As the countdown to summer time begins, phrases such as “beach body,” “bikini body” and “summer body” start appearing everywhere we turn our heads.
Phrases such as “summer body” put the message out there that we have to change our bodies to fit a certain mold when summer approaches. It can be harmful to us and our mental health as the media and diet culture push the idea that there is a specific body type that is better than others.
Lisa MacDonald is the coordinator of nutrition services and a nutrition counselor for Campus Health at the University of Arizona. She explained how these phrases reinforce society’s idea that everybody is supposed to look a particular way, which is far from the truth.
“All these comments reinforce the narrative that we are not good enough because of our bodies. It makes us believe that there is only one body type,” MacDonald said.
Diet culture is a large industry that profits off of our insecurities. When summer time comes around each year, many swimwear companies, gyms, weight loss supplements and fitness plans will use phrases such as “beach body” or “summer body” as a way to market what they are selling.
Data shows that the average American woman is a size 16 to 18 in clothing, yet the media typically leads us to believe that we all should strive to fit into the smallest size possible. Everybody's body is different, and there is no right or wrong way to look.
The pressure that social media and society put on us to get our bodies “summer ready” or “bikini ready'' can be harmful to us and our mental health and can affect our self-esteem and confidence.
The National Eating Disorders Association explained that about seven in 10 women and girls have experienced a decline in body confidence due to unrealistic beauty standards that are shown in the media.
The pressure to change our bodies for summer weather can leave many people feeling insecure and wanting to isolate themselves or miss out on events such as beach or pool days with friends.
MacDonald suggested that we should try to have the focus be on the company and the fun memories that we are making instead of focusing on our bodies and how they compare to others.
It’s also important to take care of ourselves. Even if the media tells us that we should be getting our bodies “summer ready,” we don’t have to listen. It’s important to hydrate and fuel our bodies and treat ourselves with respect and kindness.
“Body respect is important. I don't have to love my body, I don’t have to hate my body, but I will take care of my body,” MacDonald said.
MacDonald said that we can work on shifting our mindset set. We can do our work by changing our own narrative and thoughts. There is no body that is better than another. We all deserve to have fun and make memories.
An example MacDonald gave is, “You have a beach and you have a body. There's your beach body.”
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Julianna is a senior majoring in journalism and sociology. She enjoys writing and reporting on topics related to mental and physical health and wellness.