For this article Summer Innanen joined me to talk about body image. She shares how loving your body doesn’t have to apply to only physical appearance. This interview is amazing for all women who could use a fresh perspective on body love!
The Weight Loss Quest
Summer is a professionally trained coach specializing in body image, self-worth, and confidence. Her own body struggles started early, and she experienced decades of chronic dieting with many binge/repeat cycles. She also had a tendency to over-exercise (something Julie Newbry and I dive into on Ep. #87!) on her quest to “lose the weight once and for all”.
She honestly thought that is what she was “supposed” be doing. Now, she sees the time, energy, and investment she put into pursuing that goal weren’t good for her or her body.
Summer even quit her corporate job to pursue nutrition. She wanted to help other women eat “right” and lose weight as well, since it was something she was obsessed with in her own life. Eventually, however, she realized that she was hurting herself. Gradually she started to learn more about self-acceptance, self-love, and intuitive eating.
When she realized that every single client coming to see her was there because they hated their bodies….she realized she needed to change how she worked with people. Now, Summer specifically focuses on body image with her clients.
Summer’s work now has almost nothing to do with food. If her clients are processing in that area she recommends intuitive eating resources, but she focuses her coaching efforts on body image. She’s found that our relationship with food naturally changes when we address our body image and self-love.
She notes, however, that loving your body doesn’t HAVE to mean loving what you see in the mirror. One of the biggest misconceptions with body image work is that it’s all about how you look. And although there is nothing wrong with loving how we look, it’s the very surface level of body image work!
Often, we feel the way we feel about our bodies because of various identities we hold, experiences we’ve had, and messages we’ve received. It comes down to self-worth, and our beliefs about our own worth. This comes down to inherent self-belief. As Summer notes, this isn’t just a matter of learning to find yourself attractive. It’s so much deeper than that!
Loving Your Body As It Is
Too often we’ve been that our worth is dependent upon our desirability. When this is what we believe, of course we want to look in the mirror and think of ourselves as attractive! However, you can find yourself worthy & desirable — without changing anything about your body or appearance. This practice of separating worth from appearance can help relieve some of the stress you might feel about your body.
Summer also noted that many women hear about self-love and loving their bodies and feel overwhelmed and guilty: they take on the mindset of “I should love my body….and now I’m doing that wrong too!” There is so much freedom in letting go of that pressure and allowing yourself to simply BE, without needing to judge or evaluate anything.
Letting go of your own expectation about how you “should” feel about your body can help you take your body love to another level!
Summer’s Personal Body Love Journey
Summer shares that her own journey with body-love involved a recognition of how she had desired validation from others. So much of the pressure to look a certain way was about having other people SEE that, and as a result to like her, to be impressed by her, or to think positively about her. This part of her journey involved letting go of people pleasing and the need for validation!
She also had to let go of control and settle into surrender. This required her to release her own expectations and allow what WAS to simply be.
Gradually, she was able to relax into the understanding that she is good enough, just as she is. There is no need to force her body into looking a certain way in order to control the way other people think about her. And she doesn’t need to change anything about her body in order to be more deserving of worth, value, and acceptance.
Summer notes that the diet industry often gives us a sense of false hope. When we see a new food program, or start a new diet, we get a little dopamine rush of excitement. We imagine all the ways in which we are going to be better, stronger, thinner (more deserving of love and acceptance)…and it fuels our drive to reenter the dieting cycle. Letting go of that can be hard! In fact, we might even need to give ourselves time to grieve the loss of this magical “dream” body that we’ve spent a huge part of our lives seeking.
Loving Your Body
When you accept your body for what it is, what do you let go of? Shame, guilt, pressure, stress, body-hatred? All too often diets are disguised in packages of hope and glittering promises…but in reality the don’t serve us at all. Loving your body is a choice that can help you accept yourself fully.
Once you’ve made a bit of body-love progress, it can be really hard to wake up and have a HARD body day. And yet…they still happen! Summer suggests that if (and when) this happens to you, don’t catastroph-ize it. Instead, tap into what you’re actually feeling. Not thinking! Feeling. (Thinking might be: I hate my hips. Feeling might be: I feel ashamed.) Are you feeling stressed, ashamed, frustrated, anxious? Try sitting with that. Acknowledge that it’s there. You could try journaling, or even sharing it with someone that supports you.
She also suggests considering what else in your life might be contributing. For instance, one of Summer’s most recent body-shame experiences occurred shortly after her dad unexpectedly passed away. She realized she was completely overwhelmed with grief and sadness, and her body immediately triggered an old coping mechanism: shame over something “wrong” with herself that she needed to fix.
Feeling Your Feelings
It can be easier (in the moment) to pour yourself into body-hatred rather than to fully sit with grief and shame. When you give yourself the opportunity to really just sit with your feelings and let them be, however, you may be able to find that your problem really isn’t your body. This is a perfect opportunity for a self-compassionate response. Offer yourself whatever you would offer to a friend or child who was going through this same situation.
Self-compassion can feel strange if it’s not something you’re used to practicing. Be patient with yourself and be willing to sit with things you might usually repress or push past.
Also – don’t forget to care for yourself. Summer notes that often she’ll have clients going through a downward spiral, and when she asks them what they’ve done to care for themselves….the honest truth is NOTHING. No time for self-care! And yet, taking that time to care for yourself, even in a small way, can be a huge step towards bringing things back into balance.