That time has come. It’s patiently waited for by school children but silently dreaded by anyone insecure about their body: summer. Pants are switched out for shorts; shorts that show off those legs that may or may not be toned, may or may not be stumpy, may or may not be shaved, may or may not be long and skinny like those models we adore. Next, it’s time for sundresses. This means shopping for ones that hug in just the right places and raiding your closet for those from last year that are still acceptable.
Worst of all, there are the bathing suits. Big boobs or small boobs, big butt or small butt, skinny waist or not, I do not know anyone who feels prepared for bathing suit season each and every time it rolls around. These are the months we are supposed to strut the beaches in next to nothing, while somehow enjoying ourselves rather than having a nervous breakdown over all the things we believe to be wrong with our bodies that are now in full display.
As if the wardrobe was not enough of a problem, there’s also the diet talk. Lunch breaks surrounded by women not eating enough as they complain about the fat they need to lose. Maybe for some people, this isn’t an issue, but for anyone recovering from an eating disorder, I know firsthand that’s not a room you want to be in. The gyms will be filled with people focused on getting a “beach body” as they forget every body is a beach body.
Here are 10 tips for how to deal with summertime if you are in recovery from an eating disorder, or just displeased with the way you look:
1. Surround yourself with the right people.
The easiest way to avoid diet talk and other body-hating language, is to stick with friends who know your story and know better than to talk like that around you. Craving something sweet? Going out to dinner? Shopping for summer clothes? Go with supportive people, family and friends who will remain positive throughout your outing.
2. Meal prep.
This may seem counterproductive for those of you who understand meal prepping to be part of diet culture, however, there is a way to meal prep that will work out in your favor. I suggest preparing your meals the night before so that you will not be tempted to skimp out the day of. In the lunchroom with someone discussing calorie intake, current weight or workout regime? Cooking dinner as someone calls asking you to hit the beach tomorrow? Not a problem if your meal has already been decided. Stick with what you prepared and you know you’ll be safe from the dangerous temptation of restriction.
3. Cover your mirror.
This one may seem a little on the silly side but it’s a great one, I promise! Blocking the view of an area you are sensitive about is a quick-fix to obsessing over your body and fretting about what you can do to “improve.” I like to use paper and write something inspirational, such as, “You are beautiful,” “Be brave today,” “Speak nicely to yourself” or anything along those lines.
One or two positive comments from yourself to yourself a day will (over time) make a big impact on your journey back to self-love. Too many times we are degrading ourselves with our words or actions. If instead we thought about and announced out loud (even if in private) something good about our bodies, we may be able to gain some confidence rather than plummeting further into a mindset of insecurity and doubt.
5. Pick a new activity.
There are some glorious aspects of summer that have nothing to do with beach bodies or small articles of clothing. Try something new this summer that allows you to refocus your attention on something healthier. Start a garden and become awestruck by the wonders of sunshine as your vegetables and/or flowers grow before your eyes. Take up walking along the beach at night (no bathing suit required!). The breeze from the ocean makes it cool enough to wear clothing that won’t make you worry, so you can admire the beach without any of the anxiety it may cause during the daytime. Maybe as you look out into the horizon you will remember how big this world is and how comparatively small your struggles are. Maybe you’ll realize that one day things won’t be so hard. All the while, moving your body will give you an active and healthy preoccupation.
6. Treat yourself.
Hot weather brings with it a desire to cool down. An ice cream outing may be the perfect opportunity to push yourself toward eating a healthy range of foods again. Additionally, if you have trouble making decisions as I do, ice cream parlors are the best because you can try out as many flavors as you want before deciding on one!
7. Try online shopping.
Are dressing rooms just too much for you? Try doing your summer shopping online. No changing in front of long mirrors, no mom asking you to “give her a fashion show’”(is that just me?) and all the time in the world to decide on a size.
8. Talk it out.
Summers are just posing too big of a problem? Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you aren’t currently receiving any psychological help, explore options of outpatient therapy. Summer can be a great time to check in with an old therapist or try out a new one. There is nothing wrong with needing some extra support during a tough few months.
9. Try essential oils.
Essential oil diffusers are all the rage right now. Diffusers come in many forms and through countless companies. Oils such as lavender, rose, vetiver and chamomile can be great, holistic ways to help you stay calm. You can diffuse these oils while you sleep or even rub them on your skin for some assistance in retaining inner peace.
10. Believe in yourself.
Know you are strong enough to get through this. This summer will come and go just like all the summers of the past have and all the summers of the future will. Fighting a battle against an eating disorder has undoubtedly made you into a warrior. Even if you have not struggled through an eating disorder and are simply someone lacking in self-love and looking for ways to make it through the days, trust in your ability to get through this. I can promise you are a beautiful person. With some time and a little self-prescribed TLC, you will see it too.