Meghan Foster ’20
Picture this. It’s hot and sunny, the crisp and salty ocean breeze is blowing in your hair. Your feet touch down on the warm and comforting sand of the beach. You are surrounded by your best friends, and there is nothing but sunshine and smiles as far as the eye can see. It’s Spring Break!
Now, picture this, that exact scenario but instead of your mind being worry free and ready for relaxation you’re panicking over your body. You feel the anxiety well up inside of you, causing your stomach to ache, and your body begins to feel weak. You’re just so disappointed that you never achieved your “bikini body”. That you never “prepared for the trip”. You are comparing yourself to every girl you scroll by on Instagram, just furthering your self hatred and disappointment. Your friends are commenting on their own bodies, how they too are ashamed in a bathing suit, and how disgusting they feel.
Now, erase all of that. Let’s get serious. According to the American Counseling Association, nearly 85% of college females reported feeling either slightly or significantly overweight. This staggering number speaks volumes to the epidemic that females (and males) are currently facing in the media. On Instagram we are flooded with images of the “ideal” body, and it is ingrained within ourselves that if we are anything less than that image? we have failed. We think that we have to change ourselves to be “perfect” or at least “good enough”.
Every spring semester I have noticed a pattern. There is a large influx of girls from January until Spring Break at the gym, and then they all seem to disappear. The culture of the gym is filled with talk of needing to “get my beach body” or needing to “make up for this weekend” and other horrific diet culture talk. These young women are punishing themselves and their bodies, looking for a quick fix to all of a sudden make themselves like what they see in the mirror.
Unfortunately, this won’t work.
It doesn’t matter how much you workout, how little you eat, or how small you get. If your mindset is flawed and your mental health is out of line, you will never love yourself. Coming from an eating disordered past and having experienced both ends of the extreme, I can say that until I practiced self compassion, self love, and self acceptance, I wasn’t able to feel confident in myself. Falling in love with myself as a person, someone capable of thoughts, feelings, intelligence, love, humor, and so much more, instead of just a body, a jean size or a number on the scale, completely changed everything for me. I urge you all to prepare for Spring Break through modes of self love (journaling, listening to music, reading a book, self tanning, manicures, saving up money), rather than forms of self destruction. Don’t get me wrong, go to the gym if that makes you happy. Exercise is a magnificent form of self love when used appropriately, but make sure you are in it for the right reasons.
Now, picture this. You are on that beach, laughing, enjoying the time you have with your friends, enjoying the views and the sunshine. You are confident in yourself on that beach. You are strong and powerful. You are beautiful.
Right now, reader, at this very moment as you are reading this piece, you are all of these things and more. Love yourself for more than just your body.
*Valley Girl Magazine does not own the photo used in this article