In recognition of the National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, Hannah discusses the toxicity which falls hand-in-hand with the ‘Summer Body’ trend, and how social media and mainstream media alike continue to feed into this idea. Helplines for anyone struggling are listed below.
Now Boris Johnson has revealed his four-step plan out of lockdown, with June 21st seeing all restrictions being lifted. Since this notification, which is understandably exciting news if the COVID-19 rates decrease and the UK is deemed able to return to a new type of normality, comments about summer bodies and losing weight have become increasingly frequent.
What is a ‘summer body’? Surely it is just the same as a winter, or spring, or autumn body? All my Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok feed has been FLOODED with tips on losing weight, low-calorie alternatives and the fear of not having the socially acceptable body-type. The idealisation of a toned, skinny, tanned body-type for the summer months conditions society into believing that they need to lose weight and eat less in order to ‘look good’ for summer. Especially in 2021, our toxic culture needs to remember that we struggled through a global pandemic this year, we lost friends, family members, relationships because of COVID-19. The pandemic shut off our access to gyms, locked us inside for months and left us vulnerable – we shouldn’t be expected to look a certain way STILL in 2021.
Celebrities, influencers, brands and talk shows have been under recent fire for promoting weight loss tips to the general public. Some celebrities and influencers have been fortunate enough to travel to hotter climates like Dubai, The Maldives and Mexico during the pandemic, and have continued posting swimwear-clad on their socials – celebrating their lockdown in very different ways to a lot of their followers, who are isolating in their homes. Most recently, Kendall Jenner faced criticism on her Instagram, after posting a mirror image of herself in a red two-piece. Comments surrounded body positivity, questioning the message the model is sending out to her fans (one handle commented ‘don’t let social media tell you how you should look. These beauty standards are ridiculous’). Through this, it is clear to see that celebrity’s impact upon social media expectations contributes to this toxic idealisation of not only women’s but men’s ideal body types. Gymshark’s Instagram page has received colossal praise over their range of female-identifying body types on their page, highlighting the vast and diverse ways in which women’s bodies look. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for their male-identifying features on the same Instagram page, where the vast majority of men feature huge muscles and toned body-types. Body image expectations are not exclusive in which gender they apply to.
Most recently, the morning breakfast television show, This Morning was called out for promoting a daily intake of 800 calories through a feature by Dr Michael Mosley, which left Ofcom dealing with nearly 2,000 complaints about the unhealthy diet process. As a general guide, women need around 2,000 calories a day, and men 2,500. A large-scale national television programme cannot promote starvation as a process of weight-loss, especially at a time so close to Eating Disorder Awareness week (1st to the 7th of March).
At a time like this, when every single person in the world has suffered and struggled during these lockdowns – dieting should not be the focus of our days right now. Yes, exercise is healthy for you physically as well as mentally and we are being encouraged to engage in this by the Government, but we should not beat ourselves up for not being able to reach this unattainable body expectation this year – or any year.
Anybody is a ‘summer body’. Ignore idealisations about body image, everyone is different, and this is a good thing.
If you are struggling with your eating or feeling the pressures of society with body image please visit www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk where helplines are open all day, every day.