Summer is upon us, which usually means bathing suits, and overuse of the phrase “beach body” by every fitness and diet commercial. Summer can be pretty tough if you’re struggling with body image issues. We consulted Dr. Nadya Swedan, to create a sort of checklist to get out of your body image funk and embrace the beauty that is your body! One list cannot automatically tell you how to turn negative body thoughts into positive body image, but it can introduce you to healthier ways of looking at yourself and your body. The more you practice these new thought patterns, the better you will feel about who you are and the body you naturally have.
1. Stay Active
“The best way to have a positive body image is to feel positive about yourself as a person. Stay active, exercise regularly and feel strong and fit. Nurture your muscles, feed them healthy food and maintain goals for your life and achievements.”
Don’t see healthy eating as a punishment. Reward your body with good food and plenty of water. Appreciate all that your body can do. Every day your body carries you closer to your dreams. Celebrate all of the amazing things your body does for you—running, dancing, breathing, laughing, dreaming, etc. Look at yourself as a whole person. When you see yourself in a mirror or in your mind, choose not to focus on specific body parts. See yourself as you want others to see you — as a whole person.
2. Do What Makes You Feel Good (AKA, Lose the Stress)
“Wear clothes that flatter you; have friends who flatter you also. Avoid uncomfortable situations and people who are negative about weight and being healthy. Remember that body fat is healthy and essential to life, fertility and bone strength.”
Wear clothes that are comfortable and that make you feel good about your body. Work with your body, not against it. Remind yourself that “true beauty” is not simply skin-deep. When you feel good about yourself and who you are, you carry yourself with a sense of confidence, self-acceptance, and openness that makes you beautiful. Beauty is a state of mind, not a state of your body. We would add that, as hard as it sounds, avoid negative media messages about body image and weight. Block harmful posts on social media and stay away from friends who obsess over body image online. Join groups that promote health and wellness, and build their members up instead of tearing them down.
If you are really struggling with your body image and weight maintenance, try yoga, dancing, or regular relaxation strategies. This will help you feel less anxious about food and more positive about your body.
4. Surround Yourself With Positivity
Surround yourself with positive people. It is easier to feel good about yourself and your body when you are around others who are supportive and who recognize the importance of liking yourself just as you naturally are. Become a critical viewer of social and media messages. Pay attention to images, slogans, or attitudes that make you feel bad about yourself or your body.
“Do not allow people to pressure you to lose weight. If a parent or friend is pressuring you, tell them to stop or walk away when they do so. If you have a large shape and frame, take the pressure off yourself to look petite. Instead, focus on your strength. Focus on your health.”
Dr. Swedan provides the following tips to stay positive.
- Get involved in athletic activities with those of similar athletic builds.
- Don’t spend time with friends who make you feel bad about your size.
- If coaches or trainers make you “feel fat,” find new ones…
- Choose relationships with people who make you feel good about yourself.
- Wear your favorite outfit on days that you feel low confidence.
- Compliment those around you; they will give it back! (and if not- at least it’ll make you feel good!)
- Get a nonathletic friend to exercise with you once in a while.
5. Don’t Give Up
“Do not be discouraged if you fall into unhealthy habits occasionally; return to the healthy habits as soon as you can. In times of stress, give yourself some slack. Keep exercising regularly, and make sure you have the essentials of nutrition.”
Everyone has a bad day when they look in the mirror and they don’t like what they see. The important thing to remember is not to let that one day turn into two, three, or four days. Find inspiration to get you back on track. Make a playlist that gets you going. Follow body-positive accounts on social media. Shut down those voices in your head that tell you your body is not “right” or that you are a “bad” person. You can overpower those negative thoughts with positive ones. The next time you start to tear yourself down, build yourself back up with a few quick affirmations that work for you.
Keep a top-ten list of things you like about yourself—things that aren’t related to how much you weigh or what you look like. Read your list often. Add to it as you become aware of more things to like about yourself.
Do something nice for yourself — something that lets your body know you appreciate it. Take a bubble bath, make time for a nap, or find a peaceful place outside to relax. Use the time and energy that you might have spent worrying about food, calories, and weight to do something to help others. Sometimes reaching out to other people can help you feel better about yourself and can make a positive change in our world.
Drink plenty of fluids, control your stress, and make yourself as happy as possible. Maintaining a healthy body image and weight requires work and patience, just like anything that is worthwhile. In time, you will feel great about how you look and, therefore, how you feel—every day!