Food For Thought

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Why Is Swimsuit Season so Scary?

How to silence the Body-bully.

Every year around this time, department store dressing rooms echo with the disgruntled sighs of women trying on swimwear. Armed with at least a half dozen spandex garments of various shapes, sizes and colors, nothing can morph a mature woman into an awkward adolescent like a full length, three-sided mirror. Spandex-induced anxiety tops the charts in the summertime, leaving many women hating their own bodies and refusing to enjoy water activities. But there are ways to reasonably tackle swimwear terror without starvation or 24-hour exercise.

Women in particular demand weight loss counseling in the summer months, wanting to look fabulous in the latest swimwear style. Magazine images of gorgeous, pin thin models sporting ribbons of fabric that pass for swimsuits can spur self-image distress and drastic dieting. Starvation and fad diets may purge a few pounds, but dieting for a piece of clothing is rarely successful..and skinniness doesn’t guarantee happiness or body satisfaction.

Inner body bullies torture even the most athletic and shapely women. As the former nutritionist for a large entertainment group I recall the first day the performers donned their flesh-colored, spandex uni-tards. Tears, screams and cries of bulging bellies reverberated backstage. These trained athletes, with panic in their eyes as they evaluated their reflections in the mirror, swore off food and declared to exercise even more. So why does a stretchy fabric designed for comfort and fun have such a nasty effect? The answer lies in the fabric of our minds. Body image and beauty are in the eye of the beholder.

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To be pleased with one’s spandex clad self, one has to rely on self-image, not the media image of beauty. This can be difficult in Western society where every air brushed picture of a seemingly perfect superstar strikes fear into every “real” woman. So if your inner body critic chides “Your butt is so big in this suit you need a spandex-annex!” its time to learn how to silence the critic with practical advice:

 To survive swimsuit season and enjoy all that summer has to offer:

 • Find a suit for your current shape. Many suits now have tags that show the type of body shape for which the suit is most flattering.

• Select an appealing suit color and get some attractive accessories. Hats, coordinated cover-ups and glasses can add spark to any summer ensemble

• Eat a sensible, varied diet. If you want to drop a few pounds, eat small, frequent meals to maintain metabolism.

• Exercise in the pool. Moving in water can effectively burn calories while being gentle on the joints.

 

Martina M. Cartwright, Ph.D., R.D., is an adjunct professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Arizona and an independent biomedical consultant.

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