Beware the beach body narrative

Even writing the term beach body gives me waves of nausea. It feels retrogressive. Like I’ve time travelled back to 2005 and the thin, blonde women from The Hills and Hollyoaks are the only beauty ideals in town. It reminds me of a time when women’s magazines promoted rapid weight loss diets (Reveal a Goddess plan, 8Ibs in 2 weeks!) suggesting their readers’ bodies were unsuitable for sun baking, until their bulges were banished. In short, it’s all a bit Daily Mail. And I wish the term had died alongside diamante embellished jeans, and chihuahuas in clutch bags.

But, it would be blinkered of me to assume the lure of the beach body is a thing of the past. We may wholeheartedly believe that our figure is ours to conceal or reveal as we want. But, in reality, summer can bring body image stress which leaves us feeling vulnerable, exposed and self-conscious.

If this is a hard relate for you, then here’s some helpful tips.

3 tips to embracing your beach body

  1. Go ahead, compare your body. But do it realistically.

“Comparison is one of the most basic ways we develop an understanding of who we are, what we’re good at, and what we’re not so good at. It happens not only strategically, but also spontaneously and automatically.” says Thomas Mussweiler, professor of organisational behavior at London Business School.

Because comparison can be both unconscious and instant, you’re only likely to realise you’ve been comparing once you’ve stopped. But there are ways to level the playing field, and make your self-appraisal less damaging. First off, it’s pointless comparing yourself to magazine models, highly filtered Instagram images, or any type of advertising. All these images are painstakingly retouched, artfully filtered and professionally lit. They bear no semblance to reality.

Instead, feel free to check out the women in the local supermarket or theme park. Here you’ll see a range of bodies belonging to women from different backgrounds, age ranges and incomes. These are women, without a team of make up artists, who are going about their daily business just like you. This fairer comparison will help you see your body is completely normal and ready for the beach, as it is.

2. Curate your Instagram feed and the content you consume

Undoubtedly Instagram uses sophisticated algorithms, but it’s you who’s ultimately in control of the experience. The key to enjoying social media is to be proactive and mindful about curating the content you want to see. I’ve written more on this topic in a previous blog, entitled Selfies: Self love or self deception?

Research reveals that following body positive accounts results in greater levels of body appreciation and satisfaction. So take control of your social media, and make sure it serves up edifying images. Start following anyone whose career or hobbies fascinate you. Then take a look at quotes or people you find inspiring. And finally, if you want, add people whose looks or style you admire, but make sure they’re similar looking to you and their images serve as stimulation and encouragement.

3. Dress to feel your best

And finally, you can dress and prep for the beach. It doesn’t go against body positivity, or feminism, to want to paint your toenails and find a bikini that flatters. You will be wearing a lot less than usual, and it’s completely normal to initially feel exposed.

Ease yourself in. A bathing suit, a colourful kimono, sandals, a floppy sunhat, big earrings and a bright bag can help you feel well presented, and better protected, until you’ve settled in to the sunnier weather and made peace with your beautiful beach body.

If you want to share your body positivity tips or thoughts, I’d love to hear them. Simply comment below.

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