A Feminist's Guide to Beach Body Season

By Donasia Sykes

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Weight-loss and diet culture are such pertinent topics in our country, so much so that dieting is a multi-billion dollar industry. People are obsessed with weight-loss shows, crash diets, and unhealthy pills and aids as quick and easy weight loss tools.

The concept of attaining a “summer body” generally shows up twice a year, in January and March. January has its happy, inspiring, “use the New Year to eat healthy and exercise” message, while March is more focused on “Summer is coming soon, here's how to lose 3 to 15 pounds before heading to the beach.” Even people who are confident about themselves are more conscious about their food intake as the weather warms up. We’re conditioned to believe that summer is synonymous with our public presentation and how we look, and that we have to reinvent ourselves in order to step out in a bathing suit.

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A lot of magazines that are centered around health or have a high female readership usually have articles with tips for trimming the waistline, or diets that reduce calories and burn fat so that readers can be ‘bikini ready.’ The fronts of these magazines usually have a celebrity or model smiling at them, hinting that they use the same tips, when in reality they have personal trainers and work out every day to achieve that body.

When discussing weight and weight loss, there's a misconception that the skinnier you are, the healthier you are, when that’s not necessarily the case. Some people gain or lose weight due to an eating disorder or other illnesses. Some people are naturally skinny and wish they could gain weight. Making assumptions about another person's health based on their physical appearance can have damaging consequences for everyone involved. 

Social media, especially the rise of Instagram fitness models, has supported society’s all-consuming obsession with weight loss. Often times, fitness models have many followers who look up to them and believe that all they need to do is emulate a certain diet and fitness routine. In reality, Instagram models either work out longer than they claim, or were born with excellent genes. Additionally, many models are sponsored or have ads for products like skinny teas, waist trainers, meal replacement shakes, and other products that they don’t personally use but work well for their brand. Last month, Kim Kardashian received backlash for advertising an appetite suppressant lollipop to her 11 million Instagram followers. Many people pointed out that appetite suppressants support unhealthy eating habits and can contribute to eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia, and that lollipops appeal to her younger followers, which is equally troubling. Teen girls are most susceptible to body sensitivity and self consciousness, and are more likely to purchase whatever their favorite celebrities advertise, regardless of the quality.

The rise of the body positivity and fat acceptance movements has spread across the internet, and they're steadily making small changes to the media. Many celebrities are now calling out magazines for photo shopping their bodies to appear skinnier, something magazines have done for ages. Many popular companies have defended using plus-size models in their advertisements, especially in their active wear lines, fighting back at the misconception that plus-sized people don’t exercise.

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An incredibly encouraging thing to see is the rise of social media sites like Twitter and Instagram spreading the messages of “Healthy at Any Size” and “Every Body is a Beach Body” to counteract articles that promote quick weight-loss for the summer. This is a positive turn for the weight-loss industry, and hopefully a trend that continues for future seasons.

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