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Beach Body Bother

beachbodybotherRIFE

Why do we feel so guilty about our bodies this time of year? Kaja looks at the thoughts behind wanting a beach body and what they really mean.

Summer is nearly here.

Summer is nearly here. In comes the glorious sunshine, long nights, cool breezes, and the smell of flowers blooming. But breaking through that peaceful haven is a noise. Getting louder and louder, it sounds like a heard of advertisers running through, posters and paste in hand, flashing images of beach bodies, bikinis and a catchy slogan for us all. Are you beach body ready?

A lots of us bystanders feel trampled by the stampede of this omnipresent message, and might look down at our own bodies feeling more self-conscious than usual.

Digesting the media in this way, we start feeling a pressure to lose weight. But why? What actual good reason is there to get a body like those girls in the adverts wearing bikinis and shorts? Why should we want to look like them?

I’m going to have a look at the classic reasons we lose weight to see if they are valid, vapid or vague. To see if those ideas are beach body worthy.

Does Being Thin Mean You’re Healthy?

Often when we’re trying to slim down, we’re doing it with the idea of health in mind. And that goes the other way around too, that when we’re trying to be healthy we might start thinking about slimness.

The other day, the most bizarre thing happened. I had decided to start eating less sugar, since I’m a bit of an addict. And almost immediately after making this decision I looked in the mirror and it was no longer just my reflection I was seeing. I was seeing bingo wings, flabby bits, and as if by magic, becoming healthier and eating less sugar transformed into the goal of losing weight.

I was seeing bingo wings, flabby bits, and as if by magic, becoming healthier and eating less sugar transformed into the goal of losing weight.

So I did something I learned to do years ago, where I focused on my favourite features. I looked into my eyes, which I think are kind of nice looking, and I smiled and walked away, because being healthy shouldn’t be about obsessing over changing your body. In fact, that’s a really unhealthy attitude.

Body positivity is very important. Feeling unhappy with your body, wishing it was different, and wanting to change it can be one of the factors that lead to eating disorders. Eating disorders effect your mental health and can lead into serious physical health problems such as liver failure, infidelity, body functions shutting down, and more. So if you’re trying to be healthy, it’s really best to try not to link that to wishing you look different or feeling unhappy. Instead, feel happy that the differences you’re making are helping your body to function. Our bodies do so much for us. Love your body. This is the best thing to do.

Plus, you can eat really well, do tonnes of exercise and still be curvy, because that’s completely natural. People come in all shapes and sizes; just look at Olympians and you’ll see there’s no exact equation for what a healthy body looks like. Olympians have to be extremely fit to do what they do, and some of them will still have thicker thighs, or larger arms, or tummy’s, because that is healthy too. There is nothing wrong with being large, small, medium shaped, or whatever.

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Really, we have a much better chance to be healthy if we love ourselves, love what we look like, and try to be healthy for the right reasons. Like feeling good (eating well effects our mood) or having more energy (eating different things at different times of day effects your energy levels) or improving our mental health (can reduce anxiety with exercise). These are all great reasons to be healthy, and the best thing about them is they’re not linked to guilt. They don’t make us feel bad. We’re trying to improve our lives by being healthy, which is good, whereas if we do it to look a certain way then we’re going to be unhappy with ourselves. Do it for the right reasons.

Will People Only Find Me Attractive If I’m Slim?

Nope. I can tell you straight away, people will find you attractive no matter what size you are.

I used to struggle with this A LOT in Secondary School. There, everyone was obsessed with being skinny, and because of that the boys also seemed to only want to date the slim girls, or visa versa, because of fitting in with the preconceptions of beauty. Preconceptions of beauty are a stereotype of what looks good, enforced by the media and social peers, and it is really harmful because the truth is there isn’t one way to look beautiful. Also, lots of people find different qualities attractive in a person. They have different types.

Some people like something extra to squeeze, some people like your body to fit there’s, and others, like me, are more concerned with what kind of person you are. So weight really isn’t important when it comes to romance. Someone will love you for exactly who you are and what you look like right now. I promise you. You don’t need to change for this weird idea that beauty looks a certain way. You get all kinds of flowers, and all of them are beautiful.

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Should I Have A ‘Beach Body’ To Wear Crop Tops And Shorts?

Got your beach body ready? All you need to do is lie down on a beach with a body and you’re there.

I know it doesn’t feel as simple as that, but that’s how it is. We wear lighter clothes in the summer to feel cool, comfortable, and maybe get a bit more of a tan, and that isn’t exclusive to really slim people.

If Your Body Is On A Beach, It’s Beach-Ready

We wear clothes, firstly, to suit the weather. Warm clothes for winter, light clothes for summer, this is basic human necessity. Secondly, because of what they mean to us and how they make us feel.

Warm clothes for winter, light clothes for summer, this is basic human necessity.

I wear my favourite top, which is blue and looks like the sea, because it makes me happy, and I feel good in it. It’s also a men’s top, which means it wasn’t designed with me in mind. It’s quite clearly a men’s top, because it has a working pocket on it and the fit is meant for a guy. So I could feel self-conscious in it, worrying whether I look good in it but really I don’t care about that. I care that is blue like the sea, my favourite colour, and that it makes me happy to wear it. I feel comfortable. The same goes for shorts and crop tops. If you want to wear it, then you wear it and you rock it. Don’t worry about what people will think, because you’re dressing for yourself, not other people.

Or, if you are, like if you’re going on a date and you want to look nice, then remember what I said about types. If you are wearing a crop top and shorts, and your date can see your curves, then that is totally fine because they probably will see you and think you look glorious and beautiful. And confident. Confidence is very attractive, so rocking whatever you wear automatically makes you look amazing. I don’t make the rules.

Will People Judge Me If I’m Not Slim?

This is probably one of the most important questions, because a lot of us, subconsciously or not, seek human approval. The other day I got on the bus at the wrong point in the street and I got judged. Last night I misspelt a word on a huge sign and I was judged. Someone looked in my bag, and saw the secret mess that lives there, and I was judged. People will judge you for everything and anything and it’s much easier not to care what they think.

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Rae from ‘My Mad Fat Diary’

I love the TV show ‘My Mad Fat Diary’. The protagonist, Rae, is a larger girl who struggles a lot with mental health and eating problems, and it’s the first time I saw these ideas being presented in such a great way in a teen show. In a scene where Rae talks about one of her problems with eating she explains that if she eats salad then people will look at her and think ‘Who’s that fat girl trying to kid?’ or she’ll eat junk food and they’ll think ‘Well, it’s no secret to how you got that way honey’. Either way she gets judged. But eventually, she doesn’t care. (Spoiler) She realises that her boyfriend loves her for all her curves, and she starts to appreciate that she looks great as she is, and that the people who are judging her have all sorts of their own problems and are really just insecure.

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Rae and her boyfriend

Also, a lot of people might make others feel bad without meaning to. We all do it, so maybe we should check what we’re saying, and the more we carefully consider our language, the less judged others will feel. Like if you say ‘I’m so fat’ in front of someone who is feeling insecure themselves then you might make them feel terrible. Or if you make a comment about someone eating unhealthily, then that will make them feel guilty and bad about themselves, which could create complexes which are worse for their health than eating some chips. So try not to judge anyone, because you don’t know what they’re going through.

Most importantly… don’t judge yourself.

Most importantly… don’t judge yourself. You are your biggest judge, the voice that’s in your head. For your own health, love yourself, forgive yourself, and do not judge yourself for how you look. As I said earlier, there is nothing wrong with your body. You are beautiful, and doing great. There is no reason to feel judged or judge yourself for not being slim. Also, if you are feeling more insecure, you’re more likely to be that person judging others, so for other people as much as yourself, try and be happy with yourself. Otherwise, the insecurity loop is created.

So there we have it. I see no good reason to want to obsess over being a different size or shape to how you already are. Don’t worry over those adverts asking if you’re beach body ready, because now you know that they aren’t being healthy. Every time you see that slogan just laugh it off. If you want to go to a beach this summer, and wear a bikini and shorts, then as long as you have your body, you are ready. There’s nothing else to it. People will still find you attractive, you can feel comfortable like that, and you know your size doesn’t reflect your health. Be confident. You’ve got this.

If you want to find out more about eating disorders, whether you or a friend might have one, and how to get help, you can look here and here. Also Off The Record have good information and advice on eating disorders here.

If you identify as a woman and are struggling with low-self confidence or self-esteem then check out this girls group on the Rife Guide.

What do you think about the ‘beach body’ advertisements and media around body weight? Tell us in the comments below.