By Lauren Harding, Recovery Coach
Warmer weather and the coming of summer often exacerbate worries about food and our bodies. This is especially challenging for those who are struggling with an eating disorder or who are in recovery. For many of these individuals wearing more revealing clothing such as shorts, sleeveless tops, or swimming suits can be a source of anxiety. Avoidance tends to be the initial response when approaching summer. Unfortunately, advertisers don’t recognize the impact terms like the “summer body” can have on someone’s perception of themselves.
Within media and diet culture, there is a notion that people have to change their bodies to be “ready for summer”. This is not only untrue, but completely unrealistic. There is not one type of body that is suitable for certain items of clothing, or only one body that is “bikini ready”. EVERY BODY IS A BEACH BODY. EVERY BODY IS A SUMMER BODY. Even a body that has changed during quarantine, even a body that is large, a body that is disabled, etc. ALL bodies fit. This unfortunate attitude normalized in diet culture and body-shaming messages is oppressive and limiting. What experiences are you allowing to be taken away from you because of the way that YOU perceive your body?
Here are some tools to help you to navigate this summer in recovery:
-Reject the idea of the “summer body”. Remind yourself the motive of the advertisers- to have you BUY their product. Of course, they want you to feel bad about your body, that is the way they ultimately make money.
-Focus on what your body can DO this summer. Swimming, hiking, having an outdoor pool party with friends, roasting s’more’s, evening walks, and the list goes on and on. Make a list of the things you want to do this summer that have nothing to do with changing your body.
-Practice wearing clothes in less threatening settings. If wearing certain clothing items brings you a significant amount of anxiety, practice wearing those clothes in less intimidating settings. This could be in your home, at smaller family event, or at the pool on a less-crowded weekday.
-Have your support person. As you challenge yourself and make steps towards having fulfilling experiences this summer, make sure you have someone you can talk to and rely on. This could be a friend, family member, or even a mental health provider.