Why we need to stop trying to make our bodies "summer ready"
Let me be upfront: I am not getting “summer ready” for anyone or anything, anymore. If I wear a sundress, bathing suit, or crop top this summer, it won’t be because I’m hoping to achieve patriarchal ideals of beauty, or because I feel pressure from other women. I’ll wear what I like with pride and pizazz, if I wish to wear it.
There is societal pressure to spend your winter months exhausting yourself in the gym, and only eating cold kale, super food, salads, and breakfast smoothies. That way, when the calendar hits “summer” and beach weather rolls in, I will have a body that — according to the summer “gods” — is well-defined and appropriate for shorts.
I am not doing that this year.
Over 10 years ago, I was diagnosed as morbidly obese. I sat on a doctor’s table, and was asked why I weighed 337 pounds. It was embarrassing and overwhelming. After all, I was only there for a sinus infection, and left with a diet plan on a piece of card stock.
Fast forward many years later, and I’ve lost over 190 pounds.
Yes, I am much slimmer — but due to the extra skin left over on my body, I will never be “summer ready” according to the media.
I remember standing in my closet, trying on outfit after outfit, all to prove to myself that my body could still fit into some arbitrary size. Was I finally the right body type?
But I am learning to stop the “summer body” shame.
I have had to put in work towards loving the skin I am in — all the skin I am in — at any given stage of my life. Learning to choose body neutrality and acceptance after my eating disorder diagnosis — all while struggling with body positivity, body dysmorphia, and the trigger of the scale — is still a journey I travel daily.
It has taken time to gain some sense of serenity.
I unhappily and religiously ate three meals a day, patting myself on the back for eating nothing in between. My mind obsessed over food, and my size four dresses became the highlight of my being. I built my character on thinness, rather than wellness.
I became super vigilant about my food and water intake. I exercised with vigor for over an hour every day, never taking a rest day. This was how I tried to prove that my existence mattered, and that I could be beautiful. I found myself in a dangerous spiral that depleted my spirit and sense of peace.
I was alive, but I wasn’t thriving. I wanted to regain control of my thoughts. I wanted my mental health back.
I finally found a body neutral nutritionist who led me back towards sanity. For me personally, this meant prioritizing wellness over weight loss, body neutrality over body positivity (that means feeling relaxed about your body, even if you’re not “loving” your body in that moment), and self-care over scale monitoring.
Most days, I have learned to pay attention to the size of my dreams — not the size of my jeans.
This leads me to fulfillment that doesn’t depend on validation from others. Today, I am beyond a size 4, and I can give my body loving grace.
I still work out and do my best to practice healthy eating habits. But these habits offer flexibility, allowing me to celebrate and be human. I can do that, and still be conscious of what feels good for my body, and honor my body. Now, I can love eating ice cream in the summer (and year round), and have no shame.
The body I live, work, and play in will affectionately don sweaters in the winter and shorts in the summer, if that’s what I want to wear. How one chooses to dress as a result of their need to be cool, warm, fashionable, comfortable, or otherwise is none of anyone’s business.
Don’t get me wrong — when I hear someone talk about their new diet, or I imagine how my arms would look in that off-the-shoulder get up in the store window, I wonder if I should go on a diet or sign up for a different fitness class.
Eventually, this passes.
I remember the pain of faithfully getting on the scale every afternoon, and reporting those numbers to someone else so they could hold me accountable for my unrealistic goals. I remember carefully weighing and measuring everything that went in my mouth, and avoiding any social interaction that included food. Pretending to be some health guru wasn’t allowing me to thrive and offer my gifts to the world.
My summer-ready body is the same body that’s as beautiful during the winter, spring, and fall. The clothes in my closet vary from flowy sundresses, to body-skimming maxi dresses, to badass, thigh-baring miniskirts, to colorful yoga pants, to oversized tee shirts. And my body looks perfect in all of them, regardless of being different from the “perfect” body type. When I begin to feel upset about my perceived body “abnormalities,” or worry that my pants feel snug, I am more aware that it’s not a representation of my ultimate worth.
This is the most challenging journey towards recovery that I have ever embarked upon. That’s why I keep supportive outlets around me — monthly counseling, visits with a nutritionist, and daily accountability check-ins with a recovering friend. It helps me maintain sanity and wellness.
To all my friends who haven’t worn a swimsuit in years because you’re waiting to look a certain way to please faux experts:
If you want to wear the swimsuit, please do. If you don’t, then don’t. Flatter yourself with the things that matter to you. Sit in the breeze. Enjoy the beauty of your smile and your skin all year round. Base your self-worth off the space you take up in the world, instead of shrinking to fit. We don’t belong to the made-up “summer-ready” mantra. Our bodies belong to us.