Summer Beach Body: Why It’s Problematic

By Heather Irwin, MS, RD, LDN

If I had a nickel for every time I heard “beach bodies are made in the winter” or “my body isn’t beach ready,” I think I would be rich! The problem is, the words “beach body” have a negative connotation and equate appearance with health, which can’t always be synonymous. We think that just because somebody has the “ideal body,” they’re healthy, or they might think that they’re healthy because they look a certain way. But there’s a huge part of that which can lead to malnourishment, nutrient deficiency, poor sleep, and poor mental health. It’s problematic, because there’s no “one look” to what health is, and if people are only focused on meeting a certain body ideal, they may not be eating well or listening to how they feel.

Stay Away From Cleanses and Super Restrictive Diets

Detoxes, such as juice cleanses, charcoal drinks, or the Master Cleanse, are a “no-no” because they can be extremely calorie restrictive. Most of these cleanses typically have little to no fiber or protein, so you’re not really getting filled with any type of nourishment. Cutting out large food groups also isn’t recommended because say, for instance, you cut out carbohydrates. That is your body’s number one preferred source of energy.

Instead, Focus on Intuitive Eating

Instead, the goal is to establish intuitive eating practices, an approach that focuses on nourishing your body, honoring your hunger, and rejecting the idea of labeling food as “good” or “bad.” When we shift the focus from restrictive dieting efforts and start to build that self-esteem, self-respect comes into the picture, and that really embodies adequate nourishment with food. And, when you start shifting gears mentally and develop a more peaceful, less food-shaming mentality, your body is going to crave fruits and vegetables and balanced meals.

It means incorporating fruit, vegetables, proteins, carbs, fats, salts, but also enjoying a popcorn and a soda when you go to the movies without feeling bad about it. It’s not quick. It’s not fast. It’s stabilizing and it’s safe and it’s nourishing, so it just doesn’t sell like the other gimmicky diets sell.

Be Kind to Yourself

At the end of the day, looking and feeling your best comes from within. It comes from building that self-confidence and self-esteem and self-worth and value. So, be kind to yourself and be mindful of the words you’re using when you talk about your health. It’s important to have an internal dialogue focused on positive things like your progress and hard work as opposed to negative self-talk. Imagine yourself talking to a child whether it be your own or not. Would you use the same negative words to them as you internally tell yourself? I highly doubt it, yet we do it all the time.

Last and Final Step: Go to the Beach

Drown out all of the noise and really remember that everybody’s body is different and that there’s nothing wrong with your body. There’s nothing you need to fix, there’s nothing you need to change, there’s nothing you need to do differently to get ready for summer. If you want to lose some fat, build muscle, and eat cleaner, that’s great, but it’s not a requirement for enjoying the warm weather and the waves.

You want to have beach body? OK, have a body, number one. Number two, go to the beach. There you go, “You have a beach body.”

Heather Irwin, MS, RD, LDN
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