Be honest. When did you last look at a friend, a celebrity or even a stranger and think, "Why can't I look like that?" Was it last week, yesterday or 10 minutes ago? It's normal to feel occasional pangs of envy – some people are blessed with amazing looks – but experts believe we are more prone to this negativity than ever. "Envy can be a good thing," says psychotherapist and self-help author Gael Lindenfield. "It motivates us to move forward and try harder. But it becomes unhealthy when we compare ourselves constantly to others, and today we are bombarded with images of super-skinny celebrities, which makes this easy to do." Read on to overcome the four most common scenarios.
- Trap 1: The skinny friend
You've lost 2lb this week and are feeling pretty good. You're meeting a friend and she turns up in tight white jeans. She's 5ft 11in, a size 10 and always looks amazing. You're working hard, but you'll never have legs like her. Your mood slumps so you order an extra-large glass of wine and some peanuts.
What to do:
Focus on your plan. Don't let a meaningless comparison steal your joy. Losing weight and seeing your body change shape is exciting, so look in the mirror for evidence of this. Pat yourself on the back and resolve to continue eating healthily so you'll look and feel even better.
Also, tell your friend about your weight loss and see how pleased she is for you. "Reminding yourself of your successes is a very effective way to deal with envy," says Gael Lindenfield. "You might never be 5ft 11in, but you can reclaim control of your weight." Demonstrate the new you by ordering a gin and slimline tonic and skipping the peanuts.
Finally, remember, we all have different assets. Focus on yours and do your best to make the most of them. Who knows? You may be the envy of your friends, who look at you and see that you have something they don't!
- Trap 2: The weight-loss buddy
You bonded when you joined Weight Watchers the same week, both with 2st to lose. But while you've plateaued, she is still losing 2lb each week. You can't understand why you haven't had the same success.
What to do:
Remember that every weight-loss journey is different. Weekly losses depend on various factors, such as monthly cycle and physical activity. So, providing your weight is going in the right direction, you're on track. If you're still struggling to understand it, talk to your leader, who will be able to analyse your weight loss and give you practical advice.
Perhaps you need to focus on tracking more or start increasing your activity levels? Are you eating more than you think? Have you had a few special occasions that you haven't budgeted for? Do you forget to account for everything? Tracking everything is the only real way to work out what's happening. If you bite it, write it!
Trap 3: The complete stranger
You've managed to get to the gym for the second time this week and are starting to enjoy it. Then in walks a woman who you've never seen before. She smiles and chats to everyone, gets on the treadmill and runs for 15 minutes without stopping. You lose heart and head for home.
What to do:
You came to work out, so take a deep breath and get on with it. If you feel distracted, select a track that's sure to lift your spirits, and remind yourself how you've improved since your first workout.
Why not ask a friend to come to the gym with you next time? You could even share the cost of a personal training session with one of the gym instructors to make sure that you're getting the most out of the gym equipment. With a little bit of training, you could be running on the treadmill for 15 minutes too.
Finally, ask yourself why you were so quick to quit. Have you started exercise regimes before, and fallen at the first hurdle? Is it a familiar pattern? Ask yourself what it would take to make you succeed, and be realistic. Nobody's perfect, so try not to expect too much – if you're doing your best, you're well on your way to a healthier, happier you.