Springtime can be a catalyst for body image issues and eating disorders. As the weather warms up, many people find themselves stuck in the rut of harsh self-scrutiny and poor body image. Behaviors that can develop into full-blown eating disorders also seem to be everywhere you look: strict dieting, excessive workout routines, and other strategies for quickly losing weight can lead people down a dangerous path. What starts as a goal to lose weight for a spring break trip or swimsuit season can become a harmful preoccupation that turns into bulimia, anorexia, or other eating disorders. Follow these tips to avoid the risky springtime weight loss obsession:
Keep health in mind, not weight loss. Forget fad diets. Weight loss should never be a goal. Instead, if you feel it’s time to focus on your health, make small changes that are thoughtful in nature. Work with a registered dietitian to learn how to incorporate sensible strategies that are focused on feeling better. Remember, health comes in all shapes and sizes.
Strengthen your self-worth. Begin by practicing awareness of negative thoughts you may have about yourself throughout the day. Whenever a destructive thought arises, challenge it by focusing on something you appreciate about yourself, whether it’s your sharp wit, your captivating smile, or your integrity. There are many other ways you can boost your self-confidence, too, such as nurturing yourself, serving others, and writing positive affirmations.
Surround yourself with positivity. Choose the company you keep wisely. You don’t have the ability to change other people and what they focus on but you can decide which relationships you want to be invested in. Consciously surround yourself with people who aren’t caught up in perfecting their bodies. Spend time with those who appreciate their unique attributes and yours.
Become a critical viewer of the media. Media messages about body shape and size affect the way we feel about ourselves and our bodies only if we let them. Don’t accept that the images you see are the ideals you should try to attain. It’s important to remember that media images and messages are constructions, not reflections of reality.
Value yourself and others based on talents, accomplishments, and character. Turn off the voices in your head that tell you that a person’s weight is an indicator of their value as a person. Get rid of the notion that a particular weight or body size will automatically lead to happiness and fulfillment. Celebrate your unique shape and size and embrace the natural diversity of human bodies.
Spring can be a challenging time for anyone struggling with poor body image. Take this opportunity to strengthen yourself, go against the grain, and reject the body images that are often promoted in our culture. Celebrate your individuality and rejoice in the knowledge that you are precious and valuable just the way you are.
By Andrew Walen, LCSW-C, LICSW, CEDS, Founder, Executive Director at The Body Image Therapy Center.