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The Yearly Pursuit of the Bikini Body

As summer rolls around, the term ‘bikini body’ inevitably pops up in various media outlets, creating an almost vigorous pursuit of an idealized physical form. “Fitfluencers” are trying to sell you extreme training programs or the newest, latest and greatest ‘secret to fat loss’ products to reel you in and make you feel that your body is not up to par and that something is wrong with it. Ultimately it makes you feel awful about yourself and your body. This intense focus on achieving a particular aesthetic could lead to harmful practices from the desperation of trying to live up to these unrealistic beauty standards, such as extreme dieting and over-exercising, resulting in body dysmorphia and disordered eating. Instead, shifting our mindset towards exercise for health and overall well-being promises far more rewarding with long-lasting benefits.

The rise of ‘fitfluencers’ on social media platforms has become a double-edged sword in today’s fitness and wellness landscape. While they can inspire and motivate their followers to lead healthier lifestyles, some contribute to a dangerous narrative around exercise and diet, particularly concerning extreme fat loss.

Misinformation is rampant, with certain fitfluencers promising quick fixes, drastic transformations, and extreme fat loss through restrictive diets and punishing workout routines. They often neglect to mention that these methods can lead to severe physical and psychological consequences, including nutrient deficiencies, increased risk of injury, disordered eating, and the development of unhealthy body image (body dysmorphia).

The ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach adopted by many fitfluencers is also profoundly flawed. It ignores that everyone’s body is unique, and what works for one person may not work or even harm another. Furthermore, these fitfluencers often need more formal qualifications in nutrition and fitness, relying on personal anecdotes rather than scientific evidence to support their claims.

This perpetuation of harmful and misleading advice is particularly concerning given the immense influence these individuals wield over their followers, many of whom are young and impressionable. The need for critical media literacy is vital in this context, where viewers must learn to question the credibility of the information they consume online.

Ultimately, health and fitness are personal journeys that should focus on long-term well-being and balanced lifestyle habits rather than chasing dangerous, unattainable ideals perpetuated by some misguided fitfluencers.

Body dysmorphia is a psychological disorder where an individual obsesses over perceived flaws in their appearance, often magnified and distorted in their own eyes. When society pushes the ‘bikini body’ concept – an image often synonymous with thin, toned bodies, it fuels comparison, dissatisfaction, and even self-loathing among those who don’t fit the mold. This compulsion to attain an ‘ideal’ body shape can set the stage for body dysmorphia, leading individuals to perceive themselves inaccurately and critically.

Simultaneously, the race for the ‘bikini body’ can pave the way for disordered eating behaviours. People may resort to crash diets, extreme calorie restrictions, or punishing exercise regimens to alter their bodies quickly. These practices are unsustainable and disrupt our relationship with food and exercise, turning them into sources of stress rather than nourishment and enjoyment. In the worst cases, they can lead to serious health consequences, such as malnutrition, fatigue, and weakened immunity, and can even evolve into full-blown eating disorders.

But what if we changed our narrative and embraced joyful exercise and balanced nutrition for health and well-being rather than for aesthetic pursuits alone? Adopting this mindset fosters a healthier, more balanced relationship with our bodies, food, and physical activities.

Exercise should celebrate what our bodies can do, not a punishment for what we ate. When we move for pleasure, fun and health, we’re more likely to stick with it long-term because we’re motivated by positive experiences and genuine wellness rather than transient external motivators. Regular physical activity boasts numerous health benefits beyond aesthetics, such as reduced risk of chronic diseases, improved mental health, increased longevity, and enhanced quality of life.

Similarly, when we view food as fuel for our bodies rather than something to be strictly controlled or feared, we foster a healthier relationship with it. Nutritious, balanced eating nourishes our bodies, supports our daily activities and long-term health, and can bring us joy. Contrary to restrictive diets, mindful eating encourages us to tune into our bodies’ natural hunger and fullness cues and to savour and enjoy our meals without guilt or anxiety.

Creating a shift in perspective from a ‘bikini body’ to a ‘healthy body’ won’t happen overnight, especially given the societal pressure and pervasive beauty standards. However, it is a worthwhile journey. This paradigm shift promotes acceptance and respect for all body shapes and sizes, recognizing that health can come in many forms and that each individual’s journey is unique.

Nothing is wrong with wanting to change your body, but the problem is when that pursuit of change is under the guise of ‘I will be happy when my body looks a certain way.’  That means you aren’t happy unless you have the “perfect” bikini body, and that pursuit will end in disappointment and a merry-go-round of ups and downs because the pursuit of the perfect body is endless. You won’t get there.

Investing in our health and well-being through balanced nutrition and enjoyable physical activity is far more beneficial than chasing after a ‘bikini body’ using harmful and unsustainable methods. It cultivates a positive body image and a healthy relationship with food and exercise and improves our overall quality of life and longevity.

In pursuing health and wellness, remember to honour your body by nourishing it with a balanced diet, engaging in regular exercise you enjoy, and practicing self-love and compassion. There’s no such thing as a ‘bikini body’; there’s your body in a bikini, and that’s more than enough. You are enough, just as you are right now. And that’s a message worth spreading for this summer and all seasons of life.

With 60+ years of combined personal training experience and 15 years of successfully helping people of all ages and fitness levels improve their mental and physical health, SVPT has built a fitness community that helps people create a love for movement and long-term healthy fitness habits.   

At SVPT, you get privacy, space, cleanliness, inclusivity, professionalism and, above all else, the best personal training in Edmonton.  You won’t find any fitfluencers here, just experienced, educated, certified personal trainers.   Contact us today to set up your FREE assessment and see what we are all about!

Shara Vigeant, BA, NSCA-CPT, CFSC