As summer makes its way to the horizon, so do our clichés of the favored season: warm weather, sandy feet, and the picture-perfect beach day. But with the perfect beach day comes the dreaded caveat of the “bikini body”— a term that’s been single-handedly toiling with women’s body image for decades. Crash coursing our fad diets and eccentric workout routines—we dread it all. But it’s time to wave this nuisance an overdue goodbye and prove that the “bikini body” is truly overrated.
A Quick Rewind
The term “bikini body” was properly introduced in a 1961 ad by Slenderella International, prompting beautifully thin and sculpted women to flounce around in their bathing suits. This company quite literally announced the qualities of the bikini body, describing a woman with a “High firm bust—hand span waist—trim, firm hips—slender graceful legs—a Bikini body!” If the company name itself wasn’t enough, this explicit description pushed women right over the edge, doing anything and everything to match the image on the advertisement. The term essentially implied that if you didn’t look like Barbie in a bikini, you were doing it wrong.
The “Ideal Body” is Constantly Changing
Not only is the bikini body extremely insulting, but it’s also extremely impermanent. Just when we think we’ve mastered the ideal body type once and for all, society decides it’s time for a change. What one decade considers striking and sensual, the other finds overweight and unsightly…it’s exhausting to keep up.
In the 1920s, society praised women for their boyish like features: a small waist, flat chest, and painfully thin. Curves hit the curb as women decided, malnourished or not, that’s what they had to look like.
The 1950s and ‘60s completely switched gears when Marilyn Monroe took the spotlight. Instead of the favored thinner frame, many envied the star’s fuller, hourglass figure, now looking to fill themselves out and bring back those curves that were once banished.
Then came the 1990s. Overly skinny, tall, super-model like bodies became the norm, and once again the scales tipped. It seemed as though society decided that the thinnest women were the most attractive. Officially named “heroin chic”, these women quite literally looked like they hadn’t eaten for days.
And alas, today. The woman’s body has to be skinny, but strong. Heavy chested with a flat stomach. Strong legs and a thigh gap. The contradictions are so opposing that it makes every other fad look easy to achieve. Yet, our present-day stands out from all the others in the way that we have learned to practice the idea of self-love. We’ve started to recognize (though some days are better than others) to love ourselves for what our body can do, as opposed to what it should look like. And, we’re learning to accept that though we may not look a certain way, we might be even better because of that. Though it’s taken many, many years, with many favored body types rolling in and out of popularity, we are finally conquering the fight with the bikini body. It is not one body type, but a vast variety of possibilities that win over the definition.
You Only Look as Good As YOU Feel
Societal norms aside, no trend on Instagram nor picture in a fashion magazine compares to how we feel on the inside. We wish to work toward our dream body in hopes that it will give us our entire happiness; yet even those who have it still seem unsatisfied, and it’s because they’re doing it for the wrong reasons. While it can be great to eat well and exercise, it isn’t good if we’re doing it for any reason but ourselves.
Our mental health is what needs the most attention, and that isn’t worth sacrificing just to fit back into our old jeans from high school. Because we are the only ones that can truly make ourselves happy, we must learn to prioritize how we feel on the inside just as much as our appearance on the outside. Forget about what we look like, forget about these unrealistic standards. What makes us happy?
At the end of the day, nobody is concerned about our bodies besides ourselves. So why waste the time and energy (and most importantly, missed happiness) stressing for no reason? Instead of critically analyzing ourselves in the mirror, it’s time to start enjoying the things we like to do because we want to do them.
It’s time to exercise and eat well because we want to, not because it’ll change the number on the scale. Thus, we have to start looking at things differently: not food as the enemy, but as fuel. Not exercise as punishment, but as something we genuinely enjoy doing. Finding what we like, whether it be a specific food or type of activity, should be chosen because we want to do it, not because it burns fat. And as an added bonus— the happy, healthy body will follow once we begin to prioritize ourselves.
The Truth: All Bodies are Bikini Bodies
The stigma of the bikini body is officially at its end once and for all. The truth is, all bodies are bikini bodies–who’s to say otherwise? Thus, we have to start accepting all the different shapes and forms they come in, including our own, and praising them for what they allow us to do: hug, jump, climb, eat, run (the list is endless). It’s impossible to set a beauty standard on something that’s so subjective. The beauty of the body is that it doesn’t need to fit a certain criteria, and that’s’ something that should no longer be shamed, but celebrated. So while all the fitness gurus are pushing us to get on our Pelotons and warn us not to eat past six o’clock, we must remember that we already have the body we’re looking for, and we have the positive mindset to match.