The Center for Eating Disorders Blog

Turning a Body Positive Summer into a Body Positive Year

 

Turning a Body Positive Summer into a Body Positive Year(2)


We spent the summer talking about several steps you can take to turn body dissatisfaction into body acceptance. We also presented some of the very important reasons why someone might be motivated to embark on such a task. The bottom line: negative body image can negatively impact all other areas of life – career, academics, physical health, social interaction and intimate relationships. As many as 67% of women ages 15-64 withdraw from life-engaging activities because they feel badly about their bodies. And women are not alone in the struggle; Thirteen percent of college-aged men say their appearance is traumatic or difficult to handle as well.As we head into the fall, its important to remember that negative body image doesn’t just go away for most people simply because the beach vacations and relentless bikini body advertisements subside. As much as we wish that was the case, we know body image is much more than a seasonal hazard.

Body insecurity will follow young boys and girls into middle school classrooms where they may stop raising their hands or engaging in class discussion to avoid drawing attention to their appearance.

Body insecurity will follow young adults onto college campuses around the country where it, paired with genetic risk factors like perfectionism and anxiety, plus fear of the Freshman 15, may provide fuel for the development of an eating disorder.

Body insecurity will follow the new mom to the play date where she will silently compare and scrutinize her body. She’ll be sold a thousand different ways to get her pre-baby body back.


Body insecurity will follow the quiet colleague home from work each night.  He refuses to hang out with friends or start dating until he finally “bulks up” again.

These may be the realities of day-to-day life with body dissatisfaction but they don’t have to be the end of the story. In addition to the 3 Steps we laid out during the #bodypositivesummer campaign, here are a few guidelines to help boost body image in any season.

1. Don’t postpone important events or fun life goals for appearance or weight-related reasons. Putting off a special vacation, not applying for your dream job or not going on a date until you lose XX lbs. is a recipe for missed opportunities and delayed happiness. Saying you’ll get around to something in few months can quickly turn into a few years, or even decades. If you’ve been waiting to live life fully because you’re unhappy with your body, consider taking one small step today towards whatever it is you’ve been putting off. Research flights, update your resume or call an old friend.

2. Stop Fat Chat.  When among friends or in social settings commit to steering the conversation away from appearance-based judgments and into more positive territory.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a report urging pediatricians and parents to stop focusing on weight, or even mentioning weight, during discussions with children and teens. The reason?  Focusing on weight backfires, often leading to unhealthy behaviors that are associated with both obesity and eating disorders. The same is true for adults. Stop focusing on your weight as the golden marker of health and you may actually find it’s easier and/or more fulfilling to engage in healthful behaviors.

3. Cleanse your social media feed. Disconnect from the negativity, surround yourself with positive, healthy, and uplifting social media accounts.  If you’re online quite a bit, there is no reason to allow Instagram followers who consistently engage in fat talk or body criticism to cloud your view of yourself. You have every right to unfollow Twitter users that promote weight loss or diet products, even if they are close friends or family members. Remember, you are the curator of your accounts; use that power to cultivate a body positive presence for yourself online.

4. Last but definitely not least…ASK FOR HELP.  Negative body image can be a risk factor in the development of eating disorders or may trigger relapse while in recovery from one. If you’re having a lot of negative body image thoughts throughout the day or they’re impacting your behaviors around food and weight it might be time to seek support. Specific evidence-based therapies like Cognitive Behavior Therapy can be effective in addressing body dissatisfaction. It can help to tell a trusted friend, spouse, or parent that you’re struggling and ask them to support you in getting connected to a counselor or therapist who is trained in these specific techniques.

Not sure where to turn?  You can complete a confidential online self-assessment here or call (410) 938-5252 for more information.

Visit eatingdisorder.org for additional resources.   

 

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Body Comparison: An Olympic Sport?


When cheering on the elite athletes at the Rio Olympics and in other high-profile sporting events, it can be easy to lose perspective and you may find yourself comparing your physical body to those at the peak of their sport careers. Lost in these comparisons, we too often become self-critical and forget the long journeys, support communities, financial resources, sacrifices and sheer hard work that comes with being an Olympic athlete.

Olympic bodiesEngaging in body comparison not only hurts you but serves to fuel the overall toxic culture of body shaming. After all, even Olympic athletes are subject to mean-spirited remarks about their appearance. In the most recent summer games, Ethiopian swimmer Nobel Kiros Habte faced some harsh comments for not matching the “look” of his peers, as did Mexican gymnast Alexa Moreno. Many others have faced similar backlash through the years.
Just as athletes are not immune from body shaming, it’s important to remember the “perfect” athletic body does not equate to perfect health. Making snap judgments about someone’s fitness or health based on their appearance is misleading – it’s rarely possible to tell, for example, if someone has an eating disorder just by looking at them. Athletes are not immune to eating disorders or struggles with body image. American cyclist and two-time national champion Mara Abbott has been open about her experience with anorexia. In a candid column for a cycling blog, she reflected on how it affected her performance: “Personally, having taking a hiatus from sport in 2012 due to an eating disorder, I can attest that my thinnest was definitely not my strongest. I really mean that. Please read that sentence more than once.”

As we gather around the television with our friends and families to celebrate athletic achievement, we can support the competitors, ourselves and each other by focusing less on physical appearance and more on the hard work and powerful accomplishments of these world-class athletes.  After all, Olympic bodies can be powerful, graceful, tough and resilient but they are also diverse.  From gymnastics to archery, swimming to shot put, let’s allow our athletes to be inspirations, not because of or in spite of their looks but for the attitude and spirit they project in aiming for their goals.  Let’s enjoy watching all sporting events – whether it’s a World Cup game or a pee wee soccer league – from a place of body appreciation and as part of a body positive summer.

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You might also be interested in reading:

Faking It: Sunless Tanning and the Risks You May Not Have Considered

Faking It_ SunlessTanning_SORENSENSkin cancer is among the most common forms of cancer in the United States. In fact, over the past three decades, there have been more cases of skin cancer than all other forms of cancers combined.1  Furthermore, a 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association-Dermatology estimated that more than 400,000 cases of skin cancer each year in the United States may be the result of indoor tanning, with approximately 6,000 of these cases being melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.2

Most people are aware of these risks. Warnings of cancer and other related health problems are broadcast widely, and reminders to slather on sunscreen can be heard from all corners of our pools and beaches. At the same time though, the pressure to acquire the media’s ideal body is strong, and this culturally defined ideal frequently includes obtaining a “luxurious summer glow” or becoming a “bronzed beauty”. For some, the perceived benefits of tanning via sun exposure, or tanning bed, seemingly outweigh those severe health risks and they continue tanning despite the danger. In research on UV exposure, some excessive tanning behavior has even been described as an addiction. Many other people, including 1 in 10 adolescents, opt for what is promoted as the safer option – sunless tanning.

Body image avoidanceSunless tanning products (creams, foams, sprays, stains, etc.) are heavily promoted as a viable option for someone looking to achieve a summer glow without assuming the health risks of tanning beds or sun exposure. But is it completely without risk? If we know UV exposure is unhealthy, then why are we spending time and money trying to fake it? It’s a million dollar question with a million dollar answer, or more accurately, a $763 million answer; that’s how much the fast-growing sunless tanning industry was worth in 2014.

Like the bikini body, the elusive summer glow represents an unfair and unrealistic expectation that can contribute to an individuals’ experience of body dissatisfaction. Additionally, trying to change skin color with the use of sunless tanning products can be viewed as a form of body image avoidance. An inability to achieve the tan ideal, or the time and mental resources spent focused on one’s perceived inadequacies, simply magnify negative feelings towards the body.  Thus, sunless tanner may help dodge the bullet, so to speak, by avoiding UV rays, but it is not completely harmless. Body dissatisfaction, body image avoidance, and low self-esteem are some of the most well documented risk factors in the development and presentation of eating disorders.  Furthermore, studies have found links between general tanning behaviors and unhealthy weight control practices. Consider the following associations:

  • Steroid use and unhealthy weight loss strategies were 4x and 2.5x more likely, respectively, among high school males who used indoor tanning, compared to their non-tanning counterparts.3
  • Boys who tan were more likely to be trying to lose or gain weight than non-tanners.4
  • Female students who engaged in indoor tanning were also more likely to engage in unhealthy weight control practices.5
  • A belief that a tan improves appearance is one of the strongest predictors of UV exposure behaviors.6

We know that body dissatisfaction can drive both tanning and unhealthy weight control behaviors. These correlations underscore the point that, despite a lower skin cancer risk, promoting sunless tanning may still be problematic, especially in individuals who struggle or have struggled with body image. Promoting or validating the quest for a tan body has the potential to reinforce negative body image thoughts and perpetuate appearance related obsessions.

It is important to keep in mind that any beauty ideal is carefully crafted and enforced by #bodypositivesummer_TANNINGan industry that profits from the body dissatisfaction it’s “standards” create. Tanning is no different. In fact, it’s important to point out that the tan ideal is just one way that westernized beauty ideals promote insecurity or dissatisfaction across the spectrum of skin colors. The media’s pressure on Caucasian women to be tan occurs concurrently with tactics like whitewashing and digitally lightening the skin (and hair) of women of color in prominent advertisements. Writers at Beauty Redefined unpack the cultural implications of those practices in the post: Beauty Whitewashed: How white ideals exclude women of color.

By creating the narrowest possible margin for beauty, the media essentially convinces everyone their skin is either too light, too dark or some other shade of inadequate. As a result, people who internalize the cultural definitions of beauty feel ‘required’ to purchase some sort of product or service to achieve the ideal, or risk being invisible. As Director Elena Rossini reveals in her masterful documentary The Illusionists, the very same company that promotes tanning products in the U.S., profits off of skin-whitening creams in India.

Media influencing what we perceive as beauty is not exactly a new conversation, but sometimes these ideals become so much a cultural norm that we cease to question them. Just think how often the phrase “you look so tan!” is thrown around as a compliment or “I’m so pale” is delivered as a self-criticism.  Great diversity of skills, skin colors, body shapes and sizes is a natural and healthy part of life. Any group who tries to change that, especially for profit, should be met with critical speculation. Just as we attempt to challenge the thin ideal, we should seek to debunk tanning myths and push back against unrealistic or unhealthy expectations. One way to do that is by helping to build families and peer groups that prioritize body positivity and body acceptance.

As individuals, we can push back by refusing to buy-in to a heavily marketed tanning industry that includes outdoor tanning, indoor tanning or pre-packaged tanning. Perhaps the money, time, and mental resources devoted to the quest for a perfect summer glow could be better used elsewhere?

Find out just how much money you could save by expanding the infographic on the right.  Then head on over to Twitter or Instagram to tell us what you would do with your savings and how you intend to finish out your #bodypositivesummer free from the grip of body dissatisfaction.

 

About the Author:
t_sorenson_headshotTaylor Sorensen is a rising senior at Trinity College in Hartford, CT where she is majoring in Neuroscience.  At Trinity, Taylor is involved in research focusing on the neuronal underpinnings of Autism Spectrum Disorder.  She joined The Center for Eating Disorders as a summer intern in both the Research and Community Outreach Departments.


 

References:
  1. Stern, RS. Prevalence of a history of skin cancer in 2007: results of an incidence-based model. Arch Dermatol 2010; 146(3):279-282.
  2.  Wehner, MR. International prevalence of indoor tanning: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Dermatol. 2014 Apr;150(4):390-400. doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2013.6896.
  3. Miyamoto J, Berkowitz Z, Jones SE, Saraiya M. Indoor tanning device use among male high school students in the United States. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2012;50:308–310. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2011.08.007. [PubMed]
  4. Demko CA, Borawski EA, Debanne SM, Cooper KD, Stange KC. Use of indoor tanning facilities by white adolescents in the United States. Archives of Pediatriac and Adolescent Medicine. 2003;157:854–860. doi:10.1001/archpedi.157.9.854. [PubMed]
  5. Guy, GP. Et al. Indoor Tanning Among High School Students in the United states, 2009 and 2011. JAMA Dermatol. 2014 May; 150(5):501-511.
  6. Pagoto, SL, Hillhouse, J.Not All Tanners Are Created Equal: Implications of Tanning Subtypes for Skin Cancer Prevention. Arch Dermatol. 2008 Nov; 144(11): 1505–1508.

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Body Positive Summer Step 3: Set Yourself Up for Success

#bodypositivesummer_NOURISH


No one can be 100% body-positive all the time.  The best way to bounce back quickly from body image struggles is to be prepared for them.  When you’re having a good day, take the time to make a list of 5 or 6 traits that you love about yourself, or reasons you are grateful for your body.

Ex) “I am so happy my strong arms allow me to hug my nieces and nephews.

Unsurprisingly, it’s usually extra hard to recall these positive things in the moment you need them most so creating the list in advance is important.  Keeping the list on a note card in your purse, or even in a text message on your phone, makes it accessible when you need a little body image boost.

When you’re making the list, you may have negative body image thoughts pop into your head.  That’s okay, notice the thought and replace it with a positive alternative.  If it’s difficult to come up with your positive list, try thinking about it from the perspective of your friends, your kids or even your pets. They all love you for who you are and how you interact with them, not what you look like or how much you weigh.

Ex) “I am reliable and I show up everyday for my loved ones.” or “My body allows me to have fun with my friends.”

In addition to a list of things you value about yourself, a #bodypositivesummer mantra can help to center you before heading into challenging situations. For example, if you know you struggle with body anxiety during trips to the beach or pool, add little notes of inspiration or positive quotes to the items in your beach bag that you’ll be using throughout the day like a water bottle, camera or sunglasses case.

You can make-up your own mantras or print out the following 6 Statements to Support a #bodypositivesummer below.

#bodypositivesummer_6statementsRead more about the Body Positive Summer Campaign here.

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Self-Care Resources & Coping with Mass Tragedy


Daily self-care is extremely important for individuals with existing physical and mental health diagnoses including eating disorders, depression, anxiety, PTSD and bipolar disorder. It can be even more crucial during times of high stress, uncertainty or exposure to traumatic events. Even indirect, or secondhand exposure, to violence or disasters can have detrimental effects on one’s mental health. Research conducted by Dr. Pam Ramsden in 2015 found that “viewing violent news events via social media can cause people to experience symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”

In the wake of several national and international acts of violence over the past month, most recently the attack in Nice, France, it’s important to assess your own self-care practices and media use and to seek additional help when needed.

Below is a list of resources we’ve compiled that may help you and your loved ones cope in the aftermath of such tragedies.

 

RESOURCES FOR ADULTS:

RESOURCES TO HELP CHILDREN:

If you are experiencing intense or prolonged stress in the wake of violence you’ve experienced firsthand or via exposure through news outlets and social media please do not hesitate to seek help. Speak with a therapist if you have one. You can also seek more immediate assistance via the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990. 

A more comprehensive list of hotlines and articles is available in this article by Skyler Jackson, MS of The University of Maryland: 100+ Resources for the Aftermath of the Orlando Mass Shooting Tragedy.


 

"Look for the helpers." - Fred Rogers

 

 

 

 

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Body Positive Summer Step 2: Stop Comparing. Start Contrasting.


_What you focus on grows. What you think about expands._How much time do you spend thinking about what’s wrong with your body, how it could look “better” or how it doesn’t look like that other person’s body? How often do you compare your body to the bodies of  friends, celebrities or strangers?

The more time you spend looking for what is imperfect or “wrong” with your body, the more likely you will be to find answers that justify the question. It’s kind of like someone searching  for Bigfoot. If you invest a lot of time reading about Bigfoot and watching Bigfoot documentaries, when you head into the forest looking for Bigfoot then every rustle of leaves, flash of furry wildlife or unidentifiable footprint becomes a possible Bigfoot sighting in your mind.  Likewise, if you head into each day comparing your body to an established “ideal” than the list of things you are unsatisfied with will grow and all the evidence will point to your body not being good enough.

Stop comparing. Start contrasting.
Alternatively, set the intention to spend more time thinking about the unique qualities, characteristics and skills that you possess.  In doing so, you will be more likely to take note of the things that set you apart in a positive way.  Part of doing this requires you start with #bodypositivesummer Step 1 to identify and remove external influences that promote  harmful body comparisons.

Then, remind yourself and others that what makes you beautiful is your individuality. Maybe you’re a science whiz or have striking green eyes. Perhaps you’re great with kids or have an artistic flare? Whatever it is, take time each day to honor what you like about your body as well as your overall strengths and personal interests or passions. If you are someone who has struggled with an eating disorder or negative body image for a long time, it might feel like food/diets and weight obsession are your passion. If that’s the case, this summer would be a great time to challenge your norm by exploring new interests and shifting focus.

Have great balance? Sign up for a surfing lesson.
Feel connected to nature?  Join a hiking group.
Skilled writer? Start a science blog.
Have extra time and love? Adopt or foster a new pet.
Got a green thumb? Start a neighborhood herb garden.
Math superstar?  Volunteer to tutor kids over the summer.

Re-read all of your favorite books. Organize a beach volleyball game. Learn to knit. The #bodypositivesummer_TOPICSpossibilities and topics are endless really.

If you feel like you don’t know what your interests are, the key is trying lots of different activities until you find one that sparks your enthusiasm. Good topics and activities are ones that help distance you from eating disorder thoughts, distract you from body comparisons and create a space in which you can be grateful for the body you have right now.

If someone asked you what you WANT to spend your summer thinking about, you probably wouldn’t say “all the things I dislike about my body”, right?  So ask yourself this very question. Imagine your brain is a container and you can choose to fill it with whatever you want over the coming months. Tell us your answers on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #bodypositivesummer.

Not on social media? Email your responses directly to kclemmer@sheppardpratt.org and they’ll be compiled to help inspire others.


Find more about the #bodypositivesummer series in the following posts:

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Putting the Mind in Mindfulness

Mindfulness has received a lot of attention in the past decade for its beneficial effect on stress reduction, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. But, is there a connection between mindfulness and the brain? Read on for what research has to say about the connection.Putting the Mind in Mindfulness

Mindfulness can be described in a variety of ways including, but not limited to, a state of mind or state of being. It has been described as an awareness of, and nonjudgmental attention on, immediate experiences, both internally and externally (4). This can be done not only as part of meditative practice, but also as a general mindset applied during daily activities. Mindfulness is a practice of responding to a myriad of stimuli that cross one’s attention, including thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations, with openness and acceptance (2, 4). 

A primary means in which individuals practice mindfulness is through meditation. Contrary to popular opinion, meditation is not clearing the mind but rather paying attention to whatever crosses one’s mind as it occurs without judgment. Although meditation is an important aspect of Eastern religions, it doesn’t have to be practiced in conjunction with a particular set of beliefs.  Mindfulness has also been applied in therapeutic settings for treatment of anxiety, depression, and eating disorders (1).  The positive effects of mindfulness have long been reported firsthand by those who practice it, however, now researchers are also learning more about the intricate changes in the brain that occur to produce these benefits.  

Mindfulness meditation has demonstrated positive effects on several functions in the brain such as attention, body awareness, and emotion regulation. 

  • Attention:  The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is responsible for sustaining focused attention on objects while disregarding distractions. Neuroimaging has shown positive effects of long term meditative practice including both increased activity in the ACC as well as increased size which signifies more connections and better regulation of attention (1,3).
  • Body Awareness: The insula is responsible for awareness of bodily sensations. This area has been researched heavily for its association with eating disorders. Research has found both changes in function and structure of these related areas, specifically greater size and density of grey matter, for people engaged in regular meditation practice (1- 4). Benefits include increased awareness of, and accuracy of, bodily sensations.
  • Emotional Awareness: Increased body awareness also has important implications for emotional awareness, which is necessary to be able to regulate emotions and increase empathy (3, 4)
  • Emotion Regulation: Mindfulness also has direct effect on the prefrontal cortex (PFC) which is responsible for emotional regulation. This is executed by “turning down” the region responsible for emotional processing and reactivity and “turning up” the area responsible for emotion regulation. This results in enhanced control over emotions (3).

Long term practitioners of mindful meditation show the greatest changes in brain structures but short term practice can also exhibit some of these enhancements (1, 4). 

4 quick tips to help you benefit from mindfulness:

  1. Start small.  Incorporate just a few minutes of mindfulness into your daily routine.
  2. Practice.   Complete a 1 minute mindfulness exercise by focusing on your breathing while keeping your eyes open. Check your mind wandering and focus attention back on your breath as needed. Try to keep your breathing at a normal pace.
  3. Be mindful anywhere.  You don’t need a fancy meditation room or a totally quiet space.  Just sit back wherever you are and focus your attention on an object nearby. Observe it, don’t study it or think about it, just observe it for what it is. Try to do this for a few minutes at a time.
  4. Modernize your mindfulness.  You can download mindfulness apps on your phone or tablet for daily reminders and other exercises.  Some good options include Relax Melodies, Omvana, and Headspace. (Though some do have fees that may apply).

 

Lache WILKINS


This post was written by Laché Wilkins, Research Assistant at The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt

References
  1. Chiesa, A., & Serretti, A. (2010). A systematic review of neurobiological and clinical features of mindfulness meditations. Psychological Medicine, 40, 1239-1252. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0033291709991747.
  2. Farb, N. S., Segal, Z. V., & Anderson, A. K. (2013). Minfulness meditation training training alters cortical representations of interoceptive attention. SCAN, 8, 15-26. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/scan/nss066.
  3. Holzel, B. K., Lazar, S. W., Gard, T., Schuman-Olivier, Z., Vago, D. R., & Ott, U. (2011). How mindfulness meditation work? Proposing mechanisms of action from a conceptual and neural perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6, 537-559. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1745691611419671.
  4. Manuello, J., Vercelli, U., Nani, A., Costa, T., & Cauda, F. (2016). Mindfulness meditation and consciousness: An integrative neuroscientific perspective. Consciousness and Cognition, 40, 67-78. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2015.12.005

 

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Body Positive Summer STEP 1: Stop critiquing your body. Start critiquing the thin ideal.


The myth that the size or shape of your body determines what kind of swimsuit you can wear or how much fun you’re allowed to have is entrenched in a culture that profits off of our insecurities. These insecurities may be related to weight or size but also extend to just about every aspect of our bodies – skin, body hair, nails and refuse to miss out on this season of lifemore.  Businesses know that anxious, sad or insecure individuals are better consumers.1  In other words, a person who feels badly about herself is likely to pay more for products she thinks may help her feel, look or be better. The farther she experiences herself to be from the culture’s thin ideal, the greater risk for body dissatisfaction.

The reality is that the answer to all of life’s struggles are not solved by dropping a pant size and cannot be found inside a tanning bed or by embarking on a juice cleanse. Marketers know that the key to their success lies not in creating a product that actually “works” but by keeping people dissatisfied and, thus, poised to keep paying for each new product or weight loss gimmick that comes along next.

Sadly, a focus on weight and appearance is introduced and reinforced quite early.  Recently, Discovery Girls Magazine, aimed at 8-12 year old kids, ran an article suggesting girls choose bathing suits based on “body type” and how they might look in their suit (as opposed to, perhaps, the child’s color and pattern preferences or simply, how comfortable the suit is while playing). Its unfortunate foreshadowing in a culture that tells adults a “bikini body” is something we must attain before engaging in life at the pool on a hot summer day. This is a culture that wants us to prioritize how we appear to others above our own need for comfort or functionality, and in many cases above health or well-being.

So what can we do?

  • Begin to pay conscious attention to the advertisements you are exposed to as the summer heats up. This includes ads on social media, magazine headlines and commercials during your favorite TV show.  But it also includes messages you might hear directly from friends, coaches or via favorite brands on Instagram. Take note of fat talk and body shaming messages that might usually seep into your self-evaluation without you even noticing.  For example, some television shows or swimsuit catalogs simply erase the natural diversity of bodies by choosing models or actors who all look quite similar (or have been photoshopped to appear that way).  As you create an awareness of this flow of information you can begin to consciously object to it AND celebrate the organizations and companies who actually do a good job of representing real and diverse bodies.
  • Each time you find yourself directing negative attention to your body, flip the switch and look outward. Pay attention to whether there are images and messages surrounding you that might be contributing to your feeling badly about yourself or your body. If you notice them, take some sort of opposite action. Remove them (unsubscribe, physically thrown them away, etc.) or challenge them. It could be as simple as blocking a particular kind of ad on your Facebook newsfeed, writing a letter to a magazine editor, or just venting to a friend about a misleading diet advertisement.

Even small acts can be empowering. Once your start, you may be surprised to see who responds or joins you in your efforts.  Self-acceptance and body acceptance may not be profitable for the beauty industries but you and your summer stand to benefit a great deal from these acts.

 

 

Need a little inspiration? Check out this great video from MTV’s Laci Green about the bikini body. Then, let others know how you are removing or challenging the negative or body shaming messages in your life using the #bodypositivesummer hashtag on Twitter or Instagram

Read more #bodypositivesummer posts here:

 

References

1. Cryder CE1, Lerner JS, Gross JJ, Dahl RE. (2008) Misery is not miserly: sad and self-focused individuals spend more. Psychol Sci. Jun;19(6):525-30. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18578840

 

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From Collegiate Athlete to Pregnant Mom, ERIN MANDRAS talks summer body image pressures {Guest Post}

 


mandrassoccer2 Erin Mandras Erin Chooses body positivity

 

 

 


I went to pick a magazine off the rack the other day at the store, and, just like most people, I am automatically drawn to the headlines highlighted in big, bold capital letters on the front covers.

“Flat Abs, Lean Legs, Firm Butt.”
“Drop XX lbs. Fast.”
“Flat Belly Now!”
“Drop A Jeans Size In XX Days.”
“Sexy Abs Fast.”

You get the point. It is only natural for me, or anyone, to assume that these characteristics are being promoted because they depict beauty, and that sexy is defined as thin, lean, flat, and firm. As we are right in the thick of summer season, and attaining a “bikini body” is at the forefront of peoples’ minds, I picked up one of the magazines and skimmed through it. Thankfully, those magazine headlines don’t effect me in the same way they once did.

I suffered from an eating disorder at the age of twenty. My desire to appear attractive, and be physically fit fully dominated my ability to focus on being healthy. My initial attempt at losing “a few pounds” turned into an obsession with food restriction and excessive exercise. And, it all began in the summertime when I knew I would be in a swimsuit with my friends, and my body was more exposed than in the winter season. Little did I know that my drive to be thin and sexy would lead me down a deep, dark path of depression and anxiety.

I am an athlete. I have always been active and competitive in sports, particularly soccer. Short in height, I needed to have strength in my upper and lower body to be successful. At the time of my eating disorder, however, I lacked size, power, and personality–all attributes that had contributed to my successes on the field. I quickly realized these qualities I once possessed had dissipated and what I thought was making me better, sexier and more confident was actually making me weaker and more insecure.

Fast forward thirteen years.

I am now 23-weeks pregnant with my third child, and summer has begun once again. My body is larger than it has ever been in my whole life.  But so is my heart. I have two little Erin Mandras hits the beach with her kidsboys, who love to go swimming at our neighborhood pool. It is in this environment that I am forced to make a decision: embrace my features and my body, and enjoy myself and my children; or turn back to my eating disorder and disengage from life and from my family.

Love, family, and happiness now far outweigh a desire to be a certain body type. And, for me, who is not happy, joyful, or lively when I am dieting or focusing on dissatisfaction with my body, I choose to live life.

Life is too short to focus solely on my appearance or socially constructed beauty ideals. I much prefer to enjoy myself, exercise healthily, and concentrate on being the best person, mom, wife, daughter, and friend I can be. That is far sexier than any number on the scale or what I look like in a bikini.

 

Erin Mandras is a blogger and inspirational speaker at Kick The Scale.  She’s also a youth soccer coach in the Baltimore, MD area, and cares for her two young kids (Levi, 4 1/2 and Austin, 2 1/2). Prior to these roles, Erin was a college soccer coach at Michigan State University, Towson University, and Loyola University Maryland, and a former women’s soccer player at Michigan State University. She was born and raised in West Bloomfield, MI, is now married to her wonderful husband, Jon Mandras, and resides in Baltimore.   


Wondering how can you start to build a body positive summer for yourself and the people you care about?

Put the magazines down.  Better yet, don’t even pick them up. Create your own headlines.

Local Woman chooses body positivity!What do you want your summer headline to be?

Share with us on Twitter using the hashtag #bodypositivesummer and find out more about the campaign here.

 

 

 

 

 

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