I spent a solid 25 minutes sifting through my boxes of summer clothes when I saw that it was going to be seventy-something-degrees four days in a row this week. As soon as I opened the box of shorts, I noticed that I felt resentful at this week’s weather. It’s still only April; why is it almost 80 degrees anyway? Hopefully it’s cloudy, or –better yet – hopefully it rains, so it will be a *chilly* eighty degrees. 

The upcoming seasonal shift brings with it sunshine, warmer temperatures, more time outside, and the conditions to wear clothes that show more of our bodies than our winter wear. For someone who is struggling with body image and/or recovering from an eating disorder, summer can be really hard. There’s the social pressure that makes us feel like we *have* to look forward to summer when everyone is saying “how nice it is outside” followed by, “It’s about time. It needs to *stay this way* outside!” 

But when summer brings anxiety over the clash of internal messages we are hearing from and about ourselves along with the amped up diet culture ploys to “get your body ready for bikini season” or to “start [spin the wheel and land on one of 843 fad diets and insert here] and get results by summer!,” the bright summer sun can feel very much like a dark rain cloud that looms in the distance at first, but then approaches ever-so-slightly until it’s directly above you.

Addressing Conflicting Feelings About Your Summer Body Image

Even with an increased sense of awareness for these feelings and the impact the season has on my body image, the first signs of summer are always hard for me, and maybe it’s hard for you, too. So, let’s explore how we can apply the Health at Every Size (HAES) principles to our summer mindsets to help us reclaim center stage of our own lives this summer – to enjoy the weather, to say ‘yes’ to more activities and outings, and to think positively about food and our bodies [or, if that’s a stretch right now, maybe the goal is to simply think less about food and our bodies]. 

If you are new here, Health At Every Size is a weight inclusive movement and approach to health. HAES-aligned Providers [like us at Wildflower Therapy!] use these principles as a foundation to care for clients, so let’s take a look at how we can apply them to our own mindsets as a means to increase self-awareness and provide ourselves with some much needed TLC as we approach summer.

Applying The 5 HAES Principles to Our Summer Mindset

1. Weight Inclusivity

This first principle promotes accepting and respecting the inherent diversity of body shapes and sizes and rejecting the idealizing or pathologizing of specific weights.

  • Summer Mindset Application:
    • Remind yourself: Diet culture is going to try to tell me I need to shrink or change my body to *feel good* in it this summer. This is a lie. Research shows that body image is not dependent on body size. 
    • Tell yourself: I can accept and maybe even celebrate my body today, and I can accept and celebrate that others around me live in different-sized bodies. My body does not need to be changed to be worthy of a “summer outfit;” it is worthy of anything I want to wear as it is right now.

2. Health Enhancement

Support health policies that improve and equalize access to information and services, and personal practices that improve human well-being, including attention to individual physical, economic, social, spiritual, emotional, and other needs.

  • Summer Mindset Application:
    • Our health is the sum of so much more than just the shape of our bodies and the amount of space they take up. 
    • Consider choosing an area or two of your health to really invest in this summer [For example, social and emotional] that does not have to do with criticizing or changing your body!

3. Respectful Care

Acknowledge our biases, and work to end weight discrimination, weight stigma, and weight bias.

  • Summer Mindset Application:
    • Ask yourself: What weight biases do I have that may be leading to the dissonance I am feeling about summer? This could be a great time to get curious about and unpack those.
    • Ask yourself: What thoughts can I alter when I recognize that they are as a result of internalized biases rather than on truth? How might this impact how I view or think about my body this summer?

4. Eating for Well-being

This principle promotes flexible, individualized eating based on hunger, satiety, nutritional needs, and pleasure, rather than any externally regulated eating plan focused on weight control.

  • Summer Mindset Application:
    • Food is not fuel at best, and the enemy at worst. Food is a source of connection, joy, creativity, and there are so many ways to tap into each of these this summer.
    • With summer being a time where many opt to be more social and active, consider finding a way to connect with others around you in a way that involves or is in the presence of food.
    • Question to help address summer food fears: Would I still fear or avoid this food if eating it had no impact or perceived impact on the size or shape of my body? Try to get the root of any lingering food fears and remember to eat for your holistic well-being, which includes much more than just your hunger and nutritional needs.

5. Joyful Movement

The fifth principle encourages people of all sizes, abilities, and interests to engage in enjoyable movement, to the degree that they choose.

  • Summer Mindset Application:
    • Ask yourself: What is a form of movement I may really enjoy but have avoided because of fear or body image shame? Whether it’s walking, swimming, or getting on the playground and going down the slide with your kids, siblings, or nieces and nephews, if it brings you joy, don’t let anything (including your own thoughts!) stop you! 
    • Remind yourself: I am allowed to disengage from or avoid movement that feels obligatory or that I am tempted to do to alter my body size or shape as a result of internalized diet culture *summer body guidelines.”

Making Room For *You* This Summer

This summer, let’s demand that negative thoughts about body image, eating disorder thoughts, and food fears *exit stage left* in order to make room for you. You not your eating disorder, anxiety over your body image, or thoughts about “what you will look like in a bathing suit” – deserve to shine in the spotlight as the main character of what has the potential to be your best summer in a long time. A summer where you are the best version of you, for you.

By: Erika Muller, Assistant for Wildflower Therapy LLC

All images via Unsplash

How Can Eating Disorder Therapy in Philadelphia, PA Help You?

If you’re looking for someone to come alongside you to help you unpack and approach the the complex set of emotions you may experience while on your eating disorder recovery journey, our therapists in Pennsylvania are honored to help!  In fact, you can get to know a little bit more about them here and book a free consultation here.

Other Mental Health Services Provided by Wildflower Therapy, Philadelphia, PA

Life is a unique and sometimes messy journey for each of us; we all have our own individual battles to fight. Our therapists know there is no one-size-fits-all approach to any of life’s challenges and because of that, we offer many unique perspectives and approaches to help meet you where you are with our Philadelphia, PA Therapy services.

We offer services for eating disorder therapy, services for anxiety, and depression, and have practitioners who specialize in perinatal mental health , maternal mental health, therapy for college students and athletes. As well as LGBTQIA+ Affirming Therapy. As you can see, we have something to offer just about anyone in our Philadelphia, PA office. Reaching out is often the most difficult step you can take to improve your mental health. We look forward to partnering with you on this journey!