The concept of a “summer body” has been a toxic force in a world which already fetishizes thinness to levels that cause untold problems with young men and especially young women. The idea is that as the summer holidays approach, you need to get your body in a shape that you will feel comfortable showing at the pool or on the beach. Unfortunately, that shape doesn’t include a lot of space for a variety of different shapes and sizes and the pressures to be as thin as possible creates life-threatening problems that include eating disorders, depression and malnutrition.
In the interest of body positivity, it’s time to put that idea to rest.
Instead of trying to force yourself to shed weight, there are positive ways to prepare your body for the summer holidays. Ways that may not have you looking exactly the same as everyone around you but will represent your best, healthiest self. In fact, many of the measures people take to get that “summer body” are harmful in the long run. It requires you to sacrifice actual health for the sake of looking healthy – and that is a very bitter irony.
Let’s take a look at 3 positive ways, then, to prepare your body for the summer holidays without making yourself mentally or physically sick.
1. Find the right skincare regimen
One of the most harmful beauty standards for people of all races is the idealisation of a specific shade. Many white people believe their skin needs to be darker, and many people of colour believe their skin needs to be lighter. As such, we do terrible things to our skin, whether that means using tanning oil instead of sunscreen or using skin lighteners that have toxic chemicals.
This summer, focus instead on finding a healthy skincare regimen that makes you feel good and is sustainable. Because even if you do manage to make your skin look darker or lighter now, you will pay for that in the future. It is not just your skin that will suffer, but your whole body, as you expose yourself to the risk of cancer and other illnesses. Over-tanned skin ends up looking worse and worse as you age, even as your risk for skin cancer grows exponentially.
The body positive approach is to always have sunscreen and aftersun with you, in a strength that suits your skin type. Moisturise daily and stay out of the sun at the hottest hours of the day. Also, keep plenty of water on hand as that will not only keep you safe from rehydration, being properly hydrated is guaranteed to have your skin looking healthier and more supple than any amount of time in the sun would.
2. Wear swimsuits that make you feel good
Most women who feel the pressure to work towards a summer body are trying to slim down in order to feel comfortable in bikinis. But while some women do love bikinis, a lot of us would feel uncomfortable in them no matter how we looked. They do not protect you from the elements and they expose a lot of your body which you might not always want to show to the world.
This summer, though, why not try something different. Why subject yourself to something that makes you uncomfortable no matter how good you look in it? If you don’t love the idea of wearing a bikini to the beach, don’t. It’s that simple. Buy a swimsuit that actually make you feel good. This is swimwear that is comfortable, the right size, and covers as much of your body as you want it to, all while also looking good. Bikinis may seem to be at the heart of sunbathing fashion but there has been plenty of work put into all sorts of different kinds of swimwear at this point. Calypsa, for example, makes some gorgeous plus size swimwear in Australia, so that everyone is catered for, not just the few who fit an unrealistic body standard.
3. Take a day to treat your body
Overcoming the negative messaging we have gotten from classmates back in school, the media, and even family and friends takes a lot of work and a lot of time. To do some effectively requires reprogramming your mind to think about your body in a way that it hadn’t for years, if ever. There are certain “reprogramming tricks” to help make that transformation just that little bit more painless, expedient and effective.
One of the most direct ways to counter your negative approach to your body is to simply act in the opposite way. In other words, reward your body rather than punishing it and your mind may well take notice as well. If you have been eating healthily throughout the week, reward yourself with a cheat day over the weekend or even just that piece of chocolate cake that you’ve been eye-balling all week.
Even better, taking a spa day to treat both your mind and your body is not an act of self-indulgence but is an act of self-love and acceptance. It is you affirming to yourself that your body deserves the absolute best. It’s saying that you don’t need it to fit into a tight bikini in order to feel good, because it can feel amazing just as it is.
Forget the idea of a summer body these December holidays. There are much more positive ways to prepare yourself for a great summer.