Originally written for www.stuff.co.nz, published 2 October 2018

Spring time, without fail, always brings out articles in women’s magazines about how to ‘build that perfect bikini body’ and bikini body bootcamps start popping up around the city to accommodate growing demand. The kinds of bodies advertised as perfect in these magazines are often photoshopped, unrealistic and unachievable by the majority of the population.

And guys, you’re not exempt anymore either – apparently you too need the perfect body to be seen on the beach these days.

A bikini/beach body should never be the goal. The issue is not whether one should wear the bikini, the issue is the belief that only a certain type of body should be seen in a swimsuit, that one thinks they don’t have that body and must suffer to get it.

Aiming for the perfect beach body is inherently wrong on so many levels:

  • It focuses on feeling worthy based on how you look
  • It objectifies you – turning you into a thing to be looked at and judged
  • It emphasises the goal of exercise is to look good, not because it’s fun, builds energy, strength, health or confidence
  • It values a flat stomach and lean legs simply for how it looks and does not consider what your body can do or where it can take you

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look your best, but this shouldn’t be the only reason for your new exercise routine and your self-worth shouldn’t be based on how you look.

Influences around us like social media, advertising and the fitness industry focus so much on how we look, both men and women increasingly feel their bodies don’t measure up enough as it is. Bikini body messages simply perpetuate and feed our insecurities.

While it’s understandable that not being as fit as you like can have you feeling uncomfortable wearing next to nothing on the beach, it doesn’t necessarily mean that getting into shape will make you feel more comfortable in a swimsuit.

Relating your confidence to your appearance assumes that when you get in shape, you’ll automatically feel comfortable and happier. This isn’t always how it works.

There’s heaps of people out there who look great, but don’t feel like they do and are not necessarily happy. There’s also people who think they look good, but they don’t.

The point is, confidence is not about how you look and wearing a bikini does not show you’re confident. Exercise should not be exclusively about how you look either.

Focusing your exercise goals on looking good doesn’t always equate to improving your health. There’s lots of ways to lose weight, find those abs and get that ‘ideal’ body that don’t make you healthier. You may end up looking great, but that doesn’t mean you’re bursting with energy, happy or functioning optimally on the inside.

We all want to look ‘good’ (however we define that) but how about we make exercise goals based on performance, not appearance. How about we find a type of exercise we love doing rather than forcing ourselves to do something we hate because we believe that’s how we’ll get our results. How about we forget those bikini body goals and focus on moving more to increase our health, strength or energy.