Body Image Concerns That May Arise During Summer

Young woman enjoying a sunny summer day

Contributor: Kirsten Haglund, Community Relations Representative for Timberline Knolls and Founder and President of the Kirsten Haglund Foundation

Summer is just around the corner and that often means time off from school and work, longer days, balmy evenings, and lots of sunshine. It is a season that is generally looked forward to – except when magazines, fitness blogs, and commercials begin to break through the anticipated bliss to alert you that you’re not “beach body ready,” and you should get on that as soon as possible. After all, their message seems to be that one cannot possibly enjoy summer without feeling fabulous in a barely there bikini, right? Wrong.

For all the joy and relaxation summer can bring, it can also bring along with it body image woes, crash diets, and unhealthy eating and exercise habits that can lead down a dangerous path. This summer, set an intention not to let the season rule you; instead, find confidence and acceptance in yourself that can inspire others to look past their summer wardrobe and soak up the true benefits of the year’s best season.

1. Stand Up to Body Shaming

Don’t let your fitness instructor, your classmates, colleagues or family get away with body shaming comments. It might just be a flippant “Oh how will I look in that summer dress?” or “Ugh, I better not eat this or that because I have to get into my bikini” but no matter how seemingly small, comments like that have an impact.

Woman looking at summer fashion magazineDon’t fall for the magazine cover that tells you it can get you swimsuit ready in three days – its false advertising. Body shaming, whether an individual is doing it to themselves, or the diet and fashion industries are doing it to the general public, serves one purpose – to make you feel bad about yourself. Companies are hoping you’ll buy their product. People are hoping to find company in their misery or are fishing for compliments. Stand up to body shaming, and others might start to as well.

2. Celebrate a diversity of body shapes and sizes

Summer usually leads to fewer layers, the wearing of dresses and tank tops and swimsuits. When more skin is revealed, it can lead to body comparison, low self-esteem and self-doubt. However, what if we choose to celebrate our body size and shape this summer instead of trying to diet or exercise it into submission? God created us all unique and different, and we should celebrate those differences.

Choose clothes that fit the body you have, not the body you think you should have. Look in the mirror and monitor your thoughts – are they negative or positive? How can you change your dialogue about yourself and others, so that you cultivate an acceptance and love of diverse bodies? Go to the beach and celebrate the skin your in, instead of comparing and despairing.

3. Focus on relationships, not the food or your body

Summer is not just about a change in weather and clothing, it also allows for a wide variety of outdoor activities: people tend to go out more, have more parties, barbecues, and celebrations. It’s a season of joy! Don’t let worries and negative thoughts about your body keep you from embracing all of the fun that the summer brings. Instead, focus on the relationships you can build at a party, focus on the holiday you are celebrating, focus on the thrill of trying a new sport or hobby, or experiencing something wildly different and beautiful that only summer can offer.

BBQ in the summerShifting focus off of self and onto the present moment is incredibly powerful. Above all, practice gratitude for the beautiful weather, the time off, the company of family and friends, the time for rest. Not only is thanking God for His blessings an exercise in worship, but it gets the focus off of self, and it a great way to solidify the good memories of summer when the gloom of February rolls around again!

This summer, be intentional about cultivating a healthy and happy body image. It CAN be done! It can be a triggering time, especially for those in recovery from an eating disorder, but by standing up to body shaming, taking care of one’s own emotional and mental health, celebrating a diversity of body shapes and sized (including your own), and shifting the focus to gratitude, you can be sure to spend a summer not sulking, but soaking up all of its beautiful benefits.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What are some of the ways that you practice mindfulness and keeping your mind off self during the activities of summer?

Kirsten+Haglund+HeadshotAbout the author: Kirsten Haglund continues to work as an advocate for greater awareness of eating disorders and resources for care. Since she won the crown of Miss America 2008, she has spoken on numerous college campuses, worked with youth and church groups domestically and abroad, lobbied Congress with the Eating Disorders Coalition, and started her own non-profit, the Kirsten Haglund Foundation, to raise funds and assist families financially in seeking treatment for eating disorders. She is also the Community Relations Specialist for Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on May 13, 2016
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