By now, we’re all familiar with the #EveryBodyIsBeachBodyReady that sprung up after ads in London asked, “Are you beach body ready?” This trending movement brings up a deeper issue with our society. We view “beach bodies” as being perfect and anything less than that you need to fix. Western European/American societies view beach bodies as hard, lean bodies with muscle but not bulky (for women specifically). People who see this ad often think that they’re not perfect. That’s how I would feel if I saw it. I spend a minimum of six hours a week at the gym lifting and doing cardio. At 5’5” I weigh about 138 pounds. I’m extremely fit and mostly muscle. Do I look like the girl on the beach body poster? No. You can see my muscles. I’m not perfectly lean. I still have fat. What’s the difference between her and me then? I’m healthy.
Today, we live in a world where being healthy and having a positive body image are frequently confused. Most people think that if you’re healthy, you think good things about yourself. They also think that being stick skinny and looking like the models in magazines is healthy. Here’s the thing: all of that is wrong. Just because you have a positive body image doesn’t mean that you’re healthy and being healthy doesn’t mean that you have a positive body image. As someone who has struggled with health and body image for most of my life, I feel very connected to this topic.
Being healthy means that you have a healthy percentage of body fat and an adequate amount of muscle. When you look at magazines (which are obviously Photoshopped), you see someone who wouldn’t be qualified as healthy by any medical professional. The models are often grossly underweight, restrict too many calories, and don’t take in enough vitamins and nutrients. Do those models have a positive body image? Probably. They have the look that society calls perfect. The problem with this is that they aren’t healthy. It is almost impossible for the average person to look like a model and be healthy. Even worse is how people try to do it. Many people go for all cardio and no weight training while completely cutting out carbs and fat. You’re body needs carbs and good fats to function properly and weight training gives a toned look that models get from a Photoshop airbrush.
Many people who are perfectly healthy have a negative body image. I struggled with this for most of my life. I’ve always been healthy. I was a very athletic child and therefore had a lot of muscle and a strong physique. According to society, I didn’t fit. I looked like a boy. This wasn’t how girls were supposed to look. They were supposed to be frail and thin and weak. Because society told me this, I struggled with weight problems. I stopped eating regularly, I was constantly doing cardio, and as a result I lost a significant amount of muscle and gained fat. This took me even farther from being beach body ready. In society’s eyes, I had only made the problem worse. On top of that, I was no longer healthy.
In our world, we often confuse health and a positive body image. Instead of asking if you’re beach body ready, maybe we should be asking if you’re healthy, if you feel well, and if you have energy. If you do, you’re healthy and should be proud of making yourself that way. If not, we should aid in helping you to become healthy, not beach ready.