Wellness Wednesday: The Problem With The Bikini Body

It's that time of year when pressure to achieve a perfect beach body reaches an all time high. The problem with the bikini body is that the pursuit of it ignores whats best for your long term health and happiness. 

While doing my weekly grocery shopping, I happened to glance at the magazines by the checkout counter. According to their expertise, to prepare for bikini season, I should be eating 1,200 calories, less than 150 grams of carbs, drinking a green smoothie every morning for breakfast, cutting out all added sugars and increasing my cardio to 45-60 minutes 4-5 days a week. But it's okay, because I can have unlimited amounts of freshly juiced veggies, green tea and raw green leafy vegetables and their plan generously leaves room for a small square of stevia sweetened dark chocolate every night!

Oy vey.

I get that many women want to lose weight or tone up before showing their body in an outfit that covers little more than underwear. I think that's totally normal, given the pressures we all face. The problem with the "bikini body" lies in the unsustainable approaches marketed by women's magazines, gyms and the diet industry to achieve a professionally made-up, artificially lit, photoshopped and generally unattainable image. And the idea that you have to look a certain way to wear a bikini.

According the the marketing geniuses behind the bikini body, the short term benefit of a toned midsection is worth taking extreme measures that have a negative, long term effect on your health. The bikini body sells magazines, books, and gym memberships. It drives us into a seasonal case of insanity, when we talk ourselves into thinking things like juice cleanses, low calorie diets, and those awful meal replacement shakes are "not that bad."

Restriction and deprivation is only sustainable for so long. Come fall, you'll find yourself face down in a bowl of buffalo chicken dip at a football game. This will lead to immense feelings of guilt for not having the willpower to stick with your diet and we know where guilt leads - straight into a pint of Ben & Jerrys. I mean, you already broke your diet so you might as well eat all the ice cream while you can. That mindset will stick with you through the holiday season, causing you to gain back the weight plus more. You'll try your hand at dieting again on Jan 1st, and as most New Years Resolutioners do, break your diet by Jan 10th. As the temperature starts to creep up, so will the stress of bikini season, giving you enough willpower and motivation to make a sustainable change (and by sustainable I mean 4-month), thus starting the cycle all over again.

Yo-yo dieting is clearly exhausting, but it's also dangerous. Metabolism slows down as you lose weight, adjusting to a smaller body size that requires less calories. It also slows to conserve energy, perceiving calorie deprivation as a threat to survival. When you lose weight quickly, your metabolism will slow faster than your rate of weight loss. So if you lose weight on a 1,200 calorie diet (and initially, you will), you'll have to eat less and less to continue losing and prevent regain. That's right, eventually, three 400-calorie meals with zero (!!!) snacks would cause you to gain weight. It's no wonder more than 95% of people who have lost weight regain that weight (and often times more!) after 2 years.

Since this is my blog and I can hop on my soapbox whenever I like, let me just say the whole idea of a bikini body is completely absurd. You know what you need for a bikini body? A bikini, a body and suntan lotion. That's it.The whole idea behind "the bikini body" implies that one must posses rock solid abs, perky C-cups and perfectly toned arms to show their body in a two piece and if you're bloated from indulging the night before, recently had a baby or shop in the plus sized section, then you should probably stick to a muumuu. Don't want to offend the bikini police.

I don't care what size you wear, you are beautiful just as you are. There is no need to change anything about yourself to wear a bathing suit. That said, if you struggle with low body confidence, it's going to take more than me telling you that for you to feel comfortable. Truth is, there are things you can do to prepare yourself for summer - but mentally, not physically. 

- Regularly remind yourself what bathing suit season (aka summer) is all about. Vacation, long sunshine filled days, beaches and lakes, perfectly juicy summer tomatoes, soaking up the great outdoors, the smell of suntan lotion, sprinkle cones filled with cookies & cream. These are the things that make a summer memorable. Think back to your most joyful summer and remember what was great about it. Was it flat abs or a perky butt? Probably not. I know I was about 1o pounds heavier during my best summer.

- Create a body confidence mantra you can repeat whenever you catch yourself talking or thinking negatively about your body. Here's a list of mantras for inspiration.

- Buy a bathing suit you love and that you feel comfortable in. Bikini, tankini, one piece, those stringy contraptions the Kardashians always rock...whatever makes you happy! But seriously, if you don't feel comfortable in a two piece, don't wear one. There are some many one pieces that are classic and stylish.

You deserve to feel comfortable in your own skin this summer, but don't forget about your long term health and happiness. Don't get so caught up in achieving some ideal that you forget to appreciate who you are at this very moment.

Feeling overwhelmed about the start of summer? Email me to schedule nutrition coaching. We'll take a personalized approach to creating a healthier, happier and more confident you, this summer and beyond.

Have your ever been caught in the bikini body trap?