Despite the recent weather in New York, summer is finally here. The song “Summertime” comes to my mind—and the living is easy.

Or is it?

As we discussed in our newsletter a couple of months ago, summer is a time when it is hard to hide out. During any other season, layers of clothes can distract and camouflage what we really look like. But the living is not so easy when layers of clothes are shed and our bodies are exposed —along with our insecurities about our imperfections (the ones we THINK we have). Who doesn’t look at other’s bodies and compare and contrast (even silently)? I know very few people, men and women, who don’t express some dissatisfaction with their bodies, but generally that doesn’t rule their lives. Like “normal eating”, body dissatisfaction is on a continuum. With eating disorders, body comparison enables the ever present critical voice to get LOUDER and LOUDER!!

It also doesn’t help when popular magazines have whole sections dedicated to the comparison of body parts. For example, People Magazine rates the best beach bodies, the best arms, abs or whatever other body part one tends to notice during these months. Everyone is under a microscope and parts of bodies take on a focus that encourages dissatisfaction, embarrassment and even shame. Most people are able to shrug off their imperfections. But with eating disorders, that critical voice gets so loud that one’s mood can shift rapidly if any excessive skin or fat is detected. Within minutes a person can go from feeling happy to wanting to disappear from the face of the earth because of this critical voice. I recall a patient who reported to me that in the time that it took her to get to my office from her home, her mood shifted from “good” to “anxious and depressed” because she realized that her stomach was not as flat as she wanted it to be when she compared herself to someone she noticed along the way. This young woman wanted to go home and disappear after this encounter.

As the critical voice increases, so does the hiding and avoiding of people. The living is hardly easy. How can we get this critical voice to lose its power and get softer and softer ?

Instead of comparing ourselves to that one, genetically blessed individual who catches our eye on the street, why not also compare ourselves to 5 other individuals at random? New York City is filled with its fair share of well-dressed and in-shape individuals, but it’s also filled with normal, average folks as well.

And remember, when you are happy and smiling and present (enjoying the long summer days and good weather) you are much more attractive—and that can be done without losing 5,10,15 lbs or getting rid of those “fatal flaws”.

Finally, what about highlighting another voice—one that is accepting, a voice that tries to make you feel better not worse, a voice that is kind not abusive.Think about what you could say when the body criticism starts to scream—because when body criticism speaks loudest, it’s time to take care of yourself—not to be punishing

How about something like “Hush little baby, don’t you cry”. (or for those too young to know the lyrics of “Summertime”, let Rhianna speak to you—”we’re beautiful like diamonds in the sky”) .

“Summertime”… and the living can be easy—er!

Every year whenever March comes around, I look at my calendar to see when Passover will be that year. I have to admit that Passover is my favorite holiday because the focus of the celebration is on freedom, renewal and community. I particularly like the Seder when family and friends, young and old, come together to tell the story of Passover. This is the story of how the Israelites liberated themselves from bondage; it is the story of the struggle they went through before they reached their destination to live in freedom.

For anyone with an eating disorder, sitting at a holiday table this month, be it in celebration of Passover or Easter can, in and of itself, feel like slavery. The meals are endless, the food overflowing and the way to one’s own freedom seems difficult to contemplate. However, the story of Passover reminds us that courage is important and that fierce struggle can result in freedom. This is a story worth listening hard to.

Passover and Easter are also about renewal and rebirth. Both highlight the beginning of spring and the beginning of a new life. They focus on one’s ability to clean house and to dress up. New clothes– hats included!- are part of the holidays and one struts about looking forward to new commencements and a change in life. With renewal comes hope and excitement of the possibility of change.

Passover and Easter focus on getting together with friends and family. The holidays are about a sense of belonging and seeking out people to be with and celebrate. They are about being with people one knows and loves but they are also about making new friendships and connections. It is easy to be at a dinner table, deep in one’s thoughts and worries, with a focus on food blinding the night. No matter where you are these holidays, look up, slowly make your way around the table and think for a moment about each person who is there. Take another moment and remember the meaning of the celebration itself.

For all of us, there are moments when it can take some courage to sit through a family meal. Easter and Passover are holidays dedicated to courage, hope and renewal. Let them be, at least for a moment, the gift, not the struggle, they are meant to be.