Summertime can sometimes bring an annoying media-storm that throws shade over women’s bodies. But news flash: Got a body? Then you’re already bikini-ready.
Summertime comes with a slew of headlines about what your body should be like: “Getting Swimsuit-Ready with This Workout” or “Making Your Bikini Body All That It Should Be,” for example.
But what does that even mean? If you think about it, these headlines — and the term “bikini body” itself — are built on fear. A fear that causes more harm than health.
How we talk shapes is how we see ourselves
“These terms and phrases tap into fear, what I call a heavy emotion, a feeling that bogs us down and holds us back from being the person we know we’re meant to be,” explains Katie Horwitch, founder of Women Against Negative Talk (WANT). “It implies that yes, you will be wearing a swimsuit and will be going to the beach, but you might not be ready for it. And that brings up the age-old question we ask ourselves over and over: ‘Am I enough?’”
This isn’t just a problem of headlines. It’s not up to the media alone to fix their verbiage.
The root of the problem lies in the way companies market these products and how bikinis (or swimsuits in general) have become associated with a certain body type. Most magazines feature thin white women who have beachy waves for hair and an effortless tan as the showcase of “bikini bodies.”
And readers have noticed. In a poll for Women’s Health magazine, readers voted to have the term banned.
It’s not just women we should be concerned about. Magazine covers can influence young girls’ self-esteem and their desire to be thin at as young as 6 years old. Horwitch says a bikini isn’t really about how you feel in a swimsuit, but a constant worry of whether or not your body has made the cut.
Some women may feel as if they haven’t earned it simply because they didn’t do the correct workout regimen or follow a diet plan.
“Yes, having a bikini body is just putting a bikini on your body,” Horwitch continues. “But we’re after the feeling of having what we deem a ‘bikini body,’ which is the self-confidence that exists no matter what you’re wearing.”
So, this self-confidence isn’t going to happen overnight
But showing yourself kindness a little bit at a time, once every day, can help you get there.
What does showing yourself kindness look like? Looking at your own reflection is a good place to start.
“Practice talking to your image in the mirror as you would your best friend,” encourages Vivian Diller, PhD, psychologist and author of “Face It: What Women Really Feel as Their Looks Change.” “It’s surprising how much kinder and supportive we are to others than we are to ourselves,” she says.
Another way to practice being kind to yourself is to flip the script on swimsuit season. After all, at its core, wearing a bikini is really about wanting to feel good about yourself.
But in order to do that, you’ve got to get clear on what you really want.
Do you want to limit your carbohydrate intake or take two gym classes every day? Probably not. Do you want to eat healthy and develop a fitness routine that can be a foundation for a healthier lifestyle? Thank goodness quick fixes aren’t real anyway.
Maintaining a fitness routine is probably more in-line with your overall health goals instead of killing yourself for three weeks in hopes of a temporary body.
“There will always be something to ‘get ready’ for, but that doesn’t mean you need to ‘get ready’ for it,” Horwitch explains, referring to the holidays, New Year, spring break, and summer season. “Focus on health and happiness year-round, and I promise you, you’ll never need to worry about overhauling your whole routine and sending yourself on a roller coaster.”
Our minds define us the most
As women speak up to brands about what they want, we also have to change the way we speak to each other. It’s time to work toward a culture of inclusiveness. There’s a Tumblr post that went viral that states, “I was always taught by my mother that the first thought that goes through your mind is what you have been conditioned to think. What you think next defines who you are.”
Should you find yourself participating in harmful talk about someone’s body, bikini-mode or not, make that second thought be a realization that you need to change the way you speak.
“We may talk about the offensiveness of ‘bikini body’ scrutiny, but then participate in it ourselves when we see photos of celebs,” adds Diller. “As a culture, we need to get away from judging ourselves and others based on unrealistic standards of beauty, so the next generation grows up to be more open minded about their bodies and selves,” she says.
Let’s collectively agree to nix the term
There’s a lot of work to be done before the term “bikini body” disappears completely. It may feel like there’s nothing you as an individual can do — but that frankly isn’t true! The best thing you can do is let your money talk.
“The truth is, if we’re still buying it, it will still exist,” adds Horwitch. “If we keep going to that ‘Bikini Body Workout’ class, it’s going to stay on the fitness studio’s schedule. If we keep clicking on the ‘Bikini Body’ links, websites will keep making more content like that.”
The truth behind this can be seen firsthand from trainer Kayla Itsines, who created the Bikini Body Guides (BBG) that’ve developed a cult-like following.
“She doesn’t even like the term ‘BBG’ anymore because it implies there’s only one type of body appropriate for a bikini,” states Bloomberg Businessweek in a 2016 article about the fitness phenomenon.
The terms “bikini body” and BBG are still advertised all over her website, but the fact that she publicly acknowledged the problem with the terminology and consciously chose to move away from that with the creation of her app shows progress.
Of course, the biggest progress comes from starting within.
If you’ve made it this far, start believing that absolutely includes yours. Nervous about hitting the beach in that two-piece right away? Practice in the fitting room with you and then your friends.
Have a mini-party trying on all kinds of swimsuits and strut your stuff in front of the mirror.
Once your confidence grows — and you’ve relished in the reminder that your friends are on your side — take your party to the beach, lake, or pool and celebrate your bikini bodies together.
Ashley Lauretta is a freelance journalist based in Austin, Texas. She’s an assistant editor for LAVA Magazine and contributing editor for Women’s Running. Additionally, her byline appears in The Atlantic, ELLE, Men’s Journal, espnW, GOOD Sports, and more. Find her online at ashleylauretta.com and on Twitter @ashley_lauretta.