Yup, its that time of year again.

Even the most trim and toned among us are deeply affected by the heat of summer and the lack of clothing that comes along with it.

While some women are standing in front of mirrors bemoaning their butts or their breasts, others are avoiding reflective surfaces like the second coming of the Bubonic Plague.

Summer is the time of year when otherwise sane women become intensely self-critical and obsessed with their weight… and they write to me saying Maia, do you know any herbs that are good for weight loss?

I tell them:

  • Chickweed and coconut oil can both cut your appetite, and bitters can help you digest more efficiently.
  • Eat real food, and pause to be grateful for it.
  • Chew slowly and revel in every bite. Let the flavors swamp your taste buds. You need a quality experience, not a quantity experience.
  • If you want to cleanse, do it with compassion and humor, not with aggression and malice. Your body is naturally self-cleaning; give it the opportunity by eating only fruits and vegetables for a day or two. If you want to juice, be sure to do mostly vegetables because the sugars in fruit can mess with your blood sugar balance.
  • Drink room temperature water with lemon when you wake up in the morning.
  • Move. Yes, walking counts. No, lifting the fork to your lips does not.
  • Sleep. You will gain weight if you don’t.
  • Enjoy life. Being stressed is fattening.

But there is more to it than all that.

I was on the phone a few weeks back with a would-be client who told me that she has felt fat all of her life. Three years ago, when she was thirty pounds lighter, she wished that she could lose twenty pounds.

Now she wishes to return to the weight she was three years ago; she realizes that she was in pretty good shape back then and if she could get back there, she says, she would begin to feel confident in her body.

She would be able to love herself.

During one of last week’s de-cluttering ventures, I found a photo of myself snapped eight years ago. The photo wasn’t anything special– a quick shot to finish off a roll of film– but when I looked at it I realized something: l was pretty then.

Here’s the thing:

I know for a fact that I didn’t feel pretty. I was too heavy and my hair, which was too frizzy, never grew fast enough. It seemed it was always at an in-between length where it laid against my face emphasizing the abnormally-huge size of my skull.

(I know that you are saying to yourself Maia, that is way over-the-top. Wow are you self-critical! Ummm-hmmmm. I know I am. Now tune into the voices in your head. Do they sound as over-the-top as my voices?)

Looking at one photo led to looking at many photos. And, lo and behold, I could not find photographic evidence of the pudgy, plain, long-faced, frizzy-haired woman that I have believed myself to be for the majority of my life.

Is it possible that during all those years that I was sure I was fat and ugly, I was actually pretty?

If the photos spoke true, it was always there. Sometimes in an everyday, pleasant-to-look-at kind of way. Sometimes stunningly and strikingly beautiful.

Yes, it helps that I have religiously destroyed the worst offenders in the photographic category, but I don’t think that dilutes my point:

If we are only able to see our beauty in the past tense, we are never looking into the mirror and loving ourselves, as we are, in the present tense.

So when you look in the mirror and begin obsessing, and begin thinking I should write to Maia and see if there are herbs for weight loss, pause for a second and find one thing in the mirror that you are grateful for.

Perhaps it is the chin that you share with your favorite grandfather, or your one sided dimple, or the eye color that you got from your mom. Perhaps its the little scar you got sliding into third base playing softball in high-school. Perhaps it is the smile that curves your lips when you think about your partner, or your baby, or your dog.

Now walk away from the mirror holding that one thing in your heart.

Trust me, with your joy shining through, you’ll look good in your swimsuit.

Ever felt self-critical? Share your story below (and if you have the urge to assure me that I am beautiful, how about looking in the mirror instead and telling me about that nose that you inherited from Grandma Phyllis?)!