Why Striving for that Perfect “Beach Body” Could be Toxic

Photo by Huha Inc. on Unsplash

⚠️ Trigger Warning: This post discusses eating disorders, weight loss, and body image.

As the chill of winter begins to fade and stores replace their sweaters with swimsuits, diet culture is sure to rear its ugly head once again. Whether you’re seeing ads for a detox tea that promises a flat tummy, or you overhear a friend exclaim “I really shouldn’t be eating this,” it can be incredibly tempting to embark on a mission for the perfect beach body. Unfortunately, despite society often stating otherwise, striving for this “perfect” body could be doing much more harm than good! 

Promotes the idea that “skinny” equals “healthy”

While diet programs may try to convince you that “living your best life” happens by dropping a few dress sizes, this is simply not the case. There are cases where a person is advised by a medical professional to lose weight to become healthier, but this is not the case for everyone. Being overweight can cause health problems, but so can being underweight. You should not assume that just because a person is considered thin that they are free of health issues. Truly becoming your healthiest self depends on much more than what your scale says or how you look. 

Ignores that all bodies are unique 

It is crucial to remember that all bodies are unique. No two people are identical, so why should we all strive to fit one version of the “perfect” body? Even if everyone on the planet ate the same amount of food and did the same amount of exercise, our bodies would still look different. We all have a very different genetic makeup that determines everything from our height, body shape, and size, making it impossible for everyone to achieve the same appearance.

Damages mental health

Not only does working towards an impossible standard of beauty present health risks and promote false information around body image, but it can also damage your mental well-being. Diet culture often makes people believe that their self-worth is somehow connected to a number on a scale or how they look, which could not be further from the truth. 

Constantly judging yourself based on appearance can cause your self-esteem to plummet, especially if your mission to lose weight or have a flat stomach is unsuccessful. Even if you are successful in reaching your goal weight, if this weight is not right for your body, it can be easy to gain it  back; this can cause an obsession with your weight and damage your mental health. Strong mental health is the foundation for a happy and healthy life, so the damage done by wanting a beach body can cause other aspects of your life to crumble. 

Perpetuates an unhealthy relationship with food

How many times have you heard phrases such as “I’ll eat it, I just won’t eat lunch tomorrow,” or “I feel so guilty for eating that!”? Sadly, these words are all too common. Many people believe that in order to gain that perfect hourglass figure, they must deprive themselves of food or religiously count their calories. Unless specifically told by a doctor that you need to cut certain foods from your diet, restricting your food intake can be dangerous. Obviously, too much of anything can be bad for you, but there is no such thing as “bad” food. Food is what fuels your body, it is not the enemy. It is crucial to have a balanced diet instead of heavily restricting your food just to fit a beauty standard. 

The scary reality of society’s obsession with maintaining a perfect figure is that it can worsen or contribute to the development of eating disorders. Eating disorders affect at least 9% of the world’s population; let that sink in. Eating disorders are not always easy to detect. They can affect anyone, no matter the size of their body, their age, or their gender. While not every eating disorder presents in the same way, warning signs may include (but are not limited to) refusal to eat certain foods, extreme concern with their body’s appearance, food rituals, skipping meals or taking small portions, menstrual irregularities (missing periods or only having a period while on hormonal contraceptives), and feeling cold all the time.

It is important to seek professional help if you or someone you know may be struggling with an eating disorder. 

For more information:

•     Call or Text NEDA Helpline (U.S)

•     Call or Text NEDIC Helpline (Canada)

•     Warning signs and symptoms

Jenna Legge

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