Picture this: you’re about to have a girl’s weekend and you realize you’re going to have to be in front of people again. The group hugs. The selfies. People are going to see your body. Cue the sick feeling in your stomach. If reunions that should be care-free and fun often get ruined by your body image concerns – here’s how to love your body this summer (without crash dieting that sends you back into food guilt).
Especially if you’ve struggled with this since your teens – there is no better time to love your body than right now.
So many people feel pressure to appear “perfect and put together” all the time, and it’s just not realistic. In this blog post, we will explore the importance of self-love, because yes, you can improve your self-esteem and feel confident this summer…all without starving yourself or spending hours at the gym.
Let’s dive in with the fun stuff: shopping
Update your closet
The most important thing to boost your confidence is to wear clothes that fit, are comfortable and make you feel good when you’re wearing them.
Trying to squeeze into clothes because they used to fit or you like the size number on the label is an exercise in making yourself miserable. That uncomfortable feeling in your waistband is going to be a nagging reminder that they don’t fit.
Get any clothes that do not fit well or make you feel good out of your closet and out of your drawers. Either pack them up or donate them (or sell them if you’re ready to make a few bucks). But no matter what, it feels best when we open up our closet and know that each option inside fits and feels good to wear.
Take stock of what you have and give yourself a fun list of new things to get to fill in the gaps. Time to shop!
When trying on new clothes, I recommend putting them on and stopping before you look in the mirror. Ask yourself: how do you feel? Can you move your body freely? Can you wiggle, sit, dance, stretch and stand without your clothes pinching or pulling? Next, look in the mirror and see what you think.
No one feels confident when their clothing is hurting them.
If our clothes are hurting, we send a signal to our brains – we are not safe – and this can trigger negative body image thoughts and food guilt.
If it feels challenging to invest in clothing in a new size, practice first with some non-sized accessories that you love. This could be a fabulous new hat, a rockin’ pair of sunglasses, a kimono wrap or some pretty new sandals. (Psst: don’t forget some fun new nail polish for a pedicure!)
If the budget feels limited, consider exploring your local thrift stores or even shopping online. ThredUp is an online thrift store with a wide range of sizes. You can shop by brand, browse by clothing item type (ex: maxi dresses) or even purchase a goody box where a personalized stylist will assemble a collection of clothing, in your size, for you to shop from.
Now that you’re styled and fabulous, on to the next item: the mental conversations.
Avoid self-deprecating jokes
“This tastes good now, but it will live on my hips forever”
“Just call me the fat friend”
“If I eat this, I am going to have to live in the gym tomorrow”
Look I get it. You want to cut them to the chase, just in case they noticed your bigger body. It can feel out of control to be waiting for a cutting or hurtful remark and so you take control back by being your own joke. It might not feel great, but at least you’re in charge, right?
We feel worse about negative comments when we secretly wonder if they’re true! If the comment triggers shame, it can be a lot harder to shake off the comment. It hurts!
A client of mine recently noticed that her tendency to “beat herself up” before others did actually trained them to notice and think about her body in a negative light.
We feel better about ourselves when we are kind to ourselves
Our self-talk and joking comments all count. Our beliefs are the basis of how we feel day-to-day; practice saying kind things about yourself and with time, you’ll believe yourself.
You can write kind things to yourself in a journal, practice saying them out loud in the shower or shout them in the car during your commute. Whatever feels the most fun and authentic to you!
This change in the conversation gets to help you feel better about yourself when on your own and hanging out in groups. Remember that client I mentioned earlier who was making herself into a joke? She feels a lot better with kind and confident self-talk.
By no longer talking about her body negatively, and instead focusing on connection and memory-making, she feels confident in the relationships she’s building and her ability to be someone who appreciates life and a good friend.
Comments and self-talk are simply habits that we’ve practiced.
And you know what? If your current comments aren’t serving you, you can learn new ones! While it may feel a bit silly at first, practice saying nice things about yourself that you genuinely believe.
“I am a friend that is reliable”
“My sense of humor can make my friends almost pee their pants”
“I am a spreadsheet wizard”
“My legs are strong and beautiful”
“My long lashes make a Kardashian envious”
Next stop: your own worth.
Remember your own worth
You, my friend, are so much more than your body and your size. Your worth is not bound up in how attractive you are.
Even saying that is counter to so many of the messages we are inundated with, day in and day out. But this work is important: you are valuable and important and deserve to feel treasured.
Body image work isn’t about convincing yourself you are beautiful in order to feel confident. It’s about finding confidence in what makes you, you. The whole you!
When you feel yourself fixating on how you look – make a list of your non-appearance based qualities that you like. Consider ways you can connect and cultivate these this summer; for example, if you love to learn to play music, your confidence will be boosted as you learn to play new songs and play them for your friends and post progress videos on Instagram.
Begin with relaxation
Situations that feel uncertain or unpredictable can kick up feelings of anxiety…which can spiral into negative self-talk.
Give yourself a positive boost before events or activities by doing something that feels really good to you. Maybe it is a three-song dance party before you walk out the door. Maybe it is writing yourself an uplifting note to stick in your purse and carry with you. Or maybe you do some gentle stretching and deep breathing before you put on your killer outfit.
No matter what feels good to you, make sure that you take some time to cultivate the calm and happy – it’s portable! And if you’re spending a weekend with friends or family, make sure to take breaks to recharge your own batteries with some quiet time along, a walk, or wherever helps you to feel grounded.
As with most things, a person’s body image is probably never going to be perfect. But with practice, we can cultivate a positive relationship with ourselves and our body and are far less susceptible to the mean messages from social media and society. You’re awesome, right now.
Over time, swimsuit season is less of a trigger. This is something to celebrate because it means you no longer respond to body image triggers by dieting. And if you’re anything like my clients, this is a good thing, your struggle with dieting has taken your joy for FAR too long!
How to love your body: Key takeaways
This summer, I encourage you to learn how to love your body, bit by bit. This post includes a few of the many skills I offer through my No Guilt Framework. Each individual will find different skills helpful at different times, and this post is by no means an exhaustive list of how to heal body image issues.
As a Registered Dietitian, I offer group coaching and private coaching programs that help you create a plan and practice these skills with the focus and consistency you need to FINALLY be okay with your body.
Apply for coaching and I’ll meet with you to describe how you can go from feeling completely stuck in negative body image to feeling free and peaceful around food, just like my clients do. You deserve to love your body this summer; I can help!