Sunday, 8 May 2016

This is Summer: NOT Bikini Season.

Contrary to the various stories our social media feeds might be telling us, bikini season is not on its way. 

And no, this isn't because our sunny season tends to consist of a one-day heatwave or because summer in Ireland doesn’t exactly warrant swimwear - I mean it’s not on its way because that’s not an idea that actually makes sense. Like, at all.

From what I understand anyway, the sole purpose of the next few months is not to just flounce around in a tiny two-piece. (Imagine the looks you’d get in the office!) And I'm pretty sure the turn of the season doesn’t arrive with a scroll of rules requiring us to slim down, tone up or make any other changes to our bodies. Oddly enough, the next few months won't require six-pack abs, a lower percentage of body fat and taut thighs that the #fitfam would approve of.

Yet, I can and have seen the term being heavily used and people feeling compelled to start doing x,y and z to feed into this idea before they somehow enter summer without the obligatory summer bod*. (*This is actually the same 'bod' that has served you throughout the winter and the rest of the year/your life so there's no real change necessary) How has that become an idea we’ve actively subscribed to? How does that even correlate with a certain season? Like...what?

At the same time, I do understand the pressure. I’ve approached many a summer in fear of not being ‘summer ready’ and did x, y, z and the rest of the alphabet trying to prepare. But when holidays become something to dread and anxiously ‘prepare’ for, it comes to light that we may be missing the point. We’re pursuing an unnecessary path, traipsing away from fun and enjoyment towards an ideal that doesn’t even really matter.

Luckily it doesn’t have to be like that.

Here’s what I know to be true now:
  •          It’s not time to start ‘detoxing’, or to cut out any food groups.
  •          It’s not time to pop a few pills that promise to shift those ‘stubborn pounds'
  •          It’s not time to juice everything in sight and hit the gym several times a day.
  •          It’s not the time to look toward exciting things like holidays with fear and anxiety and worrying that we’re not ready for them.
  •          It’s not time to waste money and energy buying into an industry that doesn’t care how your summer is.

It’s time to transform our definition of the summer season. It’s time to remove any connection to body image and realise that that’s simply not what this is about. It’s time to free ourselves of definitions that don’t make us feel good – why the hell would we want to hang on to these anyway?

Summer is a wonderful time to embrace the many opportunities to create memories, to learn, grow, explore and just enjoy it.

So what could we incorporate into a new definition? What could we look forward to that overshadows the ill-advised allure of getting that summer bod?

1. FIND FUN

Summer has so much potential for enjoyment. Between the longer evenings and the numerous events, festivals and days out, there's a lot more to be done than worrying about what our diet allows for breakfast. Beginning to value fun and seek it in our spare time leaves little focus leftover for feeling bad about ourselves. Check out what's on, what interests you and what you'd actually enjoy pursuing. Maybe it's a scenic cycle, an outdoor movie, taking up a class, reading a good book in the park. There's so much possibility that has nothing to do with how we look and comes with a lot more of those warm bubbly feelings.

2. EMBRACE EXPLORATION

Whether you've holidays booked or not, I reckon there's always some exploring to be done, home or abroad. If this means becoming a tourist in your own home town, then get your map out and embrace that. There's so much to see and do and a bit of sunshine can make a lot of these sights even more dazzling. Look around and see where you'd like to go, where you've never been before and what you'd truly like to see. Take photos, create memories and discover a different side to your surroundings this summer.

3. STRENGTHEN YOUR SENSES

With flowers in bloom, the heat breaking through and ice-cream to be had, this is an ideal season to indulge the senses. Burying our heads in our phones, locking ourselves away in a gym or hiding in our rooms with the curtains closed may have some gloomy appeal and all, but in the summer I think it's prime time to have a good wide-eyed look around. The vivid colours, the glisten of the sunshine, the hustle and bustle about town. The refreshing first sip of a smoothie, the smell of freshly cut grass, dipping our toes into the water. Nature is alive and vibrant and it's about time we joined it and really wakened up to our environment.

4. LAP UP THE LEARNING

The summer can be a pivotal time of action. We've got the energy, the time and we tend to feel somewhat more recharged and proactive. We can sow the seeds of a fresh new outlook and put our learnings into practice throughout the season. There's something about it that I think offers the opportunity for significant growth and change. As such, it'd seem to be the perfect time to shrug off the body image pressure, make new connections with the summer months, get the most out of it and finally let go of past associations of pressure and fear. It's a pretty apt time to take action against the belief that we're only as good as our body's appearance, to dismiss the ideals that we were chasing after and to really understand their lack of significance. We can use this time to challenge ourselves to get out of our comfort zone and dive into a beautiful new season of potential.

***

We are so much more than how our bodies look and life is full of so much more than appearances. This time could be incredibly valuable, exciting and enjoyable - but it's up to us to decide we want that more than we want to attain the 'perfect summer bod'. It's up to us to shift the value and create a memorable summer experience. 
This could be one to remember for all the right reasons!

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