Summer - Swim Suit Season & Body Acceptance
The signs of summer are here. Birds chirping, grass turning from brown to a lush green, temperatures slowly creeping up. And of course, the appearance of ads and "tips" geared to getting ready for swim-suit season. It's hard to escape once it gets warm enough to head out to the beach, and these messages can feed into the negative self-talk and body bashing that go hand in hand with an eating disorder. So how do we combat the constant fat-talk and weight-loss focus that regularly comes with summertime?
First, it's important to notice how these messages effect you. If you find that when logging on to the internet, your self-esteem and body image automatically plummet, and thoughts of what you can do to change your body start to pop, that’s a sure sign that the eating disorder or negative body image is being called to the front lines. Recognizing how these thoughts then influence your actions can also bring some insight – do you follow up on these messages and search for the latest diet tips? Do you automatically go to your mirror and engage in a shape check, inspecting your body from head to toe? Do you call your friends and engage in a toxic conversation that is focused on how much you dislike your bodies? Noticing the behaviors that you engage in that reinforce these messages can give you some helpful information on what you need to do to fight back against those destructive thoughts.
Improving body image and fostering greater body acceptance is the best way to combat our society’s pressures to conform to the “perfect body” ideal. Here are some ways to say NO when these ads are calling out to you:
Shut down fat talk. When you notice your friends or family engaging in unhelpful conversations about their own (or others’) bodies, speak up, or remove yourself from the conversation. Hearing negative comments about body shape and size fuels the eating disorder and the body dissatisfaction that many people struggle with - why give it more ammo to work with?
Interrupt shape-checking. If you catch yourself looking in the mirror and scrutinizing your body, or if you are constantly changing outfits, stop yourself and ask "what is this really accomplishing?". Body acceptance means giving your body permission to be exactly as it is, and treating it in a kind, compassionate way, regardless of it's size or shape.
Engage in physical self-care. Take time to treat your body nicely, by nurturing it in a loving, accepting way. Get yourself a pedicure, put on a nice lotion, take a bath, get a massage. Show your body that you accept it through positive, soothing actions.
Use body affirmations. I know, they’re not your favorite, but they work! Choose positive statements that focus on how you want to feel about your body, and the relationship you are working on building with it. Examples are: I choose to reject negative body talk and view my body as a part of my whole being. I am working on accepting my body as it is. There are many affirmations online that are positive and helpful – just beware of those that focus on weight loss or changing your body.
GO TO THE BEACH! Regardless of what your body looks like, you have the right to participate in whatever summer activities you want. Focusing on the negative aspects of your body takes away all of the other experiences that go along with the summer months – enjoying the warm weather, time with friends and family, engaging with nature, travelling, etc. Take some time to reflect on what you get out of these experiences, and what you want to focus on as you are engaging in the activity.
Manoevering through the many ads, posts, images, and articles that bombard us daily about how we should dislike our bodies can be difficult. Taking time to practise each of the above actions can help you to separate from the messages and work towards body acceptance!