The holidays can create a lot of extra pressure on our relationships to eating, movement, and our bodies, and for those of us who are dealing with a lot of brain chatter about what, how much, and when to eat, the holidays can be really challenging. There are lots of opportunities for socializing that involve food, which means extra opportunities for self-criticism and obsession.

In addition, it’s getting cold and dark, and a lot of people’s bodies naturally want to sleep more, move less, and conserve energy.

Finally there’s the disruption to schedule. If you’re someone who deals with your body anxiety through rigid eating or exercise patterns, the disruptions of travel, family time, and parties and events are going to destabilize your coping mechanism.

Unf*cking your body image is a challenge because society has conditioned women to accept such a high level of body dissatisfaction as normal. You almost never hear a woman say she is truly happy with her body, and if she is, you usually assume she’s lying. In fact, our social conditioning has gotten us so twisted that when women just accept their bodies the way they are, we call that “giving up.” We think it’s a sign of depression or a personality defect. That’s how ingrained it is that a woman should always be thinking about and working on improving her body and appearance.

So no wonder we want to have sex with the lights off, with our clothes on, or preferably both. Many women have carefully curated outfits, makeup, shoes, and hair styles that help them feel confident and sexy, and when they aren’t wearing that armor, they feel vulnerable and ashamed just for having a human body. I can’t count the number of women who tell me that they don’t really believe their sexual partners are attracted to them, that they must be just settling, or would like any naked body, or are just being “polite.” (No, seriously, I’ve heard that one more than once.)

It’s a perfect example of how external validation never solves your problem. If you don’t change your thoughts about your body, no number of lovers will solve it for you. You will always excuse it away, discount it, or devalue it.

If you want to feel great naked, you have to unf*ck your body image, and that starts with unf*cking your brain. The single best thing you can do for your body image is to change the way you talk to yourself about your body. This is an area where using neutral, baby-step thoughts is going to be so important.

All of the positive thinking affirmations you have tried haven’t worked because you don’t believe them. Looking in the mirror and telling yourself you’re beautiful when you don’t believe it is worse than useless. It doesn’t help, and it makes you feel frustrated and hopeless that nothing will, and that you’re so far from believing that.

I do a lot of work with my clients on body image—it’s one of the core areas we work on in UnF*ck Your Brain—and I always have them focus on tiny, baby-step thoughts. Here are two favorites I used when doing this work on myself:

#1: That’s a human stomach: Or chin. Or body. Whatever body part I was mentally criticizing to myself, when I noticed I was doing it, I would practice the thought “that’s a human X.” I didn’t tell myself it was a beautiful or gorgeous stomach. I didn’t tell myself no one else would notice my stomach. I just told myself that was a human stomach, over and over again, and eventually that became my default thought.

#2: All beings suffer: When I was deep in diet brain, I was convinced that if I just looked a certain way, my life would be perfect. I live in Manhattan, home to more thin, fashionable women than probably anywhere else in the world, so I was constantly seeing thin, conventionally-beautiful women everywhere I went. And because I hated myself, I was obsessed with them—constantly comparing myself to them and thinking about how great their lives were (even though half of them were chain smoking and crying on the street). To combat this belief, I spent an entire summer wandering around Manhattan, and every time I saw a thin woman I would repeat to myself the mantra “all beings suffer.” Every single time—hundreds of times a day.

Now, no one is going to sell you a self-help book called “all beings suffer.” It does not make an inspirational Instagram post. But it’s the thought I credit with making the biggest change in unf*cking my body image, because repeating that over and over retrained my brain to stop assuming that how someone looked had any relationship to how happy their life was. Once I did that, there was really no reason to be jealous of thinner women.

We only want to be taller, thinner, blonder, because we think it will make us happy—that’s all we ever want. We just want to be happy. And we think we can’t be happy until we lose 10 pounds, have a “thigh gap,” or get rid of the double chin. But the truth is, none of that stuff makes you happy.

Your thoughts are what create happiness, just like any other emotion. You can choose to believe you’re beautiful now, and you’ll feel just as good as you think you’d feel if you lost 20 pounds. If you’re not there yet, you can just start with believing that there are women at your goal weight who feel like they aren’t good enough, too. But they are good enough, and you are good enough, but it has nothing to do with the size of your jeans.

P.S. If you want some coaching on your own negative thoughts about your body, your sex appeal, or anything else, don’t forget to register for the free coaching call I’m hosting December 11th. Just go here to sign-up. See you there!