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Bad body image day? Or week? Or month? We’ve all been there. And summertime is especially hard for body image. Sharing five helpful tips to cope with a poor body image day.Summer is THE hardest season for body image so if you find yourself struggling right now please know that you are NOT alone.
Why is summer so tough for body image?
It’s freaking hot out so you’re going to want to wear less clothing. Less clothing means more of your body is exposed, opening you up to more vulnerability.
It’s swimsuit season – need I say more?
Summer is a season for more social outings and gatherings. This can bring up a lot of insecurities, especially if your body changed over the winter and you’re seeing people who you haven’t seen in some time.
Our culture doesn’t make it any easier on us either. We’re bombarded with ads telling us to get “bikini ready”, fitness instructors telling us to “get those six pack abs for the beach,” and wellness influencers selling us on “feeling our best this season” by purchasing their detox tea.
No wonder you feel so much pressure to change your body come summertime.
Rather than looking for a quick weight loss fix which will ultimately lead to weight regain, what if you chose to work with your body instead of working against it?
What if you chose to cope with a poor body image day instead of trying to “fix” your body?
Your body doesn’t need fixing. The culture and systems of oppression at play that say your body is not inherently worthy need fixing.
5 Ways to Cope with a Bad Body Image Day (or Season)
1. Sit in the suck
There is healing and value in sitting in the suck (as body image therapist Bri Campos refers to it). We need to validate our emotions. To let grief and sadness and anxiety wash over and through us.
There is a profound valid grief that comes up in the acknowledgment that we live in a fat-phobic society that does not accommodate for fat bodies.
Allow yourself to feel your feelings – give them space. Maybe you process them in therapy (with a fat positive therapist or dietitian).
Sweeping your emotions under the rug is only going to create a build-up and once there’s no room left under that rug, those repressed emotions are going to feel BIG and intense because they’ve been bottled up for so long.
You can’t toxic positivity your way out of a bad body image day. Give yourself grace and validation for how you are feeling. Hold yourself with tenderness.
2. Know what your “off ramps” are.
Poor body image can feel like you’re driving on a rotary and you just keep going around and around and around because you don’t see any off ramps (shout out to Marci Evans for this analogy!). You’re stuck in it and you’re having a hard time seeing a way out.
Although it’s important to honor and sit with your feelings, you don’t want to be in your feels 24-7. When you’re ready to shift off the rotary, remember what your off ramps are – these are tools, skills, practices, and actions that make you feel better.
Your off ramps (or body image toolbox) will be unique to you. Here are some examples that might resonate with you (feel free to add them to your rotary!):
getting in nature
taking a shower
calling a friend
loving on a pet
writing or journaling
listening to a favorite podcast
getting a massage or using self-massage
lighting a candle
buying fresh flowers
utilizing a mantra
taking a nap or resting
reading a favorite book
sipping warm tea
wrapping yourself in a cozy blanket
visiting your favorite coffee shop
3. Aim for 5 percent better.
What small act can you take today to make yourself feel 5% better? I love the concept of 5% better because it takes some of the pressure off.
When it comes to body image, there are so many body positive messages telling you to love your body, and it creates another unrealistic ideal to aspire to. It’s another thing to feel like you’re failing at.
Better body image does not mean loving your body or liking how you look. It means taking care of your body, treating it with respect, and listening to and honoring its cues.
You don’t need to aim for feeling 100% better because that’s also not realistic given the oppressive culture we live in. But can you engage in something that makes you feel 5% better? You’re aiming for a subtle shift. A small act.
Hilary Kinavey and Dana Sturtevant, authors of Reclaiming Body Trust, tell their clients and members of their community to aim for C- work. Once again, we’re not looking for A+ body image work – that’s going to set us up for perfectionism and black-and-white thinking, which is inherent in diet culture and white supremacy.
Can you aim for C- body image work? Can you aim for feeling 5% better today?
4. Practice self-compassion and mindfulness.
Mindfulness allows us to sit with what is without judgment. This goes back to what I was talking about earlier with sitting in the suck. Notice what feelings are coming up for you in the moment and give them space to move through you.
Mindfulness also allows us to remain open and curious – perhaps you can get curious around what prompted the bad body image day. Was there a trigger?
Maybe you saw some photos of yourself on Facebook that you didn’t like. Maybe you’re at that time in your cycle when you’re extra bloated. Maybe you spent too much time scrolling on Instagram comparing your body to others.
Knowing your triggers can also be helpful in coping with bad body image days. It allows you to name what’s happening and provides some context. “Oh that makes a lot of sense I’m having a bad body image day today because I’m on day 14 of my cycle.”
Information and data collecting can feel empowering too because it helps you feel less helpless around why you might feeling a certain way.
You might also dig a little deeper – if the narrative in your head says “I feel fat”, see if you can dig a little deeper and ask yourself “what else am I feeling right now?” You might notice you’re feeling burnt out after a few really busy weeks at work, maybe you’re feeling a lot of grief after the loss of a loved one, maybe you’re feeling stressed out because of a conflict with a friend.
Body image is often a window into our deeper emotional experiences. You focus on body image because it’s familiar and it feels like there’s something you can change or fix. And it feels easier to fixate on the body than it does on the deeper, more painful emotions that maybe there is no immediate fix for.
Again this is an opportunity to practice self-compassion. Talk to yourself with kindness and understanding. “Oh sweetie, of course you’re feeling bad about your body right now. You’ve had a really stressful couple weeks at work and you’re totally burnt out. It makes complete sense you don’t feel good in your body right now.”
Self-compassion is key. Ask yourself, how would I talk to my best friend who is having a hard body image day? Can you offer some of that kindness to yourself?
5. Name it to distance from it.
As humans we have a tendency to over identify with our thoughts. A bad body image day might lead you to say things to yourself like:
I have the worst body image.
I hate my body.
I’ll never have a good relationship with my body.
I’m so gross.
Rather than saying, I have the worst body image or I hate my body, can you try saying “I’m noticing that I’m having a hard body image day.”
Not only does this create a little bit of distance from the thought but it also serves as a reminder that this feeling is fleeting and temporary. It does not need to define you.
Were these tips helpful? If so, let me know in the comments below. I’d LOVE to hear from you!
For more body image related blog posts:
3 Ways to Navigate When Clothes Don’t Fit You (without another diet!)
How to Make Your Social Media More Body Positive
Can You Lose Weight with Intuitive Eating?
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