I don’t know what’s bigger: Spring Break or the hell we put ourselves through to prepare for it. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the season of crash diets. I transferred from a small Mennonite college where crash diets (and MTV Spring Breaks) were frowned upon. Not that they didn’t happen, but they were hidden from the general public. While I was there, I read stories of “wild” spring break diets and found them hard to believe.
I hope you, dear reader, are surrounded with friends like my Mennonites, who try to love the curves and dimples of their bodies as much as possible.
But if this isn’t your reality (and it is no longer mine), then let’s chat.
Minnesota winter is brutal. I feel like a Viking just for making it to class. Putting on five pounds is a survival strategy.
When I booked a flight to somewhere warmer, one of the hundred thoughts racing through my mind was: what will my Minnesota body look like in a swimsuit.
Spring shedding is ritualized. Through Spring Cleaning, we rid our homes of stale winter air and dust bunnies. In Lent, we remove the routinized evil (and all the mortal sin committed on those cold winter nights) from our lives. Shedding is part of the spring season. That’s okay.
It’s the marketing of “swimsuit season” where the narratives and behaviors surrounding gender, sexuality, beauty and consumption get screwy. Are we panicking about Spring Break because our March bodies aren’t as toned (or as clean shaven) as our July bodies? Living on “lettuce and butter spray”, spending more hours in the gym than on homework– there’s more at play than simply winter weight. A competitive culture of destructive disordered eating and exercise compulsion speaks to our culture’s affirmation of women’s worth through their sex appeal, and a very narrow definition of what is appealing.
It’s important to also recognize how privilege plays into this. With rising tuition costs, many students are scraping to pay for classes. Vacations like Spring Break are out of the question. Similar to the humorous #carlsonkidproblems on Twitter, this can seem quite insubstantial to some folks. Its consequences, however, are quite tangible.
Some of us know these myths by heart but we still feel that “Oh Shit” drop in our chests when we imagine bearing our bodies. As constructed as these narratives are, they have real impacts. Try to find an empty machine at the Rec. We feel it. I feel it.
Instead of ignoring that feeling and REALLY panicking in a week, I’m trying to take a constructive approach this year. First of all, I’m hitting the gym. I’m pushing myself harder, not to shrink my thighs but to strengthen my body and my soul. Working out affects my brain –I’m more rooted and I worry about my body less. Exercise (and sleep) are my “me time”. When I don’t have my family in the same city, I work out my problems in the gym. From quitting smoking to surviving hell to daily stress, I process it best while sweating. Working out is powerful.
Maybe, feeling the burn is your thing too. Body Pump, Candlelight Yoga, or just grooving along the river, whatever it is. Making the time for it might help ease the Spring Break pressure. But, the weeks before are packed with exams and papers. Time is of the essence. And the Rec is beyond crowded. If you want to get the endorphins flowing in record time and avoid the cold weather: here are some FREE alternatives:
Nike Training Club App.
Nike Women has released an incredible training app. For Free. Their own Marie Purvis designed it, and trust me, you’ll have those “atta-girl” aches the next day. It’s a portable “trainer”, so it can go to the gym, your living room or even on Spring Break with you. Could you ask for more?
Trial Gym Memberships.
Anytime Fitness, CorePowerYoga, and 501Fit and the Firm are on separate ends of the campus area, and they both offer free week long trails. In fact, almost every gym in the Twin Cities offers some kind of “try-before-you-buy” deal. Check out your options (there are some really neat and unique gyms!), and find a match! There’s no wait for machines, but there may be more of a commute time. Extra bonus: it’ll remove you from the Spring Break crowd, as their student clientele is lower.
Maybe even more important than stepping up my workouts, I’m watching my language. This is an incredibly triggering time for folks with eating disorders (or disordered eating). So, I’m not going to reinforce the crash diet mentality. When talking about workouts or Spring Break, I’m going to speak about strength and health, not size and shape.
This break, I’m vowing to enjoy myself, my family, the sunshine, several cold drinks and my body.
How do you feel this “Spring Break Diet” pressure and how are you dealing with it?
In the meantime: Heres some strong women inspiration: