Body Image Blues

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It is officially hot as all giddy-up outside, which means it’s summer. Ah, the season of baseball games and long evenings on the porch, of fresh fruit and cold lemonade. It also happens to be the season for swim trunks and bare chests, for bikinis and sundresses, and there are those of us who would rather shove flaming needles into our eyes than be caught dead in a bathing suit. But it’s summer in the South, and you’ll succumb to heat stroke if you try to hide under clothing. You can’t lose twenty (or eighty) pounds immediately. So what should you do?

There’s a lot of talk nowadays about accepting your body as it is. While that sounds good in theory, you may have difficulty fully embracing this idea since you are pummeled with images of the perfect body, tips on how to achieve and maintain the perfect body, and shaming messages across every media platform deriding individuals for imperfections both large and small. Sure accept your body…as long as you’re already The Rock or Gisele.

The hard truth is most of feeling good happens in the three square feet of real estate sitting on top your shoulders. Getting on an exercise plan, switching to a healthy diet, upgrading your wardrobe, and trying out new makeup and hairstyles will only go so far if you don’t feel an innate sense of worthiness. Unfortunately, reaching your goals does not automatically translate into self-esteem. You have to start that process, too.

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The good news is there are simple and effective ways to start feeling better about yourself immediately.

1) Stop putting yourself down: It sounds corny. It feels corny. But if you look in the mirror and say, “You are fat and ugly and nobody loves you,” it has a much different affect than, “You’re beautiful and awesome and the people in your life are lucky.” What you say to yourself becomes your truth.

2) Stop comparing yourself to others: Yes, there are people in the world you think are more handsome or have better bodies or seem to be able to eat whatever they want without consequences. That’s okay. Comparing yourself to others can lead to negative self-talk and unkind judgment of the people around you. Concentrate on improving your self image without trying to measure up.

3) Treat yourself as you would treat others: Would you tell your friend he looks flabby in his swim trunks? Would you tell your daughter her thighs are disgusting? If you wouldn’t say it to someone else, don’t say it to yourself. Be nice to you.

4) Focus on numbers other than the scale: If you’re getting into shape, track how your cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar are going down and normalizing. Track how much farther you can run without stopping. Track how much weight you can lift, how many stairs you can climb without becoming winded, how much more energy you have. There are more important numbers than your weight.

There are so many ways to start feeling good about yourself, and the better you feel internally, the more motivation and energy you will have to start working toward your goals. You only have this one body. Don’t berate it. Love yourself, as cheesy as that may be. Be your own best friend.

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