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Body Image and Summer - Mended Hearts

With tank tops, shorts, and swimsuits, summertime reveals skin along with body insecurities. Stripping down to a swimsuit, skimpy or not, increases anxiety in women and men who don’t feel so great about their body. And that’s many, if not most, of them.

About 45% of men are unhappy with their bodies, according to the National Eating Disorder Association. That’s slightly less than half of girls and young women who are also dissatisfied with their bodies. Some sources report more than 90% of females are disappointed with their bodies.

Body dissatisfaction, regardless of body size and race is “one of the most consistent and robust risk factors for eating disorders and a significant predictor of low self-esteem, depression, and obesity,” the study says.

Most media messages only reinforce people’s deflated body image, telling us on magazine covers how to get “bikini ready,” and asking us on billboards “Are you beach body ready?” This particular billboard, which posed the question alongside a super-thin model wearing a slinky bikini, provoked public outrage in Britain until it government banned it. The billboard crossed the pond to New York just in time for summer.

The vast incongruity between media and reality punctures the public’s body image — especially when swimsuit season forces fewer layers and more skin. When someone tells a woman she looks good in her swimsuit, only 1 in 4 believe it, mostly likely because the woman doesn’t believe it herself, according to a survey of more than 1,000 women by Fitness magazine.

In the same survey, 36% of women said they wouldn’t accept an invitation from Justin Timberlake — JT himself — to a beach party because they don’t believe their bodies are in good enough shape.

Still body image is up us an individuals, to each of us to consider and believe ourselves beautiful. Here are some tips to help.

  • Engage in positive body talk. People frequently engage in negative body talk or “fat talk” – saying things like “I’m so fat,” “I really need to lose some weight,” and “I’m not wearing shorts until I tone up.” Replace those negative statements with positive ones like “I am strong” and “I care for and nurture my body.”
  • Write out positive body statements and strategically place them in your home – for example on your bathroom mirror or on your phone. That way, the notes will remind you to engage in positive body talk.
  • Focus on what your body can do. Be proactive… learn a new physical activity, go to the park with your family, train for a 5k, or get a pedometer and work your way up to walking 10,000 steps a day (the current recommendation for adults). Appreciate what you are able to do with your body and enjoy being active.
  • Accept the idea that healthy and happy bodies come in all shapes