "feel your legs anchoring you to the earth"). Also helpful: yogic breathing, which demands that you not only relax your belly but also fill it with air.
As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.