Summer is over, and after endless weeks of suffocating under heatwaves and high pollen counts, we can finally throw on our comfies and gorge ourselves with pumpkin spice lattes in peace. Some – but only some – of the pressure is now relieved from women of all ages to have a that perfect, ‘bikini body’.
Resuscitated annually, the trend revives itself every single year. Starting as early as February/March, the first few whispers of losing our Christmas blubber and getting ‘back into shape’ for the coming spring and summer prevail. By early April, we are smothered by images of ribbon-slim celebrities. Toting their diet teas and waist trainers, not to mention the access they have to all kinds of cosmetic modification, influencers attempt to persuade women that if they don’t look like them, then there’s no point in even trying on a bikini; how dare you have a stomach that isn’t flat? Throughout summer, adverts thrive everywhere showcasing food supplements, appetite suppressants, and meal replacement shakes. In Boots alone, they pride themselves to an entire section dedicated to the likes of Boo-Tea and Celebrity Slim: products that claim to help you lose tens of pounds in just two weeks, and then that beach body can be all yours! Even the Kardashians advertised the latest, hot weight-loss product on their Instagram; an appetite-suppressant lollipop from Flat Tummy Co. The company who themselves blast their brand all over Times Square, tackling with hundreds of thousands of women at a time, with guaranteed viewing.
Disgusting and disgraceful. The overall message that this is sending to women, especially young girls, is solid in its negative impact. Young people, whose bodies are still developing, who are in school for long hours every day, need their appetite. Food is crucial to any growth, learning and working. The last thing they need is some jumped-up models, photoshopped within an inch of their lives, telling them that their only answer to acceptance is to be skinny – and that’s just in order to be anything at all. Girls, and boys, should be focussing on other domains, like their education, being happy and healthy, and NOT on how many calories was in their lunch this afternoon. The real kicker is that many of these young adults are already slim, and yet they are constantly being told that what they already are is not good enough.
This exposure holds its own longevity, extending to self-consciousness in adulthood too. During August, I visited Holland & Barrett: a shop that claims to be a health retailer. The first things that I caught my attention were sale packages of Skinny Coffee. The entire display was packed full of weight loss teas, drinks, bars and shakes. Is this truly the definition of ‘health’? Most of these products contain laxatives, which is what promotes the ‘weight loss’ – weight which will come back once you stop using them. The shakes are brimming with sugar. XLS Medical pills, supposedly on offer to fill you up so that you eat less – again, denying our natural appetite that we have for a reason. These products tell adult women that they should first and foremost be skinny, no matter how you get there. After all, why does a career or raising a family matter when you’re just not skinny?
Women are drowning in these idealistic pressures all year round, gaining particular momentum when it comes to summer. My own mum purchased skinny teas and diet pills before her holiday. My friend panicked about wearing a bikini because she doesn’t have a flat stomach. I’ve caught myself getting upset about showing my thighs in a pair of shorts. Plenty of women surrounding you, and maybe even you yourself, will have done the same. It’s exhausting, and being constantly doused by social media posts of influencers hyping their faux-healthy weight loss products, or continuously having shelves exhibiting female-marketed supplements and shakes, it’s no wonder. This overload of “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” becomes routed in our subconscious, always pushing us to shed a few pounds. Even the slimmest, or most body-confident woman, will feel herself thinking the same.
All of this just to look good in a bikini? I don’t think so. There’s only one way to look good in a bikini, and that’s to put one on. You don’t have to diet yourself into oblivion or kill yourself in the gym in order to look like Kendall Jenner. You don’t have to feel horrendously guilty for eating that cake. And there are plenty of incredible women that are on a mission to prove that.
In previous years, an advertising campaign from Protein World featured a beautiful, thin woman next to a bold slogan reading, ‘Are you beach body ready?’, in attempt to promote their new range. The backlash against them was glorious to see. Advertisements were graffitied on, and many women decided enough was enough: it was time to stop seeing adverts essentially telling women and girls that their bodies were wrong, and that eating ‘properly’ was the only way to correct that. Since, the body positive movement has grown exponentially, showing the world that there is no wrong way to be a woman.
Famous faces like as Jameela Jamil and Iskra Lawrence are proving time and time again that diet culture is ridiculous, and skinny does not equal happy. Jameela launched her ‘I Weigh’ campaign in 2017, prompting women to look beyond their weight, and instead measuring themselves against their achievements, happiness, and career(s). Iskra demonstrates to all that starving yourself is not the answer to stay within the confines of the modelling industry. The model is now happy, healthy, and the face of the incredibly popular brand, Aerie. Instagram accounts such as @bodyposipanda and @ownitbabe are just a few of the many amazing body positivity platforms well worth a follow. They are continually evidencing that there is no wrong way to be a woman, and that it’s time for the endless pressure to be ‘beach body ready’ to come to an end. Finally – women telling us that carbs aren’t evil!
For anyone struggling with body image, please remember that skinny isn’t everything. Focus on being happy, healthy, finding love, romance, being with family, friends, growing at work, in school. There is much more to life than skinny. And if being skinny means I can’t ever eat cake, then I’d rather never be skinny. Ever.