If there’s one time of year when women wish to feel and appear sexy, it’s summertime. Toward that end, many turn to weight loss tactics that wreak havoc on their wellness, making sex and arousal less likely and causing a variety of additional complications that are about as far from sexiness as bologna–which is exactly what the whole notion of “bikini bodies” is.
Let’s cut straight to the chase. If you have a body and a bikini in your size, you have everything bikini-wearing requires. The dieting, fitness and fashion industries, however, invest hefty amounts of time, energy and funds into convincing you otherwise–with unfortunate success.
Regardless of an over 97 percent failure rate, 108 million dieters (85% of whom are women) invest over $20 billion into weight loss products annually in the United States, reports ABC News. As spring leans toward summer, countless headlines and advertisements urge women to slenderize in the name of the skimpy two-piece, turning many women’s summer prep into an anxiety-filled “bikini body” countdown. It’s unsurprising that over one in four women are dieting at any given time, nor that 97 percent of women reportedly have body-loathing thoughts at least once per day. It’s also no coincidence that so many of these women struggle with libido loss and sexual dissatisfaction.
According to experts like Maya Nahra, a registered dietitian, disordered eating specialist and founder of Healthy Habit Solutions, the problem isn’t women’s bodies, but our cultural obsession with unhealthy ideals.
“In our society, the diet industry has the impact and influence to set its own version of ‘normal,'” she said. “When this message reaches the mind of a woman who is still growing in her self-confidence and self-esteem, it can be damaging.”
Just as a child grows up learning the ways of her parents, she said, the societal environment has immense influencing power over the direction of adults’ habits and behaviors. If these habits and behaviors prioritize restriction and slimness over health, the “bikini body” you desire is likely to cost a whole lot more than a designer bikini.
Dieting and other restrictive lifestyle habits force your body into starvation mode, according to the National Eating Disorders Association, raising your risk for metabolic problems and excessive weight gain later on. Dieters also commonly experience nutrient deficiencies, dehydration, thinning hair, muscle loss, heightened stress, difficulty concentrating and libido loss. A study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings in June 2012 showed that extreme endurance exercise makes way for cardiovascular problems, such as heart attack and stroke, over time.
“My daughter was so obsessed with getting skinny for her wedding and honeymoon in the Bahamas, she ended up in the hospital,” said Mary L., a nurse in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Keeping “fat photos” of herself in a bikini in her wallet for motivation, Mary’s daughter relied on meal-replacement shakes and stimulant diet pills for calorie restriction. After fainting several times and noticing heartbeat abnormalities, she saw her doctor who diagnosed her with severe nutrient deficiencies and an electrolyte imbalance, conditions that can become fatal.
“I’m grateful in a way she became ill,” said Mary. “It was a wakeup call.”
Not everyone experiences such wakeup calls or finds their way back to wellness once entrapped by weight loss-obsession. Disordered eating, a condition characterized by weight control-obsession and behaviors that severely detract from a person’s life without developing into a full-fledged eating disorder, has become what many psychologists consider a societal norm; so prevalent, few recognize the habits as problematic, which prevents most sufferers from seeking help or healthy change. Cultural fixation with summertime slimness specifically runs so rampant, the Medical Dictionary by Farlex lists Bikini Body Disorder as an ad hoc term, defined as “the female obsession with weight loss and the drive to recapture the svelte ‘bikini body’ of youth.”
If ‘bikini’ body’ is on your ‘to-do’ list, consider what you’re really striving for, keeping in mind that appearance fixations often symptomize deeper problems, such as poor body image, relationship discontent and a lack of sexual or emotional gratification. Simply addressing underlying causes may be all you need to allow your habits and body to naturally gravitate toward wellness.
“Create a positive, uplifting environment around you,” said Nahra. “Throw out your beauty magazines. Surround yourself with positive friends. Find hobbies and activities that make you feel good.”
Once you’ve dealt with emotional “weight,” any excess pounds you carry can be safely and healthfully diminished by eating a healthy, balanced diet based on whole foods and routine moderate-intensity activity. Such a lifestyle also paves the way for a healthy, pleasurable sex life.
As for that bikini, choose one you feel comfortable in and wear it with gusto, without aiming to impress anyone else or waiting until you lose x-number of pounds. If you await the perceivable perfect time to wear certain apparel, said Nahra, it won’t arrive. “Dress up and show up for you,” she said. “Now.” After all, little is sexier than self-confidence.
ABC News: 100 Million Dieters, $20 Billion: Weight Loss by the Numbers
Glamour: Shocking Body Image News: 97% of Women Will Be Cruel To Their Bodies Today
National Eating Disorders Association; Know Dieting: Risks and When to Stop
Mayo Clinic Proceedings; Potential Adverse Cardiovascular Effects From Excessive Endurance Exercise
Medical Dictionary by Farlex; 2012
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