Summer is almost here. Time for fun in the sun!
But not all of us are rejoicing. Many women I know and work with are experiencing bathing suit anxiety. They feel incredibly self-conscious about their bodies regardless of their size or shape.
A survey of over 4,000 O, The Oprah Magazine readers found: 43% of women missed out on going to the pool or beach because they didn’t like their appearance! That’s right 4 out of 10 of us are skipping summer fun, denying ourselves pleasure because of negative body image.
If you’re part of that 43%, or if you just want to boost your body confidence (and who doesn’t?) so you can feel beautiful in that bikini or tankini don’t worry. You still have time to get yourself in shape for summer, and you don’t have to go on a juice cleanse or grapefruit diet, pop dangerous “fat-busting” supplements or beat your body into submission with the latest get ripped fitness routine.
Here’s the secret to feeling great this summer: Stop focusing on changing your body, and start focusing on changing your body image (how you perceive your appearance). Swap the body shame for self-compassion and self confidence. It really does work.
For most of my life I had negative body image. No matter how little I ate, how thin I got, or how much I worked out my body never looked good enough to me. Ironically, I was a dietitian fitness coach and transformational life coach, stuck in a body perfection trap, trying to help other women lose weight and feel great while I didn’t feel very good about my body and my self.
Fortunately, I started fostering self-compassion – learning to treat myself and my body with kindness rather than judgement. I ditched my inner critic, eased up on working out and traded dieting for intuitive eating. It’s taken a few years, but I’m happy to report that loving myself deeply completely eradicated my negative body image.
In my work and research with women who struggle with negative body image and weight, I’ve developed effective techniques that work and FAST. Follow my 10 easy body confidence tips starting right now and you’ll feel better this summer about your body, your self and the beach.
1. Smash Your Scale: Don’t let some number determine how you see, feel about and value yourself. The best way to improve your body image is to accept and take care of your body.
2. Practice radical self-care: The better you take care of yourself, the better you will feel about yourself. So take steps that make you feel healthy and happy. Eat plenty of fruits and veggies, drink loads of fresh water, sleep 7-8 hours per night, be grateful, smile, get a massage, take a nap, practice yoga, mediate, read, and engage in enjoyable activities that make you smile.
3. Move: Dance, walk, bike or hike. Choose a fun physical activity that you don’t do in front of a mirror. Besides the numerous physical and psychological benefits, research shows even a little exercise improves body image. Why? When you’re physically active you focus on what your body can do rather than what it looks like. Plus, your body generates endorphins natural chemicals that make you feel good.
4. Don’t diet: Dieting doesn’t work, stresses you out and is an attack on your body. Self-improvement efforts like dieting that are motivated by disgust and self-rejection reinforce the idea that there’s something wrong with your body. Instead of dieting eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full and nourish your body by consuming healthy foods — particularly more plant and unprocessed foods — that you enjoy. You’ll have more energy, fewer food cravings and a calmer, sharper mind.
5. Ditch the self-deprecation: Trade your negative self-talk — “I’m fat,” “I hate my body,” “My stomach is flabby” — for positive self-talk — “My body is perfect the way it is,” “I love my body,” “I’m beautiful inside and out” and “The people I care about love me.” To accentuate the positive, make a list of five positive words or short phrases, that describe YOU, not your body. Write them down on post-it notes and place the notes where you’ll see them — on your front door, your car steering wheel, the bathroom mirror or your refrigerator.
6. Stop complaining and start complementing. Carping about your body makes you feel crappy and doesn’t change a thing. It reinforces the idea that you and your body aren’t good enough. So instead of complaining, complement your body and start to eat better and exercise more.
7. Practice self-compassion. Treat yourself the way you would a good friend, with compassion. Replace the scream of self-criticism with the song of self-kindness. Research shows listening to Self-Compassion meditation podcasts, significantly improves body image. If you start to feel self-conscious, don’t judge your feelings. There’s nothing wrong with you or how you feel, so accept yourself and your emotions.
8. Visualize: Fantasize about having fun at the beach or pool. Use all your sense and recall how much fun you had splashing around as a kid. Stop judging yourself. Stop worrying. Be a kid again and have some fun. Enjoy life and all it has to offer. Let those good feelings saturate you, body and soul.
9. Do mirror work: One of the best ways to be truly comfortable wearing a bathing suit is to be comfortable with what you see in the mirror. Every morning look yourself in the eye and say: “Hello Gorgeous, life loves you.” Commit to doing it for a week and watch your self-image change.
10. Stop the comparison game. Rather than comparing yourself and your body to other women focus on you. Live your life! Set an intention to enjoy your summer, because you’re worth it. Stop caring about the opinions of others. (Most people are actually so self-absorbed that they are focused on themselves, not you.) Don’t let allow societal standards of impossible thinness to impact your life. Celebrate your body. Buy a suit you like that fits you now and dress it up with cute accessories that make you feel good.
Break out of your comfort zone. Love yourself and be proud of the skin you’re in. Start working now, so when summer arrives you’ll be able to trigger positive, emotions, thoughts and sensations that allow you to enjoy summer, and yourself, in all its warm, wonderful glory. You deserve a day at the beach… take it!
Need help changing your lifestyle and learning to love your body and yourself? I’ve been helping women feel good about their bodies and themselves for 20+ years, and I’d love to help you. Click HERE to schedule a complimentary Clarity Coaching session.
*Awesome* tips, Dr. Ellen!!! Especially the “just eat healthier — more fruits and vegetables” part!
I feel stupid talking to myself while looking in the mirror, though. Am I the only one? This advice is given often for self-help, but it just makes me feel foolish and stupid.
Thanks, Chris. Sometimes the feeling stupid arises because we have deep seated beliefs about ourselves that need to be uprooted/transformed so that the positive self-talk hits home. Does that make sense? Thanks for sharing.
Love it! My favourite part was the ‘no negative self talk’ that is the greatest advice! Great article!
Glad you liked it, Samantha. Thanks for sharing, Dr. Ellen