This summer's vibe? Every body is a beach body!

[3 MIN READ]

In this article:

  • Whether you’re fat, thin, short, tall or something in between – every body is a summer body, says a behavioral health provider at Swedish Behavioral Health Integration.
  • Weight stigma can lead to depression, anxiety and poor self-esteem. 
  • Changing the way we talk about size, weight and being fat requires changing the words and references we use. 

Summertime is just around the corner. For many of us, that means beaches, barbecues and basking in the sun are on the agenda. Is your “summer body” ready to go?

Assuming you have a body, the answer to that question should always be a resounding “Yes!” And your response shouldn’t depend on your size or shape, according to Ash Choi, MA, LMHC, a behavior health provider at Swedish Behavioral Health Integration. 

 “We live in a society that values the thin body. Thin privilege is something that protects those who are in thin or slender bodies from the discrimination that those in larger bodies face. The world has been built for thin and slender bodies, from the sizes available in clothing stores to the size of airplane seats,” says Choi.

It doesn’t have to be this way, according to Choi. We talked to them about fatness, body image and acceptance. Here’s what they shared.

Summer is for every body

The notion that only a particular type or size of body is worthy of enjoying summer activities is a form of fat phobia. The results of perpetuating fat phobia are vast, and generally include negative body image and shame, says Choi.

“Because of unrelenting cultural messaging, we are taught that fat bodies are of lower worth than thin bodies. Simply put, this is a dangerous and false narrative we are encouraged to believe – from the magazines we read, to the shows we watch, to the world of social media. We all have bodies. We don’t choose them, and they are all good,” they explain.

Despite the promise of fun in the sun, the quest for a perfect summer body can worsen any insecurities you have about size and significantly affect your health.

According to the American Psychological Association, sizeism is a form of bias, discrimination and weight stigma. It leads to increased suffering and psychological distress. Sizeism increases a person’s risk for mental health problems such as substance use and suicidality.

Additional risks include: 

  • Disordered eating or eating disorders
  • Decreased physical activity
  • Healthcare avoidance
  • Increased risk of mortality

Studies on implicit biases, or unconscious beliefs we have about specific groups of people find that societally, we have a positive bias toward thinness. The associations that come with fatness, however, aren’t so kind. “You don’t need a perfect body to have positive body image. There is no perfect body. The key is learning how to accept yourself – and your body – as it is right now,” says Choi.

Changing the narrative

Changing the narrative is a big task, and one that needs buy-in from people who are not fat. “Fat acceptance and fat positivity starts at home,” says Choi.

“It starts with conversations we have with our partners, families, kids, friends and healthcare providers. It starts with examining our own language and whether we tend to label bodies and food as good or bad, healthy or unhealthy. It starts with asking ourselves why we might avoid saying the word fat, or what we believe about fatness. Be curious with your responses and talk about them with others,” they add. 

Building awareness of how we talk about diet culture and body image with the people in our lives is an important part of fighting back against diet culture. This also requires actively learning more about fat acceptance, health at every size and the thin ideal.

Finding acceptance

Regardless of shape, size, and wait, acceptance is the ultimate goal for many of us. Getting there may take some work, but the end result is worth the effort, says Choi. 

“One way to begin on the path of self-acceptance is by challenging thin privilege. Practicing self-compassion and pushing back against self-criticism and body-shaming are helpful strategies, both of which require lots of practice. The good news is that there are many supportive communities and resources that can join you in that work.”

Learn more and find a physician or advanced practice clinician (APC)

The experts at Swedish Behavioral Health can help you examine and resolve the issues that affect your perception of yourself and your body.

Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult a doctor virtually, you have options. Contact Swedish Primary Care to schedule an appointment with a primary care provider. You can also connect virtually with your provider to review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow up as needed. And with Swedish ExpressCare Virtual you can receive treatment in minutes for common conditions such as colds, flu, urinary tract infections and more. You can use our provider directory to find a specialist or primary care physician near you.

Information for patients and visitors 

Related resources

Fun in the sun? Remember to protect your skin! 

Keep your family safe on the water this summer 

Tips for where and how to treat common summertime injuries and illnesses

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional’s instructions.

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About the Author

Whether it's stress, anxiety, dementia, addiction or any number of life events that impede our ability to function, mental health is a topic that impacts nearly everyone. The Swedish Behavioral Health Team is committed to offering every-day tips and clinical advice to help you and your loved ones navigate mental health conditions.

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