You don’t need to change a single thing about your body to enjoy the summer.
Summer comes with a lot of transitions: heat, more free time, more plans with friends, and more time in a bathing suit and shorts. With everyone spending more time at home, there has been more messaging about consistent exercise with the goal of attaining “a summer body.” But what IS a summer body? Is there a fall body? Spring? Are you not allowed to wear a sweater, jeans, and a beanie if you don’t have straight hair? What makes summer any different? Why are there arbitrary rules trying to control our clothing choices? If you are sweating about the idea of sitting in a bathing suit, or being comfortable in less clothing, you are far from alone.
What if I don’t have a small body?
Then what? Bodies come in all shapes in sizes (why else would companies make different sized clothing in different cuts and colors). A small body has no more right to be in a bathing suit than a bigger body, and a small body does not mean it is a healthy body. We can tell nothing about a person, their health, or their habits from just looking at them.
So maybe your body isn’t the smallest in the room, but maybe you are taking care of yourself. Maybe you engage in eating habits that make you feel good, and maybe you participate in some form of joyful movement. That is enough. Actually, scratch that. That’s awesome. That is a FEAT.
But I saw an ad telling me to do this workout for 2 weeks and I’d get abs and a bikini body
I know that detox teas and fitness accounts may tell you otherwise, but the truth is, our bodies are unique and what caused a change in one person won’t cause the same change in another. Sure Becky might have worked out for 45 minutes every day last week and now her abs are out to play, but that certainly does not mean every person who does the same workouts as Becky will have the same results.
We live in a weight-centric society, where we are taught to see weight loss as a healthy way of controlling our body. Society tells us that exercise is how we manage weight and thus, health. But what if I told you that exercise is not meant to be the puppet master to weight changes in our body? What if I told you that exercise is a health promoting activity, regardless of current weight or weight change?
The act of exercising and moving our bodies is healthy.
For some of us, our relationship with exercise has been complicated by what society tells us. It is hard to sort through the ads and posts about the importance of exercise for appearance. If you are feeling ready to dig deeper into your relationship with exercise, question your motives, and learn what truly works for you, try journaling or testing out a new form of movement that you enjoy. This could look like…
Taking a walk with a friend
Riding your bike when running errands
Checking out a new yoga flow
Dancing in the kitchen while you make breakfast
But really, what I’m saying is that your body doesn’t require any alterations, by food or movement, in order to earn a place in a bathing suit.
What if I am not comfortable in a bathing suit?
So many of us have felt like this. Just like our clothes, sometimes bathing suits don’t sit quite right and we spend more time fixating on how we look, than we spend enjoying the day. In these moments, we need to be kind to ourselves, and destroy diet culture!! (jk, but not really). We can however, play a quick blame game on diet culture, stick up a middle finger to the concept that we need to occupy the least amount of space possible to feel happy in our skin and look better, and then move on.
Just like a bad body image day, when you put on an outfit and it doesn’t bring you the same joy as it did in the dressing room, or that time you wore it to your cousin’s 30th birthday party, you allow yourself to change. Maybe this means mentally– you think to yourself “actually, this dress has a great pattern and it is perfect for the occasion” or “this bathing suit is fun and I bought it for a reason” and you strut your stuff. And other days it means a physical change and you swap outfits. The priority is providing yourself with the comfort you need in order to free your mind of your body and focus on your activities, friends, family, or relaxation.
Some tips and mental shifts to think about
1. Wear what will make you the most comfortable, and allow you to get as much joy as possible.
If pulling out your favorite trusty bikini will give you the confidence you need, go for it! If trying out that one piece for the first time will save the day– do it! When we really boil it down, a bathing suit is a piece of fabric. And you are a whole a$$ human! You move, you work, you take care of friends, you have fun. You have way more power than that little piece of fabric. Don’t let it stop you.
2. Our bodies are not meant to look like anybody’s else’s body.
Stop the comparison. When we think to compare, we overanalyze. We think about body parts as though they are choices that can be altered or torn apart. Our bodies are one piece. Every body is meant to look different. Even bathing suits of the same size can look entirely different depending on who is wearing it. Who are we to say that one body fits into a bathing suit better than another?
3. Talk to yourself the way you would talk to a friend.
Sometimes we have negative thoughts about ourselves. It happens. But try to reframe them– would you have this thought about a friend? Would you say it to them? Would you want someone to talk to your friend like that? I’m not talking about telling your friend that they have spinach in their teeth, I’m talking about commenting on something that they cannot change in the moment.
Spinach = embarrassing. Our bodies = powerhouses that need some well-deserved appreciation.
Notice when you have negative comments, and try to flip them. Acknowledge that you are being tough on yourself and that with work, this can change. This won’t be an overnight switch, but identifying the moments in which you are being hard on yourself will help to retrain your thoughts. Remember that our bodies are our friends; we need to treat and talk to them the way we would a friend in a lasting, loving relationship.
4. It is just a bathing suit
We are so much more than our bodies and what we wear. We have personalities, strengths, and friendships, none of which depend on our appearance. We think about and analyze our own bodies more than anyone else. You might be thinking about the mark on your right thigh, but your friends are thinking about how much they love your laugh, or how lucky they are to have a friend like you. You are so much more than your appearance.
Whether or not you are in your dream body, you are still in a body and summer is happening around you. Don’t let the fear of being judged hold you back.
This blog post is written by Dietetic Intern, Jennie Dockser. Jennie is an RD2B wrapping up her Dietetic Internship at Massachusetts General Hospital. She is a recent graduate from New York University, where she received a B.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics with a minor in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Studies. Jennie is passionate about spreading anti-diet messages and creating a culture that allows food to be enjoyed rather than analyzed. When she isn’t working, Jennie can be found in the kitchen making large batches of cookies.
Looking for support as you work on your relationship with food and improving body image? Schedule a free discovery call to learn about 1:1 and group coaching options.