Beach Bods for All! By Sophie Knapp, MScN, CN

June 07, 2024

Beach Bods for All! By Sophie Knapp, MScN, CN

“Beach body.” Did anyone else just get triggered? 

We all probably saw a similar image in our minds: a swimsuit-sporting, tan, and toned person with a rock-hard six-pack and sub 5% body fat. And many of us might have also simultaneously experienced a twinge of shame, feeling inadequate because our fit & healthy, yet curvier bodies don’t fit into the small box that is currently, broadly accepted as a “beach bod.”

Except last time I checked, they make swimsuits in all shapes and sizes. Bodies of all sorts of stature have the physical capability to dawn a swimming costume, lie on a beach, wade in the water, and soak up the sun’s warming rays! To have a body that fits the current definition of swimsuit-ready, for most people, is an unrealistic and, frankly, unproductive expectation to have of themselves. It takes so much effort and food restriction to achieve this arbitrary ideal, it’s like a super stressful and draining full-time job.

It makes you wonder why we don’t just stop judging each other and ourselves for not meeting the “standard requirements” and try on a new definition of beach-ready body.

As a holistic nutritionist, clients come to me all the time wanting to lose weight, and I’m transparent from the get-go that it’s not something I’m going to help them accomplish directly.

The truth is, weight isn’t usually a relevant marker of health. 

Read that again! 

It’s likely a statement you haven’t heard before, and you may be questioning my sanity, but stay with me.

Unlike the number on the scale, there are so many other, more productive habits and health markers to focus on to help you lean into radical self-acceptance and manifest better overall physical and mental wellbeing.(Ramos Salas 2015; Robison 1999; Robison 2005; Provencher et al. 2009)

Instead of focusing on weight, I encourage my clients to put their energy into:

  • tuning into their body's innate wisdom 
  • listening to their hunger and fullness signals and respond to their body’s feedback on how different foods make it feel
  • practice gratitude for its immense capabilities
  • find joyful movement on a consistent basis
  • and define health in terms that exclude weight

It’s not long before they forget all about the weight loss. They challenge their cultural conditioning around weight, it becomes completely irrelevant, and their vibrancy gets restored. 

My clients learn how to feel at home in their bodies, regardless of how much its weight and shape. It’s profoundly empowering! 

Sounds wonderful, right? Here are three simple things you can integrate into your life to start feeling that empowerment for yourself:

  1. Read Health at Every Size by Dr. Lindo Bacon

This book turns diet culture on its head. Dr. Bacon takes a deep dive into the science behind weight loss and makes a compelling argument against dieting and hyperfixation on weight for health improvement. 

You’ll learn all about how the more you try to lose weight, the more detrimental to your health your efforts become. You’ll also learn how to embrace a long-term approach to nourishing yourself in a health-promoting way that’ll heal your relationship with your body and food in the process.

HAES is the concept I apply in my practice. I’m impressed time and again how its application makes people feel better from every perspective of wellness, in mind, spirit, and physical body.

You can pick up a copy at WILLOWTREE today!

  1. Focus on your body’s abilities, not on how it looks. 

This will be a process. You’ve likely spent years criticizing yourself and fixating on the parts of your physical being that you don’t like. However, there are likely parts of your body that you do like, and it’s about time to shift the focus to those positives!

With the exception of people with paralysis and other movement-limiting disease, there are tons of things you couldn’t do if your body didn’t function.Take a moment to tune into gratitude for your diaphragm’s ability to move up and down, keeping your breath flowing, for your legs that walk you everywhere you go, for your ability to dance, run, and wrap your arms around loved ones in sweet, sweet hugs. (just to name a few of your body’s amazing capabilities)

To start adopting this radical self-acceptance of your body just as it is, try saying daily affirmations to yourself out loud and in front of a mirror. It sounds silly, and if you’ve never tried this technique on before, it feels silly too, at least at first. Trust me, you’ll get comfortable with it over time.

Your brain believes the stories you tell it, especially the stories you tell it over and over again. Lean into the silliness. It’ll pay off sooner than you may expect!(Cohen and Sherman 2014)

Try any of these affirmations out by saying them 10x in a row, every day:

“My body is capable and allows me to do so much.”

“My body deserves love.”

“I am worthy of love and respect, no matter what my body looks like.”

  1. Think of health in terms of daily habits and lab values at the doctor, not based on how much you weigh.

If weight isn’t a useful measure of health, then what is? 

Health really is a summation of the things we choose to do on a consistent basis. It’s an accumulation of all of our habits, so it can help to identify your habits and strive to do more things every day that promote wellbeing and less of the things that take that away. 

What you choose to do on a daily basis is probably the strongest determinant of your well being. 

Are you choosing to overwork, be a nonstop couch potato, over-exercising, avoid social interaction, eating nothing but processed food, and/or staring at screens all day? 

Or are you working toward harmony between work and life, finding a sustainable amount of movement that brings you all the good feels, including fresh, colorful whole foods in your eating choices, finding moments of mindfulness and gratitude throughout the day, and socializing with your friends, family, and community members on a regular basis? 

If you answered “yes” to lots of things in that first questions and “no” to habits in the second, it may be worth trying to do less of the former and more of the latter, without doing them in an attempt to lose weight. Allow the desire for your body to feel good and be free of disease to motivate you into adopting healthier habits, not a desire to shrink yourself. 

To summarize, you are beautiful just the way you are! If you don’t believe me yet, check out Health at Every Size (or at least read a synopsis), try out saying body-positive affirmations to yourself daily, and focus on more relevant markers of health other than weight. And have a fantastic time this warm season, showing however much skin you want and soaking up that free vitamin D!

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