Summertime Body Image is HARD!!
I know I am writing to folks across the globe, but here in the US, temperatures are hitting record highs, which seems to correlate with record high grumpy body image.
With hotter temperatures and less clothing, it’s natural to feel more vulnerable and exposed. Often, summer brings more socialization and opportunities for body comparisons. Additionally, politics and changes to legislation (importantly anti-transgender laws and the rolling back of Roe V. Wade) are leaving many people feeling a loss of body autonomy, safety, and empowerment. These losses have a profound impact on body image.
I want to do a little myth busting and offer some support to help you navigate the body image challenges you might be facing right now.
Myth #1 – Stellar body image is a prerequisite to eating disorder recovery.
Nope. While negative body image does create vulnerability to the development of an ED and may prove an obstacle to the recovery process, you don’t need to love what you see in the mirror for your recovery to “count.” Many people create meaningful and purposeful lives while living in bodies that are painful, disappointing, mistreated, and even marginalized. You have not “failed” to achieve recovery if you still struggle in your body relationship.
Myth #2 – Eating disorder professionals have cracked the code on positive body image and never struggle with their bodies themselves.
Ha! How utterly absurd. Bodies, by design, are often changing and inherently uncomfortable. I believe the ongoing work is learning how to be in relationship with our body image with perspective and compassion, appreciating that there will always be ups and downs.
Myth #3 – You are “less than” if you struggle with your body image.
Your struggles with body image are not a moral failing. Nor are they a measurement of your worth. They are a natural consequence of living in a world that has created body hierarchies from time immemorial. And those body hierarchies determine social standing, access to resources, inclusion, and exclusion. Rebelling against these deeply ingrained social systems is an act of bravery.
Now that we’ve cleared some pesky myths out of the way, below are a few tips for body image support.
Tip #1: Pre-prepare a mantra and/or body movement for when things are hard. Ideally this is rooted in self-compassion, honoring that what you are feeling and experiencing is profoundly painful and difficult and deserving of kindness. For instance, you might place your hand on your heart, close your eyes and say, “It feels really hard to have a body right now.” Or you might take a deep breath in and out while repeating “Eff you diet culture.”
Tip #2: If you are in a highly activated place with your body image, it’s ok to reduce the amount of exposure you have to seeing it (where possible). Examples include reducing the amount of time you spend looking in the mirror or looking at pictures of yourself when you are in a less activated place. Our brain processes much of our body image experience through our emotional activation centers so if your brain is already on high alert, give yourself permission to back off and give yourself some space to re-center.
Tip #3: Consider wearing clothing that is breathable, flexible, and soft. I know this probably sounds a bit silly or even obvious but I cannot tell you how often I remind my clients to try to create a bit more ease in and around their body when possible. This is one way to help your nervous system down regulate.
If you are struggling with your body image, I want to remind you that you are in good company. It’s not your fault. But learning to companion yourself, like you would a good friend, through particularly difficult moments is a worthy endeavor. We’re all stuck with our bodies as long as we are fortunate enough to be here on this planet, experiencing this thing called life.
I’m so glad you’re here.
But I Hate My Body: Cracking the Code on Body Acceptance
Or perhaps someone in your life is urging you to consider body acceptance. Maybe you have heard the word body acceptance and thought to yourself, “Why in the world would I accept THIS body?”
I want to help you get started on a journey to discover the world of body acceptance. I have created a guidebook, “But I Hate My Body: Crack the Code on Body Acceptance, One Teeny Tiny Step at a Time,” with all sorts of resources for you to explore on your journey. It is a list of what to watch, read and listen to on your Journey to Body Acceptance. Click here to download.