Boosting Your Summer Body Image

Thursday, May 29, 2014
Rebecca Wagner, PhD
Dreading donning your swimsuit this summer? Odds are, you aren’t the only one reaching for a cover-up.
“The majority of people are dissatisfied with their bodies in some way, and summer exacerbates that because we have less clothing to hide behind,” says psychologist Rebecca Wagner, PhD, an eating disorders expert and manager of Menninger's Professionals in Crisis Program.
While some body dissatisfaction is normal, continually thinking negative thoughts about your body will prevent you from enjoying summer activities with family or friends, Wagner adds. She offers the following tips to boost your summer body image:

Wear what’s comfortable

“Don’t buy a swimsuit thinking, ‘I am going to fit into this someday.’ That’s just setting you up for failure. Buy something in a size that fits. Otherwise, when you go to the pool, you are going to be self-conscious and you won’t be able to enjoy yourself. If buying a larger size bothers you, pull the tags out of your clothes. Size is only a number.”

Don’t go on crash diets

Crash dieting to fit into the latest summer styles is a rite of passage for many women and men. But dieting usually backfires, Dr. Wagner says. “We know that dieting is an ineffective way of losing weight. It dehydrates you, and you will eventually gain that weight back. Instead, resolve to eat healthy and buy a swimsuit, or outfit, that fits you the way you are now.”

Try not to compare yourself to others

It’s hard not to compare yourself unfavorably to the buff bodies at the pool or beach. But doing so only makes you miserable. “Try to remember that there are so many factors that contribute to someone’s appearance. You might be comparing yourself to someone who is so different from you genetically, that you would never be able to look like that person, no matter how much you dieted or exercised.”

Cut yourself some slack

“Self-compassion is important,” Dr. Wagner says. “Maybe your body is not perfect, but that’s OK. Find something else you can appreciate about your body besides its appearance. Maybe you are athletic, or your body is healthy enough to allow you to play with your kids at the playground. Focus more on what your body can do than whether you can fit into this summer’s latest trend.”

Remember what’s important

“Our minds are very powerful, and we have the ability to manage our thoughts. Just because we hold a thought doesn’t make it true,” Dr. Wagner says. “So, if you are feeling these negative thoughts about your body, think about your values. Is looking good in a swimsuit that important to your life? If we put so much emphasis on our bodies, we miss out on what is meaningful.”