Summer’s here, and we’re drowning in the usual deluge of diet ads, before and after photoshopped shapes and diet-Docs pushing diet pills, slimming supplements and esoteric eating plans. And don’t forget the bikini body mommies claiming they’ve lost 100 pounds and their stretch marks just six weeks postpartum with baby #3. Everywhere you look — women’s magazines, Internet ads and TV — someone (and some days it feels like everyone) is urging us to, “Act now, get a bikini body by beach day!”
It’s time to stop this bikini body BS, media obsession with thinness and the bigoted notion that women can only be seen in swimwear if we have the body of a 17-year-old model. It’s all bunk, created and perpetuated by millions of diet industry ads designed to siphon our dollars from ourpocketbooks using fear, loathing and other manipulative psychological tricks.
Don’t we have more important things to worry about than the size and shape of our butts? We’re not 17-year-old skinny-mini models or grade D celebrities whose livelihoods depend on the size of their derrieres. We’re adult women, with adult bodies and adult minds. Minds that know in reality all the diets, diet pills, supplements and soul crushing exercise regimes will never give us that “bikini body” they “guarantee.”
Why do we let a bunch of Mad Men type male advertising execs convince us to equate our self-worth with whether or not we are have a “rocking’ body” or “Brazil butt” to go to the beach? It’s just a sophisticated propaganda campaign to convince us we’re defective so we’ll buy diet products. And when those products and services fail to give us that bikini body or we binge eat because we’ve starved ourselves for days we feel guilt and shame. We blame ourselves for failing instead of the diet, a diet that had almost zero chance of succeeding.
Despite what advertisers say, your body is not a commodity that can be bought and sold like a flat-screen, smart phone and car, or molded like a piece of clay or plastic into the bikini shape (or whatever shape they are selling that season) that diet advertising industry promotes. Numerous studies show that body size is largely determined by genetics. That’s why diets don’t work. In fact, despite what the bikini body lobby and charlatans pushing diet pills claim, research shows that dieting makes you heavier.
Perhaps the saddest part of this whole bikini body mania is that we women are doing it to ourselves… for a quick buck. Just one example of how Grade D celebrity shills are taking advantage of us is Lauren Conrad from Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County. She’s pushing her “Bikini Boot Camp.” No white bread, no candy, no ice cream allowed. But click on the “dine” section of her website, and you’ll find recipes packed with sugar like Rock Candy Donuts & Confetti Marshmallows and Edible Obsession: Ombre Cake Two Ways. In my opinion, Lauren Conrad is a manipulative hypocrite taking women’s money under false pretenses. Lining her pockets while she picks your pocketbook! Not to mention this 28-year-old “television personality” has no nutrition or medical qualifications! Why is she dispensing diet and nutrition information? For the money… your money!
The never-ending quest for a bikini body is a complete waste of time, money energy and emotion. It’s all a fabricated fantasy constructed by the media and the diet industry to manipulate women’s desires. But the biggest reason not to pursue the Holy Grail of a bikini body is because doing so will hurt your health.Research shows dieting increases both chronic psychological stress and more dangerously the stress hormone cortisol, two factors that are known to increase appetite and cause weight gain. Dieting also triggers bone and muscle loss, which increases your risk of osteoporosis and lowers your metabolism, which slows how fast your body burns calories… exactly what you don’t want! Finally, when you fail to achieve the promised bikini body (Do you know anyone who has succeeded?), you blame yourself, setting up a cycle of self-loathing and depression. With results like these why bother?
Getting a bikini body won’t make you happier, healthier, better in bed or boost longevity. There are much healthier, better ways to feel good about your body and your life that don’t involve forgoing carbohydrates, wearing a two piece and toning your “problem areas.” The habit that corresponds most closely with being happy isn’t battering your body with punishing workouts and starving yourself into a bikini. Research reveals that the key to life satisfaction and happiness is self-acceptance. Ironically, self-acceptance is the habit we women practice the least. So this summer be kind to yourself and accept your body as it is. Just say no to the bikini body BS. Engage in another happiness boosting habit that also frequently gets overlooked: regular physical activity. Grab your swimsuit and head to your favorite sandy spot. Take a walk, frolic in the surf and enjoy yourself. Going to the beach is fun. Torturing yourself into a skinny-mini isn’t fun, healthy or necessary. Don’t fall for diet lies.
Dr. Ellen Albertson is a psychologist, registered dietitian, licensed wellness coach and founder of www.SmashYourScale.com, the website for women who want to achieve health and happiness without destructive diets. Dr. A is at @eralbertson on twitter and on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SmashYourScale.
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