Now that the holidays are behind us and the new semester is in full swing, we likely have one thing on our minds: spring break plans. If you’re like me, you’re too poor to afford a trip further away than the local grocery store and the warmest place you’ll find yourself will be next to the oven after you take out a pizza. However, many students on campus are planning a trip this year to tropical destinations and there is a commonality in the preparation for these trips that disturbs me: the focus on sculpting the perfect “beach body”.
It’s not uncommon to pick up a magazine titled “The Best and Worst Beach Bodies” or scroll through a Facebook newsfeed and consciously or unconsciously scrutinize a person’s body when they post a picture of themselves on the beach. This constant comparison and aspiration to achieve the ideal body can lead a person to focus on changing their diet and exercise habits immensely before the trip and can easily lead to disordered eating and exercising.
According to an article by the New York Times, Margo Maine, a clinical psychologist said, “This is a trigger time for youth to start to obsess about weight and body image.” An 18-year-old wrote on her blog, “I’m at 108 right now. Spring break is in about 3 weeks and I want to be down to at least 99-100. That can easily be done.” Another speaks about eating a mango and stick of gum for lunch. One student even said her sorority house resembled an Olympics of extreme weight loss, where they would eat lettuce topped with calorie-free butter flavoring, or purge and excessively exercise.
While these are extreme cases, it’s likely you have a friend or roommate eager to hit the gym or cut back on the French fries during dinnertime before spring break. While exercising and eating a nutritious diet is not unhealthy, the intention behind it can be when it revolves around appearance, rather than overall health.
I think it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of the big picture when it comes to how people view their bodies. Here are some ideas on how to start to learn to love your body:
1. Let go of being perfect.
I think a lot of the time, we put so much stress on ourselves to get the best grades or land the perfect internship, essentially be perfect in all aspects of our lives, and these high standards can easily be transferred to the way we expect our bodies to look. We need to realize that there is no such thing as “perfect” in real life, and that many of the images we compare ourselves to are airbrushed and Photoshopped.
2. Exercise to feel good.
When the focus on exercise is to lose weight, it doesn’t become a permanent lifestyle change, and many times, when we don’t get the results we want, it’s easy to judge ourselves or become depressed. Try to focus on how exercise makes you feel, not how it makes you look.
3. Give yourself a pep talk.
As stupid as it may sound, wake up in the morning, look in the mirror, and tell yourself something that you like about your body, your personality, or maybe something you’re proud of. Negative self-talk is a vicious cycle and can be damaging to ourselves and the people around us.
4. Seek out positive people.
Avoid those who “fat talk”, “body bash”, or are constantly comparing themselves to others. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself and enjoy being around you because of who you are, not the size or shape of your body.
Can you think of other ways you can love your body?
If you’re going on a spring break trip this year, have fun, get some sun, enjoy your time with your friends or whoever you’re going with. But please, try to embrace your body for what it can do, not what it looks like.
Williams, Alex. “Before Spring Break, The Anorexic Challenge.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 02 Apr. 2006. Web. 04 Feb. 2014.