As fun and carefree as summer can seem, for many people, it is also a time of comparison and low self-esteem. As the weather starts to warm up, people begin wearing fewer clothes and head to the pool or beach. Social media becomes a platform for comparing your so-called "summer body" with everyone else's. Many people are not confident in their own skin, so they start restrictive, non-sustainable diets to shed those extra pounds.

I, for one, have fallen into this trap. It is so easy to get consumed in being "skinny" and having that perfect summer body. Instead of focusing on eating healthy and exercising to feel good, I began to do it to look a certain way. This mindset was so toxic and restricted me from just enjoying life. I was so focused on what I ate that I couldn't go out with my friends to get ice cream or dinner without being worried I would gain an extra pound. So, often times, I just didn't go — which meant I missed out on a lot. I found that when I went to the beach or pool instead of just having fun and living in the moment, I was comparing myself to everyone else. This sucked the fun out of what should have been a great time.

While it is not easy, and sometimes I do fall back into old tendencies, I have grown to realize that the toxic mindset of being "skinny" was preventing me to live a life of happiness. Now, I exercise and try to eat healthy foods to feel good. And, to my surprise, when I stopped working out with the mindset of trying to lose weight, I found it to be much more enjoyable. I no longer dreaded going on runs — in fact, when I am stressed or need time away, the first thing I want to do is throw a pair of gym shoes on and go sweat it out. I also found that cooking healthy meals for friends and family was no longer a chore, but something I loved doing. I also have learned that eating ice cream or french fries is totally worth it, and it is not something to regret afterward.

Balance is part of living a healthy and happy life.

I am still learning how to love myself, no matter what the scale says. I know that having confidence in the skin I am in is something I will probably always struggle with, however now I know that I am not the only one feeling this way. So, I think it is important that we all treat people with kindness, and stop body shaming.