Butterfly’s ‘Summer of Kindness’ to combat seasonal body image pressures and a rise in eating disorders
Butterfly is calling upon Australians to join its campaign of kindness over the summer holidays. With body image issues and eating disorders continuing to surge as key mental health concerns in the community, there are significant added pressures during summer.
- Summer can increase feelings of body dissatisfaction, and stressful life events and social stressors have been shown to predict eating disorder relapse. 
- Nearly a third of women say they avoid wearing a swimsuit in public due to concerns about their weight. 
- Summer can increase the severity of eating disorders, with a statistically significant increase in hospital admissions of patients with eating disorders during the summer months. 
For most, the warmer months are an exciting time but as Butterfly Foundation highlights, for people living with an eating disorder or experiencing body image issues, the summer holiday period can be particularly daunting.
Butterfly’s ‘Summer of Kindness’ initiative is bringing awareness to what Australian researchers have coined ‘seasonal body image’, referring to the changes that occur in body image leading into the summer months. Importantly, the campaign also draws attention to how people living with an eating disorder are particularly at risk over this period.
Dr. Ranjani Utpala, Butterfly’s Clinical Director, explains “Warm weather typically means less clothing and for people dealing with body image issues this can lead to a hyper-focus on their body, feelings of social anxiety and for some may even result in obsessive body-checking behaviours. This becomes further compounded by pressure from peers, media and social media to look a certain way, encouraging appearance-based comparisons.”
The summer holiday period also involves an increase in socialising and celebrations centred around food which can be challenging for someone living with an eating disorder and may cause very high levels of anxiety.
“People often experience a change in routine during this time which can be disruptive to someone’s recovery journey. Recovery can also be tested during this time by a potential break in usual supports from therapists or an individual’s treatment team,” says Dr. Utpala.
“After two years of COVID lockdowns, where we saw an increase in eating disorder presentations, this may be the first time people in recovery are seeing friends or family. This type of environment can increase exposure to insensitive comments regarding food intake or changes to an individual’s body and appearance.
“These types of comments can be incredibly triggering for an individual in recovery and even well-intended comments like ’you look so healthy now!’, can bring up uncomfortable emotions” adds Dr. Utpala.
Seasonal body image and eating disorder behaviours are also heavily reinforced by diet culture and the media at this time of year says Melissa Wilton, Butterfly’s Head of Communications and Engagement.
“The media does a great job of perpetuating the message that our body needs to change for summer or in the New Year. We’re bombarded with advertising and content that revolves around weight loss or tells us we need to get ‘summer ready,’ as if the body we occupy for the rest of the year is now suddenly not good enough for the warmer months. For someone with existing body image issues this can be particularly distressing and ignite or reaffirm feelings of body dissatisfaction.”
Butterfly is determined to disrupt and dismantle diet culture these holidays by providing an alternative message; one of being kind to our bodies and others, this summer and beyond.
Butterfly’s Summer of Kindness provides practical tips, advice and resources on how to navigate diet culture during this time, improve body image and remain focused on eating disorder recovery. The campaign is also aimed at raising critical funds for its vital programs and services that support Australians living with eating disorders and body image issues.
To join Butterfly’s Summer of Kindness or pay it forward with a donation to Butterfly head to: www.butterfly.org.au/summerofkindness
Alex Cowen, Communications Manager – Butterfly
0497 008 716
Thom Landers, Associate Director – Edelman
0408 089 181
Editor and producers note: Please include the following support line details in all media coverage of this story and refer to the Mindframe Media guidelines for safe reporting on eating disorders. Please include the following helpline message.
Help and Support
Anyone needing support with eating disorders or body image issues is encouraged to contact:
- Butterfly National Helpline on 1800 33 4673 (1800 ED HOPE) or email@example.com
- Eating Disorders Victoria Helpline on 1300 550 23
- For urgent support call Lifeline 13 11 14