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Rejecting Society’s Expectations for a “Summer Body”

3 body-positive women at the beach

The warmer spring and summer months usually usher in a time of great activity and fun for most Americans. They’re a chance to get out into nature, have barbeques, and hit the beach. But there are also constant reminders everywhere that women should have the “perfect bikini body.” The pressure on people – men also suffer from negative body image and societal expectations – to fill expectations can lead to severe weight loss attempts and, ultimately, eating disorders.

The message people receive from the diet industry and most advertising is that the summer months are for dieting and food restrictions. Unfortunately, all of that outside and internal pressure can easily trigger eating disorder behaviors. Although trying to lose a little weight is usually not a bad thing, negative body image and frequent dieting are precursors to eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. If these behaviors progress, this may mean it’s time to consider seeking help from an eating disorder treatment center.

Societal expectations about appearance and the media’s presentations can hurt individuals’ self-image and affect their mental health, especially as “beach body” season approaches. Keep reading to learn how to navigate these social norms and maintain body positivity during the summer months.

What Is Negative Body Image?

Body image refers to how individuals see themselves. A distorted or negative body image refers to an unrealistic view of how one sees one’s body and is common with most eating disorders. This is referred to in professional circles as body dysmorphia. It’s a major contributing factor in most forms of eating disorder, including binge eating disorder, anorexia nervosa, and bulimia nervosa. People at risk for developing eating disorders should take a closer look at the ideas and behaviors that can contribute to negative body image in the summer months – this is the season that people’s bodies are most subject to societal expectations.

Summer Dieting

While many diets begin with good intentions, fad dieting can be a very risky practice. Even “normal” diets put a premium on calorie counting and food restriction; these influence restrictive eating disorders like anorexia nervosa. The diet industry also depends on people feeling bad about their weight or appearance. The constant messaging that one’s body should look a certain way keeps people on the diet and increases their dissatisfaction with their bodies. Often, continuous dieting takes a toll on one’s physical, emotional and mental well-being—and can lead to the need for inpatient eating disorder treatment.

Body Dissatisfaction

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, you 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 comes in all shapes and sizes
  • Prepare meals just for yourself
  • Eat what you want when you want
  • Remember that your friends and family love you no matter your size

Body Image Dissatisfaction Can Be Helped with Therapy

No matter the season, body image distortions affect a person’s self-esteem in many ways. The pressures that come with summer can worsen those distortions, triggering destructive behaviors. However, an entire segment of mental healthcare is devoted to treating body dysmorphia and eating disorders. It’s worthwhile to start with a private practice therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist who can determine if a diagnosis of an eating disorder is warranted. After that, residential or outpatient eating disorder treatment may be necessary. It may sound intimidating, but these centers provide the best outcomes for people struggling with these devastating mental health disorders.




With 20 years of behavioral health business development experience, Carrie combines world-class marketing, media, public relations, outreach, and business development with a deep understanding of client care and treatment. Her contributions to the world of behavioral health business development – and particularly eating disorder treatment  – go beyond simple marketing; she has actively developed leaders for her organizations and for the industry at large.

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The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.

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