Approximately 70% of women report withdrawing from activities due to body image concerns,1 which can make it especially difficult to enjoy the summer season often filled with activities. The summer can be particularly challenging for women, sexual minority men, and others working on body acceptance or eating disorder recovery. Research has found that in the summer, patterns of body dissatisfaction are often linked to peaks in pressures from media and peers, feelings that our bodies are on display, and appearance comparisons.2 Together, these findings can lead to a heightened sense of insecurities and difficulties managing body expectations in the summer. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)3, individuals with negative body image are at greater risk of developing an eating disorder. Thus, managing harmful expectations related to summer bodies can make this season even more challenging for those impacted by eating disorders.
While it is always important to work towards embracing your body and accepting yourself for who you are, summer reminds us of the need to reject society’s expectations that can lead to negative self-perceptions and disordered eating behaviors. With a commitment to yourself and your healing, recovery and body acceptance are possible.
Here are 6 tips to support body acceptance this summer:
- Remember every body is a beach body. This includes bodies that have changed throughout the year and those that have not. This includes your body!
- Practice self-compassion and gratitude. Redirect negative thoughts through positive self-talk. For example, try replacing “I look awful today” with “My appearance does not determine my worth. My body helps me do things I love.”
- Listen to your body. Take care of all aspects of your health by actively resting, intuitively eating, and participating in activities that spark creativity and joy.
- There is no dress code for summer. Wear what feels good and comfortable to you.
- Avoid criticism of your own or others’ bodies. Criticizing your own and others’ bodies can normalize unrealistic and often unhealthy expectations. Instead, celebrate body diversity and work to avoid body criticism in any capacity.
- Smash your scale this summer! There is no specific weight that ensures your body is healthy. Accept your body as it is and as it changes. Reminder: You are always worthy of love and acceptance.
1 – Etcoff, N., Orbach, S., Scott, J., & D’Agostino, H. (2006). Beyond stereotypes: Rebuilding the foundation of beauty beliefs: Findings of the 2005 Dove Global Study. Retrieved June, 13, 2016.
2 – Griffiths, S., Austen, E., Krug, I., & Blake, K. (2021). Beach body ready? Shredding for summer? A first look at “seasonal body image”. Body Image, 37, 269-281.
3 – NEDA. 2015. Get The Facts On Eating Disorders | National Eating Disorders Association. [online] Available at: <https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/body-image-0>
By Katie Olson
Katie will be a second-year graduate student at UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Social Work in the fall, and this is her first year working in the Living F.R.E.E. Lab.