I don’t know if you know this, but there’s somewhat of a body-defining controversy going on in the UK. It regards a series of posters that have gone up in London by a company called Protein World. The posters write “Are You Beach Body Ready?” next to an image of a slim bikini-clad model.
The posters are designed to promote the company’s line of weight loss supplements and they are causing a storm because of the message they seem to embrace which equates a ‘beach ready body’ with a particular kind of body: a young, slim, and fit body with no blemishes or imperfections (if you can ever call wrinkles, saggy skin, cellulite, fat, freckles ‘imperfections’ to begin with of course).
People have started to respond to those posters by defacing them – writing things like “every body is ready,” “f*** off”, “stop encouraging women to starve themselves”, and “don’t worry you look gorgeous the way you are” – directly on the posters.
Protein World has responded to all this by going on the defensive and standing behind their posters and their message. To a woman voicing her critique of the posters by writing “I spent life believing I’m not good enough” they responded by saying: “why make your insecurities our problem?” They’ve also tweeted to say that “we are a nation of sympathisers for fatties #doesnthelpanyone” and to ask whether “it’s OK to be fat and out of shape instead of healthy?”
I think this is absurd.
It’s absurd to, first of all, put up that kind of imagery without at least considering the way in which the general population will perceive it: as part of a body-shamming culture that equates slim bodies with healthy bodies. They’ve done this without realizing that hey, you know what? A body that may look overweight to you CAN indeed be healthy. And fit. And hella STRONG. And all bodies are beach-ready bodies, no matter what their weight, shape, or form! Thinking otherwise is ridiculous.
For some reason though, Protein World has read the comments of those critiquing their campaign and its message as champions for the morbidly obese. In so doing, they’re completely missing the point. NO ONE is attacking health and fitness. On the contrary, they’re seeking to reclaim the true meaning of what health and fitness actually means.
Most of you reading this, like me, embrace a healthy and active lifestyle. We pay attention to our nutrition and eat as best we can. We exercise regularly and we take care of our bodies.
Because of our being immersed in this environment though, many of us follow and consume ‘fitness media’. E.g. we read health and fitness magazines, buy health and fitness products, and look up to role models in the fitness industry. As a result, we have come to normalize imagery like that found in Protein Worlds’ posters. We take things like ‘fitspiration’-type discourse and images for granted, sometimes without stopping to question what exactly this promotes. We come to expect being bombarded with the notion that a healthy and fit body looks a certain way: lean, ‘toned,’ slender, ‘low-fat’, and fault-free.
But that’s a fantasy, you know? It’s a downright lie.
It’s a lie to think that fit bodies only look a certain way. How can they? When they’ve all been designed so differently? How can we – and more important – why SHOULD we all fit a singular mold?
I would argue that, either directly or indirectly, the reason we’re sold this lie is so that we feel unhappy with ourselves – unhappy enough to feel the need to buy weight loss supplements when we don’t need them. Unhappy enough to push beyond our breaking point when we exercise and lose sight of why we started on our fitness journey to begin with. Reminder: it wasn’t just for a six-pack – it was for our fitness, it was for our performance, and it was for our health.
Of course, a lot of us can successfully ‘read’ images and messages like those espoused by Protein World’s posters’ (and ‘fistpiration boards’) critically – we automatically read them like this. And a lot of us can just shrug when we see them and keep on walking because we know that they’re there merely to sell us something. We know and understand that our body, no matter its current shape or form, is a ‘beach body ready’ body.
If you’re a woman, you know that you de facto have a ‘bikini body.’
But, you know what? Thinking this way isn’t that common.
Far too many people – women especially – find fault with and shame their perfectly-healthy bodies. They look in the mirror and pinch their bellies. Their legs. They look critically at their folded skin, their stretch marks, their ageing bodies, their cellulite, or whatever else they deem as an ‘imperfection.’
That’s why I think it’s important to push body-accepting discourse. Because it’s only when we love our bodies that we treat them well. That we feed them well. That we exercise them well and use them to the best of their capacity. It’s out of love for our bodies – no matter how ‘fit’ or ‘unfit’ they may seem to someone else – that we treat them their best, fuel them as we should, and exercise them with gusto. And we use them as the tools that they are for living healthy, happy, and full-to-the-brim lives!
So we need to work together to underscore the fact that a ‘beach ready body’ or a ‘bikini body’ isn’t ONE KIND of body – let alone one that requires weight loss to be ‘ready’. You know what a a bikini body is? It’s ANY body. All someone needs to get a bikini body is a body. And a bikini.
Imagine missing the joy that comes from being at the beach with friends and family because you feel your body isn’t ‘ready’? Or feeling the need to cover up? A lot of people feel this way! And there’s absolutely NO NEED.
No one should care about stretch marks. Or cellulite. Or fat anywhere on their body. At the end of the day, remember: “people who mind don’t matter, and people who matter don’t mind!”
So take a stand with me, will you? Join me in supporting those who criticize simplistic, reductionist, and normative images of what a fit or healthy body is and what it isn’t. Challenge those that seek to tell you when a body is and when it isn’t ‘ready’ to head over to the beach.
Our bodies are ALL beach ready, bikini ready, and they’re all AWE-some, in the true definition of the word!