Faye Rozario, Staff Writer  

Photo source: Women’s Running

The sun has come back around again, yellow and content to present itself in full force. Days are longer, breezes are warmer, and the monotony of winter is being replaced by a steady saturation that holds the promise of brighter times. Summer is coming, and along with it the possibility of outdoor excursions, tan lines, and the familiar smell of sunscreen. 

But you don’t deserve it…not yet. 

There is still an inch that needs to be taken off your waist, cellulite that needs to be smoothed from the back of your thighs, stubborn arm fat that needs to be toned for bikini tops and sleeveless dresses. It needs to be that way. Your body has been a certain way all winter, and now, with the summer months approaching, everything needs to be reconstructed. You just aren’t good enough to enjoy yourself this year. No, you don’t deserve summer at all. 

This notion, though seemingly harsh, forms the basis of the diet culture that emerges during this time of the year. Intrusive and harmful as it is, there is a general desensitization towards this widespread sentiment of physical inadequacy. The majority of people consider it to be a given that the summertime requires a total revamp of their appearance. In the context of this mindset, no measure is too drastic or extreme. How many of us have denied ourselves a certain unhealthy food during this time of the year, being too concerned with the consequences of indulging in something too fatty, too greasy, too sweet? Haven’t we all —at least once— frantically ramped up our exercise regimen towards the tail end of winter in hopes of becoming the ultimate prime specimen?

In the age of body positivity that we live in, it is shocking to note that the language towards physical appearance around this time of year is still layered with hints of body shaming. Many forms of media are overrun with advertisements and endorsements urging us to get ‘summer ready’, all laced with the implication that our current state is unable to meet the season’s standard. Appetite-suppressants, laxative teas, 30-day workout challenges, fad diets, waist trainers, stretch-mark-erasing oils and skin-smoothing balms. We need all of it. Because if summer has higher temperatures and shorter clothing, beach afternoons and picnic evenings, then the world is going to see more of you. And you won’t be worth seeing unless you are perfect, shiny, and flawless, like a manufactured doll still set in its pretty packaging. 

It is a curious thing that we accept these narratives so easily, often without ever questioning them. Who set this arbitrary rule that we must look a certain way in order to enjoy ourselves in the warmer weather? Who places a value on our bodies, on the colour of our hair, and the marks on our skin? And why do we let them? 

It is difficult to unlearn the diet culture and the pressure of a summer physique, especially when there is an almost endless barrage of factors enforcing them both. Perhaps even aside from the media and its commercial view of beauty, people in your life are encouraging you to look a certain way. Perhaps you yourself are unhappy with your current appearance, disappointed by the prospect of not having become what is the so-called “best” version of yourself. It is normal to be insecure, normal to criticize yourself, and normal to want to improve. But to punish yourself, to hate yourself for not fitting into a cookie-cutter mold constructed by the patriarchy and some money-hungry corporations? That is a strike in favour of a system that benefits from your every hardship and struggle. 

Thinness does not equate to health, beauty, or some inherent goodness. If your body has served you well in the winter months, it will continue to do so into the summer, no matter its shape. Though there is a deep stigma towards larger body types, there is no real reason as to why all bodies cannot be beach bodies. The supposedly binding rule that is forcing you to look one particular way is completely imagined, fashioned by entities that profit from the demonization of all that is human and unfiltered. So, instead of focusing on the external, try instead to make changes on the basis of your well-being. As many ways as this can be taken in a physical context, it is important to consider mental health as well. Over the past few months, when school pressure mounted when the weather was consistently dreary, and when an overall depressive aura hung in the air, were you taking care of your mind? Did you have time to relax, to appreciate things, to laugh? Are you happy? 

Before scrutinizing your appearance and attempting a hasty metamorphosis from your current physique to that of an Instagram model, consider that you yourself need some taking care of first. Once you are settled within yourself, aware of the dynamics that facilitate your mental well-being and wholly devoted towards a lifestyle that serves you, societal beauty standards will be nothing more than a footnote at the bottom of your life. Because the sun has come back, the days are longer, and summer is on its way. 

And you deserve it.

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