The approach of springtime with its milder weather, budding plants and more frequent displays of sunshine seems like it would be welcomed by everyone. After all, these signs of spring are evidence that the long, cold and sometimes-brutal winter season is taking a turn for the better. For someone who is experiencing body image negativity, though, the promise of springtime often is not a welcome event.
Spring Is Just the Beginning
It’s not that a person who has body image negativity doesn’t look forward to seeing the foliage bloom and the sun shining more brightly for its own sake. Instead, it’s that sinking realization that spring is only the beginning.
It’s the start of one of the most stressful and anxiety-provoking times of the year. With the warmer weather, people naturally shed the layers of clothing that kept them warm and comfortable throughout the winter months.
Many people look forward to the ease and freedom of movement that shedding winter clothes brings. They’re happy to show off their legs, arms, and body in cute little shorts and sundresses.
Struggling With Poor Body Image
For an individual who struggles with poor body image, the advent of warmer weather can make the connection between eating disorders and self-esteem obvious. In spite of what many people might think, body image struggles affect people of all genders and ages — not just those who are female, young adults or in recovery as part of eating disorder treatment.
Signs That Springtime is Stressful for Someone
Friends, family members and others who are close to an individual are often the first to notice when something is amiss as the temperatures warm up. Even the individual who is feeling the signs below might not make the connection between body image negativity and the changes they are experiencing.
- Increase in depression and anxiety
The thought of exposing their body to others’ eyes can feel a person who is experiencing a negative body image with dread and anxiety. This can lead to bouts of depression as they try to formulate a plan to avoid those types of situations.
- Dissatisfaction with their body
A person who has a negative body image is already struggling with dissatisfaction with how their body looks. With the cold winter weather, though, they can wear clothing that helps minimize the scrutiny of other people.
- Negative self-talk increases
Airbrushed images of slender, smiling models who look perfect and seem to always be having fun seem to proliferate social media platforms, magazines and television ads in earnest during the springtime. With this bombardment, it can be easy for someone who struggles with body image negativity to compare what they see in the mirror to what’s depicted in the media.
- Skipping meals
The spring weather is often a time when dieting kicks into high gear. Whether a person is skipping meals as part of a planned dieting regiment, like intermittent fasting, or they bow out of opportunities to eat in a more casual way, this is often a sign that the individual is struggling with the effects the warm weather has on their self-esteem.
- Increased exercising
Sometimes an increase in exercising occurs in conjunction with skipping meals. In other cases, it happens separately. Regardless of how it occurs, a noticeable increase in exercising for no apparent reason could be a sign that the individual is struggling with their body image.
- Being obsessive about their body and food
Even the most confident person could start to question themselves when spring hits. It’s a time when more revealing clothing will soon become the norm. When those questions and thoughts veer into being obsessive about food and their body, however, it could be a cause for concern.
What Are Some Signs That a Person Might be Struggling with Their Body Image?
When a person feels insecure about their body, it can result in both negativity and self-doubt. A lack of self-esteem or body image negativity could prevent that individual from fully enjoying their life. In a nutshell, this negativity about their body image can reduce their quality of life.
Here are a few ways this might become evident to the person who is struggling with their body image. Family members, coworkers, friends and other people who are close to that person might also notice some of the following signs:
- Very sensitive during interactions
A person who is insecure about their body or who is having challenges with their self-esteem, it can lead to questions about the actions and words of other people. The behaviors, words, motives, and gestures of others can be misinterpreted and seem less genuine.
- Difficulty accepting praise and/or compliments
Compliments, praise and kind gestures from other people are a part of life. For the person who is struggling with body image negativity, though, these positive words and actions are often difficult to fully accept. Instead of doing so, the individual might deflect these words or gestures from other people. Another common reaction is suspicion regarding the other person’s motive when kindness is extended.
- Not able to enjoy the present
Body image negativity, eating disorders, and self-esteem can result in concerns and thoughts that threaten to consume everything else in a person’s life. It can become the focal point so that it’s nearly impossible to think about anything else. Living in the moment, enjoying the present, and having a high quality of life simply aren’t possible when a person’s thoughts are focused primarily on their body’s flaws.
- Constantly comparing themselves to others
It’s natural to compare oneself to others, but behavior of this type that happens constantly can result if a person struggles with self-esteem and body issues. This constant comparison can ramp up during the spring as the weather warms up and people start wearing skimpier clothing.
These comparisons might include celebrities, family members, strangers, models, actors, and friends. Virtually anyone could become the topic of comparison for a person who is struggling with body image. The focus of these comparisons could be the person’s size, body parts, characteristics or their entire body.
Eating disorders and self-esteem often go hand in hand. If the person is working their way through eating disorder treatment, one method that a therapist might suggest involves increased exposure to something that makes the person uncomfortable.
In terms of spring and the season’s move toward less clothing and skimpier outfits, facing a situation that is feared or that provokes anxiety is a core element of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). It starts by ranking the situations that spring brings up from those that are least scary to those that are the most.
Some common situations include wearing shorts, a short-sleeve shirt or a bathing suit. Eating at a family outdoor picnic or going to the park with a friend in clothing that is appropriate for spring.
The next step is to break one of these fears down further. Wearing shorts is the ideal situation to practice increased exposure. Think about all the different places where shorts might be worn. After this has been done, rank them from the least anxiety-provoking to the most.
An important component of increased exposure is to shop for the item that is being used — in this case, it’s a pair of shorts. It is important that the shorts that are chosen fit the person right now. This is true even if the individual is not pleased with their current shape, size, and weight.
Here’s where the exposure to the activity that increases the person’s anxiety is put fully into place. The place an individual will feel the safest is likely to be at their home. If the home is a shared space, the individual can use their bedroom.
The objective is for the person to wear shorts in a comfortable environment. Once that individual starts to feel more comfortable about wearing shorts inside their bedroom or in their home, it’s time to widen the area.
Wearing the shorts out into the yard is a logical next step. Another suggestion is to wear them down to the lobby. After that feels comfortable, the individual can graduate to walking in their neighborhood.
It’s important to not move on to the next step in the increased exposure that an individual has to feel very comfortable with each phase of the process before moving forward. After walking in their neighborhood, the person might decide to wear their shorts to the mall on a weekday when it isn’t very crowded. The final increase in exposure would be heading to the mall during a crowded weekend.
Another good strategy that is designed to develop a plan for the individual is to track their progress. Keeping a small notebook nearby during these increased exposures can help the individual identify their levels of distress as they move throughout the different exposures.
It’s important for the individual to track their anxiety levels before, during, and after the activities. Ranking each time on a scale of 1 to 10 can be a valuable strategy for long-term success.
Eating Disorder Treatment
Treating eating disorders takes a great deal of knowledge, passion, and expertise. Therapeutic and medical staff should have a stance that supports kindness, love, and forgiveness. This approach focuses on tending the soul and developing trust without judgment.
Because a therapist is a person first and a therapist second, many of the best ones have gone through the eating disorder process themselves or by helping a loved one. This recovered staff approach helps lead to fully recovered clients who can tell when their therapist truly understands what they are going through.
Monte Nido is the premier facility for eating disorders with nine residential treatment centers located across the United States, including facilities in California, New York, Oregon, Illinois and Maryland. They offer day treatment options in eight facilities including those in Massachusetts, California, Oregon, and Pennsylvania.
Providing comprehensive treatment for eating disorders in adolescents, adults, men, and women, Monte Nido can process disorders that are also co-occurring such as mental health disorders or substance use disorders. Their luxurious facilities have a spa-like environment and feature a dedicated and caring staff. Medical treatment, options for past treatment, and frequent activities that occur off-site, Monte Nido only provides treatment plans that are customized to the individual.
Their hands-on staff develops supportive treatment options that increase the individual’s coping skills and help them lead a recovered life. These evidence-based methods depend on proven clinical knowledge that’s delivered in a compassionate and supportive environment.
To learn more about how Monte Nido can assist and support you or your loved one during the struggles of body image negativity and eating disorders, contact them today. With a plethora of educational resources and treatment support that’s delivered by a compassionate team, Monte Nido changes lives.