Kelly Neilson, MDA RD LD
Forget Summer Bodies! Beat the Heat and Bathing Suit Anxiety
As winter wraps up and summer arrives, many women dread bathing suit season, experiencing significant distress. One study revealed the mere thought of trying on bathing suits in a dressing room ignited feelings of shame and depression.
Poor body image and bathing suit anxiety is made worse when much of the world is “losing the winter weight” and striving for “summer bodies.”
How many times have you felt the concerns of a little more skin showing on your beach vacation? Did you enjoy yourself or was your vacation stolen by fear of how you’d look in a bathing suit?
It doesn’t always have to be this way. Choosing to challenge your bathing suit anxiety with a few powerful reminders goes a long way in creating a positive summer!
Powerful Reminders for Dealing With Bathing Suit Anxiety:
The Perfect Beach Body Is a Marketing Ploy
Have you ever wondered where this “summer body” pressure came from?
In the 1960s, a startup weight loss company, called Slenderella, coined the term “bikini body” as part of their tagline to attract women’s attention and increase sales. It read, "High firm bust — hand span waist — trim, firm hips — slender graceful legs — a bikini body!"
Magazines and newspapers intentionally created their content to intensify women’s insecurities for their own gain. The “bikini body” was prioritized across magazine covers in the summer months, showcasing slender and toned women with one goal, selling products fast and easy.
The pressure you feel to attain the perfect beach body is a direct result of this marketing campaign that’s still affecting society today. It’s a fabricated image with the sole purpose of accumulating more dollars into the $72 billion diet industry.
The media has vastly contributed to eating disorders and society’s unrealistic standards of the “ideal body.” Doesn’t this make you angry? Me too.
We lose sight of what summer should really be about when we internalize this marketing ploy and allow it to affect us deeply.
Many factors contribute to low self-esteem and body image struggles, but when it comes to the media we need to stop taking the bait from these marketing ploys and reject this entire scheme.
In reality, the perfect beach body is NOT a body portrayed in a magazine. The perfect beach body is YOUR body, just as it is!
Getting Your “Summer Body Ready” Always Backfires
That fitness program guaranteeing “toned legs and six pack abs in 2 weeks” sounds convincing.
If I just stick to my juice cleanse and lose a little weight my summer will go as planned. I’ll be thin AND happy! Sound familiar?
That plan to quickly “fix” your body before you lay poolside comes at an expense. Dieting is never sustainable and before you know it you’ll be digging yourself into a hole that’s hard to get out of it.
If you take the “diet route” to get your “summer body ready”:
You’re setting yourself up for chronic dieting, the binge-restrict cycle, a relapse, or an eating disorder
You’ll be so preoccupied with obsessing over and fearing food that you’re missing out on your current life.
Bingeing and rebound overeating are inevitable, you will break. Your body doesn’t know the difference between a “summer slim down” and pure famine. Survival always wins.
Any form of restriction eventually ends in terrible guilt because you think you’ve failed. You didn’t fail, the diet failed you.
Your metabolism and digestive system will be confused, pushing your body out of balance and into a state of uncertainty and chaos.
Are the short term measures to feel “supposedly” better in a bathing suit worth the long term consequences?
Balance and consistency is your body’s preferred state of being. Focus on what you can control, which is respecting and caring for your body and mind.
A sufficient variety of foods, restful sleep, feel good movement, belly laughs with the people you love, and time for yourself are all examples of the perfect recipe for a summer that’s truly healthy!
Tips for Navigating Bathing Suit Anxiety With Less Stress
Shop for a bathing suit (without looking in the mirror) that you think is cute AND feels comfortable AND fits your here-and-now body. A bathing suit that’s comfortable makes a huge difference in keeping your mind off of your body!
Observe how kids love pools and the beach. They’re not concerned with their little bellies hanging out, they’re too excited to splash and play!
Avoid sitting on the sidelines. You’ll likely start comparing yourself to others, watching them have a good time. If you’re participating in life, swimming, and engaged with people you won’t have time to think about your body so much!
Stay mindful of being present in the moment. Recognize all there isthere’s to enjoy like the sound of the waves, the sun on your face, and the conversations with your friends and family.
RELAX. The whole point of summer, vacations, beaches, and pools is to relax. Lay on your towel, read a book, listen to soothing music, close your eyes, feel the breeze, breathe, and relax your body.
It can be intimidating and uncomfortable to have our bodies exposed and our insecurities visible. It’s helpful to remember that you can’t control other people's thoughts, but you can control your choice to not be dictated by fear.
Besides, people are too busy worrying about their OWN bodies, they’re likely not thinking about yours. And if they are judging your body (which is out of your control) their opinion of you doesn’t change anything, you’re worthy as you are!
Those who love you, love YOU, not your body.
Showing more of your body means embracing the cellulite, stretch marks, varicose veins and jiggle that we ALL have.
ALL Summer Bodies Are Year-Round Bodies
Panic mode and bathing suit anxiety is real, but when you look at the big picture, judging if your body is “good enough” based on a season straight up doesn’t make sense. (Remember, it’s all a marketing scheme!)
If you have a body and it’s summer… YOU HAVE A SUMMER BODY. The other 365 days of the year that include fall, winter, and spring count too! Summer bodies are ALL BODIES, ALL year-round!
Warmer weather does mean showing more of your body, which means embracing your body exactly how it is, right now.
With a little extra effort in changing your mindset, your summer can be full of fun and positive memories!
As a virtual anti-diet dietitian, I’ve worked with many women to help them overcome bathing suit anxiety and all that goes with it. Receiving support in your journey can make way for a lifetime of wonderful summers, free from body worries!
Come say hi and tell me how you’re feeling with summer around the corner!