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Yes, You Can Love Your Body This Summer!

You can practice and teach others to love their bodies and themselves. With practical tips from Dr. Deb Michel, we share ways to love and accept your body.
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Summer break is a time that I remember as being just that — a break from stressors and a time for relaxation and fun.

Unfortunately for many girls and women, summer has become synonymous with dieting and getting a “bikini ready” body.

But what does this actually mean? How are our bodies not “ready” for a bikini?

The definition of ready is “being in a suitable state or fully prepared.” How is a body not in a suitable state or fully prepared to dress in an item of swimwear?

Dangerous messages from the media

If you rely upon the media for answers, you will find plenty! There is an onslaught of messages targeted toward females and males to make them question the suitability and acceptability of their own bodies.

The messages are delivered a variety of ways and in different avenues such as magazines, websites, social media, celebrities, and advertising. The images we see through various company campaigns promote unrealistically thin and/or muscular body types, lack diversity, and prey upon those struggling with self-esteem and confidence for their own profit.

These advertisements are not only aimed at selling diets, diet products, and exercise programs, but may also be selling other appearance-oriented items such as clothing, fragrance, and cosmetics.

Encouraging body acceptance and positivity

With the intent of helping parents combat the effects of these negative media messages at home, Brittany Gilchrist, LPCI, Kathy Veath, RD, LD, and myself recently gave a community presentation for parents on how to encourage body acceptance, positive body image and self-care in adolescents entitled, Love Your Body, Love Yourself.

During this presentation, we offered suggestions on how to question and critique these media images and messages, along with tips on how to encourage positive role models for body acceptance and self-esteem.

Parents were urged to engage in conversations with their youngsters about values, choices, diversity, and peer pressure and also to educate themselves about normal bodily development and changes throughout adolescence.

7 ways to encourage healthy body image

Some of our specific tips on teaching and encouraging healthy body image include the following:

  • Be a good role model for values and body respect
  • Refrain from criticizing the appearance of others or oneself
  • Engage in self-care to build self-esteem and confidence
  • Avoid diets and dieting trends
  • Engage in mindful, balanced eating
  • Use hunger and fullness cues as a guide when eating
  • Avoid labeling foods “good” or “bad” as there is a place for all foods in balanced eating

In sum, we reminded parents to have an active voice in shaping ideas, beliefs, and attitudes about body image in their teens, and we encouraged them to do so at every opportunity — in hopes that summer, and bikini season, can once again be a time of relaxation and fun.

Dr. Deborah M. Michel, PhD, CEDS is Clinical Director at Eating Recovery Center, The Woodlands.

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