Son-Of-A-Beach Body: Carrie Small Plate on summer fitness

In the immortal words of Peter Griffin, do you know what really grinds my gears? It is something I have noticed lurking online at this time of year for a number of years now.

We’ve all seen it – terms like Beach Body or Bikini Body floating around the fitne-sphere, crowding my Facebook ad feed and gaining more and more traction recently. Currently at the forefront of my radar are Kayla Itsines’s’s’s’s (I never know how to use the possessive ‘s on a name that ends in “s”) “Bikini Body Guide” (BBG), or the beachbody.com fitness programs.

I don’t want to focus on particular individuals or plans here. Hey, they’re all in business, and in business you provide the customer with what they want.

And we want this. Like, we really, REALLY want this.

The BBG plan claims to have already had 10 MILLION subscribers. Yes, 10 MILLION subscribers. Why the hell is that? I think the reason that we humans are so enamored with these programs is because vanity has now trumped every other reason to follow a fitness regime. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing. If you want to lose weight or get back in shape mainly because you want to look and feel better when you’re in front of the mirror or out in public, then I reckon you’re like most of us.

But if it’s purely because you want to have your body on show at the beach (or on Instagram, super-imposed onto a beachy background) then that unsettles me.

But so what, you say – what’s wrong with people wanting to get that toned, flat, bounce-a-penny-off-your-abs body that will look awesome in a bikini or on the beach. So here is my list (yes, it’s a list – that’s how seriously I’m taking this!) of what jars with me about this phenomenon:

1. It’s a common complaint when it comes to concepts like Bikini Bodies or Beach Bodies, but what does it say about our attitude towards body image?
It sends a signal that really you should only go to the beach and wear swimwear attire if you adhere to a certain body type, which realistically is not attainable by plebs like us who don’t have countless hours to spend working out or making shakes, or which requires a complete lifestyle overhaul that isn’t align-able with home/work/family life.

2. It sets unrealistic expectations for what a workout program can deliver. Can you really become an overnight bikini sensation by managing to slender down and become surprisingly tanned in the process, in advance of having actually achieved said Beach Body – meaning you probably went to the beach before your body had been deemed completely bikini-able. I would have thought that that was against the rules. In any case, many of these programs show us amazing transformations in the form of “before” and “after” pictures. The final look in many of those after pictures, when compared with the “before” pictures, seems to require:
• much improved lighting to flatter the physique
• hours in the beauticians to be de-fuzzed, manicured, pedicured and polished
• a much more tanned hue to the skin, which is either applied or attained from being on the beach already
• sucking in
• no human head

3. It reeks to me of yoyo dieting/fitness. It’s well documented that this type of approach to weight loss can have negative side-effects. Weight that is lost quickly and results that are achieved fast when it comes to altering body shape often lead to the person regaining this weight, and some. And once summer is over, what then?
Autumnal Arse?
Halloween Hips?
How To Look Good Jumpered?

4. And on that note, it also bugs me that Bikini Body and Beach Body just alliterate so well. It’s almost too obvious. I’d prefer something a little more inventive, like Seaside Svelte Siren (for more, see examples in point 3). I would also disagree with a Seaside Svelte Siren program on principal of course, but I would appreciate the ingenuity of naming it such.

5. There is a lack of longevity to the programs. They are often 6-week intensive programs that have a specific, and sometimes restrictive, diet. And really most people will not be in the position to stick to it for any extended period of time in order to maintain this body type.

6. Possibly the thing that grinds my gears most about these terms and the programs that offer them is that I get why people are attracted to them. I am enticed in; I am drawn to the carrot at the end of the stick that is an awesome body with short-term effort. They are packaged so well, who wouldn’t want these results?! Especially younger girls, who may perceive these ideals as the norm, which they are not. I have had my mouse hover over the “Buy Now” button for these programs, and have had to resist… Because I know what I need to do to stay fit, healthy and happy, which to me is a much more attractive look on the beach – a healthy, though slightly under-tanned, mum playing on the beach with her young daughter, both of them laughing and splashing in the water with no consideration for whether her abs are on show or are hiding under a few rolls of skin over the top of her bikini, or under her body-covering togs. Whichever she is comfortable in.

7. When it comes to health and fitness, the two things that matter most to me are balance and longevity. If I can fit a healthy eating or workout schedule into my lifestyle (rather than the other way around), and both myself and my family achieve sustainable improvements to our health and fitness, then I’m in. But if it will impact on my daily life for a short-term achievement, then I (although sometimes tempted) will resist.

So what program should you follow then? You’ll be glad to know that I have developed my own bite-sized, straightforward and practical 3-step program for achieving that perfect beach body:
• Own a body
• Use your mind to make the decision to take that body to the beach
• Enjoy beach
(photo from http://www.vintagelifemagazine.com/)

 

Carrie Budds runs Carrie Small Plate Health & Fitness. She is a Galway-based personal trainer with a dedicated training studio.