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How to Maintain a Positive Body Image

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Positive body imageSummer’s here, which means it’s time to pull your bathing suit out of the closet and plunge into the waters. But, like most women, you are probably obsessing about the extra inches around your waist thanks to rich desserts consumed over the holidays.

You are not alone. In a recent survey conducted by Fitness magazine, 36 percent of women said they would turn down an offer from pop star Justin Timberlake to attend a beach party. A 2005 Dove study found that 90 percent of all women between the ages of 15 and 64 wanted to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance, with body weight ranking the highest.

Feeling good about our bodies can be hard, but here are some quick and smart tips to help you get over your fear of being seen in a bathing suit.

Shun “skinny” media. Thinking of flipping through the “10 best beach bodies” photo feature in your favorite poolside read? Try a travelogue instead. The media has a huge impact on how we think about ourselves and our bodies. Women can develop a poor body image by looking at perfectly toned women splashed across the pages of magazines. A 2010 study by Ryerson University in Canada found that even television shows can adversely impact a woman’s body image.

It’s important to understand that the women we see in the media often have to put on several layers of make-up to achieve the flawless-skin look. And sometimes their pictures are digitally altered to make them look skinnier.

Don’t take criticism too seriously. On top of all the negative messages the media is bouncing our way, we have to field sharp piques from the people around us. “If someone makes a disparaging comment about your weight, focus on the positive aspects of your looks instead,” says Leslie Goldman, author of “Locker Room Diaries: The Naked Truth About Women, Body Image, and Re-imagining the ‘Perfect’ Body. “Pay attention to your strong thighs; your thick, shiny hair; that smile that always gets you compliments. Instead of honing in on the negative, concentrate on the parts of you that you love.”

Choose your kind of bathing suit. Not confident you can pull off beach wear this summer because you don’t have the body of your dreams? There’s hope. “The best way to feel good wearing a bikini, or any other swimsuit this summer, is to enhance your assets,” says Amy Sparano of swimsuit manufacturer Breaking Waves International. “When you play up a part that’s terrific, it takes your mind off areas of concern.”

Got an attractive bust line? How about donning a deep v-neck swimsuit? Another way is to look for beachwear that helps hide your body’s flaws. Feel like you have a not-so-flattering rear end? Wear a swimskirt to cover it. Find whatever style makes you feel the most confident.

Hit the gym. Try fitting workouts into your schedule after work or jump into the pool if the gym is not your thing. Exercise has been shown to be good for self-esteem and body image. It also releases mood-enhancing hormones into your blood stream. You can’t help but feel good and more confident after an exercise session.

Take your mind off your body. Thinking about your body all the time can seriously interfere with your mental abilities. So give your mind a break and indulge in fun activities that you like. Call up your undergrad buddies and go bowling over the weekend. Dreamt of learning how to make a documentary? Enroll into a part-time program.

The point is, there’s more to life than physical appearance. So do what you can to stop being so critical of your body and enjoy all that life has to offer.

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