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  • Writer's pictureSarah Santiago

Your Body Is Currently A "Summer Body": Embracing Body Neutrality and Acceptance

Image shows 4 female presenting young adults with varying body types, wearing bright colored clothing and smiling while taking selfies with a phone. This image is intended to represent how therapy can help with body image.

Summer is a time when college students often have more time to relax, enjoy the sunshine, and take a break from the pressures of academia. However, for many students, this season can also intensify body image struggles, as societal expectations of the "perfect summer body" loom large. As a mental health therapist, I want to encourage a shift in perspective towards body neutrality and acceptance. In this blog post, we will explore the concept of body neutrality, provide strategies for embracing body acceptance, and offer guidance on cultivating a positive relationship with your body during the summer months. Let's embark on a journey of self-compassion and self-love.

1. Understanding Body Neutrality:

Body neutrality emphasizes a shift in focus from appearance and body judgments towards a more neutral stance. Instead of obsessing over how your body looks, body neutrality encourages you to redirect your energy towards what your body can do, its resilience, and its capacity for joy and pleasure. It involves accepting that bodies come in diverse shapes, sizes, and abilities, and valuing your body for its functionality rather than its appearance. Embracing body neutrality allows you to cultivate a more balanced and compassionate relationship with your body. An example I often use to help my clients connect with this concept: take a moment and think about your relationship with your tongue. It's likely that you have a very neutral relationship with your tongue. You use it several times daily to eat, speak, and breathe, yet you probably only think about it when it gets hurt or you use it in a new way that requires additional focus. You know it's there, but you probably don't base much of your self-worth on it. You likely already have a neutral relationship with your tongue which means you already possess the skills to adopt this relationship with any other part of your body.

2. Challenging Negative Self-Talk:

Negative self-talk can be a significant barrier to body acceptance. Identify and challenge the negative thoughts and beliefs you hold about your body. Recognize that these thoughts are often influenced by societal standards and unrealistic ideals. Practice self-compassion by reframing negative self-talk into more positive and realistic affirmations. Remind yourself that your worth is not determined by your appearance and that your body is deserving of love and respect regardless of its size or shape.

3. Practicing Mindful Self-Care:

Engage in self-care activities that prioritize your overall well-being rather than focusing solely on your physical appearance. Practice mindfulness. Participate in activities that bring you joy, such as spending time in nature, practicing mindfulness or meditation, engaging in creative outlets, or pursuing hobbies that make you feel fulfilled. Nurturing your mental and emotional health is key to developing a positive body image.

4. Surrounding Yourself with Body-Positive Influences:

Curate your social media feed and personal environment to include body-neutral influences. Follow accounts that promote body diversity, self-acceptance, and inclusivity. Seek out diverse representations of beauty in media and challenge the narrow standards perpetuated by society. Surrounding yourself with body-positive messages can help reframe your own beliefs and foster a more accepting attitude towards your own body.

5. Cultivating Gratitude for Your Body:

Shift your focus towards gratitude for your body's strength, resilience, and the experiences it allows you to have. Practice gratitude by acknowledging the functions your body performs daily, such as breathing, moving, and sensing the world around you. Engage in activities that promote body appreciation, such as gentle exercise, nourishing your body with balanced meals, and engaging in body-positive affirmations or mirror work. Try engaging all 5 senses during meals. Here's a client favorite exercise to try!

6. Seeking Professional Support:

If you find that negative body image significantly impacts your well-being and daily life, consider seeking professional support from a mental health therapist. A therapist can provide a safe and non-judgmental space to explore your feelings, develop coping strategies, and foster a healthier relationship with your body. Therapy can equip you with tools to challenge negative thought patterns, enhance self-acceptance, and navigate the complexities of body image concerns.

As college students navigate the summer season, it's crucial to prioritize body neutrality and acceptance. Embracing a more neutral stance towards your body allows you to focus on self-care, self-compassion, and overall well-being. By challenging negative self-talk, practicing mindful self-care, filling your social media with diverse bodies, you will be on your way to embracing a more neutral relationship with your body.

Note: This blog post is not intended to replace professional advice. If you are experiencing severe anxiety or mental health issues, it is recommended to consult with a licensed mental health professional. If you are in a crisis, please seek help immediately.

About the author: Sarah Santiago is a licensed professional counselor in Michigan. She provides therapy to Michigan college students and emerging adults (ages 18-29) virtually. Her specialties include helping clients work through anxiety, eating disorders, and improving self-confidence.

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