Hot, humid summer days at the beach motivate many to exercise and diet. Losing a couple of pounds to feel good while sporting a bikini or to fit into last year’s shorts ranks top priority on many young adult’s to-do list as the summer solstice approaches. In moderation, and supported with a healthy amount of self-esteem and positive body image, counting calories and incorporating routine exercise helps young adults reach their fitness goals.
Obsessing over every bite, fasting for days at a time, or taking laxatives to attempt to flush out any calories consumed, some will never reach their ideal size, even if others view them to be slender. For these young adults, a poor body image and lack of self-worth often leads to the development of an eating disorder. Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating, as described in detail on National Eating Disorders Association, are serious mental health illnesses.
Oftentimes, poor body image and low self-worth are derived from painful life experiences which have left the individual struggling for identity and a sense of power and control in their life. Histories of neglect, loss, and trauma are common. Many eating disorders stem from a history of bullying or abuse. Young adults may binge on food instead of coping with complex emotions. Others feel empowered by skipping meals and watching the pounds drop from their frail frames.
Summer triggers dangerous patterns with food. Signs like extreme weight loss, starvation, social anxiety over shared meals, self-induced vomiting, and secretive eating point towards poor body image and eating disorders. When lack of self-confidence in one’s body image turns into an unhealthy obsession, young adults are at risk and need professional help.
The Yellowbrick Life Strategies Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) supports young adults suffering from a subpar perception of their own body image and eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating as summer shines the spotlight on body image disorders. The Life Strategies IOP curriculum combines group and individual psychotherapy to unveil root causes of poor body image while providing education on nutrition and the opportunity to overcome social anxiety by holding support groups during meal times. In addition, young adults explore supplemental activities like art and yoga, both known to facilitate mind-body connection and build healthy practices for wellness and self-care.
Help a young adult develop a positive body image by adopting a healthy attitude and realistic expectations toward physical appearance. Encourage exploration of safe and healthy activities like yoga, art, cooking, or writing so that young adults may figure out their strengths and interests and build up their sense of self, physically or otherwise. As self-worth builds, young adults may be able to release deep, complex emotions hidden by their body image disorder and move forward in recovery.