Body Image

Body Image SOS: Summer Do’s and Don’ts

July 2, 2024

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A Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) with a master's degree in dietetics & nutrition. My passion is helping you find peace with food - and within yourself.

Meet Katy

Well, hey there, it’s Katy and welcome back to Rebuilding Trust With Your Body. Here in Kansas City it is officially summer – it’s hot, it’s humid, and the mosquitos are everywhere. My kids are loving the trips to the pool and their new Slip ‘n’ Slide, which I wish I could play on because it’s such a nostalgic piece of my childhood, but I’m certain I would throw out my back, so I’ll just throw water balloons at them. 

One of the things that can be EXTRA challenging in the summer is, I’m sure you guessed it from the title of this episode, body image. 

It’s shorts season, swimsuit season, and you might be going on vacations and stressing about the photos or having family reunions where you haven’t seen people in a while, and Aunt Debbie, your mom, or Grandma Edith always comment on whether you’ve gained or lost weight, or maybe they go on and on about how much they hate their bodies and whatever diet they’re on. 

These summer scenarios can be so challenging and really suck the joy out of summer. Think about how much fun summer could be if you could just wear the shorts when you’re out running errands and picking up drinks for your backyard BBQ, and if you could put on your swimsuit and get in the pool or lake with everyone else, and if you could be in the vacation photos and have those amazing memories to look back on? 

It can be so tempting to go on a diet leading up to vacation, or maybe you’ve got a class reunion this summer, or you’re feeling the pull to get in shape for a wedding you’re attending (or maybe you’re getting married – there’s so much pressure on brides to lose weight before their wedding day). Or maybe you are flying somewhere on a trip and you hate the experience of flying and want your body to be smaller because the stupid airline seats are so ridiculously tightly packed, or you want to visit an amusement park but you worry that you won’t fit on some of the rides. The pull towards feeling the need to change your body in the summer especially can be so strong, and I’m going to share with you 4 do’s and 4 don’ts for navigating body image this summer. 

Summer Do’s for Body Image

DO: Get In The Pool

I was at a pool party recently, and there were a bunch of kids there, and I was sitting around chatting with some of the other adults, and Jackson asked me if I was going to get in. Honestly, it was hot out and the perfect day for swimming, so he didn’t have to twist my arm too hard, and I went and got in with him. I looked around and besides one kid’s dad, I was the only other adult in the pool, and I thought to myself, “This is interesting. I wonder why nobody else is getting in.” 

I thought about the other women there, and I wondered how many of them wanted to get in but wouldn’t let themselves because of their own body insecurities. I noticed one woman in jeans and another in leggings, and I found myself wondering if they were wearing pants in the 90-degree heat because they were ashamed of their legs (or who knows, maybe they had other reasons to have pants on that day – it’s honestly none of my business). My point is that there’s a good chance there were other adults at this pool party who would have loved to get in the pool, who weren’t comfortable being seen in their swimsuits. And that makes me sad. 

I had a blast with my kids. The water felt great. Summer memories were made. 

Did I feel amazing in my swimsuit? No, I actually felt very exposed. It’s like walking around in your underwear. But I also wasn’t going to let that hold me back. So, I chose uncomfortable action according to my values. My value was being present with my kids and not letting body image hold me back from doing things. 

My challenge to you this summer is to get in the pool, the lake, the ocean – whatever body of water you might encounter. Wear the darn swimsuit. Get in the water. Embrace life. 

There are a lot of cool swimsuit styles out there nowadays. Go online and, look at the options and order a few to see what you like, and send the rest back. That way, you can try them on in the comfort of your own home. You don’t have to wear a string bikini (unless you want to; more power to you). Find something you like well enough to wear it. You don’t have to love the way your body looks to enjoy being in the water. 

DO: Normalize Cellulite, Sweating and Chafing

I know I say this with so much thin privilege, so I don’t want to sound tone-deaf talking about it. I also want to use my privilege to help call out and chip away at the anti-fat bias and fatphobia in our society. 

With that said, ladies, let’s stop pretending that our cellulite represents something wrong with us. It is perfectly normal for human beings to have cellulite on their bodies. You don’t need to wear pants and leggings in the summer just so the world doesn’t have to see the cellulite and the jiggle on your thighs. I want you to raise your right hand in the air right now and make this pledge with me:

Katy, I hereby pledge that I will not wear pants when it’s hot outside and I would be more comfortable in shorts. I will not make myself suffer through the heat of summer in clothing that is meant to hide my body at the expense of my discomfort. 

Along similar lines, I also want to normalize chafing. I know so many people who experience chafing and chub rub and go to shame over it. I frequently get chafing on my inner thighs and sometimes along my bra line, depending on what I’m doing. Let’s have the discussion about chafing, so that we can start to normalize it and share solutions that will help us be in less pain and discomfort. 

There are great products out there that can help prevent the chafing. My favorite one is Body Glide (not an ad, but if they want to sponsor me, I’m here for it). I use it on my inner thighs when I’m wearing shorts and I know I’ll be sweaty, and then I rub it under my bra line. I’ll even put it in between my toes because I’m prone to blisters. There’s also a product called Chub Rub that I recently tried, and it works great too. Both of these products are like a deodorant stick that you just rub on your skin. I’ve actually linked to these inside the Summer Body Image Toolkit inside the Food Freedom Summer Bundle.

They also have those bicycle shorts that can help prevent chafing. With those, I will say that, if wearing a pair of bike shorts under a dress makes you hot and uncomfortable, you don’t have to do that. But I know it helps some people be more comfortable because it can prevent chafing.

Lastly, I want to normalize sweating. So many people go to shame about their bodies because they sweat a lot or their face gets really red in the heat. Studies show that some people just sweat more than others. Interestingly, even the composition of our sweat can vary from person to person. I have a friend who sweats buckets, like he’ll be drenched, and I also have a friend who barely sweats at all. Everybody is different. 

It’s going to be hot outside most places in the summer, and sweating is your body’s normal physiological reaction to that. You deserve to go out and do things you enjoy, even if it means you’re sweating buckets. It doesn’t mean that you are gross, lazy, or disgusting. Sweat shame is a branch of fatphobia that needs to go. 

There are also products that can help with this. There are those cooling towels that you can wear around your neck. They also have those fans that you can wear around your neck when I’m outside and it’s really hot. I like to carry a sweat with me so I can wipe my forehead. And if you’re worried that you can talk to your doctor about this, because there are medications. 

DO: Be In The Photos

Whether it be photos from vacation, or a family reunion, or just you hanging out with your kids at the park – I’m begging you to be in the photos.

No more always volunteering to be the one taking the photo just because you don’t want to be in it, and no more running to hide in the back of photos or making sure someone is standing in front of you to block your body in photos. No more deleting photos with you in them because you’re so ashamed of your body. 

Stop erasing yourself from your own life.

Last summer, we had my mom’s funeral. At the visitation, we had a slide show of photos of her throughout her life, and it brought back so many wonderful memories. How sad would it have been if there were no photos of her? Especially with me and my sister when we were kids? How sad would this be for your family at your funeral?

Even if you hate your body, you still desperately want to be smaller, and you can’t stand looking at photos of yourself – BE IN THE PHOTOS.

You don’t have to look at them right now, or ever for that matter. Capture the memories. You’ll be glad you did. I can also promise you it gets easier the more you let yourself be in the photos.  

DO: Live Life Fully In The Body You Have Now

Do the things that bring you joy. If you want to go paddle boarding, or to a baseball game, or to a summer concert – DO IT even if it makes you uncomfortable. You deserve to live life and to experience joy in the body that you have right now. 

Now, I get that there might be things you’d like to do that your body doesn’t allow for. Maybe it’s an amusement park ride that doesn’t fit your body, or you can’t hike like you used to be able to do. If you’re like me, your kids got a new Slip ‘n’ Slide, and you’d love to use it because you have the best memories of slippin’ and slidin’ as a kid, but you know that you’d injure your back instantly. So you also have to meet yourself where you’re at with what your body tolerates, and I want to challenge you to do this without making your body bad or wrong. 

It’s so easy to use our physical limitations as reasons that we think we need to fix or change our bodies, especially through dieting. But with dieting being such a futile effort that usually makes things worse in the long run, what if you were to work with what you’ve got and find joy NOW. It might mean that you have to do different things than you ideally would want to, and there may be some grief about that. Let’s use an example that’s not about weight. My dad has had rotator cuff surgery on both shoulders, and he can’t throw a baseball or softball like he used to be able to do. In his younger days, he loved playing slowpitch and fastpitch softball and he played it pretty competitively. As he got older, he let go of that both because of having kids and not having time, and now, even if he wanted to play, he probably couldn’t do it with his shoulders. But you know what he can do? Bowling. And he loves it. He plays in a couple of leagues and has a blast. 

Another example could be someone who can’t ride rollercoasters because they have a heart condition. Maybe they love the thrill of a rollercoaster ride, especially the ones that go upside down. But they can’t because their body doesn’t tolerate it anymore. They might feel sad about that, but they could also find other activities at the amusement park to do that are fun, or maybe instead of going to an amusement park they might go to a water park or a baseball game. 

Moral of the story is to find joy, and to experience joy in the body you have, with what works for your body at this phase of your life. Sitting around avoiding joy because you can’t do something, or because your body shame is so strong makes life really boring and depressing. Yes, it might be uncomfortable to go out and do things – AND the more you start to do it, the less your body image struggles will hold you back. 

Summer Don’ts for Body Image

DON’T: Go On A Diet

Just don’t do it. I’ve talked a million times on this podcast about all the reasons why going on a diet is a bad idea. The tl;dr version of it is that diets most often temporarily produce weight loss, enough to make you feel like it’s working, and then it backfires, and you are almost guaranteed to regain everything you lost, likely plus some. And because it looked like it was working, you blame yourself for failing. It wasn’t you that failed. It was an ineffective long-term strategy to begin with.

So don’t do it. Don’t go on a diet. Enough said.

DON’T: Skip Out on Fun Things Because of Body Shame

This is essentially the flip side of what I talked about earlier with finding joyful things to do in the body you have now. In addition to that, don’t be skipping out on fun things because you’re self-conscious about your body. 

I had a client who was terrified to go out dancing with her friends because of her body image. She finally got up the courage to do it, and she had a blast! She showed me the pictures and told me how much fun it was, and it was like it unlocked this new side of her. It was so cool.

I encourage you to sit down and do some journaling about what you have avoided or missed out on in life due to body shame. How many weddings have you skipped, or parties have you not attended, or jobs you didn’t apply for, or that dating app you’ve wanted to sign up for – but you haven’t because you keep telling yourself you need to lose weight first? Reflect on this, and make a list of these things. Then, notice how looking at that list makes you feel. I would imagine it might feel sad that you’ve missed out on so many life experiences. And perhaps there’s some anger that diet culture and fatphobia have created this scenario. 

You get to take back your power now, and you get to choose to live life more fully (if you want to, you certainly don’t have to) – but you get to choose what aligns with your desires and your values. Diet culture be damned.

DON’T: Pick Yourself Apart in Photos

We talked earlier about being in the photos. The next step is to not do that thing where you look at the photo afterwards and zoom in on yourself, and pick your body apart. “I hate my arms, and my thighs are so huge, and look at my belly!” Those thoughts and criticisms aren’t helping you. Zooming in on yourself in the photo isn’t helping you. 

Look at the photo and connect with the memory. Then move on. Dwelling on it serves no useful purpose. It just makes you feel like crap. 

If you need to not look at the photos right now, that’s ok. 

I know it might be really uncomfortable if friends or family are sharing photos of you and tagging you in them on social media. I know you might be worried that someone else will see that photo and judge you for your weight. I’m here to tell you that 1) they most likely aren’t even seeing the photo (statistically a very low percentage of our friends and followers see what we post); 2) they probably just glanced at the photo and kept scrolling and have forgotten about it already; and 3) if they are judging you that’s a “them” thing, not a “you” thing. 

Be in the photos. Let them exist online. Don’t pick yourself apart. Trust me on this.

DON’T: Restrict (or Save Up) When You’re At Events Like Summer BBQ’s

In the summer when we’re going to something like a backyard 4th of July BBQ, or a pool party, a trip to the lake, or a vacation, it’s easy to feel like you need to “save up” your calories ahead of time. Don’t do this.

Your body needs consistent and adequate nourishment throughout the day, every single day. Saving up just becomes a way to torture yourself and it sets you up to overeat or binge later on. 

Similarly, while you’re at one of these events don’t restrict and deprive yourself. Put your burger on a bun (PSA: lettuce is not a bun, and a bell pepper is not a bun), have some homemade ice cream, enjoy the potato salad. Inside the gentle nutrition training in the Food Freedom Summer Bundle, I walk you through some examples of how to apply gentle nutrition in these settings to show you that you can eat the things at a summer event without going overboard and without becoming unhealthy. In fact, there are things you can do to enhance your nutrition in these settings. I promise you don’t have to restrict.

DM me the word FREEDOM to get your hands on my Food Freedom Summer Bundle!

In case nobody has told you today – you are worthy just as you are.

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