'Swimsuit shyness' goes beyond the beach

30% admit they haven't worn a swimsuit in public in 5 years


Swimsuit season is here, but some of us may be more excited about it than others. In fact, a recent Harris poll found more than 30% of Americans have not worn a swimsuit in public in more than five years. 

Dr. Leslie Heinberg is a psychologist at Cleveland Clinic's Bariatric Institute and an expert on body image. She says "swimsuit shyness" is a real issue for a lot of people and goes beyond the beach.

"Or, even if it's 95 degrees out, avoiding wearing shorts, avoiding a lot of things that are part of normal life because you're so self-conscious about your body," said Heinberg.

The Harris poll also found 20% of respondents admitted to not donning a swimsuit in more than 10 years, and another 5% said they've never put on a suit. Heinberg says "swimsuit shyness" is not limited to weight, either. She says it's often caused by "body image disturbance," or any part of your body you may not like that may make you self-conscious, or cause anxiety. Heinberg says it becomes an unhealthy behavior when it starts to affect someone's quality of life.

"When you are waiting to have that perfect body before you go on that vacation, before you take your kids swimming, you're really waiting to live and if you were going to be gone tomorrow you'd probably wish you'd had done some of those things and enjoyed your life," she explained.

Heinberg says one of the first steps to getting over your shyness is to stop focusing on other people.

"Taking a look around and making sure that you're not just comparing yourself to that one person out of the 100 at the pool, who has a great figure, but really looking and seeing there are people of all shapes, all sizes, all ages, and you probably look pretty normal in comparison," she said.

Heinberg's advice is to channel your focus to the real reason you're going to the beach or getting out, like your kids or your grandkids, and the fun they're having.