Goodbye “Beach Body” Myth: Practical Tips For Ditching Diet Culture This Summer
Summer is making an entrance, and in a society entrenched in diet culture, messages about summer bodies, getting fit, and looking hot are creeping in too. A quick Google search for “summer body” surfaces images of tanned bodies with ripped abs, fitness and weight loss programs, and ads for crash diets and “miracle” supplements. It’s no wonder that summertime brings on anxieties about body image.
So how do we challenge the myth of a “summer body” and the negative self-talk that comes with it? One step is to normalize both the existence and harm of diet culture as well as alternatives to the myth of a summer body. From there, you can begin to shift your mindset.
If you have been following Autonomy Therapy for some time, you know that we firmly believe that diets don’t work. Science backs this up, yet society leads us to believe that we just might be part of the small percentage of people who can keep weight off. It is difficult to reconcile our logical brain with negative self-talk when constantly being exposed to the message that there’s something wrong with you if you don’t look a certain way and your life could be better if you did. I want to emphasize that it makes sense to have summer body anxiety and insecurities. It is not a moral failure – it is a response to living in an image-obsessed culture.
Society tells us the following:
– A summer body is thin (but not TOO thin), toned, etc., depending on a community’s beauty standards.
– You need to lose weight before you can enjoy summer activities like going to the pool or beach or going on vacation.
– Your outward appearance determines your worth, and if your body doesn’t look a certain way, you’re unworthy.
On the other hand, from an anti-diet perspective, we aim to challenge those beliefs and replace them with these:
– All bodies are summer bodies.
– You deserve to be comfortable and enjoy summer activities without changing your appearance.
– You are worthy no matter what your body looks like.
Shifting your mindset can take time and may bring up feelings of discomfort. This is hard work, undoubtedly. Collaborating with a therapist who specializes in eating disorders, body image issues, and anti-diet culture can help.
Something that helps with ditching diet culture may be to clean up your social media.
Social media can negatively impact our perceptions of ourselves and others, so now may be a good time to reconsider your feed. First, notice what feelings come up when you scroll through your feed. Unfollow accounts that trigger negative feelings about yourself or that aren’t helpful. Follow accounts that normalize body differences and diversity. Some suggestions include @virgietovar, @tiffanyima, @thenutritiontea, and @meganjaynecrabbe to name a few! Seeing body diversity in your feed can help you to normalize and celebrate all bodies.
Another essential step is to acknowledge and advocate for ALL bodies.
Body image issues and eating disorders are not an individual issue – they are a social justice issue. While body positivity and neutrality can be incredibly helpful, it is also important to recognize that not everyone is allowed the privilege to just accept or celebrate their body. Individuals living in larger bodies, for example, may experience fatphobia and weight bias, inaccessibility in certain spaces, discrimination, and healthcare disparities leading to severe consequences. An individual mindset shift unfortunately will not remedy these societal issues.Advocacy may look like shutting down diet talk from others, challenging your own biases about health, supporting clothing brands with inclusive sizing, dispelling myths, and educating yourself and others about the dangers of weight bias on both mental and physical health.
And throughout all of this, allow yourself to experience joy and seek comfort, no matter what you look like.
It’s going to be HOT this summer, and you deserve to be comfortable! Wear what feels good to you. This may mean rocking a crop top and bike shorts and showing off your adorable belly or it may mean opting for a gauzy loose-fitting maxi dress. Take part in joyful movement like swimming (or swinging back and forth in a hammock), let yourself enjoy food at gatherings, and tell yourself, yes, you DO look cute in that amazing outfit regardless of what size it is.
GETTING STARTED WITH THERAPY
If you’re ready to challenge diet culture, learn self-compassion, detach your self-esteem from your weight and change your relationship with your body, contact us to schedule a free 15-minute consultation to learn more about our therapists and who might be a good fit for your journey.