7 steps to a better summer body image

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It’s time for a mid-summer body image tune up.

Too many women are too hard on themselves and their bodies, especially in the summertime. “There is a belief that there is a ‘summer body,’ a certain standard to be achieved, and I think that’s wrong,” says Emily Cooper, a clinical social worker and therapist at Mindful Counseling in Orem. “The summer body is the body you already have.”

Forget about dieting or exercising to obtain a mythical standard. You don’t have to look a certain way or  fit into a specific size to enjoy summer activities or wear a swimsuit at the pool. Remind yourself that your body + the beach = a beach body. Read on for seven more steps towards a better body image.

Flip the script

Practice replacing negative body thoughts with more positive scripts. For instance, if you start to tell yourself you don’t have the ideal beach body, remind yourself that “all bodies are summer bodies,” Cooper says. “Redirect the self-hate. Be mad at society’s standards instead of being mad at yourself for not fitting them.”

Shop with compassion

Bathing suit shopping can be a stressful experience, but Cooper says to focus on finding a swimsuit that makes you feel confident even if it isn’t on-trend. “Try to leave all of society’s and diet culture’s standards at the door,” she says. “Find something that you look and feel good in. Swimsuit shopping is a really good opportunity to practice self-compassion.”

Eat the treats

Food shaming is common year-round, but in the summer especially Cooper says we need to go with our body’s cravings and enjoy treats unapologetically. “Don’t let the whole beach body, diet culture get in the way of what summer has to offer,” she says. Enjoy a popsicle or Dippin’ Dots if that’s what sounds good to you without overthinking it — or thinking you have to make up for it later at the gym. “Go with your body’s cravings,” she says.

Accept health at all sizes

Society tends to label people who are a certain weight as unhealthy, but Cooper says health comes at every size. “I think that is a new idea to a lot of people,” she says. When you think you need to lose weight to be healthy, it’s important to note your motivation. “Why do you want to lose weight? Are you losing weight because a doctor has told you there is a medical reason? Or because you’re wanting to achieve a standard that you hold in your mind?” Cooper says.

Embrace change

Our bodies change as we get older, Cooper says, and that can be hard for some people to accept. “If you have a baby and put on weight, you’re not doing anything wrong,” she says. “Have self-compassion. Be kind to yourself. Realize you have a lot more to offer the world than the way you look.”

Be a good example

Try to stay body positive around your kids — remember they are watching you and making notes. Before you say anything negative about your body around them, ask yourself if you would ever talk like that to them. “When your kids are adults they are not going to remember how mom looked in her swimming suit,” Cooper says. “They are just going to remember that mom swam with them.”

Find the right kind of inspiration

“Be very conscious about where you get the messages that your body isn’t good enough, and if you can change that, do it,” Cooper says. If you follow people on Instagram or Facebook that reinforce diet culture or make you feel like you aren’t measuring up to invisible standards, unfollow those accounts and refill your Instagram with body positive accounts, including Mindful Counseling’s popular account @mindfulcounseling.

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Natalie Hollingshead is a former magazine editor turned freelance writer and editor. She writes regularly about home, family, food and travel for a handful of publications, and is co-author of the book "Happy Homemaking” (Cedar Fort, 2012) with Elyssa Andrus. A native of Alberta, Canada, Natalie lives in Orem with her husband and their three children.

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