Beach Body Anxiety

By Nicole Drago, LMSW

As the heat rises, we tend to be more critical of our body image. The context for this trend is clear: Throughout the summer months the media prompts us to think about attaining a “beach body” while marketing campaigns sell diet pills, workout regiments, and meal services to help us achieve this goal. “Beach body” images increasingly appear in print and electronic media, in storefront windows, and also on the street.

These messages cause a lot of harm! In a recent poll conducted by IPSOS – a multinational market research group – over the past five years, 79% of people agree with the statement “I am unhappy with my body.” Needless to say, body dissatisfaction leads to negative self talk, depression, and anxiety, which only compound the issue further since we are more likely to focus on our bodies when we feel down and stressed.

Let’s clear something up: Every single body can be a “beach body” irrespective of one’s physique! The main issue – and concern – when it comes to our figures is to feel comfortable in one’s own skin. When we have a positive, self-compassionate, and accepting attitude towards our bodies, we grow in confidence and the minute details of our physical appearance become less important. Conversely, and ironically, many individuals who fit beach body stereotype report high levels of body dissatisfaction. This is because (almost) everyone has aspects of their bodies that are more attractive, and areas that they may wish to improve.

Especially in the context of the global pandemic, we need to practice self-love and acceptance and counteract the pernicious messages that create a sense of anxiety and shame around our physical appearance. To those ends, here are a few ways to practice body acceptance:

1. Honor what your body can do for you by celebrating daily movement, such as walks or bike rides. Move your body in accordance with what feels good for your comfort level. Reorienting ourselves to focus on the gift of movement can take the focus off what we may look like.
2. Say goodbye to the negative influences in your life. Go through your social media to see if you follow accounts that inspire you, or accounts that make you feel you have to constantly compare. Prioritize inspiring accounts, and block or mute people who don’t make you feel great about yourself.
3. Be kind to yourself in word. Think about some of the things you’ve said to yourself in the mirror lately. Would you ever say them out loud or to a friend? Try and speak to yourself as you would a cherished loved one.
4. Try meditation. Take some time each day to be present in your body and mindful of your surroundings. Be aware of your senses, feelings, and also what you look like. When you feel distressed, gently let go of the negativity by refocusing onto the present moment.

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