Your Body is Already a Beach Body

In 2017, it’s hard to believe that our society hasn’t outgrown the idea that only the thin can be beautiful. Women and men alike are conditioned to believe that the thinner their waist line and the more toned their body is, the more value they have. As a culture, we have internalized this concept so much that we don’t even question why we put so much importance on having a “socially acceptable” body. But guess what? You do not have to force your body into a mold that is pleasing to other people in order to be happy. There are much more important things in life than whether or not your legs have cellulite or your belly has rolls. Life is too short to not eat that ice cream cone at the beach or to spend hours in the gym just to look good in a bikini. That’s not how you should have to spend your summer. Your body, as it is right now, is worthy of being seen on the beach, so please don’t pressure yourself into looking what society deems “perfect.” Not only is it exhausting, it’s also dangerous. We have to stop trying to assign the words “healthy” and “beautiful” to only one body type because everyone is built differently.

The media has always underrepresented the diversity of the human body, but with the recent surge in social media and photo editing technology, there are even more ways to pretend like only one body type is valid. We can change our appearance easily with apps and filters and post them on Instagram as if that is what we look like every day. Although, because of this, social media can be a place of intimidation, it can also be a place of love and acceptance. There is a fantastic body positive community emerging across Instagram, and we asked self-proclaimed “body love healer” Lauren McAulay what it means to truly be body positive: “Body positivity is about being accepting of ALL bodies. To treat everyone with love and respect regardless of their shape, size, or color, including abled and disabled bodies. No body gets left out. It's truly living in a space of body acceptance and body love for yourself and others.”

 Art by Meagan Guild

Art by Meagan Guild

Right now you are likely being bombarded with advertisements for products that claim they will give you the “beach body” of your dreams – detox teas, fitness programs, gym memberships, etc. But these are all a part of the diet culture industry that wants to profit from your insecurities. Most of us are unaware that a diet culture even exists because it has become so normalized. We know that SkinnyPop Popcorn and skinny vanilla lattes are meant to be “healthy” because somehow the word “skinny” has become synonymous with “good.” “Diet culture is all about perpetuating a negative relationship with food and our bodies,” says Lauren. “Women are constantly told that food is either right or wrong to eat. We are living in a world where everything we put in our mouth comes with a consequence. If we eat ‘healthy’ food, then our bodies will be thin [and] we will be accepted and loved by society. If we eat ‘unhealthy’ food, then our bodies will be bigger [and] we will be discriminated against by society and told we need to be smaller in order to gain worthiness. No wonder most women are stuck in the diet cycle – they are constantly in a state of fear of what they eat because it literally depends on if they will be accepted by society.”

Our world dictates that you should be skinny, but not too skinny. You should have curves, but not be fat. You shouldn’t have cellulite or thighs that touch, or a belly that jiggles, or any other imperfection that can flaw your appearance. It’s a balance that’s nearly impossible to achieve, yet it’s so praised that it can drive girls and boys to punish their bodies for not being ideal. In the US alone, about 20 million women and 10 million men will be affected by an eating disorder in their lives. Although eating disorders are biological, environmental elements can increase the risk of developing one. What is presented to us online, on TV, and on any other mass media does influence the way we see our bodies in relation to our self-worth.

Learning to like yourself is not an overnight process, but Lauren says the best way for anyone who wants to start should “follow only positive role models on social media [and] read as many books [as possible] that talk about self love and body love. Find YouTube videos, podcasts, seminars that…help shift their mindset to a place of acceptance and love. I would also recommend getting a body love/intuitive eating coach so they can get the support they need from someone they can trust.”

You do not have to earn the right to wear a bathing suit. Bodies are our literal support system, and it’s amazing what they can do: run, swim, breathe, circulate blood. Who cares if you don’t have a six-pack or a thigh gap? Of course, eating healthy foods and getting proper exercise is important, but not if it comes with a high cost. Make your happiness your first priority, and the rest will fall into place.