Ah, summer in Dallas—sunshine, canned ranch waters, and the return of… swimsuit season. While we all crave the warmth (but, um, maybe not the humidity) that summer brings, rooftop pool days still unfortunately can go hand-in-hand with body image issues. Though the impossible ideals that once surrounded the term “bikini body” are mostly discontinued, the toxic effects still linger. But here’s the thing — negative feelings about bodies aren’t an isolated occurrence, and they’re certainly not limited to the summer months. To get (sadly) technical, diet culture and body image are a massive problem across the globe.
Just to give you a baseline, the National Organization for Women reports that…
– By the age of 13 (!), 53 percent of American girls report being unhappy with their bodies. That number climbs to 78 percent by the time they reach age 17.
– Studies at both Stanford and the University of Michigan found that 70 percent of college women felt worse about their bodies after flipping through magazines.
It’s not just women, either. The NOW also tells us that, while 20 million women suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some point in their lives, so do 10 million men. A study presented by Bradley University shows that over 90 percent of men struggle in some way when it comes to uncomfortable feelings and emotions about their bodies, too.
What that tells us? No matter how many people may be bouncing around The Joule’s rooftop pool, well over half of them aren’t comfortable in their skin. And, after well over a year of living through a global pandemic, we all deserve better.
Enter Sarah Hackwith, a SESSION Pilates instructor and certified eating psychology coach who works with clients to help heal their relationship with food. She shares just how to step outside of the diet culture mindset this summer and into a place where wearing a killer pair of jean shorts feels a lot more like. . . just wearing a killer pair of jean shorts.
Connect Your Body With Joy
When it comes to teaching yourself how to feel comfortable in what you’re wearing, Hackwith makes a good point — “the only way we get better at doing something is by doing it.”
Especially in the beginning, when trying things for the first time, Hackwith says it’s incredibly normal to have pesky, anxious thoughts in the back of your head. However, linking your body to happy, connected moments is a great way to remind yourself that your body is just a body.
“Go do something where you can feel joy and can connect with other people, still having fun regardless of what you look like,” says Hackwith. “For example, wearing shorts for the first time to the grocery store isn’t going to have a huge return for you emotionally. It wouldn’t imprint it on your brain that you’re okay, you have a good life [shorts aside].”
Getting comfortable with your body and body image can be hard. The key according to Sarah Hackwith? Distract; don’t disassociate. “I cannot stress enough how helpful movement is, especially when it comes to being in your body in the present moment — dancing, even going for a walk.”
The way Hackwith explains it, it’s all about being thankful for the way your body moves and lives — and remembering that your body allows you to feel joy, have fun, and be you.
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Get to the Source
Some of us have probably felt the sheer paralysis of fear when wearing something like a bikini, a pair of denim shorts, or a sleeveless shirt. In fact, if we looked at the statistics up above, it would make sense that most of us have.
“The root cause of pretty much everything when it comes down to feeling shame about our bodies has to do with feeling like we’re not enough or not going to be accepted,” Hackwith says. “As weird as it sounds, people don’t always make the connection between ‘I don’t want to go out in this body and be seen in this bathing suit’ with being afraid that people aren’t going to love us or are going to shame us for the bodies we have.”
Sarah Hackwith’s challenge is to actually get back to that source — and figure out where it’s coming from for you, so you can deconstruct that feeling moving forward.
Reframe Your Thoughts
A huge piece of Sarah Hackwith’s work with clients involves teaching them how to reframe their thoughts. For example, imagine that you’re freaked out about wearing a swimsuit. You’re thinking something along the lines of, ‘I don’t want someone to see me and think, ‘I don’t want to be with this person because their body looks like that.’’’
When you’re focused on reframing thoughts like that, you can look back at that source finding you did and realize, ‘hey. That’s a fear of rejection. Of being alone. Of not being enough. I am enough, I am awesome, and I do deserve to be chosen.’
“When we hear ourselves say those things, it tends to give us that realization that, ‘well, yeah, of course I am enough,’” says Hackwith. “It can almost feel silly [that we thought that], and help us step into more power and courage.”
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Be Patient With Yourself
Here’s the thing: sometimes — actually, a lot of the time — things like stepping out in a bikini sound a lot easier than they actually are, but that’s okay. You have to give yourself patience.
“It might take time,” says Hackwith. “It might take 10 tries or 20 tries of putting the bathing suit on, and then putting the cover-up on and saying, ‘Today’s not the day.’ Just keep trying.”
Diversify Your Social Feeds
Ready for a hard truth? What you’re seeing every time you open up IG matters way more than you might think it does.
“If all you see on your social media feed or in your life is the same type of body — one that doesn’t match the type of body you have — you’re going to feel more timid and shameful about stepping forward,” Hackwith says. “Start to follow other people, see other bodies, and have more diversity with what you’re engaging with.
“When you watch other people give themselves permission to step into who they are, you start to give yourself permission to step into who you are.”
Some of Sarah Hackwith’s favorites:
So, a quick little reminder before you prepare to crack open own some White Claws in the pool this summer: your body is a body. That’s all it is — and the way it looks doesn’t inform things like your voice, your personality, and how incredible you are in the first place.