Summer is almost upon us. This means my freezer is dedicated to ice cream and Zooper Doopers, a cold Sav Blanc is my evening staple, my kids smell like sweat, sunscreen and sand, and the water slide is a permanent fixture in our back yard. Everything an Aussie summer should be, am I right?
According to my Facebook and Instagram news feeds, however, I need to ditch the ice cream and wine, pay a fortune for some kind of cleanse, starve myself, and exercise madly in order to have a body that is publicly acceptable for this season. The body shamers are out in force, posting before and afters of their already skinny bodies becoming skinnier and more toned and tanned in order to be allowed to wear a bikini, and telling me that I, too, can deprive myself to a point where I can unashamedly take my body out in public without everyone having to shield their eyes from the visual assault of my currently slightly soft, untoned body.
I've seen confusing comments about "girls who shouldn't wear Spandex", and mums who need to "get their bodies back" (where did their bodies go?), and some kind of tea which costs $80 plus postage and is so heavily caffeinated it will give you explosive diarrhoea and cause you to drop 5kg in a week (and probably become hospitalised from electrolyte depletion). I've seen diets that will restrict calories to the point your brain will pretty much stop functioning, but who needs brains when you can look great in a bikini? Kids are no excuse for not looking hot and "hot" equals the minimum body fat required for survival.
I think this is probably the first summer season I'm noticing this level of body shaming, and I think it's because it's the first time I'm not buying into it. For the first time, I'm not looking at myself in the mirror and planning my next crash diet which will make me miserable and, in turn, make my entire family miserable. I'm currently the heaviest I've been bar pregnancy, and I'm perfectly okay with the fact that I don't have a six pack or even a defined waist. The irony is that the times I have slimmed down enough that everyone has been telling me how great I look, and asking what my secret is, I have been ridiculously depressed.
The truth is, while this quest for hotness is disguised as a quest for better health, it is anything but. Health isn't defined by a six pack and toned upper arms, and you can't determine a person's health by looking at them. Mental health is just as important to overall health as the physical, and you can't be in a good place mentally if you're obsessing over everything you put in your mouth and how much exercise you've done, and hating the vessel that sustains you.
Enjoying summer isn't dependent on having a flat tummy. Put on your bathers and swim in the ocean if you want to. Play with your kids at the pool, and don't give a second thought to what other people are thinking. Chances are, all they're seeing is a happy woman enjoying summer with her family. Keep it up, and that's what you will see when you look in the mirror too.