Summertime is the season of sunshine, swimming pools, beach days, BBQs, and, unfortunately, body image pressures. Thanks to the season’s extra pressures, summer can be a very difficult time full of triggers and potential pitfalls for those struggling with body image issues or an eating disorder.
Unrealistic Images & Messages Fuel Body Image Insecurities
Every single year, right before the summer kick-off, bikini-wearing fitness experts, toned celebrities, and tanned models crowd social media feeds, pop up on magazine racks, and dominate TV commercials. They show off their air-brushed abs and ask questions like, “Ready for summer?”, promising their diet plan or workout regime will help you get a “bikini body” in no time.
The overall message advertised during summer is that “our bodies aren’t good enough as is, and that to feel confident and have a wonderful summer we need to look a certain way or weigh X pounds,” writes Emily Locke in an article on the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) blog .
Surrounded by these unrealistic images and messages of what a “summer body” should look like, it’s no surprise that many people (even the most confident in the crowd) feel insecurities and extra body image pressures during the summer season.
Summer Clothes Pile On Pressures
Another reason summertime brings up extra pressures is simply due to the change in wardrobe. In the cooler months, it’s easy to hide behind bulky sweaters and long pants, but as the temperatures rise, these concealing layers are replaced with revealing shorts, tank tops, sundresses, and swimsuits. These skimpier, more revealing clothes can trigger body image pressures and lead to negative, self-condemning thoughts.
Dangers of Body Image Pressures
Summer media emphasizing weight, muscularity or thinness can be extremely triggering and harmful for people with a history of eating disorders or body image issues like Body Dysmorphia . In addition, body dissatisfaction is one of the most substantial and consistent risk factors for eating disorders, meaning summertime body image pressures can (along with other genetic and environmental factors) contribute to the development of an eating disorder .
In fact, some eating disorder experts, like the Butterfly National Helpline, report a marked increase in the number of calls and inquiries they receive during the summer months .
How To Support a Healthy Image This Summer
So how can you reject these pressures, learn to accept your body just the way it is, and cultivate a healthy summer environment?
Here are three ways to support a positive body image this summer:
Unfollow social media accounts that are triggering: If someone consistently posts content that places body image pressures on you, consider unfollowing them, at least for the summer.
Have a support network: Regularly reach out to someone you trust to let them know how you’re doing, and consider discussing the ways you’ve been triggered by body image pressures. If you have a therapist/counselor/dietitian, continue meeting with them during the summer months.
Enjoy a new activity: Put down the phone, step away from the mirror, and celebrate all the things your body can do today. Maybe it’s learning how to play tennis, going on bike rides, or taking a painting class. You deserve to enjoy every activity that excites and interests you, zero body changes required!
References: Locke, E. (2018, August 02). Summer of Self-Love. Retrieved June 18, 2020, from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/summer-self-love  Setliff, S., MD. (2015, June 26). Summertime Brings Warmer Weather-and Body Image Worries. Retrieved June 18, 2020, from https://www.healthywomen.org/content/blog-entry/summertime-brings-warmer-weather-and-body-image-worries  Fuller, K., M.D. (n.d.). Summertime Body Image Issues and Eating Disorders • National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. Retrieved June 18, 2020, from https://anad.org/education-and-awareness/body-image/body-image-articles/summertime-body-image/  Duong, C. (2018, December 06). It’s Summer Time: We Need to Talk About ‘Summer Bodies’ and Body Image. Retrieved June 18, 2020, from https://wayahead.org.au/its-summer-time-we-need-to-talk-about-summer-bodies-and-body-image/
Sarah Musick is a freelance writer who specializes in eating disorder awareness and education. After battling with a 4-years long eating disorder, she made it her mission to help others find hope and healing in recovery.
Her work has been featured on numerous eating disorder blogs and websites. When she’s not writing, Sarah is off traveling the world with her husband.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a 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.
Published July 3, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on July 3, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC