Will the phrase 'summer body' just die already? Here's how we can end the toxic saying for good

Invaluable insight from our favourite body-acceptance content creators.
Image may contain Water Human Person Clothing and Apparel
@styleisstyle / Instagram

Every single year, when the days become longer, hotter, and sweatier, we're reminded of the hallowed concept of the "summer body." 

If we want to bear any additional skin as the weather gets warmer, we're told not just that we should but that we must get "into shape" (read: thinner) and stay "in shape" all spring and summer long, as if to suggest that our enjoyment of and comfort during the season depends wholly on whether or not we've got tummy, buttock, and thigh to spare. 

And like all facets of diet culture, the phrase "summer body" (or "beach body" or "bikini body") carries deeply harmful connotations – especially to fat people.

The Power of Plus, an online body-acceptance platform created by writers Shammara Lawrence and Gianluca Russo, has used its educational Instagram account to address this exact type of covert (and other not-so-covert) fatphobia for the past year. On 19th July 2021, the duo relaunched with a slew of new resources.

"In the coming months, we'll be providing resources to help with mental health, size-inclusive practitioners, weight discrimination lawyers, and more," Russo told Allure exclusively. "Additionally, we'll be launching a networking program within the plus-size community to connect several industry leaders in fashion and beauty with the next generation."

You'll be able to find all these resources through Power of Plus's freshly-minted website and its Instagram, which features informational graphics on things like body-shaming versus systemic fatphobia and how to be a good ally to fat folks, plus body affirmations. The goal of all of it, Lawrence says, is to provide an unwavering community for plus-size people. "We want to be that support system for those in the plus community who may not have someone in their environment who will pour love into them and be like a big brother or sister who can point them in the right direction for the most chic clothes in their size," she says. "There's nothing like having a network of cheerleaders who are always there to offer nuggets of wisdom on important topics around being plus in a thin-first world."

Instagram content

This content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.

To celebrate the relaunch of Power of Plus, Russo and Lawrence put the dreaded phrase "summer body" on blast — and with good reason. "All the brands and magazines who push this summer body ideal — flat stomach, curves in the 'right' places, toned legs, flawless skin — are essentially saying is anyone who doesn't fit that aforementioned mold isn't worthy of being seen once the temperatures start rising, so we need to alter ourselves to live up to this narrow standard," Lawrence explains. "I think it's incredibly harmful to tell people year after year that they need to lose weight for the summer in order to have fun and get attention and praise from people for the way you look."

Not only that, but the concept of a seasonal body encourages dangerous nutrition and exercise habits. "Because of the pressure to reach this often-unattainable ideal within only a few months, many resort to unhealthy practices to get there, potentially falling into disordered eating patterns and worse," Russo adds. "The 'summer body' does not promote real health, rather, it is a marketing ploy used by brands, gyms, and the diet industry to profit off of your insecurities."

We asked a handful of body-acceptance content creators to elaborate on why they also think this outdated phrase should've come to its end a long, long time ago. TLDR; the perfect "summer body" simply doesn't exist. Let's stop pretending that it does.

Instagram content

This content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.

Alex Michael May

"The phrase 'summer body' suggests that we have to earn the right to exist in our bodies as they are — that we have to hit certain societal standards or diet culture criteria to be allowed to be seen publicly in a swimsuit, enjoy the beach, or wear sleeveless clothing or crop tops. It perpetuates this false narrative that our value resides in our physical bodies alone and that we have to earn the right to take up space in this world.

"This is so harmful and honestly just bogus. We put so much pressure on ourselves throughout the year and in so many seasons of our lives, from wedding diet culture to swim season to New Year's resolutions. It's all a part of a story that needs to stop. We are good enough just as we are. We can be happy right now, whether we're waiting for a big life event or a change in weight or body shape or relationship status. If we focused more on the beauty of now and body acceptance, the world as a whole would be a more tolerant, compassionate, and healed place."

Instagram content

This content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.

Rosey Blair

"The concept of a 'summer body' feels archaic and deeply rooted in sexism. Swimwear is meant for recreation, and somewhere along the line that clothing became less about the joyful activity of swimming and more about the activity of being seen. My summer is not for anyone else but me."

Instagram content

This content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.

Lydia Okello

"Each summer of my teen years, I would flip through the glossies I spent my allotted cash on and dream of a Lydia who would go back to school with a 'summer body.' A me whose body was more 'acceptable' than the one my classmates saw in June. I spent hours writing diets, deciding goal weights, and figuring out how many calories I needed to burn to get my summer body. Time was held captive and wasted, swimsuits unworn as I tried to race towards a change worthy of having a fun, relaxed, joyful summer.

"The idea of a summer body implies that you don't deserve summer's bounty without one, without twisting yourself into an ideal. Summer bodies harm us with wasted time and theoretical selves that look past our current selves. The self who deserves to smile on the dock, jump in the deep, end and eat the damn cone."

Instagram content

This content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.

Jamie Hamilton

"I want the phrase 'summer body' to connotate joy and basking in the sun — think sea lions on warm rocks feeling the chilled ocean spray. But it doesn't. Thanks to the diet industry, the phrase 'summer body' is to used to drums up feelings of body inadequacy. 'Summer body' marketing tells us that we must change to enjoy all the splendors of summer. That our bodies must shrink before we go to the pool. That's just bullshit."

To access Power of Plus's resources and learn more about its mission, visit powerofplus.co.

This article originally appeared in Allure.