Although it might not be talked about a lot, many people struggle with body image — especially in the summer. With diet culture telling you how to get a bikini body paired with the unreliable sizing of clothing and swimsuits, summer can be a difficult time for a lot of people.
Summertime means wearing less clothing to avoid overheating, but this can pose a challenge for those who have body image issues. According to the National Organization for Women (NOW), 53% of 13-year-old girls struggle with body dissatisfaction and that number rises to 78% by the time they turn 17.
Muriel Williams, a licensed eating disorder counselor, explains that summer can be triggering for people with eating disorders and body image issues.
“At the beginning of the year, everybody is like ‘new year, new me.’ That’s typically when everyone starts dieting and trying to get their summer body,” Williams says. “Summer months are notorious for having the most stress on people when it comes to body image.”
Even models who set expectations for beauty find it hard to consistently keep a positive mindset. Meredith Thomas, a model for the Brown Modeling Agency in Austin, says she has struggled with body image issues in the past.
“I’ve always been tiny; I’ve been a string bean for most of my life and dealt with body image issues because of that. I still do, to this day,” Thomas says. “It’s mostly from anxiety so I just try to shoo it away.”
Along with body image struggles, Thomas has found it difficult to find swimsuits and clothing in her size, which can make loving her body even harder.
Aside from weight-focused issues, there are other forms of body image issues that can negatively impact mental health as well. Austin curve model Tina Rich has felt confident in her body but has had insecurities surrounding her skin.
“Having acne and oily skin has been a struggle,” Rich says. “But, in a way, I think my oily skin helps keep me looking youthful.”
Even though both Thomas and Rich have dealt with body image struggles, they emphasize the importance of staying positive and not comparing yourself to others. Rich says you just have to push through adversity and never give up.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re plus-sized or a curve model — if you see an opportunity, take it,” Rich says. “Don’t let your size, race or the way you look stop you from doing what you want.”
Hanna Vogt, a therapist at Austin Counseling and Nutrition, explains that although anyone can struggle with body image, some people may be more susceptible. She says teen girls and transgender people can have a tough time with body image, as puberty can be especially hard for these communities. However, Vogt says there are things you can do to help prevent these issues.
Although self-care is always important, it is especially necessary when you aren’t feeling good in your skin. Vogt explains that self-care isn’t just about eating healthy and drinking water, but rather how you feed yourself emotionally, spiritually and mentally. Vogt also emphasizes the importance of preventative therapy. She says many people think they must be in crisis mode to seek help, but that is far from the truth.
“In our larger healthcare system, we have resources that are proactive as well as reactive, but most types of therapy are solely reactive,” Vogt says. “You don’t have to go to therapy when you are extremely depressed; you can go at any time to work on yourself.”
Body positivity has been more prevalent recently, but for some people, Vogt says body neutrality is a more reasonable first step.
“For my clients, I would love for them to get to a place where they love their body, but that can be hard for a lot of us,” Vogt says. “If that feels like too big of a step, try to get to a place where (you) feel neutral about (your) body. Instead of criticizing your body’s appearance, think about all of the ways your body serves you throughout the day.”
One of the most effective ways to feel more comfortable in your body in the summer is to find clothes that fit well. Though both Thomas and Rich have had trouble finding brands with clothes in their sizes, they share their favorite size-inclusive stores. For plus-size clothing or clothes made for curvy bodies, Rich recommends Torrid, Ashley Stewart, Cato, Forever 21 and JCPenney. As a petite model, Thomas recommends Alice + Olivia as well as H&M.
Although the summer months aren’t always easy, it’s important to check in with your body. Feeling good mentally and physically is more important than trying to get a “bikini body.” Staying cool and finding clothes that make you feel confident are key to having your dream summer.