Sarah Nicole Landry's awesome as-is body photos are a vital message for swimsuit season.

Swimsuit season is a time great angst for many women. But it doesn't have to be this way.

Some of us do a pretty good job of appreciating our bodies, right up until it's time to put on a swimsuit. Then the questions start flying: Does this suit make me look chunky? Do my boobs look weird? Do my thighs look like cottage cheese? Is my pooch too obvious? Is my butt too big?

After that come the "Ugh, look" statements. Ugh, look at that cellulite. Ugh, look at that roll. Ugh, look at that back fat, those saddlebags, those cankles.

And finally, the judgments. I'm too out of shape. I should cover that up. No one wants to see that. My [fill in the body part] looks so gross. I'm too embarrassed to be seen like this.


This woman's powerful 'before and after' photos crush myths about body positivity.

And there it is. The swimsuit season body bashing that comes too easily to too many of us. We know it's not healthy to do this to ourselves. We know that we should love our bodies even if they aren't perfect. We know that we don't need to look like a Victoria's Secret model to go to the beach… and yet we end up back at this familiar place in front of the mirror every summer.

Sometimes we need a firm reminder that the way our bodies look in a swimsuit isn't something we need to fret about. Like, at all.

Sarah Nicole Landry's awesome as-is photos of her body come with this vital message.

Landry is the woman behind The Birds Papaya—a blog, an Instagram page, and a newly minted podcast—and her take on body positivity is inspiring thousands.

For example, in a post on Instagram, Landry shared a photo of the skin on her belly squished into a heart with her fingers.

"Many of us have skin like this," she wrote, "From whatever growth or change happened in our bodies.⁣⁣

Skin that wrinkles and folds, yet is soft and delicate. Skin that did a good job. Skin that did exactly what it was supposed to do."

"Sharing this was not an act of bravery," she wrote. "It was a moment of me wanting to show up and share something that I'd come to learn was normal. It was from the desire to find connection and peace in my own body by freeing myself of the holds of a lie that said this skin, MY SKIN, was the reason why I could never have a 'good body.'" ⁣⁣

Another photo she shared on Facebook and Instagram is resonating with thousands as we slide into swimsuit season.

It's a picture of Landry by the pool in a one-piece swimsuit, looking gorgeous—but not "model-perfect."

Landry's message with the photo drives home the point that we don't owe the world anything. We can show up just as we are.

There's something powerful in being seen and accepted just the way we are in this moment.

In a world of Photoshop and airbrushing, anytime a woman shares a photo of her honest-to-goodness body, it gives others permission to feel comfortable in their own.

Jameela Jamil has some choice words for Amber Rose about promoting a diet tea to pregnant women.

The body positivity movement has been around for a while now, and more and more women are sharing unapologetic photos of their real bodies. But honestly, there can never be too many reminders that our bodies are okay as-is. That we don't need to be embarrassed by cellulite or avoid the pool because we have a pooch. That we can show up and be here in our own skin.

Bodies are constantly changing anyway. Some of us are super fit in this moment, and that's great. Some of us have baby-bearing bodies, and that's great. Some of us are good with our girth, and that's great. Some of us want to lose pounds for various reasons, and that's great too. Whatever your body is right now is what it is. It may change, it may not.

But it doesn't have to be anything other than what it is in this moment for you to be here, worthy and accepted, just as you are.

Courtesy of Elaine Ahn

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Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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