You may have heard the term “summer body,” which implies that there is a “right” body for summer time. That’s simply not true! Any body can and should wear bathing suits and warm weather clothes and enjoy outdoor activities. The harmful belief of there being a "good" or "right" body creates shame, which leads to dieting practices and disordered eating behaviors in millions of individuals who want to look and/or be “good enough” as the coming season approaches.
Additionally, this belief leads to weight stigma in society and even the medical community. Also known as weight bias or weight-based discrimination, weight stigma is defined as discrimination or stereotyping because of an individual’s weight. It negatively impacts both psychological and physical health, having been linked to body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, and depression. Additionally, people who experience weight-based discrimination are at increased risk for developing an eating disorder, particularly binge eating disorder.
If you’re struggling with body positivity as we head into summer, here are five tips to help you learn to love the body you’ve got.
Remember: Your worth is not tied to your weight. If this truth is difficult for you to believe, make a list of people who you admire or love — those individuals who have contributed positively to your life, your community, or the world. Was their appearance crucial to their worth? Absolutely not! Self-worth should not be conditional to any physical characteristics or accomplishments
Move and feed your body lovingly and with joy. Eating and movement should be practiced mindfully and intentionally. Listen to your body and show it respect by giving it what it wants. If it wants food, feed it. If it wants to move, move it – and if it wants to stop, that is good, too.
Practice gratitude for your body. In the morning, thank your body for resting so you can enjoy the day ahead. And in the evening, reflect on everything your body allows you to do. Show body compassion for where it struggles. Be your body’s friend instead of its enemy.
Be thoughtful about the content you consume, especially on social media. It’s easy to fall into the comparison trap when you’re scrolling Instagram or Facebook and seeing other people’s edited photos and highlight reels. If you’ve found that social media negatively affects how you feel about yourself, know that you’re not alone. Social media is inundated with diet culture. A study of 1,000 men and women found that 87 percent of women and 65 percent of men compared their bodies to images they saw on social media. Another study directly linked comparing one’s physical appearance to other people on social media with body dissatisfaction and a drive for thinness. When it starts to feel all-consuming or overwhelming, it’s time for a social media detox.
Make time for your loved ones. Human beings are made for connection! Surround yourself with people who love you just as you are and who remind you of your inner strength and beauty. Spend time with other body positive folx and allow their positivity to be contagious.
At Coral Reef Counseling, I practice from a model of Health At Every Size and the feminist psychology.
Health At Every Size (HAES) is a philosophy that focuses on embracing intuitive eating and movement. Unlike other philosophies, it seeks to de-emphasis weight loss and prescribed weight ranges (think BMI) in order to be healthy. It also aims to reduce weight stigma and related discrimination and bias in our culture. In other words, your overall health, wellbeing, and happiness are more important than the number on the scale. A person's healthiest body size and functioning is unique to each of us.
As a body positivity advocate, I work with clients to help them not just accept their bodies but to actually love and celebrate themselves. I believe that all bodies are good bodies and that we have to work to undo the destructive messages in our culture that keep people feeling ashamed or “less than” because they don’t fit a false and unattainable ideal.
Let me help you find freedom in your relationship with food and your body!