I've just returned home from a pleasant shopping trip to Canary Wharf. I was struck not by the many tall shiny buildings or the sheer number of movers and shakers per square foot, but by the amount of beautiful, immaculately groomed, obviously successful women in the changing rooms looking highly awkward and uncomfortable in their own skins. Glossy hair and beautiful skin were in abundance but so were strategically-placed wide belts, vast amounts of body shaping underwear and shifty sidelong glances (to check no one else was checking). This got me wondering: what IS looking good naked?
Is it accepting your body, whatever its size; embracing your curves, dimples an' all, having chanted a few mantras and treated yourself to a Rigby & Peller special, like popular style gurus would have us believe? Or is it also about putting in some legwork to whittle your body into the best shape it can be, whatever that may be, while not totally sacrificing the good life or, God forbid, going one step further and striving for the emaciated A-List look?
Before I go any further, let me be clear about something: this isn't about deriding self-help techniques that boost self esteem, or subscribing to some kind of hideous body fascism - I'm talking about women selling themselves short. As I Tweeted last week, don't confuse self acceptance with resignation, ladies. Don't get me wrong, I think Gok, Trinny, Susannah, Brix et al have done fabulous things for the self esteem of British women. But I believe better bras, wide belts and mantras have to be met halfway with some of the more mundane and slightly tougher stuff - like clocking up sweat minutes, saying no to a slice of your colleague's birthday cake, and recruiting an exercise buddy to double the resolve (it really works, btw) if only to make you a little less reliant on Spanx and dimmer switches. And to save your life, of course, but that's another issue.
I think we've taken "Because you're worth it" to mean go ahead and dig into the all-you-can-eat-buffet as often as you like regardless of the consequences - after all, you work hard enough. But I think, avoid the all-you-can-eat-buffet like the plague BECAUSE you're worth it. If you do a Cost-Benefit Analysis on that buffet, it's a no brainer. I don't want to end my career abruptly so I'll tread carefully on this next bit...however, while Kate Moss's "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels" probably was irresponsible, albeit accidentally, there is a case for "no amount of comfort eating tastes as good as being the size nature intended you to be". Isn't being good to yourself refusing another helping of 700-calorie-a-slice cheesecake, downsizing to a small cookie and then being able to fit into that size 10/12/14 (delete as appropriate), instead of selling yourself short and squeezing into body shaping undies day after day? Now I believe body shaping undies have their place. Occasionally. For an obscenely tight dress that will only look good if you either, a) don't eat for a month or, b) don some M&S Shapewear. But that's about it. As a viable alternative to shifting a little bulge and toning your tum the way nature intended? Nooo, Ladies (and Gents, come to think of it, now the godforsaken Manx have launched) - I thought the sexual revolution had liberated us from corsets?
Looking good naked isn't about staying imprisoned in a body which you're not happy with - it's about turning mantras like "Because you're worth it" into truly positive actions. And I believe you can only do that by developing a healthy relationship with food and calling a reluctant truce with exercise. Then you can really go girlfriend.
5 Ways to Really Look Good Naked
1. Don't confuse self acceptance with resignation
The former sounds like this: "There's nothing I can do about my pear shape; it's the shape I was born with. I'll work on my upper body and stop obsessing about the rest". The latter sounds like this: "It's no good, I'm a size 14, I might as well resign myself to the fact that I'm heading for a size 16. *breaks open packet of Hob Nobs*.
2. Pound the streets
It's quick, it's free and it torches fat faster than a laser. Yes, I'm talking about running. Running shifts body fat quicker than anything, and less muffin top = more choice when choosing undies.
3. Never, ever reward yourself with food
There is no comfort eating - it's an illogical contradiction-in-terms that actually carries a high price tag over time. Think a massage, a new pair of jeans or some pricey bubble bath - anything but a bar of chocolate.
4. Buy a Swiss ball
There isn't a body part you can't hone and tone using one of those large exercise balls and your own body weight. Toned glutes (aka your bum muscles) and abs are the real secret to looking good naked.
5. Don't dismiss calorie counting
Excess cals = excess flesh = G-string overspill. You don't need to starve but you do probably need to say no thanks a bit more than you are now. Draconian it may sound but the changing rooms will seem far less frightening a few weeks down the line.
Follow Laura Williams on Twitter: www.twitter.com/laurafitness