Body image has become a hot-button topic over the past few years. When we entered quarantine in 2020 – and by default, an era of deep introspection – our feelings and views of our bodies came to the forefront. In a time where we felt isolated from the world, the new reality of being pressured into having your camera on in Zoom calls intruded upon the peace of escaping society's judging eyes.
Quarantine did succeed in making the general public take conversations around mental wellness more seriously, and professional help became more accessible with the standardization of telehealth appointments. This accessibility allowed many folks living with eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and other similar diagnoses to receive help for the first time ever. But towards the end of the nationwide lockdown, this idea of preparing your body to reemerge into society began to swirl around social media. This idea of priming your body to be viewed and judged by society is detrimental to your body image. But it certainly isn't new, considering the "summer body" rhetoric we see popularized every winter.
In “Session 204: Some Thoughts on Body Image” of the Therapy for Black Girls podcast Dr. Joy Harden Bradford and Paula Edwards-Gayfield MA, LPCS, LPC, NCC, CEDS-S speak about how body image is formed and its nuisances for Black women. Many internal and external factors dictate our views on our bodies. Factors such as culture, media, personal assumptions, and family and friends' opinions influence our understanding of and relationship to our bodies. As Black women, our body image is also affected by the inter-generational and historical traumas brought on by policing and enslavement of our bodies. And our existence outside the Eurocentric beauty standard often puts our cultural body preferences up against the ideal body types of the wider white-dominated society.
Their insightful conversation made it clear that the key to building a better relationship with our body is confronting and rooting the harmful beliefs that comprise our body image.
So as we head into the cold and lonely winter months, I wonder if we can avoid the seemingly inevitable "summer body" wave. Instead, we could work on our relationship with food. What are you eating? Why are you eating it? How does the food make you feel? We could work on our relationship to exercise. Why are you working out? What forms of movement feel best to your body? What goals can you set that prioritize health over aesthetics? We could work on how we speak about our bodies. What positive affirmations can you say about your body daily? Where do the negative thoughts about your appearance come from? What forms of media contribute to your self-perception?
This journey requires you to be patient with yourself. A lifetime's worth of commentary on your body is a lot to unpack. Give yourself grace. How do you plan to take control of and repaint your body image this winter?