You’ve likely come across an article or email or social media post about getting “bikini ready.” Maybe you hear people talking about it at the gym, the grocery store, at work or even at home. It’s hard to avoid the frenzy when it tends to be all around us.
Even though I write a blog about building a positive body image, I find myself getting sucked in. Maybe you, too, find yourself joining the conversation, and minutes later, wondering what the heck happened. Minutes later you’re discussing diets or counting calories in your head. Minutes later you’re unsure if you want dessert. Minutes later you find yourself staring at your belly, and sighing.
You feel the anxiety rising up from your belly into your tight chest, and exploding throughout your body. Your brain is buzzing, and you feel annoyed or angry or overwhelmed. You start wondering if you, too, should be worried about your weight; if you, too, should be worried about what you look like in shorts or a swimsuit.
So what can you do?
These suggestions might help:
Pause; take several slow, deep breaths; and refocus on self-care.
Refocus on how you want to take care of yourself. Refocus on what truly supports you and your well-being. You can even ask yourself these questions in the moment: What can I do right now to support myself instead of focusing on looks and weight loss? What will help me to feel strong and healthy? What is best for my body, brain and soul? What honors my body and spirit? What really matters to me?
Tune it out.
Remember what you’d do when your parents were lecturing you about something? Or when you were sitting in class with summer break just a few weeks away? You’d tune out. You’d start thinking about something else. You’d start daydreaming.
Maybe you didn’t do it on purpose. But you just couldn’t help it. You had other stuff to think about. Do that whenever you hear talk about calories and diets and anything else that doesn’t serve you. Listening is a choice. And we can choose not to listen or absorb or internalize such information.
Acknowledge that this body image thing is hard.
It’s really hard to like your body and not participate in punishing workouts when others — your friends, family, exercise instructors, colleagues — are all focused on these very things. We’re human. We want to connect and find common ground. We’re easily influenced by our surroundings, what we see, what we hear, what we read (especially when it’s on repeat).
So when you find yourself going to a dark place with your body, avoid berating yourself. Avoid saying, “you know better.” Just recognize — with compassion — that it’s hard to appreciate your body when so many people are racing to change theirs; when so many articles and ads list all the reasons why you shouldn’t love your looks right now.
Journal about why it’s hard.
Get those thoughts and feelings out onto the paper — instead of letting them guide your actions without you even noticing. Write as many pages as you need to, until you feel like you’ve said everything you need to say.
Create a supportive list.
Create a list of reasons why you don’t want to get caught up in some bikini countdown or weight-loss challenge; why you appreciate your body and everything it does for you; why you’re going to nourish your body with foods you actually like; and anything else that supports you.
Write your list in your phone, on a small sheet of paper or on an index card. Keep it with you for regular reminders.
Find gentle ways to move your body.
Let the negative emotions and thoughts move through you with gentle movement. Stretch your body. Take a walk. Practice yoga. Put on your favorite music, and dance. Tune into your body. Listen to its needs.
Refocus on self-compassion.
As the weather warms up, talk about getting “bikini ready,” about calories and “clean eating” and losing weight ramps up. Sometimes, tuning out the magazine covers and ads can help. Other times it doesn’t.
When we find ourselves getting caught up in the negativity, it helps to pause and refocus. It helps to remember our own beliefs, values and priorities. It helps to remember that our bodies are works of art. They do so much for us. It helps to remember how we want to live our lives, and treat our bodies. How we want to move and what we want to do.
And whatever our reactions, it helps to be kind to ourselves. It helps to remember that loving our bodies can be hard sometimes. Because there’s no happily-ever-after endpoint. There’s no destination.
But there is a journey. There is progress. And peaceful moments. And sheer joy and calm and respect.