WORDS Ria Wolstenholme

ILLUSTRATION Russ Atkinson

In true stereotypical British style, we’ve all started swapping our winter clothes and shows for summer ones. Now the freak snow day start to March has passed, and it’s stopped getting dark at 4.30pm, we’re ready and raring for sun, fun and making a splash. But this obsession with the sun leads us to obsessing about what we’ll look like whilst in it.

The sudden leap from jumpers, jeans and boats to shorts, crop tops and dresses can cause heart palpitations for many. I am definitely one of those people. The realisation that my skin will soon be on show causes an alarming amount of stress for me. And it isn’t helped by the stupid amount of articles online, in magazines, on Snapchat and even Instagram telling me how to get my ‘summer body’. This is code for how to make yourself look aesthetically pleasing according to society’s standards of beauty.

It’s honestly a damaging mind-set to be put in. Young girls and boys will half heartedly make jokes on social media about having to start dieting and exercising obsessively to get their bodies ‘summer ready’. This idea that your body isn’t ‘ready’ for others to see and that it needs to be worked on in order to be accepted can cause a lot of issues for your mental health. Do you expect other people to look like a model in a magazine when you’re down at the beach? Do you judge people for not being muscly, being too skinny, having stretch marks or cellulite? Hopefully your answer is no. So, if we don’t expect it from others, why do we expect it from ourselves?

First of all, overly strict diets and excessive exercise isn’t healthy and won’t make you happy. Your body needs to be nurtured by good, healthy food and a good amount of moderate exercise, but pushing it to the extreme by starving it and over working will do damage.

I am by no means saying that looking after your body and wanting to work on it is a bad thing. It’s great if that’s what YOU want to do. But nobody should feel pressured to follow suit if it’s not what they want to do. Your health isn’t measured by how defined your abs are, or how perky your bum is. It’s measured by the quality of the life you’re living, and only you can set that standard.

It’s easy to get sucked into the idea that summer fun and frolics are reserved for those whose thighs don’t jiggle when they run, have the perfect tan and a washboard stomach. It’s even easier to hate the people who DO have that. Many of us have the habit to project our envy towards the men and women we see on magazine covers, supplement advertisements and on social media with what is deemed to be a ‘perfect’ physique, is hard to budge. But that’s only because that’s what we have been sold.

Instead of obsessing over the inches you need to lose off your waist, or counting calories and depriving yourself of food, take some time to learn to love what you have. The way your body is built is how it’s meant to be, and there are some things that no amount of gym or diet can change. For example, if you have wide hips, or short legs, there’s nothing you can do to change it. You can’t make your bones a different shape, so don’t focus on it.