When I started this column weeks ago, it was on a topic that I get riled up about every June – swimsuit readiness. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, we’d reached that point of the year where we usually start to fret about buying a swimsuit. The body we’ve been wrapping in sweats all winter (even more than usual this year!) will soon be on display.
That was mid-May. Back then, the most important thing was figuring out how to celebrate my kid’s birthday while maintaining social distancing. Just goes to show how fast things can change. While this isn’t a current events column, our health is so affected by the environment we live in, we must take the current climate of violent unrest into consideration as we decide how to focus our wellness attention. So I wondered if the title “Here Comes the Sun” was a bit too light.
But guess what? The sun doesn’t care one bit what we have going on down here. It is coming out. It did today and it will again tomorrow.
And in June, here in Denver, regardless of the larger context, the sun will get hotter, the temperatures will rise and we will want to shed layers. That sound you hear? It’s the avalanche of “summer is coming” advertising content flooding the internet, magazines, TV and every other nook possible. Even this year, it is happening.
You know the type of advertising I’m talking about: “Get your body beach ready!” Beauty brands hawking cellulite-busting creams and potions. Friends posting status updates about their weight loss progress accompanied by the obligatory swimsuit shots. Supplements that promise to give you that swimsuit body in just days with no diet or exercise necessary.
This is not a new thing.
In 1961 a magazine ad proclaimed “Summer’s wonderful fun is for those who look young…High firm bust, hand span waist, trim, firm hips, slender graceful legs – a Bikini Body!” The concept of the swimsuit body is nothing more than a myth constructed to make profit from our insecurities. The “bikini body” traps consumers into believing they must change to be acceptable.
Some behaviors recommended by this sort of advertising, like eating well and exercising can be effective wellness tools. But health is not the main goal of a “7 Day Bikini Body Cellulite Reduction Challenge,” or “Rock Hard Abs in 5 Minutes a Day.” Our obsession with looking “beach ready” just shows how normalized objectification is. One Twitter poll reports that 63% of respondents have avoided going somewhere public due to self-consciousness regarding their body in a swimsuit.
Let me say that again: Well over half of people surveyed have avoided going out because they were ashamed of how they looked.
So how can we change that?
We can start by abandoning the idea of the perfect swimsuit body. As a society, we must become more accepting and loving, and it has to start with accepting ourselves. We can find validation in our talents, skills and the way we improve the lives of others instead of chasing happiness by emulating a person in a magazine. We can embrace our wellness practice as a gift to our current and future selves. Hydrate, eat well, move, sleep, breathe and connect. Not because some TV show tells us to, but because it is so much more possible to do the things we want and need to do in this world when we are well.
Normally I would close a message like this by saying, “Remember, there are only two steps to having a swimsuit body: One – buy a swimsuit. Two – put it on your body.”
But things aren’t normal.
So if that voice in the back of your head worrying about whether your belly is hanging out over your swim trunks inspires you to make positive choices that support your wellness, great. But if it causes you to abandon hope and give up your wellness practice because you are sure you will never reach some sort of bikini body ideal – then even though it isn’t easy, remind that voice that if we can’t accept and honor ourselves, we can’t possibly accept and honor anyone else. Which – right now – seems like a pretty important thing for us, as a species, to figure out how to do.
Erika Taylor is a community wellness instigator at Taylored Fitness, the original online wellness mentoring system. Taylored Fitness believes that everyone can discover small changes in order to make themselves and their communities more vibrant, and that it is only possible to do our best work in the world if we make a daily commitment to our health. Visit facebook.com/erika.taylor.303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.