Summer is almost here.


You know it is because for weeks all you have seen on the front cover of magazines and in your social media feed are stories on how to slim down in time for summer.

Titles such as “6 weeks to a beach body” or “Get rid of the flab for summer” seem to scream at you from every direction.

If you weren’t feeling bad about your body before, then you probably are now. The thought of wearing shorts fills you with dread. Wearing a sleeveless top is out of the question — even on scorching hot days. And as for donning a swimsuit — well you can cool off by putting your feet in the water, can’t you?

All of a sudden, you notice everything that is wrong with your body, and you feel ashamed and disgusted with yourself.

Then the shame turns to anger. “How could I let myself go over winter?” “Look at the flab on my stomach and arms!” The anger quickly turns to determination and a steely resolve to make amends for your lack of willpower during the colder months.

You decide that this summer you WILL lose weight. You will make up for EVERY exercise session you missed over winter. You will be so strict with your eating that the weight will just fall off, and everyone will applaud and marvel at how amazing you are.

Yes!

So you start making plans. Which diet will you follow? What will your exercise plan look like?

Even though you know in your head, the majority of diets and exercise regimes touted across the internet and in the magazines are likely to do more damage than good, a small part of your heart screams out, “but if it works, I’ll feel amazing!”

STOP.

Just stop.

Breathe — and ask yourself why you want to lose weight?

Is it to improve your health or to feel worthy?

If you think losing weight will help you love yourself, you’re dead wrong.

You need to love yourself first. You need to accept who you are — curves and flesh and wobbly bits. You need to know that you are worthy no matter what your size or shape.

You need to respect yourself.

Self-loathing leads to punishment

When you feel disgusted with yourself and ashamed of your size, every action you take is a form of punishment.

You restrict your eating; you cut out all the foods that you enjoy, cut back on your portions and only eat ‘diet’ food. This of course will eventually lead to a binge, which leads to more self-loathing and then tighter control over your food. And the cycle continues.

You punish yourself with gruelling exercise sessions, even if you dislike the exercise, because you believe that the harder they are the more conducive they are for weight loss. This eventually leads to exhaustion, misery and possibly injury

You begin to weigh yourself regularly — maybe daily or several times a day — and let the scales dictate your mood and how you view yourself. Most days you feel down.

You start to look at everyone around you and compare yourself to them. Are you thinner? Is your will-power stronger? Are you more attractive? What diet are they on? How did they lose weight? Why can’t I be like them?

Your insecurities will continue to eat away at you as you strive to find value based on a number on the scale or in a dress size. Sure you might lose weight, in the short term, but will you be able to keep it off? And will you really feel better about yourself?

Self-love leads to nourishment

What if you forgot about your body for a second and loved yourself anyway? How would your actions differ?

You would see food differently. You would be more likely to choose foods that nourish your body and make you feel healthy and energised. You would continue to feed your soul by indulging every now and then with a bit of chocolate or a glass of good wine. And you wouldn’t feel guilty about what you ate. You would have a more balanced approach to eating.

You would choose an exercise you love doing and stick with it. You would embrace the ability to move freely and realise that not everyone else has that opportunity. You would marvel at how wonderful your body really is to be able to do all it does. You would love how moving your body makes you feel. You would also understand that rest and relaxation is just as important as exercise.

By having a healthy outlook on food and exercise and making healthy choices, you will automatically feel better physically and emotionally. You will feel relaxed and calm, knowing that you are taking care of yourself. You wouldn’t need to verify how good you feel by jumping on the scales every five minutes. You certainly wouldn’t let them dictate how you were to feel on any given day.

You would stop comparing yourself with everyone else. You would discover that you are an amazing person worth so much more than your looks alone. You would see your amazing qualities of kindness and empathy. You would realise that are brilliant at your job. You would see you are loved and valued for who you are, rather than what you look like.

You would find peace and happiness that is not based on your body image.

How do you want to feel this summer and every summer from now on?

Angry, ashamed and worthless, constantly striving to find peace through weight loss?

Or calm, happy and valued, living a happy, healthy lifestyle because you know you’re worth taking care of?

Stop wasting time comparing yourself to other people or unrealistic images in the media.

Instead, start applauding yourself for the amazing and unique person you really are. When you learn to do that, true happiness will be yours.

Nerissa Bentley

Nerissa Bentley is a mum of two and a Melbourne-based health writer and blogger. She writes health and medical content for a variety of national clients and is also working on her first novel. She loves coffee, lifting weights and enjoys the odd sneaky red wine.

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