With the summer season upon us, it’s usually NOT a hot time for positive body image. Rather, it’s a time of year filled with triggers around food and body comparison. We understand the struggles, and that’s why we’re here to offer friendly advice on how to navigate these triggers so you don’t have to hide away from all the fun and let your triggers keep you planted on your couch eating Cheetos in front of the television. Let’s ENJOY this summer and feel good in your body, shall we?
Trigger #1: Media & Social Media
Ah, social media—the land of picture-perfect beach bodies, “summer-ready” aesthetics, and filters galore. It’s easy to get caught up in the comparison game. But here’s the thing: those images are often heavily edited and don’t reflect reality. So, let’s take control and limit our media exposure.
Positive Body Image Solution: Do a social media detox. Unfollow accounts that trigger negative feelings about your body image and replace them with those promoting body positivity and self-acceptance, and LIVING! Oh and remember, just because they may look “happy and slim” doesn’t mean they are actually happy and healthy!!
Trigger #2: Swimsuit Shopping
“I love swimsuit shopping!” said no one EVER. The harsh lighting, the mirror magnifying every “flaw”, endless rows of different styles, and the pressure to look a certain way can easily trigger negative body image thoughts and create a sense of urgency to hop on the latest diet trend.
Positive Body Image Solution: Remember, your worth is not determined by a size or a label. You’re on your own unique journey. You’re working hard on YOU. You’re in the process of learning what you need to learn to nurture and feel good in your body. Your body has a story. You’re doing the hard work and not taking the quick fix way out. So hold your head up high and own where you are at.
Find swimsuits that make you feel comfortable and rock it with pride. Own your story. Respecting your body also means to ensure you buy clothes, undergarments, swimsuits, etc that are comfortable. If someone else doesn’t like your suit – that’s THEIR problem (and they can go shove it!).
Also, when you’re feeling triggered at any time, step into gratitude. Thank your body, your heart, your lungs for allowing you to be here and now, at this very moment, and for giving you the opportunity to enjoy today, summer, and beyond.
Trigger #3: Beach & Pool Parties
Summer means beach days and pool parties—a time to relax and have fun. However, when surrounded by others in revealing outfits, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to those around us.
Positive Body Image Solution: Instead of fixating on what you perceive as flaws, shift your runaway brain back to focusing on the joy of the moment. Instead of obsessing over your appearance, focus on the fun and happiness that these activities bring. How blessed are you to have these opportunities? Celebrate your body’s capabilities and the wonderful memories you’re creating along the way!
And when you’re having a challenging body image day try this: state “I am having a challenging body image day… AND… I am [insert one of your top 3 characteristics here]
Example: I am having a challenging body image day AND I AM an amazing mom or fur baby mama. Or, I am having a challenging body image day and I AM a badass friend or creative artist.
Trigger #4: Summer Diet Trends
Summer often brings about a focus on “summer diets,” “beach body goals,” and more opportunities to have foods that in our diet brains feel we “shouldn’t” be having. These changes in eating habits can easily trigger disordered thoughts and behaviors, making it easy to feel like we need to lose weight NOW and that we can’t possibly enjoy our summer looking like “THIS”.
Positive Body Image Solution: Instead of succumbing to restrictive diets or rigid food rules that others get suckered into, practice mindful eating which includes balance, variety, and moderation.
Listen to your body’s cues of hunger and fullness, and choose foods that nourish you physically and emotionally. Enjoy the seasonal fruits and vegetables, indulge in a refreshing ice cream cone, and savor the flavors of summer without guilt. One food or one meal doesn’t cause instant fat gain.
When you deny yourself the opportunity to have some of your summer favorites, you will only crave them more and eventually have them mindlessly. So just have them mindfully to begin with!
Also remind yourself also that diets don’t WORK (literally) and going back to dieting isn’t a healthy option for you because:
- Up to 2⁄3 of dieters gain back more weight than they ever lose
- 66% of dieters regain all their lost weight in 1 year. Almost all will gain it back in 5 years through no fault of their own (that’s biology for you!)
- Repeat dieting has been shown to be harmful to mental health
- 35% + of dieters go on to develop disordered eating
- oh, and it sucks! 😉
Trigger #5: Body Focused Comments
Unsolicited comments about appearance, weight loss, or achieving a “beach body” can be incredibly disheartening and triggering. Sometimes people say things without even realizing the impact of their statements or comments. If you are catching a trend of comments happening from those you spend the most time with, it’s time to set boundaries and communicate.
Positive Body Image Solution: Politely ASK for support VS telling them “this is what you’re doing to me!” (they may get combative and defensive).
Example: “I know you know I’ve been working hard on my fitness goals, could you support me by refraining from making such comments about people’s bodies?”
They don’t need to agree or follow your lead, but they can support you by keeping body talk neutral and not commenting on other people’s weight. Also, leave some space for compassion for these individuals because they too are simply conditioned by today’s toxic diet culture.
Now, before you dive headfirst into your summer of feeling better in your body, it’s also incredibly important to check in with your emotions during times of poor body image. It’s not uncommon for us to embody our thoughts, feelings and emotions in our body image. It’s not uncommon for body image to worsen during times of stress, anxiety, depression, etc.
Ask “what else is going on?” Often we use our bodies as a scapegoat. We misattribute our negative feelings and project them onto our bodies, causing challenging body image flare ups. We do this to avoid feeling our feelings, because they’re hard and uncomfortable. Take note of your emotions when body image is tough.
Feeling good in your body and embodying these strategies take time and practice to become second nature. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your newfound perspective about food or body.
Be patient with yourself, embrace the process, and don’t be discouraged if you stumble along the way. Each step you take towards a healthier relationship with food and body is a victory in itself.
You got this!
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Author Shelby McDaniel
Hi! I’m Shelby and I’m a food lovin’ nutritionist but…I’m not a regular nutritionist. I’m an intuitive eating specialist, eating psychology practitioner, and Certified Mind Body Nutrition Coach, here to free you from diet culture once and for all! Because you deserve peace with food, eating, and your body. (Yes, I'm talking to YOU!)