Summer is on the way... so it’s time to ditch the steamer as the water warms up and the sun comes out. Whilst most surfers I know look forward to being wetsuit-free in the water, for many girls I know (surfers and non-surfers alike) the thought of showing off their winter glow brings shivers down their spines!
Unfortunately, a majority of Australian women report being unhappy with their bodies and have a poor body image. Body image is how you think of, perceive and feel about your body. Our perceptions are the picture that we have of ourselves in our own mind. Body image is not always directly related to actual body weight, shape or size – as people who are a healthy weight may still have a poor body image.
What does this have to do with bikinis?
Being seen in a bikini can be a big challenge for girls and women with poor body image. It can trigger negative thoughts and emotions, lead to low self-esteem and may even lead to destructive behaviours such as crash dieting or disordered eating. Understanding the various factors that influence your body image is the first step that can help you develop a better body image:
• In Western societies such as Australia, a thin (and potentially unrealistic) female body shape is promoted as the ideal.
• Magazines and “health” companies promote an endless stream of unsustainable fad diets that offer a magic bullet to help you achieve the six-pack you (apparently) have always lusted after!
• Family and friends can also negatively influence your body image, often unintentionally.
Steps to a better body image
Acceptance of ourselves for who we are is also important to having a good body image and is key to actually liking ourselves. Liking ourselves is an important part of making and sustaining positive lifestyle changes. The good news is that no matter who you are, what shape or size you are, you can have a better body image. If you, or someone you know, would benefit from feeling happier in their own body, try these simple ideas…
• Have a think about what it is that is driving your negative self-image. Identifying the cause is important as it helps you know what things to focus on to create change.
• Acknowledge that the super-skinny female body portrayed in the media is not ‘normal’ for the majority of the population.
• Engage in positive activities that promote health for the long term e.g. surfing with friends, playing on the beach with the kids, walking the dog, participating in a hobby that brings you happiness.
• Choose goals that centre on health outcomes rather than weight, shape or size outcomes. Remember that thin doesn’t always equal healthy.
• Surround yourself with people who are respectful and positive rather than people who criticize you or put you down.
• If you find yourself thinking about your body in a negative way, challenge these thoughts with neutral or positive thoughts that identify you as an individual. For example, ‘my tummy is curved like a woman’s instead of ‘my tummy is too big’.
• Find five things that you really do like about yourself, for example the shape of your toes or the colour of your eyes!
• You can also try the activities in this book or seeking help from an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) or a Psychologist.
Words by Anna Millichamp
Anna Millichamp is an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) and Accredited Nutritionist (AN). Her business, Create Nutrition, is located in Byron Bay. Combining her experience in both Paediatric and Adult nutrition with her love of tasty, healthy food, Anna helps her clients achieve better health one bite at a time.
Create Nutrition, PO Box 5, BYRON BAY NSW 2481
M: 0466 090 289
Kausman, R. 2004. If not dieting, then what? Allen & Unwin: Crows Nest
State Government of Victoria. 2010. Better Health Channel: Body image – women. Available at http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/body_image_issues_for_women?open