Health

The problem with #summerbody – experts weigh in on this dangerous TikTok trend

Forget kilos, the only thing you need to shed over summer is this phrase
Loading the player...

Ah, summer – a time when we lose our many winter layers, pull out our swimsuits and start to get out and socialise a whole lot more (did someone say rooftop party?). Although the warm weather can have us feeling good, there’s an unwelcome guest who re-appears: the “#summerbody”. Also commonly known as the “bikini body”, the summer body is the the outdated idea that only toned and tanned figures should feel confident in a bikini.

WATCH: Allira Potter on being her most authentic self. Articles continues below.

And while body positivity may be making the rounds on social media, it appears that we haven’t lost the idea of diet culture, with #summerbody amassing over 2.1 billion views on TikTok. We asked the experts to weigh in on why it’s time to ditch the idea once and for all.

It perpetuates weight stigma

Weight stigma is the bias and discrimination based on weight, and according to a 2016 study, up to 42 per cent of adults living in larger bodies experience this type of bias. Butterfly Foundation head of prevention Danni Rowlands says social media posts
and advertising messages promoting “bikini bodies” subject us to more weight stigma than we may realise.

“It’s suggesting that there’s an ideal body and that our weight is constantly the thing that we need to be focusing on, fixing, shifting and changing,” Rowlands notes.

“It’s this fitness and wellness messaging and the constant pressure from social media that makes us feel like we can’t ever just sit comfortably,” she adds. “[It’s the pressure] to be doing better and doing more [that] is really harmful.”

Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez shared both photos in her Instagram Story to share her feelings about body image. (Credit: Instagram)

An unattainable goal

Some summer body diets claim to help you drop as much as five kilos in just four weeks. While this thought might just pique your interest, seasonal weight changes and diets are often completely unattainable.

Claire Gasper, an accredited practising dietitian and founder of Diet-Free Me, explains that many people turn to fad diets over the summer without realising this can have pretty serious consequences for their physical well-being.

“Dieting simply means eating less than your body needs, to change your body shape or size,” explains Gasper. “We know that dieting increases your risk of things such as heart problems, gallstones, loss of muscle mass, weakened bones, a weakened immune system and gut issues.” Additionally, according to Harvard Health, while you might shed kilos initially, that weight is often regained in just a couple of months.

WATCH: Abbie Chatfield hits out at body shamers. Articles continues below.

Loading the player...

The mental health impact

While the physical health impacts of striving for an unattainable figure are apparent, constantly longing for a different body
shape can cause a significant amount of mental anguish.

“People come in all different sizes, types, colours and from all walks of life and it would be impossible for most to akin themselves to what society has deemed a ‘summer body’,” explains Lysn psychologist Nancy Sokarno. “This can have negative impacts on our self-esteem, sense of self-worth and how we compare ourselves to others.”

Sokarno also says that negative self-talk and a poor perception of body image can contribute to mental health conditions such as eating disorders, anxiety and depression.

Nicola Coughlan
Bridgerton’s Nicola Coughlan took to Instagram back in 2022 to ask people to stop making comments on her body: “If you have an opinion about my body please, please don’t share it with me.” (Credit: Getty)

How can I stop worrying about my weight?

1. Try to focus on owning the skin you’re in
“Treat your body well, nourish it and move it and the rest doesn’t matter,” says Sokarno. “Remember, it is self-esteem, meaning it comes from you and the way you perceive your body is so important to the way others will perceive it.”

2. Think critically about what you see on social media
“Be aware that negative messaging about striving for a summer body is everywhere we look,” says Rowlands. “Be savvy and try to apply a critical lens to your social media feed.”

3. Dress for comfort and don’t worry what others think
“Wear clothing that allows your body to feel comfortable during summer,” Gasper says. “This could be loose or stretchy clothes with room to move freely, or clothes which expose more skin to help you feel cooler.”

If you or someone you know has been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, help is always available. Call The Butterfly Foundation’s national helpline on 1800 33 4673 or visit their website.

Related stories