It’s spring. The sun is shining. The birds are chirping. The snow is melting again. For some, spring is a sign of warmer weather, new life, and exciting summer activities to come filled with picnics, barbeques, festivals, and summer parties. For many, it includes long days spent outside at the lake, on the beach, at the park, and under the stars. There is often a change in clothing to adapt to the weather changes. Big, cozy sweaters are out of season. Swimwear, shorts, t-shirts, and tank tops are in. For some, this is a sign of freedom from the prison bars of the bitter cold that has forced us all inside for months on end. For others, it elicits a fear that the comfort of a baggy sweater has hidden for the previous six to nine months.
Aspects of our culture reinforce this fear by emphasizing all of the ways to “prepare our bodies for the beach” sending direct and indirect messages that our bodies are not good enough as they are. The newest diets from January 1stare reintroduced. Gyms offer free trials and reductions in membership costs to help us prepare our “summer bods.” Advertisements try to sell us the next product that will help us achieve “the perfect body.” Increased physical activity is encouraged to tighten and tone parts of our bodies that will be more visible so that we “can have confidence” when wearing summer clothing.
When I received a text from the gym this week expressing their desire to meet with me to talk about “getting into a routine and hittin’ those summer goals,” I cringed. My summer health goals don’t change from my health goals the other 9 months of the year, but I knew what they were insinuating. I was imagining what it would be like to get that text if I struggled with believing the lies society has tried to tell me about my body over the years, and I started to feel protective over all those who may spin in shame from a text like that. I wanted to yell at the gym staff and set them straight that just because summer is coming does not mean that I (or anyone else for that matter) have to be discontent with how my body looks. Because expressing my anger over text may not be the most effective way of addressing my concerns, here are the truths I wanted to remind them of that also apply to each of you:
- A beach body is simply a body on the beach.
- A “summer bod” is a body that exists in warmer temperatures.
- Our ability to be confident in our bodies does not have to change according to the newest cultural trend or societally imposed belief at the moment.
- The multibillion dollar diet, exercise, beauty, and clothing industries would love for us to feel less than. It’s why beauty standards have continuously changed and shifted over the years. If there really was one standard of beauty, wouldn’t it be universal and never-changing?
- Our ability to be confident does not have to change based on the size, shape or tone of our bodies.
- We can be healthy and care for our minds and bodies 12 months of the year. Summer does not have to add standards that don’t exist the other 9 months of the year.
So I eventually calmed my system and responded, “Thanks so much for reaching out to ensure I’m meeting my goals. I am happy with how I have been taking care of my body and mind throughout the rest of the year, so I’ll continue with my present routine over the summer.”