Summer is almost here! That means longer days, whipping out your favorite sandals – and probably the pressure to drop pounds. Even though summer is known as “beach body” season, it’s crucial to remember that you only need two things to have a beach body: your body, and a beach! That’s it, no matter what else you see and hear.
“With bikinis, summer dresses, shorts, and warmer weather, the excitement of summer comes with the pressure to fit our bodies into a summer body ideal,” says Ashley Lytwyn, RDN, nutrition therapist at Breathe Life Healing Center in West Hollywood, CA. “Social media, TV, radio, magazines, and many other media outlets have bold headlines showing us how to change our body to slim down for summer. This can be detrimental to one’s mental health because it sets up an expectation for women to quickly change the shape of their body so they feel acceptable and that they fit in. Having a deadline suggests we need to change our figure in a short time period which can lead a lot of women to start fad diets and quick fixes. This time of year is when I see the highest use of detoxes, cleanses, and extreme restrictive meal plans in an effort to lose weight quickly. Not only is rapid weight loss physiologically damaging and typically ends in setting the weight higher than the bodies healthy set-point, it also is emotionally stressful. As restrictive behaviors with food increase, the mental obsession with food increase, as do guilt and shame.”
That’s why you should remember that every body is a beach body. Here are seven reasons why you’re ready for summer just as you are:
Fad diets don’t work
“Fad diets that promote rapid weight loss do not promote sustainability of the weight loss in the long-term,” says Mayra Mendez, PhD, LMFT, a licensed psychotherapist and program coordinator for intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental health services at Providence Saint John’s Child and Family Development Center in Santa Monica, CA. “Rapid weight loss contributes to health problems as loss of muscle mass needed to burn fat efficiently and excise toxins from the body functionally and with regularity. Slower weight loss helps the body adjust and accept changes for durable results.” Plus, Lytwyn notes, “Studies show that 95% of weight loss diets ultimately fail.” Fad diets that promote fast weight loss are extremely dangerous to your physical health because they signal the body that a famine or starvation mode has set-in. That means our metabolism slows, our organ systems don’t receive proper nutrients, and our digestive systems take a toll. Repairing these physical systems after a short-term fad diet can take much longer than the month or two you were on a fad diet.
Every body is different
“If you made five women eat the same foods and exercise in the same way for a month, they would still have different shaped bodies,” Lytwyn says. “We all have a unique shape and figure. The media images of the body ideal are typically highly photoshopped and manipulated and don’t exist in real life! If your friends or family are going to the beach, you are joining them for the company and building of memories. A healthy body is one that is sustainably and consistently nourished, not deprived and obsessing over food. Flaws and imperfections are completely normal and once we embody them, it allows us to create a life around the things we love — family, friends, fun, not just food!”
Mindsets need to change
Yes, society needs to change their views on the beach body, but sometimes you have to change your thinking too, to stop taking unrealistic targets of idealized thinness seriously. “Adjusting your mindset can be as simple as making a conscious effort to shift negative self-judgements to focusing on strengths and aspects of your body that works for you,” Mendez says. “Staying present and real to yourself reinforces mental well-being and ultimate will lead to personal goal setting rather than setting unrealistic goals informed by an idealized and contrived social consciousness.”
You should exercise because you want to
Working out shouldn’t just be about hitting a number on the scale. Remember that you’re working up a sweat for your health, which is very different. To stay motivated, do exercise that you actually like. “Physical activity should be incorporated in a way that is enjoyable,” Lytwyn says. “If it feels like a punishment, you are choosing the wrong activity. Think of things you enjoy: Is it walking, rollerblading, dancing? Do you enjoy moving your body with a friend or grooving to music? Movement should be fun and easy, not dreadful and punishing.”
Social media gets it wrong sometimes
Stop following accounts of images that pressure you to look perfectly and eat perfectly, and instead follow body positive Instagrammers who share real life photos. “If your whole social media feed is highly edited and altered images, it will make you think this is normal and real,” Lytwyn says. “However, if you are following women who share their imperfections and that they have given up their part in diet culture, you will not feel alone in the self-acceptance of your own body and relationship to food.”
Motivation is in your mind
If you’re trying to shed pounds to challenge negative body perceptions, you’re not going to be nearly as successful as when you’re coming from a place of positivity. “When the motivation to lose weight is driven by personal goals to change life habits for healthier lifestyle options or to increase physical health such endurance, energy and mobility, the outcome for potential improvement and satisfaction with body acceptance is likely,” Mendez says. “When weight loss is undertaken and motivated by extrinsic factors such as pressure or coercion by others, idealized social propaganda, or to gain acceptance and value from others, intrinsic acceptance of self and body image is less likely to shift from negative to positive. The bottom line is that body acceptance is an individualized internal process for each person.”
Eating is a positive thing
Instead thinking about what you can’t eat, Lytwyn suggests considering what you can add. “I am someone who loves fried chicken,” she says. “However, tonight for dinner, I looked up a beautiful baked chicken recipe to try that included fresh spices and herbs. I never once told myself I couldn’t have the fried chicken; I simply thought of an alternative way to cook in my home that is creating an addition of a lean, baked protein into my day.” Another healthy change is creating a consistency in eating. For example, eat breakfast every day this week, or aim to get in three meals and two snacks during the day to prevent the body from getting too hungry, which often leads to overeating. “Take one step at a time, rather than a complete overhaul that won’t be sustainable,” Lytwyn says.