Summertime is (finally) here, and the warm temperatures call for shorts, tanks and swimsuits. If you love or like your body, no matter what it looks like, terrific. But if you don’t, baring more skin can produce body insecurities.
Over 91% of women report struggling with some aspect of their appearance. It makes sense when women compare their bodies to perfectionist images that less than 5% of women naturally possess. So that means most of our bodies don’t “measure up.” It’s a frustrating statistic to face when bodies are supposed to be diverse, as our uniqueness is what makes us human.
To address this reality, body positive messages such as “love your body, flaws and all” or “every body is a swimsuit body,” are wonderful, yet it’s understandable if you just can’t relate. Despite seeing progress with body diversity in women’s clothing brands, you’ll still be bombarded with “perfect” images in advertising because creating body insecurities sells — cellulite creams, anti-aging potions or quick- fix weight diets. It’s a multibillion-dollar business that’s not going anywhere.
Because of this unfortunate truth, it’s important to build your body image resilience muscle. To be clear, having a healthy body image isn’t about what your body looks like but how you think and feel about your own body.
So how can you make peace with your summer body?
Consider the practice of body neutrality.
What is body neutrality?
It’s establishing a neutral relationship with your body. It’s taking the focus off your body’s appearance and placing it on its purpose — as a vessel for living your life, a home for expressing your true self — your spirit, your soul, like you once did when you were a kid.
Kids are body neutral. They simply enjoy their bodies. They use their bodies as a vehicle to live and express themselves instead of defining them by appearance, that is, until they observe that our culture sadly values some bodies over others.
But you can return to valuing your body for its true purpose (and teach your kids, too). You can reap the benefits of having the healthy relationship with your body by practicing these three body neutral skills:
First, if you feel a little (or a lot) “meh” toward your body, shower yourself with self-compassion, the same kindness you would share with your best friend, daughter, or anyone who feels challenged, acknowledging that the lack of body diversity and perfectionist body ideals is one that most women face.
Practice getting out of your head and back into your body. Humans have a natural tendency toward the negative: What’s wrong with me? You can begin by noticing and naming these thoughts and actively choose to see your body as you once did as a child.
Yes, your brain can be retrained. Mindfulness skills such as meditation and breathing exercises are great practices to break the chain of negative body focus. While it may seem like a simple practice, neuroscience research proves that it works. So make a conscious effort to redirect your brain toward body purpose not appearance.
Next, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to take care of your body, no matter how it appears.
We often judge our own health and fitness by our body size. But that’s not true health. A thin body may be healthy or not; a larger body may be healthy or not.
Your health is multi-faceted and if you’re viewing it based solely on the number on the scale, you’re missing critical key factors that affect your wellbeing.
These factors, known as your “deep health,” include your physical health as well as your mental and emotional health, the quality of your connection with others, the environment that you live in and existential health: Are you living your life with purpose?
And what brings meaning to your life isn’t the pursuit of body “ideals.”
My intention in writing this article for my column in the Jackson Hole News and Guide has been to shine a light on our limited view on what it means to be healthy, and in particular, how it’s often confused with the “look” of health.
So that’s why my focus as a wellness coach isn’t about you achieving one magical number on the scale but instead on teaching you to build healthy behaviors with your food (not a diet), movement, sleep and stress management skills, while considering all the factors that influence your ability to take care of yourself. And ultimately success is allowing your body to be where it healthiest, instead of focusing on the “look” — the supposed aesthetic of health.
As Dr. Kara Mohr of “Girls Gone Strong” says, “We may have attachment to an ideal body weight, despite powerful evidence that our bodies may be stronger, fitter, faster, healthier at a different weight.”
And finally, I want to leave you with one final body neutral practice.
Feel good about yourself in whatever body you have. Wear summer clothes that suit your unique body. And if you’re not comfortable revealing certain body parts with shorts or sleeveless tops, it’s OK.
Wave the white flag. Our hearts our craving more — to be more than our bodies. Let your spirit, your soul, the real you shine through whatever body you were gifted. Be kind to your body. Be compassionate with yourself. Show yourself true self-care. Make peace with your body by practicing body neutrality this summer.
Want some support in caring for your summer body? Apply for coaching! I’d love be your guide. ♡ Tanya