When the seasons change, most people look at the warmer temperatures and smile with anticipation of being outside and in the sun. However, for people who have a negative body image or an eating disorder the prospect of baring the skin and being exposed for all to see can be a daunting thought. The specialists at eating disorder treatment centers have noted time and again that negative body image is a potent trigger for disordered eating behaviors; what can people at risk for these behaviors do to prevent a lapse into an eating disorder when springtime comes?
Sure, no law says people should look a certain way or feel a certain way about their bodies, but there are also constant reminders everywhere that people, especially women should have the “perfect beach body” and that the summer months are meant for dieting and restrictions when it comes to food.
Unfortunately, all of that outside and internal pressure can easily trigger eating disorder behaviors. And for some, this may mean it’s time to consider the benefits of eating disorder treatment focused on repairing body image. Keep reading to learn how to navigate these social norms and maintain body positivity during the springtime and summer.
What Is a Negative Body Image?
Body image refers to how a person sees themselves. A distorted or negative body image refers to an unrealistic view of how one sees their body (or one that’s entirely negative despite assurances to the contrary) and is common with most eating disorders. In the most dramatic cases, a negative body image can influence or outright cause an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa or can lead to extensive dieting. Dieting is a major contributing factor to many eating disorders; the diet industry has come across criticism from recovery circles for promoting a negative body image and perhaps eating disorders as well.
How Does Body Image Influence Eating Disorders?
Although in many cases, body weight or body dissatisfaction is not as central a cause of eating disorders as regaining a sense of control over turbulent emotions, they can act as triggers for most eating disorders. They serve as a form of justification for using disordered behaviors like restriction or purging. If a negative body image is not addressed with some form of therapy, it can lead to an eating disorder that can require eating disorder treatment. Before considering a full-on residential eating disorder program, though, it’s important for families to take a closer look at the ideas and behaviors that can contribute to negative body image in the summer months.
While many diets begin with good intentions, extreme, fad, or yo-yo dieting can be a very risky practice. Often, constant dieting can take a toll on one’s physical, emotional and mental well-being—and can lead to the need for inpatient eating disorder treatment. Especially when going on a “crash diet” before beach season, the body can suffer severe physical consequences including nutritional imbalance and anemia as well as setting a disordered eating precedent that can further develop into an eating disorder like anorexia nervosa.
People with a negative body image should find a way to affirm for themselves (or having a friend or even a therapist do so) the joys that intuitive eating can bring. There is a principle known as HAES (healthy at every size) that emphasizes the appreciation of one’s body no matter the size or shape.
Regardless of a person’s age, size, body type, gender, or ethnicity, body dissatisfaction is one of the greatest risk factors for developing an eating disorder. And pushing hard to achieve a certain “ideal” body shape often means that treatment is necessary from inpatient eating disorder centers. To combat negative body image, people can:
- Engage in positive body talk
- Write out positive body affirmations
- Focus on all the good that one’s body can do
- Accept the idea that happiness and healthiness comes in all shapes and sizes