Every Body is a Beach Body

As we head into the warmer months, I overhear people talking about getting that “beach body” and notice both young and adult women in the gym locker room obsessively weighing themselves. While it’s important to make healthy lifestyle choices, the number on the scale shouldn’t be the focus. What should be the focus? Eating well balanced meals that keep you fueled throughout the day, getting plenty of physical activity and exercise in your week, and making sure you get enough sleep each night. These are all important aspects of maintaining health that have nothing to do with a scale.

When you think of what determines weight, most people think of diet and exercise. Those that do not meet the societal “ideal” image of a perfect body are often viewed as “lazy” or “lacking discipline.” There is more to the story of each person’s size besides diet and exercise. People sometimes assume that everyone has complete control of their weight, but this is often not the case. In adolescents, genetics, medications/treatment, socio-cultural status, and environment all play a part in a person’s body type and size. You should not attribute yours or someone else’s size just to the way somebody lives their life.

Society puts immense pressure on individuals to be lean and strong or skinny and toned. We are all inundated with messages about diets and the best exercises to “burn belly fat” and “lose weight fast”. Media that includes these images and beliefs help perpetuate the stereotype that weight is one of the most important factors for health. However, people come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, which is perfectly normal! An Olympic marathoner is going to have a very different body type and weight than an Olympic shot putter, but both are healthy, elite athletes whose bodies and weights are just right for the respective demands that are put on their bodies each day. What’s NOT normal? The glossy images and articles blazoned across Instagram and health magazines and tabloids with exercise and diet suggestions, often containing touched up and unreal photos.

When people eat well balanced meals filled with colorful fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, fat, and yes even ice cream or other treats on occasion, they are fueling their bodies properly. The American College of Sports Medicine advises adults to partake in 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week, and children and adolescents should exercise or be physically active 60 minutes each day. Sleep is another key factor in health and adolescents and adults should strive to get 8-9 hours of shut eye a night with children needing even more.

When people focus on these factors instead of a number on the scale they will be living a healthy lifestyle that will be reflected in their bodies, not by the number on a scale. The number on a scale is only showing how much gravity is pushing down on you, it is not representing your health! Every body is a beach body, and it’s time that the focus turns from weight to living a healthy lifestyle through food choices, exercising regularly, and sleeping enough each night.

-Nutrition Student Laura