5 Steps to Your Summer Body
siiike. This is not a diet post. This is not a weight loss post. This is not a cut out sugar, dairy, gluten, friends, fun, sunlight, pizza and cruciferous veggies post.
When dieting, we shift all of our focus from 'health' to weight and calories instead of the many other signs we know are indicators of health. Incorporating healthy lifestyle behaviors like movement you enjoy, intuitive eating practices and mindfulness are ways that we are going to feel more beach ready than any diet the internet can think up.
This IS a reminder that none of those things make your body any more ready for summer than it is right now. Yes, RIGHT now. That doesn't mean I don't have some tips for you, I do, to make you feel more ready for summer, and hopefully, a little more relaxed, and excited to have some fun in the sun (without the stress).
1. Eat foods - preferably ones that you like, and make you feel good. The common misconception around summer (or really anytime there is stress for us to 'look' a certain way) is that we need to go to extremes - cut out food groups, excessively exercise and feel bad about ourselves until we look differently.
If that sentence alone doesn't highlight some major flaws with that thinking, here are a few quick de-bunks of 'summer body' diets/detoxes you might come across in the next few months. There is no evidence or reason reason to cut out gluten from your diet (when you do not have Celiac's Disease or similar) for benefits to you or your digestive system. Gluten-free foods often wear a 'health halo' because of tricky marketing by food industry, not because of research based on the health of a gluten-free diet. There is not evidence that completely cutting out sugar from diet is beneficial. In fact, depriving yourself of sugar or any food increases your brain's reward response to the food and makes you crave the food more. The very act of going on a diet, makes someone more susceptible to lowered self-esteem, feelings of failure, weight gain (or re-gain from any initial weight lost), and yo-yo dieting. The diet itself can put us in a worse state of health physically and mentally than we would have been by eating foods we enjoyed without guilt or deprivation. Instead, think about tuning in to how you feel when you eat, incorporating mindful eating habits and enjoying your choices without guilt or obsession. Here are some examples of foods that might feel good to you throughout these next few months (aka all foods):
Yogurt and fruit with granola and coffee
A fun cocktail with a friend (or more than friend)
A sweetgreen salad that you kind of paid too much money for but you hold firm that it tastes much better than one you make at home
Chocolate lava cake because you love chocolate lava cake
A snack that you had in your bag because you knew you get hungry between lunch and dinner
Dinner at a place you've been wanting to try
pancakes and eggs
a homemade lunch that is not super special but easy and convenient for busy weekdays
other foods and drinks that feel good and satisfying to you
2. Move your body in a way that you like - just like with food, the core of mindful movement is finding a way to move your body that works for and feels best to you. Some days will be different than others, more intense, more restorative, longer or shorter amounts of time, or not at all. I think at some point, many of us find ourselves in a battle with the gym or workout classes, whether because we aren't doing a movement we really like or because we're forcing ourselves to go with the pressure of reaching a certain calorie goal, obsession. Just to reiterate, exercise and physical movement benefits extend far beyond any number on a scale, but reduced stress, increased energy, increased self-esteem, reduced cardiac risks, boosted mood are all reasons that movement is good for us. Here are some tips for finding the movement that works best for you:
Shop Around: Try different classes, gyms, free workout groups in your area to see what feels good to you. Most gyms have a free trial membership, and most yoga/studio classes have very reduced entry passes if you think you'll like a structured class.
Get Outside: You don't need any kind of a membership to be physically active. Walking is always found to be one of the best ways to get moving, it's a great time to listen to podcasts, catch up with friends and just get some fresh air and clear some head space. Free fitness groups like November Project offer free morning workouts with a group of infectiously positive and fun people. No pre-requisites required (all shapes, sizes, activity levels, speeds are welcome)
Step Out of Your Comfort Zone: It's easy to get used to the same routine and feel monotonous about movement, but stepping out of it you might realize you really enjoy something else too! If you're a runner, try a more restorative yoga class, if you're a barre-head try a more strength-focused class, if you always go to the gym by yourself, try out a group fitness class! Trying out something new and switching up how you move your body helps you appreciate what you can do and is a fun way to remember that movement is for physical and mental health - so it's important to find a way that feels good to YOU.
3. Throw Away the Scale - We are brought up believing a few common myths about scales: that they depict our worth, that they are an accurate measure of health, that we can control our weight. The truth? There is a substantial amount of evidence that none of those three things are true.
4. Buy Summer Clothes you Love - Regardless of what size the tag on your clothes says, wearing what you feel confident in makes you look best. We give a lot of credit to the idea 'fitting into X size' but at the end of the day, you are the only person who ever knows what that size is, nearly every store has a different sizing chart, and if you feel good in it, who the heck cares what the number or letter on the tag is? Choosing to shop and wear clothes to honor your body as it is now (not how it may be in 6 months) is a tough decision to make but one that helps liberate the pressure and guilt that diet culture puts on women and men to look a certain way. By getting a few new things that make you feel great, whether that be a dress, a new bathing suit or some statement sunglasses, you'll feel better heading into the summer with some pieces you can go to when that invite from friend comes around. This can be a slow process but one totally worth it that can help heal your relationship with your body as it is now.
5. Lower the Stakes - Ask yourself 'why not?' to the things you feel like you can't do this summer without first changing your body or starting a diet. Question why you feel like those aren't things you feel you can enjoy without making a dramatic change first. Diet culture and the acceptance of chronic or seasonal dieting is so prevalent that we may be acting on auto-pilot of checking the boxes of things to do before summer but think about all the time and energy you’d have to actually enjoy summer if you weren’t worried about dieting or over-analyzing your body the whole time? (hint: probably a lot of time) So! The next time you feel those sneaky negative thoughts about your body or your friend tells you about their diet or detox for summer, remember that you don’t need to change anything about yourself, your body or your way of eating to be ready for summer.
TLDR: How should you prep for summer? Take a few deep breaths, wear an outfit you love, eat food you enjoy, move in a way that feels good and save your brain space for more important and fun summer things.
For extra inspiration and support heading into this summer, check out a few RD's and body positive accounts for more tips and suggestions. A few favorites are @bodyimage_therapist @thereallife_RD @hgoodrichrd @alissarumseyrd @immaeatthat @kellykkroberts @aerie @laurathomasphd @notafoodcop