The subject line on the email from my gym simply read, “Summer Bodies are Made in Winter!!”
I quit going to this gym for several reasons, but mostly because I hated it.
This email was not making me regret that decision. I was instantly irritated by a) the use of unnecessary capital letters and b) the frankly over the top exclamation marks, none of which made me feel excited about building an entirely new body by December.
But what bothered me most was the suggestion that our bodies – the vessels that allow us to walk and talk and think and breathe – are somehow seasonal.
What is a Winter Body and why is it somehow inferior to a summer one? More importantly, is there such a thing as an Autumn body? And what happens to my body in Spring?
It wasn’t just my email, this phrase “Summer Bodies are made in winter” is everywhere. It’s on Instagram and Facebook and it’s sprouted by fitspo people and Spin class instructors (apparently – I would not know for sure because I quit my gym membership as discussed). The implication is clear: Our bodies are always already failing. They are always a work in progress. There is present you; a figure who could be easily summarised in a sad, badly lit ‘before’ photo. You lack discipline. You’re ‘out of shape’ (what… shape?). You’re not reaching your full potential. This is a ‘Winter Body’.
We argue about the popular saying ‘Summer bodies are made in winter!’ on the latest episode of Mamamia Out Loud. Post continues below…
Tomorrow, you tell yourself. Tomorrow will be the day I become the person I’m truly meant to be. Tomorrow I will have a Summer Body – which is the twin insecurity sister of the Bikini Body.
The Summer Body is simple. Thigh gap. Abs. Tight butt. Toned arms. A size six. Ripped. Shredded. A vivid image that, realistically, only a tiny proportion of women will ever be able to achieve, and an even tinier proportion will be able to achieve healthily. An infinitesimal proportion of women will be able to maintain it for very long.
The implicit message is this: our bodies are not to be treasured or celebrated or cared for, they are to be worked on. They must be beaten into submission. Quite literally, we should try hard to make parts of our body to go away.
Some would argue that the phrase “Summer Bodies are Made in Winter!!” is meant to be inspirational. Motivational. It’s meant to get me up and out from under the doona and walking and running and moving about. All of which would be an admirable goal if the objective was to be more healthy, improve my overall wellbeing, fitness and mental health.
But that’s not the objective. The stated goal of a “Summer Body” is not to feel a certain way but to look a certain way because you’ll be wearing less clothes and NOBODY WANTS TO SEE YOUR UNSHREDDED WINTER BODY.
To me, that phase is telling me to look down, hate myself, and understand that there was a lot to be done in order to be granted permission to have a body in the warmer months.
You don’t just get to live in a body and let that exist in a season. Oh, GOD NO. I may not have signed up for a bikini contest at the beginning of summer, in fact I’m no longer even signed up to this gym, but they thought it was important to remind me that I am involved in a competition whether I like it or not.
Is this the summer body I’m striving for?
The value of exercise does not simply lie in how it makes your body look. Fitness has been hijacked by Instagram models who look bloody great in a bikini on the Amalfi Coast.
But if our only motivation to exercise is to look good in summer, our enthusiasm is going to wane fairly quickly. Especially when, after exercising my butt off for the next few months, I still don’t look like a Victoria’s Secret model by Christmas. Or by ever.
There’s no such thing as a goddamn summer body. It’s a myth perpetuated by brands who want to sell you something. A gym membership. A diet (sorry, an ‘eating plan’). A product. A cookbook. An exercise regime. We will all have summer bodies come December, just as we all have ‘bikini’ bodies when we choose to put on a bikini.
Exercise because it feels good. Exercise because it’s good for your health. Exercise because you want to.
Not because some gym – who need to go easy on the exclamation marks – tells you the body you have now needs work.
You can listen to the full episode of Mamamia Out Loud, here.
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