By Fiona Sutherland
It’s well and truly Spring, people. Despite the very average weather, it's now October and IT’S TIME TO PANIC BECAUSE SUMMER BODIES ARE JUST AROUND THE CORNER!!!!! RUN!!!!! (well, not literally. Unless you want to, in which case go right ahead).
Whilst our friends in the north can relax (because once summer’s over your body apparently doesn’t matter), we must chisel, tone and whip that booty into shape. Heaven forbid the sun should see any imperfect, human part of us right? Oh you missed that sign at the airport gate that says “only culturally acceptable shapes permitted to take a vacation?” Or the one at the entrance to the beach saying “hot bods only?” Aha. Right, because there isn’t one.
The “summer bodies” programs are really sneaky. They’re all about “nourishment”, “mindset” and all the words that sound really cool. But actually, peek beneath the surface and they’re really about body transformation & weight/fat loss. Recipes? Tick. Exercise program? Tick. Mindful eating tips? ERGH PUH-LEASE SAVE ME. Tick. For some people, these can ideas be a really helpful starting point to engage in health behaviours, which is actually the point of wellbeing. But *ahem* let’s get real, these programs are not about health or wellbeing. They’re about changing your body to be “ready for summer”, and perpetuating the idea that if you dare to bare your skin you’d better look like a hot tamale. Rather than a hot tamale, I’ll give you a hot tip – you, and your amazing body do NOT have to be ready for summer. You probably should be ready for instant action should your 2 minute noodles stick to the pan, or your child is wandering toward a pool. But summer-ready? That season is raining down upon us, whether we like it or not. And believe me, your body has got nothing to do with it. No-thing.
There is a special brand of body consciousness, body shame and vulnerability that can rear up at these times of year. Helped along by the myriad of programs perpetuating the narrative that working on your body is most definitely a worthy seasons work. I mean, what else should you be doing in Spring, right?
It’s important that you get out of your head, and back into your body and heart where your sensible & loving self resides.
It’s important that you recognise that our culture is completely f&%ked up when it comes to bodies, and body pressure.
And that you have a choice. And you’re not alone. And it’s not easy.
In fact, it might feel downright weird not to pick yourself apart and sign up for the *$99 summer body plan* But ask yourself (and be honest!) whether this summer is going to be any different? Or is it going to be the same old shit. Maybe it’s time to change it up. Because when you’re feeling most vulnerable is exactly NOT the time to “do something about it.” It’s the time to do a different kind of assessment – the body care kind, by asking yourself:
Am I nourishing myself well? Regularly throughout the day, with a variety of foods? Or am I still following food rules, eliminating certain foods/food groups and inviting the guilt monster in for a cup of English Breakfast?
Am I staying away (as much as possible) from body critiquing conversations? Or am I participating? Is my environment helping me?
Am I showing myself compassion when times are hard? Or laying the boot even more?
Am I avoiding situations or events which might actually add meaning to my life because I’m afraid of being judged for my body?
Do I have a good toolkit of self care strategies? Do I need a stocktake?
Am I looking for acceptance or validation from others? Or am I able to give that to myself?
It makes me feel so sad/mad that it’s seen as completely normal to worry about our bodies, to diet or restrict food for a season, or an event. Imagine what incredible stuff we could be doing with all that time, energy and brain space! You have a choice. You can join in. Or you can say “HELL NO” to the messages (and yes, there’s lots of them!) that tell you that you’re not good enough the way you are.
So to help us all survive the next few months, here is your ultimate toolkit for the perfect summer body.
Step 1: Have a body all year round. Check in regularly to make sure it’s still there.
Step 2: Take care of that body, all year round.
Step 3: Detox. That’s right, detox. Your social media that is. Hide, unfollow or delete posts and pages that make you feel bad, or invite your compare your body to other peoples.
Step 4: Put some material on your body, whatever and whever you like. Or not. That’s up to you.
Step 5: ‘Tis the season to be fkin awesome. Get out there and do some radical shit with your life
If you’re aware that seasons, events, holidays, social gatherings etc lead to you feeling anxious about your body, please get some support from a Body Image specialist*. It IS possible to live in peace with the body you have. Without actually changing your body.
*A body image specialist might be a psychologist, psychotherapist, Dietitian or someone who has done specific training in body image.
Fiona Sutherland is a Melbourne-based Dietitian and Director of Body Positive Australia which offers therapy, retreats, yoga & training for health professionals. Fiona is a specialist in Mindful Eating, Body Image and Eating Disorders, working with individuals, groups, communities and organisations to support people to find a more peaceful and positive relationship with food, eating and their body. She is a passionate advocate for mindfulness, the Non Diet Approach and Body Positive movement, and aims to spread the word about body acceptance, turning away from diets and nourishing ourselves in an authentic way that truly meets the needs of our body and mind.
She can be found at www.bodypositiveaustralia.com.au
This article was originally published at Body Positive Australia