13 02 positive body image advice tipsWe’re all for self-improvement and believe in always looking as good as possible.

But we also think it’s important to take time to pat yourself on the back for simply being you.

1. Dress for the life you want.

It’s tough to feel like a million bucks when you’re schlepping around town in sweats and a baggy T-shirt. If you’re too busy to ban sweats from your life altogether, consider adding a few form-fitting T’s into the rotation and treating yourself to some new casual staples. New designer jeans and a gorgeous sweater or a cute but oh-so-comfortable knit dress might keep you from reaching for the old grubbies. “When you wear clothes that make you feel beautiful, you sparkle! It’s much easier to look in the mirror and think, ‘Wow, I look great!’” says Pamela Madsen, a New York City sex expert and author of Shameless: How I Ditched the Diet, Got Naked, Found True Pleasure...and Somehow Got Home in Time To Cook Dinner (2011, Rodale Books.)

2. Spend time with yourself naked

To change the way you think about your body, you need to get used to thinking of yourself as a beautiful creature. That’s why Madsen encourages women to stand in front of the mirror naked and tell themselves positive things about their bodies. It’s OK to lie if you have to, she says. Focus on how your body pleases you and gives you pleasure. “Say ‘My breasts are full and beautiful’ or ‘I really love the curve of my waist.’” At Madsen’s week-long Back to Body: Sensuous Retreats for Women, in Victoria, B.C. ($4,000 per week; beingshameless.com) she encourages her clients to get familiar with every part of their bodies and suggests giving themselves a full-body massage, complete with aromatic oils, as a treat.

3. Lose the scales

When Lisa Wedmann, a 43-year-old marketing and communications professional from Mississauga, Ont. was battling her compulsive eating disorder over a decade ago, she lost 150 pounds in just over a year, but she is the exception to the rule. Most diets don’t work. According to the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC), up to 98 per cent of diets fail. So why get so wrapped up in something that’s destined to fail — especially since many dieters gain back more weight than they lost? NEDIC’s website actually encourages women to get rid of their scales altogether. If the scales are a torture device at your house, try gauging your weight based on the way you feel in your clothes. Once your pants feel too tight, you’ll know it’s time to cut back. Wedmann hasn’t gone that far, but she only weighs herself once a month now. “For me, it’s a place to start,” she says. “I want to be aware of my body, but I don’t want to be controlled by a number.”

4. Listen to your body’s cues

As children, we are taught not to eat between meals, even if we’re hungry. Many parents use food as a reward or punishment, so it’s no surprise that many of us eat for comfort as adults, turning to food in times of stress because we think it will make us feel better. But rather than thinking of foods as good or bad, the experts at NEDIC suggest parents teach children to listen to their bodies and eat when they’re hungry. Once you do that, Madsen says, you’ll probably learn that what your body needs is not necessarily another brownie.

5. Give as good as you get

Being confident and comfortable with your body at any size is a huge part of what makes a person attractive to others. But making others feel good can be just as powerful. “Make eye contact, tell your barista you really love the colour of her eyes,” says Madsen. It’ll make her day, and it will make you feel good, too.”

6. Do the work (before you get any work done!)

If you’re considering body modifications, take a moment to consider who you’re changing for. “For example, I just had permanent makeup done because when I woke up, in my heels and negligee, I’d walk around the house telling myself what a hot, sexy thing I am—and then I’d look in the mirror and realize I had raccoon eyes from yesterday’s eyeliner!” While Madsen says her cosmetic decision was truly for herself, she discourages clients from seeking changes for the sake of making themselves more attractive to the opposite sex.

7. Friends don’t let friends diss themselves

We all have a friend who mutters about her thighs under her breath right after she compliments the way you look in your new skinny jeans. Sure she’s great most of the time, but her negativity doesn’t just bring her down, it can remind you of all the things you don’t like about your own body, too, says Madsen. “The next time your pal starts her body bashing, say, “Please don’t talk about someone I love like that,” suggests Madsen and then replace her diss with a compliment.

8. Teach your children well

Protecting your own self-esteem is important enough, but it’s doubly important where kids are concerned. Give your children the tools they need to have a healthy relationship with food later on by teaching them about proper nutrition . If they see you hating your body, dieting constantly or using food as a reward or punishment, you’re setting them up for a lifetime of body-image battles, says Anne Rochon Ford, executive director of NEDIC. Talk with adolescents about how its OK for people to have different body types—and if seeing celebrities being adored for their skin-and-bones physique rubs you the wrong way, say so! Teens need to be exposed to a critical point of view now if they’re going to be healthy in the long run.