The summer months can be an especially difficult time for people who struggle with their body image. As someone who has had a hard time loving her body, I know all too well how this season can bring up feelings of self-consciousness and insecurity. From seeing weight-loss advertisements that tell me I need to have a “bikini body,” to feeling uncomfortable when colleagues talk about how they need to lose weight before they even think about heading to the beach, the anticipation of summer can trigger negative self-talk.
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As I’ve immersed myself in body-positive culture, I’ve had an easier time brushing off these harmful messages that tell me I need to change my size. Instead of believing that my body is shameful and unworthy of love, I’ve used the following techniques to help myself realize that I’m so much more than my outward appearance.
Remember that your weight does not equal your worth
When I was deeply obsessed with the idea of becoming thinner and losing weight, I thought that I’d feel beautiful, confident, and accomplished upon achieving a certain body type. As it turns out, spending all my time and energy hating my body and restricting food never made me feel better. Even when I did lose some weight, I was still unhappy, and unsatisfied. After taking some time to reflect and pray, I realized that the happiness I was searching for could not be achieved through weight loss.
I needed to remind myself that I was, am, and always have been a worthy child of God. My faith has taught me that I am loved unconditionally, and I do not need to change my body to gain God’s love or approval. In fact, he cares a lot more about the person I am on the inside than what I look like on the outside.
On days when I’m feeling less than worthy, I’ll spend time with my best friends or boyfriend because I know that they love me no matter what I look like. I’ll also participate in activities that I enjoy such as dancing, writing in my journal, or working on my podcast. I know that my gifts, talents, and relationships are what bring true joy and positivity to my life. They make me happy for being the person I am on the inside.
Surround yourself with body positive content
When I was struggling with body image issues, I found it immensely helpful to clear my social media from anything making me feel less than amazing. I stopped following ‘thinspiration’ and ‘fitspiration’ accounts that spread body-shaming messages. I turned away from the 72 billion dollar diet industry that was profiting from my body insecurities, and instead filled my Instagram feed with positive content that celebrates diversity in body shape, size, color, and ability.
Following women such as Iskra Lawrence and Jessamyn Stanley who are pushing back against beauty standards reminded me that I don’t have to conform to society’s narrow perception of beauty. I could be happy with my body without wanting to change it. I also began following anti-diet dieticians such as Christy Harrison and learned about the Health at Every Size Movement.
This movement taught me that health can be achieved in all different shapes and sizes and abolished my perception that individuals have to be thin to be healthy. By surrounding myself with body positive content, I was able to expand my understanding of beauty and appreciate my body for all it does for me.
Don’t spend 95% of your life trying to weigh 5% less
During the times in my life when I focused all of my energy on losing weight, I missed out on so much. The only thoughts going through my brain were, How many calories are in this snack?, I hate how my body looks, and I need to lose weight. I promise you, this is no way to live.
It wasn’t until I rejected dieting (which, by the way, has never been proven as a successful way to lose weight long-term or become healthier) and accepted intuitive eating, that I began to fully enjoy my life again. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather spend my summer swimming with friends, heading to cookouts with loved ones, and eating ice cream than being consumed by negative thoughts about myself.
An event I look forward to all summer long is an annual family reunion barbeque at my aunt and uncle’s house. With a body-positive mindset, I can spend that day enjoying precious time with family (whom I don’t always have a chance to see) without worrying and fixating on what I look like. When I love and appreciate my body, I can also savor the delicious food that my aunt spends hours preparing for all 40 of us without any fear, guilt, or shame in the back of my mind.
I choose to embrace body positivity because it gives me the freedom to live my life to the fullest and reminds me that beauty is so much more about who I am on the inside than what my body looks like on the outside.
Originally published on July 9, 2020.