Summer. It means no classes, no homework, and no papers. It’s reading in the sun, sleeping in, and bonfires with friends. It’s working at summer camp, spending a week at the beach, and hanging out at the pool.
It means I have to wear a swimsuit.
This time of year always brings self-consciousness, anxiety, and crash diets/exercise plans in order to get a “bikini body.”
Or whatever it is that people are trying to achieve these days. For anyone who has struggled with an eating disorder, these feelings are magnified to a degree that seems almost unbearable at times.
In about two weeks, I am going to begin the process to become certified as a lifeguard. I am going to be back at camp, in a swimsuit every day in front of people that I do not know. Not only is my eating disorder going to be triggered, but I am going to be experiencing shame about old scars I have from self-injury and receiving questions about them.
Instead of the anxiety and dread that previously caused me to turn to a restrictive diet and compulsive exercise, the uncomfortableness that I feel is leading me to prepare myself for what is to come. hese are the tips that I have for you during the summer holidays
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These are the tips that I have for you during the summer holidays:
1.Realize that everyone is so uncomfortable in their bathing suit,
and they actually don’t care what you look like in yours. Believe me, they are. Everyone is. You are not alone.
2. Don’t go it alone!
First of all, it’s not any fun to go to the beach or the pool by yourself. So grab a friend to wander the beaches with you or gossip by the pool with, and I promise that you won’t even be thinking about how you look in your bathing suit.
3. Realize that if you have struggled with an eating disorder and body image in the past, you are probably suffering from distorted thinking.
It’s so common. Often, we think that we look one way when we really don’t. What’s important is that you are at a healthy weight, not what you look like. When you are at a healthy weight, you will look good in your bathing suit, no matter what your weight actually is.
4. Wear a bathing suit that you feel comfortable in. Does it have to be stylish? No. A bikini? It can be
Does it have to be stylish? No. A bikini? It can be a one piece…mine is! If you aren’t comfortable in your bathing suit, then you are going to be miserable no matter how your body image is. If you don’t own one, grab an encouraging friend who will be honest with you about what swimsuit makes you look sexy and find one that you love! It makes wearing it in public a bit more bearable.
5. Don’t compare yourself to everyone else.
Trust me. You’ll never be happy, even if you looked like that in a bikini.
6. Take care of yourself.
Get enough sleep, drink water, put on sunscreen, and eat regular meals. This will help you to avoid emotional freak outs that I experienced during the worst times of my eating disorder. If you are taking care of yourself, then you can fight those opinionated thoughts with the truth that healthy is better than thin.
7. Get rid of the negative self-talk.
My mom always told me that if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. This includes saying mean things to yourself. Just don’t go there if you can’t say something positive.
I know that none of these tips are easy to follow.
I struggle with them every day and I will for the entire summer. But you know what ultimately works for me? I am surrounded by kids. I work at a summer camp, for Pete’s sake! And these are young, impressionable girls and boys who will possibly be facing the same struggles that I am one day. I don’t want them to think that they have to look a certain way in a bathing suit to be happy. So when all else fails, I focus on them and on showing them a positive self-image that embraces every flaw and curve of my body.
Swimsuit season? Bring it on!
I’m healthy, I’m recovering, and I’m going to teach the next generations to love their bodies, especially when they’re in swimsuits.