A few weeks ago I wrote all about the mythical “summer body”: where it came from and why it’s a bunch of thin, white, cis-hetero, able-bodied bullshit. So this week I wanted to give you a few tips for how to combat the effects of this myth by building up your own summer body confidence.
Now, the summer body myth is just one example of the many ways that fat (especially feminine) bodies are continually marginalized and policed in our society.
I can’t emphasize that enough. Fatphobia is a social problem – not an individual one.
Having more confidence in yourself won’t magically make everything better. But it will help you deal with the fatphobic messages we see everywhere. It will help you take back a little bit of society’s power over you, and it’ll help you get out and enjoy your summer more, at a time when society wants you to hide yourself away.
So stop waiting for the mythical “summer body” to get out and enjoy yourself! Here are…
5 Ways to Build Summer Body Confidence (Without Losing a Pound)
1. Create your summer body confidence inspiration board full of plus size babes.
Inspiration boards are one of my most favorite tools ever. I’m a big believer in visualization because it turns out that seeing really is believing. And this really plays into how what you see on social media affects your body image.
That’s why representation in different forms of media is so freaking important. The more you see diverse bodies represented in positive ways, the more likely you are to ascribe positive traits to all the very real people around you. Including yourself.
The opposite of this is also true. When you’re surrounded by media that only makes positive representations of thin, white, able bodies, you start to believe that’s the “right” kind of body to have. And unfortunately this is our reality.
We’ve all internalized this message that our bodies are somehow wrong because they don’t fit this very specific picture.
Do you want to know what’s really wrong?
- The way society talks about and represents your body is wrong.
- The way society treats you because of your body is wrong.
- And the fact that society has convinced you to hate your body is wrong.
But your body, my dear friend, has never been and never will be wrong.
So back to your summer inspiration board: the whole point of this exercise is to offset some of the representation that’s missing in your life. By creating a collection of images featuring people with diverse body types you can start to rewire your brain to see the beauty and strength in that diversity.
And you start to change the way you see yourself.
2. Soak up some sunshine.
Unless you’re a vampire (not the BS sparkly kind… the ones that go poof in daylight) the sun is pretty much an essential part of your physiological and emotional regulation. Sunlight triggers the release of serotonin in your brain, boosting your mood and giving you energy. And it causes your skin to produce vitamin D, which also helps regulate your mood, along with having all kinds of other health benefits.
My favorite way to grab some rays is to curl up by a sunny window with a good book. Bonus points if there’s fresh-cut grass smell in the air!
3. Find an outdoor activity you can enjoy with your family (however you define family).
Now, let me be perfectly up front here. This recommendation is coming from the perspective of someone who doesn’t really enjoy outdoor activities that much. I always hear other people talking about how sunshine and warm weather makes them want to get outside and do things.
But it mostly just makes me want to curl up and take a nap. The house cat is my spirit animal, for sure.
But I do still try to get outside and play sometimes. And it can be fun, if it’s the right activity with the right people.
Because the reality is that play is just as important for adults as it is for kids. Research shows that play can enhance bonding and communication and relieve stress, both of which go back to my feel-good-feel-good-about-yourself statement.
(One researcher also found that “lack of play was just as important as other factors in predicting criminal behavior among murderers in Texas prisons.” So there’s that.)
And playing outside packs that extra sunlight punch!
Just remember: your activity doesn’t have to involve a swimsuit (or any other kind of body-revealing clothing) if you don’t want it to. Maybe you enjoy going to the park together, or walking downtown to get ice cream. Riding bikes or roller skating. Go for a picnic, feed the ducks, have story time outside under a tree.
Dress however you’re comfortable, try different things, but don’t force yourself to do something if you know you really don’t enjoy it. The whole point here is to have fun with people you love spending time with!
If you wish you had the confidence to wear shorts… wear shorts.
If you wish you could wear a bikini… put on a bikini.
If you wish you felt comfortable playing at the park with the kids… play with the kids.
This is kind of like the good old fake-it-till-you-make-it routine, but I kind of hate that saying. It makes it sound so easy-peasy, and this is anything but. It’s anxiety-inducing and sometimes downright terrifying. But it actually does work.
The trick is to start small. How small, you ask? As small as you have to to get started.
The summer after I discovered body positivity and fat acceptance, I got it into my head that I wanted to be the kind of fat woman who wears bikinis. We had planned a trip to Hawaii near the end of the summer, so I set that as my goal: I was going to wear a bikini in Hawaii.
I think it took me approximately 73 baby steps to get there.
I researched and agonized for a few weeks over what bikini to buy. I almost gave up when I realized just how hard it is to find a cute bikini when you’re fat and also *ahem* well-endowed.
Then I spent several weeks trying on my bikini in the privacy of my own home, and just staring at myself in the mirror. It took a while before I would even let the medic see me in it.
The very first time I wore it in public was at an almost empty private military base beach on Oahu. I walked to the beach fully dressed, and wrapped myself in my towel as soon as I took my clothes off.
But eventually I convinced myself to go play in the water. I even let the Medic take a picture of me (as you can see).
So practice makes passable. (That’s how the saying goes, right?) Start super small, and don’t worry about how long it might take. Every tiny little step helps change the way you think about your body.
5. Find Your Body Confidence Superpower!
When you’re trying to change the way you see your body it can be really hard to know exactly where to start. There are so many variables that influence our body image, so what do you try first?
That’s why I created this handy-dandy quiz for you:
Take the quiz and you’ll discover the #1 thing you should do right now to improve your body confidence – without weight loss – so you can ditch shame, feel amazing, and stop waiting to turn your dreams into reality. I even throw in some extra bonus goodies at the end to help you get started!
So here’s to a summer full of body confidence and fun, my friend. Because you already deserve it!