By Quinn Nystrom, MS

Summer is finally here! The sun and warmer temps feel wonderful after what felt like the longest winter season, ever. Though the lure of sand, water, shorts, and sandals are invigorating for some, there are as many people facing the heat of summer with dread.

When struggling with body image, there is comfort in “layering up” in snuggly sweaters and hoodies. However, as the temps rise, so does the need to shed some layers and this can lead to heightened anxiety from those of us who are not excited about exposing any part of our anatomy.

Truth-be-told, this is actually a common problem for many people; especially for women. As a woman, our daily activities sometimes feels like they are under siege from TV commercials, glossy magazine advertisements, and even social media touting a landslide of images of a specific body type. It’s easy to see how we can begin to feel bad about our bodies.

So, as much as I would love to live in my yoga pants and long-sleeved tees 365 days a year, I also know that it doesn’t make sense. That’s when I know I need to revisit and get reacquainted with The Body Positive Movement.

In its modern form, “body positivity” can mean anything from accepting your flaws to being happy with your body to the fight for the visibility and acceptance of larger bodies. The Body Positivity social movement is rooted in the belief that all human beings should have a positive body image, and be accepting of their bodies as well as the bodies of others.

Connie Sobczak and Elizabeth Scott, LCSW, founded The Body Positive in 1996 because of their shared passion for creating a lively, healing community that offers freedom from suffocating societal messages that keep people in a perpetual struggle with their bodies.

So, how can we all make brains love our bodies more? Working to cultivate a positive body image is an excellent way to counteract this negative stream of images we are encouraged to compare ourselves to. But believe me, its hard work! However, the payoff is NOT feeling unattractive and overly critical of the skin we are in.  It doesn’t matter what size you are, all of us are always deserving of love and respect, especially from yourself!

Here are some tips on rocking The Body Positive Movement in your own Life:

Focus on your positive qualities, skills, and talents: Focus on appreciating and respecting what your body can do, not what it can’t. Not all of us cut out to rock climb or run 10Ks. However, that doesn’t make us less relevant and meaningful or that our victories matter any less. Embrace the fact you love to walk in the woods or get a thrill from zipping across the ice with skates. We are all accomplished human beings in our unique ways.

Avoid negative or berating self-talk: Our internal dialogue can often be as persistent and annoying as a mosquito buzzing in our ear. Instead, swat the hypothetical mosquito, flip the switch on your thinking, and strive to say positive things to yourself every day.  Remind yourself of things you like about your looks and about the things that make you uniquely YOU. Bottom line: Don’t expect your body to be perfect because the reality is no one’s is.

Set positive, health-focused goals rather than weight loss-focused goals: Not long ago, I wrote an article for the Center for Change about Intuitive Eating. I love this concept of healthy eating because it eliminates the guilt and rigidity of popular diet fads, meal plans, and calorie counting and instead focuses on a way of eating that is about discovering a peaceful and satisfying relationship with food, mind, and body. I highly recommend looking at Intuitive Eating as part of your Body Positive lifestyle.

Most importantly, take care of YOU. Eat good foods. Get enough sleep. Be active every day and surround yourself with people who love you and see you as the amazing human being that you are.