21 ways to feel good in your birthday suit
It’s our 21st anniversary, and wellness has come a long, LONG way.
To celebrate Body+Soul’s coming of age, we’re revisiting the cover story theme from our first issue in February 2000. With age comes wisdom, and we now know there’s nothing sexier than confidence, so here are our tips to ensure you don’t just look good with your kit off – you feel good, too.
- Are you avoiding mirrors? Chantelle Otten, director of the Australian Institute Of Sexology And Sexual Medicine, advises facing the looking glass head-on – and with your clothes off. “It’s important to spend time being sensual with your body, so putting lotions on your skin, spending time in front of the mirror, even putting on music and candles and dancing naked, are powerful tools that can get you a little more present in your body.”
- Turning off your inner critic is easier said than done but as Nikki Parkinson, founder of the anti-stereotype blog and fashion label Styling You, tells Body+Soul, it’s the most effective way to shake off any insecurities. “It’s like exercising a muscle, only this one is a mental muscle,” she explains. “Whenever a negative thought about my body comes into my head, I try to mentally swat it away and replace it with something positive. The more you practise and exercise that mental muscle, the more the positive starts to win the ongoing war against the negative.”
- First impressions last. While it may be your body’s natural instinct to shrink and hide when you feel nervous, standing up tall and flashing your pearly whites not only makes you appear – and feel – more confident, but the good posture is also more flattering to your body. And there’s nothing more attractive than a smile.
- A romantic dinner à deux may get you and your partner in the mood for intimacy, but feeling too full can result in a mood-killing bloat (and choosing sleep over getting naked) once you reach the bedroom. Lay some groundwork to support your digestion before that indulgent date night, advises nutritionist Stephanie Malouf: “Drinking lemon in warm water 20 minutes before your meal stimulates hydrochloric acid production in the stomach, which is needed to break down food.”
- You don’t need a full glam squad in order to feel sexy, but it’s a simple truth that a fresh blow-dry (from the salon or DIY) is guaranteed to give you more of a lift than that need-to-wash topknot. And the same can be said for all beauty rituals – whether it’s with a simple face mask or a spa facial, spending quality time on yourself because you deserve it will all contribute to building confidence.
- The best way to feel good before your clothes come off is to wear the right underwear. That means prioritising comfort and fit, says Body+Soul style director Kelly Hume. “Going to a professional fitting is a game-changer,” she says. “A proper, supportive bra will make you feel more confident.” And if the idea of being sans clothes or in your lingerie alone still fills you with dread? “Add a silk robe,” says Parkinson. “You’ll instantly feel sexy.”
- To feel good in your own skin, first make your skin feel good by adding a body exfoliator into your shower routine. If you’re pushed for time, try a multitasking moisturiser.
- Get naked for you, not for someone else. Journalist Angela Mollard has first-hand experience in birthday-suit body confidence, having stripped off for a December issue of Body+Soul after being inspired by Gwyneth Paltrow’s own nude phototo mark her 48th birthday. And Mollard highly recommends it: “Getting naked is liberating, whether you simply walk round the house or capture yourself in a photograph. When we embrace our bodies for their strength and health, and pair them with an attitude that’s light and self-loving, we free ourselves from both societal expectations and that self-talk telling us that we’re not good enough.”
- Write down affirmations. “Self-worth is about more than looking perfect,” says psychologist Briony Leo. “It’s about knowing we have a lot to offer, and that we’re desirable to our partners for a number of reasons. Keep a pen and paper by your bed, and each night list three things that you like about yourself.”
“Keep a pen and paper by your bed, and each night list three things that you like about yourself”
- Work out with the person you get naked with, says Ben Lucas, former NRL player and founder of Sydney gym Flow Athletic. “Working out with your partner can boost happiness and satisfaction in the relationship,” he tells Body+Soul. “This could be because you’re both feeling good about yourselves, or you’re both getting a happy endorphin rush at the same time and enjoying that time together.”
- Overpower any apprehension by replacing it with a stronger emotion: arousal. Massaging a few drops of a nourishing body oil into your skin will get your pulse racing, especially if it’s applied by someone else.
- Meditation is the key to self-love, says Claire Aristides, clinical hypnotherapist and founder of the Mindology app. Never tried it? She advises starting with some deep breathing – in through your nose for four seconds, then out through your mouth for eight seconds – before doing a mental scan of your body as you show gratitude for every part of it. “Genuinely say thank you to your body and all it does for you,” she adds.
- Dress the room instead of yourself. Set the scene with scented candles, beautiful bedding and even rose petals, says Body+Soul features and lifestyle editor Bree Player. “Giving your bedroom a mini makeover purely for the purpose of being naked or getting intimate with your partner will create a sexy space and encourage you to let go of inhibitions.”
- Nervous with a new partner? Try lathering up together, advises sex and relationship coach Rosie Rees. “Having a shower or taking a bath together builds connection and trust through skin-on-skin vulnerability.”
- Empower your naked self with a soundtrack. “Streaming playlists are the modern mixtape,” says News Corp Australia’s national music writer Cameron Adams. “Put the same passion and care into the digital version as you once did burning a CD or compiling a cassette. The right song at the right time is an instant mood changer.”
- Get to know yourself intimately. If you’ve never done so, make like Charlotte York in Sex And The City, and use a mirror to learn more about what, exactly, is going on down there.
- Stop comparing yourself to others, including your younger self, advises Leo. And if you can’t help it? “See if you can balance it in your mind by considering things like, what might they think about me? Or what are some of my good attributes? Sometimes we need to consciously push back against our negative bias, so that we can see reality for what it actually is.”
“Having a shower or bath together builds connection through skin-on-skin vulnerability”
- A reluctance to get naked can be caused by a low libido. To help combat this, Malouf suggests cutting out simple carbohydrates like sugar, white bread and pasta, and upping complex carbohydrates such as pumpkin, whole fruits and chickpeas. “Eating these in combination with good protein such as fish and beans also help stabilise blood sugar and give you sustained energy, inside and outside of the bedroom.”
- A sun-safe golden glow gives an instant boost by evening out skin tone and hiding stretch marks, scars and cellulite. There’s no shame in a (well-applied) fake tan.
- Get your woo-woo on and turn to crystals. “Crystals work off energy but also can activate the chakras through colour – confidence and power is orange, which is connected to the carnelian crystal,” says Janelle Palbrik, founder of fragrance house Myles Gray. “This fiery red crystal activates the sacral chakra that’s connected to your creative nature and sexual energy centre.”
- Dress up to the nines and put on that outfit you’ve been saving for “the right occasion”. Wear your best underwear and spritz on that sexy scent. It may seem counterintuitive to dress up only to then remove it all, but feeling like a million bucks with your clothes on will help you feel the same once everything comes off.