Working Through Body Image & the Pressure to Have a "Bikini Body"

Hey girl - I know swimsuit season can be hard when your struggling with your body image. Working through negative body image is hard enough with the pressures you put on yourself - then you add in society’s pressures to be “bikini ready” and it’s another level of HARD. Today I’m going to share some tips that help me keep a positive mindset during this time of year and unpack why we feel pressured to be bikini ready.

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The concept of the “bikini body” is quite simple: In order to be worthy of wearing a bikini, your body must be socially acceptable or deemed “attractive” by society’s standards. This could include: a flat tummy, full butt, big boobs, toned legs, tanned skin, no blemishes, no hair, no cellulite and no stretch marks. Basically, the “bikini body” is equivalent to that of a heavily photoshopped celebrity or model that doesn’t even look like that themselves.

Throughout history, the beauty standards have evolved and changed, but the common denominator is: women feel pressured to look a certain way in order to be seen as beautiful. If you googled “bikini body” a few years ago, only pictures of young, tall, tan and lean women will show up. In recent years, the popularity of body building’s “bikini” category has probably put a new element of pressure on this term - needing to be exceptionally fit and muscular to be bikini ready. Thankfully, the body positive movement has led to more and more women owning their natural body shapes and confidently flaunting their swimwear. Celebrity models such as Iskra Lawrence and Charli Howard are amazing role models and activists in this movement; they are proving that you don’t have to have the body of a Victoria’s Secret Angel to be sexy and beautiful. These messages are having an impact on society’s views because, now when you google “bikini body” you’ll see pictures of fuller-figured women like Iskra Lawrence (looking amazing by the way!).

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Though there has been some improvement, do you see a large representation of bodies? No. Even though we are changing the way we think of beauty, diet culture is still a strong force and we are still feeling the pressures to diet and exercise our way to bikini season. In recent years, many women are rejecting the idea of the “bikini body” by proving they already have one. Many social media users have posted versions of the saying, "Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body."

While I whole-heartedly believe we are all worthy of wearing a bikini just as we are, I too still struggle with my body image. I am not going to lie and tell you that I don’t feel the pressures to diet and “lean out” for summer. I still feel self-consious about my tummy not being as flat as it could be, and I wish I looked more “toned”. I am actively working on my body image and appreciating my body at any stage. I have been involved in the fitness community for years, so sometimes I don’t even notice when messages are influenced by diet culture. It’s kind of the norm in the body building community to “bulk up” in the winter and “cut down” in the summer. While many people can do this from a healthy mindset, those of us who have a disordered past with food and body image just need to check in with ourselves and make sure we are not engaging in unhealthy thoughts and behaviors. If you want to change your body, that is totally OK and it’s your choice. I just implore you to consider your motivations and make sure your reasons are intrinsic not extrinsic.

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So…. How do you protect yourself from negative thoughts this time of year? How do you work on a positive body image while having constant pressures thrown at you?

Here’s some tips:

  1. Unfollow any Instagram accounts that make you feel unworthy or bad about your body

  2. Do follow body-positive accounts and a variety of body types, that show real women

    Some of my favorites include:

    1. Iskra Lawrence @iskra

    2. Charli Howard @charlihoward

    3. Mik Zazon @mikzazon

    4. I Weigh @i_weigh

    5. NEDA @neda

    6. Kelly U @_kellyu

    7. Megan Jayne Crabbe @bodyposipanda

    8. Jenna Kutcher @jennakutcher

    9. Victoria Myers @victoriamyers_

    10. Jen Brett @jenbretty

  3. Shop at brands like Aerie and Knix, who include different body types in their branding!

  4. Write down (or speak) positive affirmations to yourself. Example, “my beauty or my worth does not come from my outward appearance. I am strong and I am beautiful exactly as I am.”

  5. “Practice” being in a bikini by just dancing around your room in your swim suits! Confidence comes practice!

  6. Remember that nobody is judging you like you are judging yourself! Everybody has their own insecurities they’re dealing with so you are probably the least of their worries!

I hope you found this post helpful and found some new ideas to work on your body image! If anything, I want you to know you’re not alone in the struggle. You already have a “bikini body” just as you are.

Xoxo,

Stephanie

Resources

Escobar, Sam. “The Rise and Fall of the ‘Bikini Body.’” Good Housekeeping, 21 Mar. 2018, www.goodhousekeeping.com/beauty/fashion/a38710/against-the-bikini-body/. 

Voelker, Dana K, et al. “Weight Status and Body Image Perceptions in Adolescents: Current Perspectives.” Adolesc Health Med Ther., 25 Aug. 2015, pp. 149–158., www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4554432/.