It’s officially spring, and before we know it, summer will be here. For some, this is a time to look forward to: no school, trips out of town, long days on the beach or at the pool, barbecues with family and friends. But for others, these same things may cause fear due to the related change in dress or eating in front of others, for example. Social media increases this anxiety by constantly telling us we need to have “the perfect beach body.”
Many individuals are concerned about their body weight, shape, and size. As summer approaches and we shed the winter layers, we become more vulnerable in our skin. Statistics show that 58% of college-age females find it necessary to maintain a certain weight, 62% of girls 13 to 19 are dissatisfied with their weight, and 69% of women over 30 say the same thing. And it’s not just females who are concerned about their weight: one in five males state that body image is one of their biggest concerns.
Body image is the subjective mental picture we have of our own body, the way we see ourselves, a belief that can be either healthy or unhealthy. This image may be shaped by childhood experiences, such as parents speaking negatively about their bodies, or being bullied about our own. Statistics suggest that 40% of females and 37% of males are bullied about their weight. Generalizations can also affect the way we view ourselves: comparing ourselves to friends, siblings, or celebrities, for example.
Maintaining a healthy body image is important, because body dissatisfaction can lead to both anxiety and depression. It is the leading cause of disordered eating and eating disorders, which affect 20 million women and 10 million men.
Here are some ways to help keep a healthy body image in warm weather:
1. Prepare for Social Gatherings
Social gatherings can be difficult for anyone. Often, we see family and friends we haven’t seen in a while, food options may differ from our daily norm, and the location might be at the beach or poolside.
a. Remember you were invited to the event because the host likes you, enjoys your company, and feels that the other guests will as well. People typically choose to spend time with another person because of their intellect, good conversation, humor, or caring personality, not for what they eat or how they look.
b. Challenge any negative thoughts that arise. Pick a friend or loved one to check in with during the event to discuss what you are experiencing.
c. Eat according to your own needs, which are different for everyone. Take portions appropriate for your adolescent or adult body. If you follow a special diet, scope the food choices and do the best you can with the food being offered. Another option is to pack something from home, maybe even bring extra to share.
d. Wear what you are comfortable in. Negative body image can keep you stuck indoors, missing out on picnics or fun at the beach. If you’re not comfortable in a bikini, then wear a cover up.
2. Know Your Stressors
Stressors such as a facial blemish, a new date, or finishing up that final assignment for school can increase negative body image. As our stress or anxiety increases, so do our thoughts. It amazing how many different thoughts we can have in just a single minute!
a. Increase mindfulness in your daily routine through practices such as meditation or yoga.
b. Post sticky notes around your bathroom mirror to remind yourself how amazing you are!
c. Develop a balanced exercise program with guidance from your primary care physician.
d. Reach out to a therapist.
3. Manage Your Social Media Usage
A recent article states that 95 million photos are posted on Instagram daily. On average, teens are currently spending more than eight hours per day on social media, which can play a role into self beliefs related to body image. Posts often include photos with filters applied and are intended to sell you something, directly or indirectly. They pinpoint an aspect of yourself in which you lack confidence and make you believe their product will change that.
a. Put away your phone or commit to not checking your social media accounts for an entire day. If that’s too daunting, try 15 minutes at a time. Leave the phone in another room and enjoy the event you’re at and the people you’re spending time with there.
b. Combat negative posts. If someone is body bashing, take a stance and stand up for positive self-talk, healthy body image, or advocate for self.
Remember, body image is how you see your own body. Take time to thank your body for the gifts it has given you: allowing you to work, hug others, or play sports. Stop the self-bullying! When warm weather hits, the best outfit to put on is self-confidence: your body loves it.
Bagadiya, J. (2019). 217 Social Media Marketing Statistics to Prep You For 2019. Retrieved from https://www.socialpilot.co/blog/social-media-statistics
Garner, D. (2017). Plagued by Body Image Issues? The Results of a National Survey Show You're Not Alone. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/199702/body-image-in-america-survey-results
National Eating Disorder Association. Body Image and Eating Disorders. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org
Sandoz, E. K., & DuFrene, T. (2014). Living with your body and other things you hate: How to let go of your struggle with body image using acceptance and commitment therapy. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.
Taylor, J.V. (2014). The body image workbook for teens. Oakland, CA: An Imprint of New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
Tsukayama, H. (2015). Teens spend nearly nine hours every day consuming media. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com