Summer Feeling Good In Your Body
By Alicia Putinski
As we anticipate the arrival of summer, something that can become thought consuming, is the idea of being beach body ready.
Bodies are meant to come in all shapes and sizes. The diet industry tries to persuade us that there is a certain body type to strive for to be beach body ready, and they push for it to be accomplished in a short period of time. Fitness advertising displays photos of bodybuilders in a physique that even they don't sustain. As such, society obtains a very warped perception of body image. An unsustainable body isn't a healthy body.
In my own experience, this type of thinking lead me to develop a restrictive eating disorder. I battled orthorexia for a long time because I was obsessed with becoming unrealistically lean. This eating disorder is very common amongst athletes and avid gym goers.
On the other side of my eating disorder, I developed acceptance and the desire to love my body. I now help other athletes and fitness enthusiasts improve their body image as a body confidence and emotional eating coach. I'd like to share some tips I provide to my clients about loving our bodies unconditionally.
Loving our bodies goes much deeper than looking in the mirror and admiring our reflection. Body love exists in the actions in which we take to honour, nourish and care for our bodies. These actions begin with our thoughts, feelings and emotions.
I often collaborate with clients to brainstorm what loving our bodies this way looks like in practice. Often we come up with answers such as:
- Eating when we are hungry because our bodies deserve nourishment. "Healthy, not hungry" is an affirmation we can say to ourselves
- Exercising reasonably in ways that we enjoy, while also enjoying our down time. Fitspo says things like "team no days off" while I say "never skip your rest days". A beautiful self love statement you can use is "I exercise because I love my body, not because I want to punish it". For those recovering from restrictive eating disorders there may be a period of time exercise is removed and that's a beautiful part of the process of regaining health
- Consume foods that we enjoy. Despite what popular diet trends are telling us about certain foods, isn't it refreshing to create a lifestyle where our food is enjoyable? When we enjoy our meals and snacks, we don't feel deprived. Binge eating is often a side effect of restrictive eating, whereas balance will carry us through life sustainably
- Mindful eating. When we eat mindfully we can enjoy the experience rather than focusing anxiety toward the food. When we socialize for example, food isn't the event, it is simply part of the event. When we eat, we are blessed with the opportunity to take our time, admire our surroundings and feel thankful for our nourishment
- Focusing on what our bodies provide us with and what they are capable of. Rather than viewing our bodies as objects, we can develop a deep mind-body connection to them and feel grateful for what they can do
- Reframing our goals. When the primary focus is appearance, we miss out on enjoyment, functioning well and performing well. We can develop new health goals such as wanting to feel good, move well, sleep well, and becoming stronger
An exercise I recommend to those struggling with beach body image is to journal about their favourite aspects of summer in terms of feelings. We can really dive into small details that create great feelings such as the smell of the beach, the feeling we have when we put on our favourite flowy summer dress, or the way the sun feels against our skin. Note that we are recalling familiar comforting feelings that are in no relation to our appearance. From here, we can identify the emotions that these feelings create for us. The smell of the beach might make you feel excited, the feeling of wearing that dress might give you a sense of freedom, the sun against your skin might make you feel happy and safe. Whatever your good summer feelings and emotions are, highlight them. In real life practice after journaling, I ask others to become more mindful of their good summer feelings and the emotions surrounding them in the present moment. Perhaps they will discover new ones along the way too.
Always remember, we must feel to heal. Summer is a wonderful time to focus on good feelings. One more suggestion I have is to find your favourite summer song. Something that brings forth feelings of nostalgia and bliss, and listen to it as you gear yourself up for a summer that is focused around feeling good in your body.
Alicia Putinski is an orthorexia-recovered life coach and the founder of Weightless Body Confidence Coaching. She is also a personal trainer specializing in strength and functional movement.