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Mirror, Mirror on the Wall ...

August 17, 2011 By:
Elyse Glickman, JE Feature
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Even with summer almost gone, swimsuits aren't ready to be packed away.

There's still time in hot September to hit the beaches and, within a month of that, it's cruise season rarin' to go, with the Caribbean luring swimmers into the fall and winter months.

So, when it comes to looking your best, don't sweat the small stuff! Medical, fashion and fitness experts advise doing the best with what you've got.

But if your own body image isn't all it could be -- and that doesn't just depend on the season -- what then?

"The most important thing is to be realistic about your body," advises Adrienne Ressler, national training director of Philadelphia's Renfrew Center Foundation, which focuses on eating disorders.

"Buffing, sculpting, dieting or over-exercising your body into a certain shape beyond how you are biologically designed can be dangerous on many levels."

Ressler cautions that "you can only be the best you can be, based on your body type, which is dictated by genetics."

Ressler encourages her clients to keep in mind that only 1 percent of the world's population is genetically predisposed to be tall, thin and busty -- and that population is Scandinavian.

She says the secret to feeling attractive and having others reciprocate that confidence is to train your mind to be happy with what you've got. Stay in shape, but don't abuse yourself.

Her colleague, Dr. David Hahn, assistant medical director at the center, agrees that overcoming societal pressures to fit a very narrow definition of beauty is very much mind-over-matter.

"Women and men need to monitor what they say to themselves and others about other people's bodies and their own," he concurs.

"I am surprised this kind of talk is considered socially acceptable; as a society, we need to change that."

Jessica Setnick, author of Making Food Your Friend Again! and The ADA Pocket Guide to Eating Disorders, discusses body image problems among Jews.

She claims that "Jewish people have a specific type of body image issue related to attempts to blend in with the surrounding population.

"Historically, being identified physically as Jewish" could pose problems and risks. "I believe that a desire or ability to fit in physically with the larger culture is in our heritage, which in turn causes major problems when the larger culture idealizes a body size, type, or coloring that is not the norm among Jewish genes."

Setnick sees a need in modern Jewish culture to address the topic so children, teens and adults can feel confident about their qualities as opposed to disliking their "Jewish nose" or "Jewish hips."

For those Jewish women who "find themselves faced with fuller busts," observes Eve Turner, senior buyer at a lingere company, "numerous bra manufacturers are now making swimwear.

"We recommend bra-sizing swimsuits that offer a custom fit to the bust line. As we begin to age, bellies expand and ripple, even if some of us are fortunate enough to keep our beautiful shoulders and neckline."

Change the Message!

In the world of publishing, TheBeautyBean.com founder Alexis Wolfer finds that empowering people to feel good about themselves is a matter of changing the message.

"When I launched my site, I recognized self-confidence from within is the crux of the issue," says Wolfer.

Wellness coach/author Jennifer Gallagher (Yen Path: Taking Steps Toward What You Want in Life) says the "fountain of youth" and confidence can be found through the simplest adjustments.

She suggests shifting one's paradigm of physical activity so it feels more like "play" than "exercise." By tying movement into a hobby or personal interest (hiking, gardening), it becomes something somebody looks forward to that fulfills them from the inside out.

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