I Refuse to Live Up to Your Summer Body

By January 7, 2017Think

All bodies are summer bodies, despite what the media wants you to think.

The media’s attention is revolved around the way we look.

When it is summertime, we emphasize visibly thin and muscular people. We call this a “summer body”, as if only this lean physique is appropriate for summer clothes and activities. Any other body doesn’t belong in the summer. In the wintertime, we still emphasize the look of summer, as if we have to look a certain way to prepare for it.

“Summer bodies are made in the winter.”

We’ve all heard that one before.

Why are we advertising the summer body as something so important? What are our fall, winter, and spring bodies? What even are “summer bodies” and why do they have to be made at all?

I mean, think about it:

Why should I feel bad about my physical strength and health not being as visible because I have more body fat than the media’s image?

Why can’t I love my body every season, every hour, every minute and second of the day?

Why do I have to feel the need to change my body to enjoy a beautiful, fun, activity-filled season?

Why can’t all bodies thrive in the summer?

These beliefs can have some negative consequences.

We’re willing to extremes where the way we look begins to overshadow the unhealthy measures we take to get there. Looks become more important than health.

I overcame my struggle with body image, and you can too.

It took me almost three years to lose 20 pounds of body fat and maintain it. It took this long because of some of the side affects that come with having PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). I am strict with my meal prep and exercise. I teach group fitness classes, too. But I also like to enjoy some ice cream or a piece of chocolate here and there, and I should not feel the need to make myself go crazy over it.

My point is, no matter how crazy the marketing gets about working to get your summer body in the winter, it is completely unrealistic to change your entire body in the span of a season, and sets people up for failure. Everyone’s body works differently. Health looks different on every person.

I have a twin sister who is half my size, and I would always compare my body to hers. I would feel bad about myself because of it; but then I realized that realistically, I will never be her size. Our body frames are completely different and I have to accept that. I can continue to stay healthy and get stronger every day, but I should not feel bad about the way my good health looks on me just because I don’t fit the stereotypical “summer body”.

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Whenever I see ads about prepping your summer body in the winter, or getting a “beach body”, I start to feel self-conscious and ultimately terrible about myself. I feel inadequate. But I’ve learned to work through it, and I remind myself that:

  1. Everyone’s body is NATURALLY different, so some have that smaller leaner body and some don’t and they’re both still perfectly healthy.
  2. My body is strong and beautiful and serves me well every day, even though I do not display all the “cuts, washboard abs, and toned muscles” of the models in the ads.

It’s easy to get caught up in the media and forget that appearances are a benefit that develop over time, sure—but our first goal is to get strong and healthy, rather than doing whatever we can to look “thin” or have a “summer body”.

When I show off my body, I’m trying to say, “Look at the muscle that I built,” not that the muscle makes me look like all the models in the media. I am not weight training or doing cardio to look petite, thin, or for others. I’m doing it to be strong and empowered myself.

I flaunt my body to say “look at the strength I’ve gained through my hard work” and not for people to compare and feel bad, or to go crazy to do what they can to look my certain way.

The negativity around body image today is really a problem.

For people who already suffer from a distorted body image, marketing can make it even more difficult to overcome.

According to www.eatingdisorderhope.com:

“Only one in five women are satisfied with their body, and that 47% of 5th-12th grade girls reported wanting to lose weight after looking through magazines…Advertising for the summer season has, over the years begun to promote an unrealistic and unhealthy standard for women to achieve the perfect bikini body, which is represented as being very tan, thin and toned.”

Yeah, you read that right: 47%.

That is a HUGE number of women feeling negatively about their bodies. Not to mention the pressure on males, which is also harsh and not brought to light as often as it should be. When you have a daughter or a son, is that the message you want to promote to them? That they should feel the need to “fix” their bodies? Maybe even to a point where they hide treats they eat from you because of the pressure they feel? Where they will feel that self-conscious about enjoying themselves once in a while?

Let’s talk about the Fiji study for one minute.

In the South Pacific culture, it’s considered worrisome for people to lose a ton of weight and it’s an insult to be called “thin”. Before TV and the electronic media arrived in Fiji, women had no problems with their appearance, and didn’t think there was anything wrong with their bodies. After TV arrived to Fiji in 1995, eating disorders (which were previously nonexistent) soared in prevalence after watching American television. Girls began to think of themselves as fat and believed that they had to lose weight. So they purged and began to act on other unhealthy weight loss behaviors. This is exactly what summer body promotion is doing—making people feel badly about themselves, and believe that their body as it is, all year round, is not good enough.

So let’s think about how we can fix these misconceptions and how we, as a society, can heal.

How do we tell hard working and sleep deprived parents, or hardworking students, that the way they look is good enough? Many of them already do all they can with their time to stay healthy and fit and succeed in other aspects of life. The fact is, our bodies change. Our bodies change when we have kids, our bodies change as we age.

In many cases, it is completely unhealthy to have a low body fat percentage. Body fat is what protects your baby if you become pregnant. And for both males and females, body fat is necessary to protect and cushion your organs.

Promoting a summer body is not the only reason the way we’re thinking about our bodies causes trauma. However, it is a huge influence on us that we see every winter: in ads, in our email inboxes, and on TV. It becomes a significant contribution to negative body image because we see “beach body” and “summer body” everywhere we look.

My takeaway?

I do not need to work on a “summer body”, I already have a great body that will look great in any weather.

Mind you, I am a beautiful size 8 or sometimes 10. I have muscles, I have strength, I have power, and I have a healthy heart. No, my muscles are not all that visible, but the health is 100% there and I will be unapologetic for it.

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I will not live up to your summer body.

If I did, I would have to take extreme unhealthy measures. If I did, I would lose all my muscles and good health I worked for. My body is not your body. My summer body is most definitely not YOUR summer body. Consistency, not extremity, of good health is key.

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Author Veronika Polyakova

Veronika is a senior at Binghamton University majoring in Human Development and minoring in health & wellness. She plans to go into education, loves art and the outdoors. She teaches circuit training classes at her school's gym and loves weight lifting.

More posts by Veronika Polyakova

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