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Fitness isn’t a seasonal luxury — it’s a way of life

Haleigh McGill
Haleigh McGill

It’s about that time of year when I’m starting to see all the graphics and albums on various social media platforms — prominent examples are Tumblr and We Heart It — come out of the winter woodwork labeled with titles and quotes like “must be skinny for summer.”

While these statements call attention to many important issues within the idea of body acceptance and improving your physique in healthy ways, the biggest problem here is the rush-to-get-skinny mentality that slogans like the aforementioned tend to encourage.

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Fitness is a process, not a destination, and this hard-to-kill tradition of conflating skinny and fit obscures the harmful consequences of the skinny-for-summer mentality. Collecting or posting inspiring, self-challenging content when it comes to health and fitness can help a lot with keeping you, and others striving for similar goals, on the right track. However it can sometimes be damaging and unrealistic. Just google “fitspiration” and “thinspiration” and you’ll see an obvious difference: The images of the former illustrate strength, athleticism, hard work and quotes that encourage those traits, whereas the images of the latter show stick-thin models and quotes or expressions that don’t necessarily discourage the onset of eating disorders.

I’ve had my own share of battles with an eating disorder, and I can speak for the trials that brings: trouble focusing on anything other than my relationship with the scale, isolating myself as much as possible so I wouldn’t risk having to explain what I was going through, general feelings of social anxiety and other uncomfortable habits. However, through a strenuous recovery, I have been able to see better, healthier ways for people to go about loving their bodies. I know sometimes it feels like you have to rush to get to that “goal weight.” But weight loss and self-improvement are not a race with anyone else at the gym, those on the covers of magazines, the characters from your favorite TV show or the random people you see in pictures on social media reflecting varying portrayals of skinny, beautiful and fit.

I think most of us have desires to look like part of the “Baywatch” crew or friends of the characters from “Laguna Beach” when we’re on vacation this summer, but it is important to recognize that you can’t rush the process with dangerous shortcuts. Crash-dieting is one of these shortcuts, which can also lead to dangerous eating habits that evolve into eating disorders. Other examples include over-exercising, taking laxatives and subscribing to various “get-thin-quick” diet plans that may show short-term results, but aren’t enough sustain someone, physically and emotionally, in the long run. An article from livestrong.com breaks down some of the major negative consequences that rapid weight loss can have on your body.

“To successfully and safely lose weight and keep it off takes hard work and commitment,” the article states. “You need a combination of diet and exercise, and a gradual change in lifestyle habits. You need to develop an eating plan that will not only be for six or eight weeks, but one that lasts the rest of your life. … Losing weight is hard work and should be done slowly so the body can adapt to the changes.”

Instead of focusing on short-term goals that you might have to rush to arrive in time for a particular season or event, try to view the decision to change your body as a journey, and understand that change takes time. The consequences of shortcuts like crash-dieting and other dangerous methods just aren’t worth the impact on your physical and emotional health. Instead of “skinny for summer,” how about “fit for life?”

Collegian Assistant Opinion Editor Haleigh McGill can be reached at letters@collegian.com, or on Twitter @HaleighMcGill

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