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Everybody Has a Beach Body

How to Get a Beach Body in Two Easy Steps: Step One, Have a Body. Step Two, Go to the Beach.

Summer is fast approaching in Australia, which means it’s TIME TO GET A BEACH BODY!

NO. 

Here’s a revolutionary thought: if you have a body and you go to the beach, you have a beach body. It’s as simple as that.

This year I’ve seen a truckload of ridiculous content on social media, TV and magazine covers. I actually try to avoid these messages like the plague, because a) they really grind my gears and b) I’m only human and sometimes I begin to believe the ridiculous messages they’re plugging. And these messages are damaging. Essentially, they’re insinuating that there’s something wrong with your body. That you’re not worthy of a bikini or board shorts on the beach. That, unless you fit the thin ideal, you shouldn’t be splashin’ around or getting your tan on. I just—I can’t.

"Summer bodies are made in winter." A gym trainer I used to follow on social media posted those exact words on their Instagram account a couple of months ago. I scrolled upon this message whilst curled up on the couch in some cosy socks and baggy sweats with a hot chocolate on the go. Moments before, I was content and warm and happy being all wintery and relaxed, but this guy was insinuating that there was something terribly wrong with this, insinuating that we should be burning calories and moulding our bodies to fit the thin ideal just in time for summer.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with working out or exercising, or even the desire to change your body to some degree. What I have an issue with is the way this message is promoting compulsive exercise. Compulsive exercise, in essence, is exercise that you do because you feel obligated to move your body rather than because you enjoy doing so. It’s also an issue because the thin ideal that the media is suggesting we aim for is not actually a healthy aim. The media is not promoting an image of health and wellbeing, but a physique that is thin to the point of unwell, and toned to the point that you have to sacrifice other areas of your life just to reach that degree of fitness.

This year, I knew better. But in other years, I’ve really believed these messages. I wholeheartedly believed the notion that there was something wrong with my body, even though, by medical standards, I was fit and well and healthy. But these ideas that are forced upon us from every angle—that sitting down, relaxing, or indulging is a crime, that you have to look a certain way to be attractive—got me thinking that there was something fundamentally wrong with my body and I set out to change it as a result.

First, I began to exercise compulsively, morning and night. Then, I cut out whole food groups. I believed this was the way to fit the mould, to reach that thin ideal that is plastered about the media. But what the media doesn’t tell you is the sacrifices you have to make to reach this point of ‘perfection.’ I lost weight, sure, but I also lost friends. I became isolated and paranoid. My hair fell out. My liver function suffered. My body began to eat away at my muscle mass for energy. Ew. Nothing mattered except getting that ‘beach body.’ It got so bad that I ended up spending three months in hospital. Three months. That’s how long it took to begin undoing the damage that this dangerous message sells us.

What no one told me before all of this was a message that has since changed my outlook on life—your weight, like your height, can’t really be manipulated. Any drastic changes will always be temporary. Your weight and body shape are, to an extent, genetically predetermined and our biology does a fantastic job of keeping us within a healthy weight range through our metabolism. Unfortunately, this healthy weight is considered ‘overweight’ by many because it doesn’t fit the dangerously thin and toned ideal.

I say, screw this thin ideal! It’s depressing and unrealistic. We need to start accepting the bodies that we’re living in. We need to stop linking our shape and size with our self-worth. We need to start praising our bodies for the amazing things that they do, not just how they appear.

No matter your size, no matter what number appears when you step on the scale (but seriously, stop stepping on the scales, they’re seriously just the worst), whether you do or don’t fit the mould that society says you should, you are beautiful and incredible and human and your appearance does not determine your worth.

Your appearance does not determine your worth.

This summer, flaunt your beach body. Because I guarantee you have one. Move your body if you feel like it (but never because you feel obligated to!); exercising can be great! But also give yourself permission to lounge around, drink a cocktail or two, and enjoy an ice cream. Wear the clothes that you feel incredible in, not just the clothes society tells you you should. Remember that you bring so much to this world beyond your physical appearance. You might be funny, or a great baker, or creative, or an incredible story teller. These are your qualities. These are the things that make you you. And you can continue to share these unique things with the world regardless of whether or not you have a social-media-certified-beach-bod. These qualities are what you should be investing your time and energy in, because summer (and life!) is too short to waste trying to fit a dangerous ideal that companies with ulterior motives are selling to us.

Admittedly, all this is easier said than done, but it is very achievable. Some simple ways I’m practicing body acceptance is by keeping a gratitude journal for my body every morning, thanking it for all the simple things it does. I also make sure to schedule in self-care activities like painting my nails or watching an episode (or five) of my favourite show. I have trust and faith in my biology and remember that my body knows exactly what to do with any of the food I nourish it with. I make sure I wear clothes that make me feel good. This year, I got rid of everything in my wardrobe that was tight-fitting and swapped it out for softer, looser alternatives and this has made a world of difference.

Let’s start accepting the bodies that we have, because they’re pretty damn incredible as they are. And anyone who tries to tell you otherwise? They're so, so wrong. 

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