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The Weather is Warming in Philadelphia, PA- 3 Tools to Reclaim your Body Image in the Spring and Summer by Melanie Taylor, LMFT

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It’s such a colorful time of year in Philadelphia when the weather begins to warm. More people frolicking out and about on the historic, cobblestone streets. Bikers weave in and out of SEPTA’s way. Rittenhouse Square is filled with picnic baskets and playful dogs. Tulips, cherry blossoms, and azaleas line Pine St., Delancey St. and Fitler Square. You catch the reflection of Center City in the flowing Schuylkill River from the South Street bridge. You walk past the smiling faces and clinking glasses of Philly locals and tourists alike at the French-inspired tables of Parc and Rouge, and you begin to wonder why you aren’t experiencing the same sense of excitement and joy as it seems your fellow Philadelphians are at the promise of sunshine and another Philadelphia winter passing us by. 

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In fact, all you can find yourself thinking about as you travel the Center City streets is how uncomfortable you feel in your body. You find yourself worried that others are judging the way your body looks in your newly purchased spring attire. You gaze at the peeking of skin in others you pass and you feel like you do not deserve to show your flesh. You wish you could hide safely nuzzled in the camouflage of your winter coat. You want so badly to feel happy in the changing of the seasons, but you can’t. You dread the warmer weather and the body shame it brings. You consider what some of your friends are doing like the Keto diet or the Whole 30 so you too can have a “summer body”, but you’ve tried diets so many times. Maybe you’ve lost the weight and gained it back and you’re tired of yo-yo dieting. You find yourself wondering if that “summer body” is really worth all the shame it brings with it.

 You may be living with or in recovery from an eating disorder or maybe you just know what its like to experience body shame with the diet culture we live in. Spring and Summer can be a trigger to restrictive urges, body comparisons and self-judgement.

But, we have good news! You don’t have to diet to find happiness!

We’ve described some tools below to help you start the process to reclaiming the excitement and joy that warming weather can bring! 

3 Tools for Improving your Body Image in Warmer Weather-

  1. Practice mindfulness to neutralize your thoughts about your body. 

•   Reclaiming your body image doesn’t have to mean you love how it looks all the time or you are never uncomfortable in your body. If that is our beginning goal, we may give up before we get there! Reclaiming your body image actually means that you can be with your body without the usual judgements or qualifications or evaluations and focus on living your life. 

•   Mindfulness (being with the present moment without judgement) provides a frame of mind to neutralize your experience in your body. Try using only objective, fact-based descriptors when thinking or talking about your body. For example, instead of “I hate my thunder thighs in these shorts!”, try “I can feel the way my shorts fit around my thighs”. 

•   The next tool is to eliminate the label of good or bad. So, when you notice that you feel your shorts around your thighs, instead of thinking “that’s bad (or gross or disgusting or enter negative belief  here)”, you can practice saying “I am learning that this is neither good or bad. It just is.”We only believe it to be bad because of the rigidity of diet culture ideals!

•   Lastly, when practicing mindfulness, don’t judge your judging. Its only natural that your mind will return to the habitual judgement patterns for a while. When this happens, simply name it- “I noticed a judgement thought”, then give yourself permission to practice recreating a new, nonjudgmental thought to follow it up. 

2. Surround yourself with AntiDiet, Health at Every Size, Body Liberation messages

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•   We are bombarded with harmful diet culture messages repetitively throughout the day. Do a quick experiment and see if you can notice how many messages about changing your body, losing weight, trying the next diet, getting fit, judging food,etc. you come across in a day. These messages live on billboards, internet ads, television and radio commercials, magazines and common talk. It’s everywhere!! And whether we like it or not, our minds are very susceptible to repetitive messages, so its practically impossible for our thoughts to not be influenced by the broken record of diet culture. 

•   Good news! Because our minds are susceptible to repetitive messaging and our brain is malleable, we can counteract this by filling our daily thoughts with messages of body liberation, food neutrality and self acceptance. If you are a daily scroller, one powerful way of doing this is by taking time to personalize your social media feeds. Delete accounts that promote unhealthy thin or fitness ideals, diet mentality, restrictive wellness and body shame and follow supporters of Health at Every Size, Anti-Diet, Intuitive Eating and Body Love perspectives. We’ve created a starter list for you below. (add IG follow sheet) Please feel free to share others in the comment section if you have them! Reclaiming our body image means reclaiming the stories we are told about our body and self worth, and paying attention to only the messages we choose to believe.

3.    Take the time to realize that you are so much more than your body.  

•   Like we said before, true body acceptance isn’t about always loving the way your body looks. It’s actually moving away from the idea that your body’s appearance is one of the most important aspects of you and toward a belief that you are much, much more than your body. 

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•   You consist of values and morals and dreams. You hold the ability to create and nurture and play. You’re worth is not determined by the shape of your flesh. Practice focusing on other aspects of yourself that make you you! Listen to music you are interested in, have conversations that ignite your passions and open your mind, connect with others who see your light. Paint, draw, dance, play, laugh, cry, feel, care, grieve, inspire, be. The more we connect with the deeper, more intrinsic and core aspects of ourselves, the more we lean into body acceptance, because we begin to cherish this container that holds our soul and provides us an ability to love and explore and be. Then we can appreciate our body for what it offers us- a way to travel about this life, to feel the warmth of the sun, to connect with other beings and our senses. Create a list (remember your mindfulness skills here) of other aspects that make up you and spend time each day engaging in these parts of you. Then, create another list of other ways your body can function for you during the warmer months besides as an illustration of your worth. Choose at least one to mindfully focus on each day!

If you feel you need more support, set yourself up with a body positive treatment team. Find a therapist and dietitian in Philadelphia who work from a Health at Every Size, Body Positive perspective. Maybe this Spring and Summer can be the beginning of a fresh, life- giving relationship with warmer weather, with your body and with yourself! 

Melanie Taylor, LMFT

Melanie Taylor, LMFT

Melanie Taylor is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist speacializing in Eating Disorders and Yoga Therapy. Melanie is the Assistant Clinical Director at Spilove Psychotherapy.

Bryn Mawr Trauma Therapy: 3 Things to Consider When Searching for a Trauma Specialist

  1. Do you want to learn skills or go deep?

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Before searching for a trauma specialist in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, you may want to consider what, exactly you are looking for.  Do you want to learn skills to help you tolerate the trauma memories?  Or would you prefer to engage in deeper therapeutic work to get underneath the trauma so that it can heal at the core?  

Skills such as DBT Skills are extremely helpful for daily life.  

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DBT has 4 tenants: distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation and mindfulness.  These skills are essential when doing trauma work for PTSD and for many other difficulties such as anxiety, depression, anger management, eating disorders, self-harm and addiction.  

If you’d prefer to get underneath the trauma, you will need a therapist who can help you with skills to stabilize and one who is able to help you heal at the root of the problem. 

These skills are the building blocks that will allow you to be able to function and tolerate uncomfortable memories and emotions as you dive deeper into the healing work.  

2. Which Therapeutic Models Do you Prefer?

When looking for a trauma specialist in Bryn Mawr, you’ll also want to take the time to find out the model or theory that the therapist uses to help navigate your therapy.  If you’re looking for a safe space to process and talk things out make sure you find a counselor who is great at talk therapy. If you are looking for evidence based interventions to help you DO something with the traumatic material, you may want to investigate something like EMDR.  If you want to work more from the body or a creative place, you may want to look for an art therapist, a yoga therapist or an experiential or psycho-dramatic therapist.  Ideally, you’ll find a therapist who is able to choose a therapeutic tool from a large tool belt with many choices.  

3. What is your commitment level to healing?

Successful therapy is mostly about your commitment to healing.  Your counselor may ask you to consider abstaining from addictive substances, behaviors or eating disordered behaviors, especially while you’re engaged in trauma work. If you’re doing drugs, engaging in self harm or throwing up your food while you’re trying to heal from PTSD, it can side-track the process. Instead of taking the time in between sessions to allow your psyche to continue to process and digest the trauma, engaging in behaviors can numb the emotions and make it less likely that you will process and be ready for your next session.  When you commit to your own healing process, it means you are willing to look at all aspects of your life and work towards shifting the things that no longer serve you.  

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Commitment to healing also means consistency.  

If you engage in therapy every week, it creates synergistic momentum as opposed to dropping in only when you’re experiencing anxiety or depressive symptoms. Committing to consistent therapy will help you heal faster and more completely.  What is your level of commitment to healing from a traumatic past?

If you’re looking for a trauma specialist near Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania and need some helping finding the right person for you, please feel free to give us a call at 484-784-6244 for a free 15 minute initial consultation.  We are happy to help you find the right trauma therapist for you.