The summer months are upon us and you're likely seeing articles and advertisements pop up about how to get "swimsuit ready", which usually include some sort of diet or food rules. I've seen it, which has inspired this blog roundup with messages that are much the opposite! I think it's good to know there is an alternative way to approach the summer months - one that is more peaceful and accepting. My hope is to give you some thoughts on body image and links to articles written by like-minded professionals that will hopefully allow you to dive into summer wholeheartedly...pun intended.
Body confidence is related to having a positive body image. The dictionary definition of body image is "a subjective picture of one's own physical appearance established both by self-observation and by noting the reactions of others". Have you ever thought that you could be influencing how others think and feel about themselves based on YOUR reaction to THEIR body? There are two points I would like to make about that:
- The need for external validation will always leave you wanting. As great as it is to have others accept and love you, none of that matters if you don't love and accept yourself. I would encourage you to filter the feedback you get from the outside world and identify what is constructive and useful and what is damaging and harmful. Surround yourself with people that make you feel good about you. This is, in my opinion, the essence of self-care.
- Given this definition, it seems necessary for all of us to take a step back, evaluate our own weight bias, take responsibility for our thoughts, words and actions and be part of the solution and not the problem.
Body image is also about how you feel in your body, not just about it. So what does it mean to have a positive body image? (adapted from nationaleatingdisorders.org)
- A clear and accurate perception of your shape. Often we can have a distorted view of ourselves.
- You celebrate and appreciate your natural body shape and understand that a person’s physical appearance says nothing about their character and value as a person. That’s a challenge in today’s culture!
- You accept your unique body and refuse to spend unreasonable amounts of time worrying about food, weight and calories. You’ve got bigger things to worry about!
- You feel at home and confident in your own body.
On the other hand, a negative body image looks like this:
- A distorted perception of your shape
- You view other people as attractive and believe your body size or shape is a sign of personal failure.
- You feel ashamed, self-conscious, and anxious about your body.
- You focus more on what your body looks like than what it can do.
I specialize in making self-care plans rather than weight-loss plans. Accepting and loving yourself leads you to want to take care of yourself, which can increase confidence and lead to a more positive body image. On the other hand, trying to manipulate your body into something society deems beautiful and worthy may lead to dieting, restriction, overeating, bingeing and other disordered and unhealthy behaviors. While it might be easy to believe that the critical voice in your head is a motivator, it’s actually the opposite. Saying mean things to yourself about yourself leads to a lack of self-acceptance which causes emotional distress at best and mental illness at worst. I would encourage you to set a boundary with yourself where negative self-talk is not allowed. I would also encourage you to choose carefully what health professionals you work with when reaching out for help with health and wellness goals. Hiring a critical voice to tell you what to do or whip you into shape may not be helpful either. You may benefit most from working with someone that will help you connect to your true self rather than your critical voice. Your true self inherently knows what you need; trust that!
Looking past your body and into yourself leads to acceptance. When you fully accept yourself, you are able to move towards productive change in becoming your best self. Lack of acceptance brings the opposite. Self-acceptance will also allow you to look past others’ appearances and see who they really are, fostering their own self-acceptance. Isn't that a beautiful cycle?
Below are a few links to more articles about body image and body confidence. I hope you enjoy them!
"Efforts that are rooted in body shame are not capable of truly improving your overall health and well-being. And they are also not capable of bringing your body to a stable weight, which is the focus we have at Be Nourished. Bodies do best with consistency, predictability, and reliability. They don't benefit from a plan you can follow for a few weeks or months before the "screw it" phase of the cycle begins. Bodies benefit from what you do consistently over time. That is what matters."
"If you truly want to enjoy your summer, try to focus on the moment. Wear your bathing suit and enjoy the cool, refreshing water on your skin. Try to drown out the mental chatter that tells you you don’t measure up. You deserve to enjoy your life, no matter how you look doing it."
"I don’t know about you, but I consider emotional health (aka. happiness) to be a huge part of overall health, and I’m sure you can all agree that the “Diet Cycle” takes the happy-happy-joy-joy out of food. And you don’t have to be a hard-core foodie to feel the detrimental effects here. Food is not only a vital part of our daily routine (you can’t really escape it), food is also deeply rooted in experiences of love, family, culture, celebration, work, romance, travel, self and so much more. An unhealthy relationship with food often can lead to an unhealthy relationship with almost every facet of your life. Why-do-we-so-easily-let-that-happen??"
"I get it. Your worried. Culturally- we think when we love our bodies, they won’t be seen as attractive because we will lose control. Realistically- when we love something we take care of it and it’s needs. When were in tune, we find what foods bring us pleasure, health, vitality and energy."
"With such a high percentage of people regaining all of that lost weight, it makes you wonder what the point of dieting was in the first place. Cutting out foods you love, or refusing to give your body the nutrients it needs is not only be damaging to your body, but also can lower your self-esteem, have a negative impact on your sleep, and end up causing other issues like binge-eating or even more unwanted weight gain."
"I believe that the urge to diet is rooted in a lost sense of self worth and self love, but it’s easier and more tangible to focus on changing the outside then to work on changing the inside. My hope for you is that No Diet Day can be an opportunity to create a No Diet Life. Getting back to a place of acceptance and gratitude and self-care rather than the negativity of constantly needing to change your body."
This summer, don't sit on the sidelines. Your loved ones want to see you swimming along side of them!
Emily Fonnesbeck, RD CD