By Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LGSW
As the weather gets warmer, we begin to be inundated with articles and advertisements that proclaim that we need to begin to work to achieve the perfect “beach body.” People have begun to fight back with a variety of videos and blogs, which proclaim that to get a bikini body one simply as to put a bikini on their body.
It’s important to note that there is no such thing as a “beach body.” Your body exists to be celebrated during all seasons. All bodies are good bodies and while the call of “dieting” or the newly popular “clean eating” trend may seem alluring, there is simply no diet or exercise program that has been shown to help the vast majority of people maintain weight-loss in the long-term. Rather than trying to change your body to fit some societal ideal, work to shift your focus to mindfully nourishing your body with food and movement that you enjoy.
People of all shapes and sizes can struggle with negative body image. As a mental health therapist and individual who has learned how to appreciate my own body-the following are my tips for coping during what is often a triggering time for people who are struggling with their body image.
- Recognize that the media is trying to trigger your self-doubt in order to make a sale.
The diet and beauty industries are multi-billion dollar industries, which often make profit by trying to prey upon people’s insecurities. If we already felt great in our bodies, then no one would be purchasing the wide variety of diet products that falsely proclaim to be able to change our bodies. Once you recognize that many of the media messages that you are receiving exist simply to make profit, it may be easier to begin to detach yourself from them.
- Work to be thankful for all that your body enables you to do.
Another strategy to begin to shift your self-talk about your body from negative to more neutral or even loving, is to make daily lists about what you are thankful that your body enabled you to do that day. For instance, you might be grateful for your strong legs that held you up in a pose during yoga class. The more that you can focus on what your body does for you-rather than placing value on what it looks like-the easier it will become to appreciate and accept your body.
- Unfollow “fitspiration” or negative people on social media, and replace them with body-positive role models.
If you open your social media accounts and are constantly bombarded with unhealthy messages about weight and size, as well as unrealistic images of women-it could be helpful to begin to replace some of these negative accounts with body-positive, health at every size, enthusiasts.
The more that you can begin to see body-diversity and work to appreciate women of every shape and size, the easier it will become to accept your own body. It may feel uncomfortable at first, however the more that you get used to viewing bodies of all shapes and sizes, the easier it will be to find beauty in every body.
If you are struggling with poor body image this summer, I would urge you to think about what will really matter to you at the end of your life. Will you regret rocking a bikini on the beach or that you decided to stay home because you felt ashamed? No matter what your body looks like, know that you are beautiful. More importantly, you are worthy of love and belonging-exactly as you are.
Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LGSW is a therapist, body-image activist, and intuitive eating counselor, who specializes in working with adolescents, survivors of trauma, mood disorders and eating disorders. Jennifer blogs on The Huffington Post and Psychology Today. “Like” her on Facebook at Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LGSW.