7 Tips To Boost Your Body Confidence This Summer
Growing up in Australia, summer was always a fun and exciting time. There was the excitement of Christmas, several weeks of school holidays which never seemed to go long enough and the occasional family getaway.
Reflecting back on my childhood years, summer was the absolute bomb. Days spent by the beach, the local pool or even frolicking around under the sprinklers in the backyard with my younger sisters – it felt carefree, simple and joyful. There was no shame, no commentary on my body or bodies in general and no comparison. It was a time of pure innocence, a little bit of sunburn, lots of sand and a belly full of ice-cream.
The feelings I had about my body began to change as I hit high school.
Puberty arrived and along with it came some fairly noticeable changes. Like many teenagers, my body was developing (cue Britney Spears ‘I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman’) and I was struggling to come to terms with these changes. I went from resembling a beanstalk to growing a set of hips that certainly didn’t lie, bigger boobs, a bigger butt and a pair of thighs that would later bless me with the nickname ‘Thunder Thighs’.
My new adolescent body wasn’t ‘abnormal’, but it began to feel like it didn’t belong to me anymore. I started to feel self-conscious about it, something I hadn’t yet experienced before. I became focused on the way my body looked in certain clothing and wanting to hide the parts that made me feel uncomfortable. It started out as a personal battle but then the bullying started and my entire relationship with my body changed. This was the beginning of a tumultuous, toxic and unhealthy relationship with my body that would impact my life for many years to come.
The first time I was called fat was when I was 14.
In the early days of my dysmorphia, I did not yet understand complexities of dieting and weight loss so instead focused on hiding my body away and doing everything possible to avoid attention.
P.E classes and our school swimming carnivals were my worst nightmare. The thought of having my body on display for the world (aka my classmates) made me feel so incredibly vulnerable and sick with anxiety. I would do anything to get out of swimming in front of my peers but on those days I couldn’t manage a miracle, I had to deal with kids being shitty kids. I was called a whale, I was laughed and sniggered at when jumping or diving into the water because apparently my body mass caused tsunami-like waves *eye roll*.
It didn’t just stop at the swimming pool. Every time I looked in the mirror, I saw a body that was too ‘big’ and that took up too much space. On searing hot days, I’d refuse to take off my school jumper because I was disgusted by my body. I wore shorts and dresses only to spend my days fretting over the light dimples that were forming on the back of my thighs.
The last time I wore a bikini was in Year 8. I became incredibly uncomfortable with having my belly on show and I couldn’t go swimming without wearing board shorts. I starting spending less time at the pool and I refused to swim on beach holidays even though deep down, I really enjoyed being in the water.
Time went by and the bullying subsided, but the damage had already been done. My body was the enemy and with summer on the horizon, I was curious about going on a diet. I started in engaging in disordered eating – restricting food groups and certain foods, searching for weight loss tips on the internet and exercising for the sole purpose of losing weight.
With an upcoming holiday to tropical Queensland, I started restricting, counting calories and an obsession with sit ups. I wanted to look good in my summer clothes and go swimming. I dropped some of my hard earned cash on a Roxy bikini that I really wanted to wear. I told myself that if I bought it it would motivate me to the lose weight. I ended up wearing it once, maybe twice with shorts and a t-shirt covering it.
A year later, I discovered diet pills in the supermarket. I had failed my last diet and as a result, was engaging in on and off again binge eating. I knew I had gained weight and I was desperate to do something before summer. I thought these tablets would be the answer to all my troubles but I soon got sick of trying to force a horse-sized tablet down my throat three times a day.
My summer body anxiety wasn't just impacting my own comfort but also the way I lived my life.
I was a huge music fan and loved going to all the summer festivals, but I stopped going. I was ashamed of my body – I didn’t feel comfortable in short shorts, or singlet tops. I felt too big, out of place, didn’t look like the other girls with their midriff tops and mini skirts.
I developed a hatred of the beach – I convinced myself that I wasn’t a ‘beach’ person. It was too hot, too crowded, too sandy. For five years, I did not own any form of bathing suit because there was no way I would be caught dead going swimming.
A family holiday up to coast ended my swimsuit ban and I knew there was no way out of refusing to swim while I was there, so I bought my first swimsuit (full piece of course, to be worn with board shorts) in 7 years. I convinced myself that I had to lose weight before this holiday, there was no other way about it. So a couple of months prior I was very miserably back on the diet wagon forcing myself to only consume soup and shakes.
Letting go of my summer body anxiety certainly wasn't something that happened overnight.
It required a lot of unlearning of what I had previously been taught, working through some deep held beliefs I had about my own body and most importantly, treating myself with kindness and compassion.
The first time I wore a bikini in 10 years, I felt like there was a huge magnifying glass over my body and everyone was staring. There was still that temptation to get into the water and then back out to the comfort of my beach towel as soon as I could to escape prying eyes. But the reality was that everyone was just going about their own business and paying zero attention to me.
I wouldn’t say that I am 100% confident in being out and about in my swimmers. I still feel like everybody within a 100m radius is staring at me as I make my way into the water but what has changed is that this anxiety is no longer holding me back from doing what I want to do in summer. I’m not afraid to show of my arms, my legs, my cellulite – my comfort and enjoyment now takes priority over the insecurities I once had about my body.
Has summer body anxiety held you back from living your best life? How have you overcome it? Let me know in the comments below.