Summer. It’s coming right? As we head into the warmer months (or hot AF if you live here in Utah), you may start to see more messages like, “get your bikini body now”, or “lose the last x pounds by buying our products” type of thing. First, you have permission to reject those messages. The diet industry is worth upwards of about 70 billion dollars, and they literally profit off of making people feel poorly about themselves. I’d encourage you to call out diet culture as you see it!
Second, if your body has changed, or if you need new clothes or a new swimsuit for the summer, I understand that this can be a stressful time.
I commonly hear these 5 concerns. You may be:
Comparing yourself to others that you feel have a more “ideal” body type.
This is a good time to pause, and breathe. What are you thinking? What are you feeling? Are those things actually true?
Immediate thought: “OMG she looks so good, I could never have that much confidence.” Subsequent feeling might be shame, anxiety, guilt etc.
Questioning: Is that really true? Why should I try and look like her? Where did I learn that that is the “ideal”? Who profits off me thinking that? Why can’t I be that confident now?
Reframe: My here and now body is just fine. I know that I am much happier now, than I would ever be trying to reach a certain shape/size.
Just a reminder here that you are not your thoughts. You don’t have to believe everything you think, and you can train your brain to recognize these thoughts, and turn it into something more positive and productive. Practice practice!
You may be comparing yourself to a younger version of yourself.
Just a reminder folks – bodies are meant to change. The body you had as a teenager, or in your 20s, is going to be different than your now body. That’s ok. If your body has changed because you graduated college, and you now have a desk job, that’s ok. Think about how much you have grown as a human. I certainly am thankful for my here and now brain, let’s try and extend that kindness to the rest of us eh?
You may be afraid of what you will look like in pictures for important events (weddings, vacations etc).
Seeing a photo of yourself that you don’t like as much is an opportunity to practice more kindness, more self-compassion. A picture is literally just a snapshot of a tinyyyy moment in time. Remember that everyone sees pictures of themselves they don’t love, and they are more likely thinking about themselves than you. I’d challenge you to think about what you are actually feeling, and identify the way that you can take care of yourself best in the moment.
You might fear what others may be thinking of your body.
This is hard, but know that you can’t control what others think. You just can’t, and trying to do so will only bring you farther away from yourself. Breathe. More than likely that if someone else is “concerned” it’s more about their personal insecurities and biases than about you. What you can do is live out your life in a way that feels good for you.
Maybe you are concerned what your partner thinks of seeing your body.
This is similar to above, but with another level of depth and complexity. I know this kind of sucks but would you really want to be with someone who only loved and appreciated you for what your body looks like? Is that truly what you want in a partnership? Can you talk to your person and explain what you are feeling and what you might need to move through this? Communication is so key.
Something that may also be helpful is to remember that everyone thinks these things. Everyone. I have not yet met a single person who was completely a-ok with their body 100% of the time. We all share this. This doesn’t mean I want groups of women to remorse about their body size (I literally want the exact opposite), but just that there is a common humanity in this experience. If your best friend or sister was struggling, what would you say to them? This is how you want to practice talking to yourself too.
One thing that I highly recommend going into summer is to find clothes, and a swimsuit, that fit really well. Having a more positive body image isn’t that you have your “dream body”, it’s thinking about your body less and doing more of the things you love. Comfy clothes allow you to better do this. I know that shopping can be stressful, so here are some tips to help alleviate that:
- grab a variety of sizes when you find an item you like
- try on each item, facing away from the mirror (if possible obviously – damn you surrounding mirrors), to see if something fits and is comfortable before seeing if it’s cute
- bring a friend or a loved one to make the whole experience more fun
- buy some items that are flowy, and will continue to fit as you recover from diet culture (yoga pants, wrap skirts, dresses/skirts, stretchy pants etc.)
- order clothes online and try them on in the comfort of your home
- choose styles that you know are more likely to fit you well (I personally gave up on jeans roughly 3 years ago)
- shop at second hand stores (Goodwill, local thrift stores, etc.)
- sell your old clothes, and use the money for new clothes (check out Poshmark)
- think about how you want to feel in certain items (comfort? style? certain events? ability for your bottoms to stay up in the water?) and buy for that
- if you’re going shopping, make sure you eat consistently throughout the day and bring or buy snacks if you need to. Navigating a possibly stressful situation if even more stressful if you are not properly fed
- adopt a mantra (“I am enough” “I am not my body” “This sucks, AND I deserve to feel good in my clothes”)
- challenge your thoughts and reframe them (see above)
If you are someone who has grown out of their previous summers clothes (totally fine and normal), I think it can also be incredibly helpful to reflect on what you have gained in your life when you decided to stop dieting.
- do you have more brain space for other things?
- do you stress less about food?
- what opportunities arose for you when you stopped hyper-focusing on food?
- are you able to eat what you want, when you want, without guilt and anxiety?
- do you have more self-compassion?
- did you get your hunger/fullness cues back and realize that you really hate dark chocolate and avocados? This is huge!
- do you recognize that you were put on this earth to do more than look a certain way?
- are you enjoying your activity these days, instead of slogging through it?
- are you able to eat things like bread, pasta, ice cream etc in a way that feels good in your body?
Write these answers down, and bring them with you. On your phone, on paper, whatever. It’s just helpful to be reminded of these when you have tough days. And as a reminder, it’s ok if you said no to some of these questions. This can be a long and slow process. Above all, be nice to yourself.
Finally, just as a reminder, you don’t have to love, or even like, every inch of your body. But you can choose to respect it, you can choose to live your life fully and participate in the things that make you happy, no matter what your shape or size. Know that I’m out there rooting for you. Happy summer-ing lovelies.