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Sayonara, Spring Break Diet Culture: We Didn’t Pack You in Our Carry-On.

We’ve all been there. As your countdown gets closer and closer to zero, you want to feel nothing but excitement. You want to feel thrilled to have a getaway with the girls, a family bonding moment, the next step in a romantic relationship, or maybe even a trip dedicated to self-appreciation. You want to be excited; you are craving a break from the endless “midterms” (which somehow occur four times a semester and never seem to be at the midway point ?), the sometimes-monotonous routine that can be a college lifestyle, and all responsibilities. 


Because that’s what college spring break is all about, right?


So, why aren’t we as thrilled as we presume, we should be? Despite a worry-free, fun-packed week that lies ahead of us, there is an ominous cloud overriding all happy thoughts: the idea of feeling confident in a swimsuit. It’s the same cloud that has previously made me question if I should switch my ticket from Florida to Denver for a cozy trip down the slopes. It’s, unfortunately, the same cloud that has drizzled over my college experience for the past few weeks — the one pressing “you need to be in shape for spring break.” 


My irrational self: Agreed. 

My rational, capable, loving self: Get in shape? Are you a polygonal image? Even the term itself, which carries diet culture on its back, doesn’t make sense. 


Now, if you cannot relate to these thoughts, I applaud you. You are in the percentage of young women who fully understand their worth and their beauty — at any and every size. Please, please keep spreading your light unto others, because if we, as a society, can finally learn to say sayonara to diet culture, we are finally doing something right. 


If you can relate to my vulnerable position, you’re not alone. Woefully, you don’t need me to tell you that. As spring break looms closer, young women on college campuses everywhere are bound to hear their friends discussing “staying on track,” “cutting out X food,” “hitting the gym daily,” etc. Even if you are a confident goddess of positivity, it’s rare to not hear the self-deprecating buzz surrounding you. 


Woman Wearing Black and White Brassiere Sitting on White Sand
Wendy Hero/Pexels


This scheduled form of self-hatred or body negativity comes around annually. Through all my years of adolescence into young adulthood, it’s never skipped a season. Yet, we brush it off as if this restrictive behavior and demeaning self-view should just be accepted as the norm. Instead of worrying about our friends hitting an absurd amount of cardio for the two weeks until bon voyage, we sigh, agree with them, and begin comparing ourselves to them. When we let these behaviors recur, we cause two things. First, we normalize disordered eating and restrictive cycles as if they are in the Young Women’s Spring Break Preparation RuleBook. Second, we often begin acquiring these behaviors in the long run. Hey, if it worked for spring break, why not try it out for an upcoming formal? Graduation? A regular weekend?


I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’ve tried the whole quick-fix diet pre-vacation, professing to my friends that it was all in the name of confidence. Even if these methods worked, I didn’t feel one ounce better about myself on that trip. In fact, I felt worse. I was so obsessed with how I looked in the camera lens, I didn’t even see how my friends saw me in the experience lens. I had wasted $500+ on a perfectly executed, relaxing, enjoyable trip — all because I packed my toxic mindset in my checked bag instead of throwing it out at the security checkpoint. 


As corny as it sounds, I’ll repeat a common idiom: No one will care if you have abs at your funeral. While this is a little morbid, I don’t need to be the one to tell you that life is short. College is shorter. And that college spring break trip, that’s really short. Don’t ruin it, the memories you’ll make with lifelong friends, and the opportunity to practice self-love, by letting self-loathing get in the way. 


Splurge on that tasty dessert you can only get at your favorite tropical hotspot, skip the workouts and opt for beach walks with friends, and capture photos of your smiles, not of you “sucking in.”


Hey! You’re beautiful! Embrace it!

Caroline is a sophomore Strategic Communication major and Business minor at Texas Christian University. She is originally from the wonderful city of Chicago but is always fantasizing about New York. Caroline is obsessed with writing, Broadway, working out, music from the 80s, and all-things Sex and the City. Oh, and any form of vegan dessert.
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