Beachbody is a word, ya’ll.
When I typed the two words, “beach body,” in the space offered by social media’s detective magnifying glass, the Internet offered a few responses like what I expected.
But I admit, I was surprised to see that beachbody actually functions like a single noun, all by itself. At least it exists in the Google search engine and various social media outlets. What does that mean for healthy body image?
Honestly, I’m not sure. It puzzles me as I sit in my room, overlooking the Mexican beachfront that lines the brilliant blue Caribbean Sea.
It puzzles me because no other adjective-noun combinations are joined to make one word. I don’t find anything worth reading when I attempt to put these words together: “healthybody” or “skinnybody” or “strongbody.”
And yet, I know what beachbody means. Beachbody conjures images of bodies marked by defined muscle lines, elongated bronzed limbs, sinewy and svelte.
But I am not seeing a lot of those bodies here.
I am at the beach.
I’ve seen hundreds of female bodies roaming freely in bathing suits. Some women are quickly pacing behind toddlers strapped tight in armed floaties, happily sucking pacifiers. Some of the younger girls are strutting, hoping to look confident, as they walk around the pools with their girlfriends, wearing swimsuits that reveal less than their undergarments afford. In the crowds of sun-hungry people, the sixty and seventy year-old women are “over-it.” They enjoy their families or friends with whom they now love to travel, combing the beach and laughing, wearing, well, whatever the heck they want.
What I haven’t seen a lot of is the beachbody that is so overwhelmingly advertised on social media or on the latest-greatest exercise programming. The women filmed here, who are often teaching and advising, are beautiful in their own right. They communicate a desire to help all of the rest of us who desire to achieve the goal of body perfection. Or at least body satisfaction.
So, I thank them for doing good at what they are gifted to do. But I want to remind most of us that some of these women are surgically improved, by their choosing, for their occupations. And, yes, some happen to have been born that way, more naturally hourglass shaped than the rest of us.
Instead, here, at the real beach, I’m seeing real beachbodies that don’t fit any kind of mold. We all have such different outward appearances. But we do have some things very much in common.
Poolside, beachside, restaurant-side, all of us have traveled here to vacation, to get away from the norm of everyday life. We desire to bask in the glow of the warmer weather that the winter months have shunned.
We sit at tables, tasting the juicy promise of fresh fruits and in-season vegetables that remind us we are meant to enjoy our food in the midst of good company. For our pleasure.
It is in our family’s Spring retreat to the beach that I am reminded how important it is to acknowledge our need for connecting with God’s most precious Creation. We are meant to play in the dirt, swim in the waters, and love the bodies in which He has gifted our souls to live!
I’m proclaiming that I’m living in my best beachbody right now. Maybe the real challenge isn’t to improve my body. Maybe the real challenge is living in the very present moment. The challenge of “renewing my mind” so that I might live more freely and joyfully is the charge I hear as I look out over the vast, sapphire waters (Romans 12:2).
My best beachbody houses a mind that speaks truth.
My best beachbody believes there is power in releasing shame and guilt about not looking like what the #beachbody images convey.
So what is there left to do?
Pull up my swimsuit over this flesh and run. Feel the crush of the waves and taste the bitterness of the saltwater. And maybe even sink in to the pull of the tide, letting it take me somewhere new.
This article originally appeared at JuleetaCHarvey.com.