Having a perfect summer body is a trend that affects the majority of us deeply. It is yet another trend which like many trends, gets captured in our minds but not many of us study it in depth. To start off, it is important to understand the meaning of fitness and wellbeing. Fitness is a term that implies that your body is in a state that does not cause any health issues or any sort of discomfort. Wellbeing has to do with your body, mind, and the way you feel about yourself.
With the popularity of the fitness industry, I think it is important to take a look at this trend from a different perspective. I am aware that many will not agree with my view but after the experience, I had when taking on this trendy lifestyle, I figured it would be important to address this topic for those who are debating whether or not it is for them.
Before I begin, I will start by saying always listen to your body. This post will be covering just some of the issues that one may be faced with, but as a universal rule, keep in mind that your body reacts in certain ways for a reason. Everyone’s bodies are different so one technique or approach may not suit everyone.
Understand your body
First off with some basics; body types. This is something I was never told about by fitness instructors. There are 3 main body types; Ectomorph, Mesomorph, and Endomorph. Each of these needs a unique approach.
- Have a delicate body frame
- Small joints/ bones
- Long arms and legs
- Linear physique
- Small chest and buttocks
- Small shoulders
- Slightly muscular
- Hard to gain weight
- Fast metabolism
- Difficulty in gaining muscle mass
Suggested diet for this body type:
55% carbs, 25% protein, and 20% fat.
- Athletic build
- Natural and defined muscular build
- Medium size joints/ bones
- Wider at shoulders than hips (chest dominates over abdominal area)
- Body shape: Females Defined hour glass shape Males V or Rectangular shape
- Physically strong
- Easy to lose fat
- Gains muscle easily
- Efficient metabolism
- Responds well to exercise and is the ideal body type for body building
Suggested diet for this body type:
A macro nutrient split of 40% carbohydrate, 30% protein, and 30% fat.
- Smooth and rounded body frame
- Medium/ large joints / bones
- Short arms and legs
- Small shoulders
- Gains both muscle and fat easily
- Body fat tends to settle in lower regions of body
- ‘Stocky’ build
- Rounded physique
- Harder to lose weight
- Slow metabolism
- Muscles not well defined
Suggested diet for this body type:
25% carbs, 35% protein, and 40% fat.
I am no expert in this field, but you can read more about this topic here.
I have worked with three instructors throughout my short-lived fitness experience, each selling the perfect summer body tagline. None of the three, either from lack of knowledge or simply not bothering to get into the details of their client’s body type, ended up giving me the absolute wrong type of workout routine and diet for my body type. Over a year later, I finally found out that I have a Mesomorphic body type which is ideal for bodybuilding and pretty much any form of exercise. It is also very important to avoid weights as much as possible if people with this body type do not want to gain more muscle mass (as in my case), as this type of body gains muscle very quickly, and almost effortlessly.
My aim for starting my fitness journey was to lose fat and get that perfect summer body. It was essential for me to stay away from any additional muscle building, as I have a well-built natural muscular frame. After 10 months, I closed this short chapter of my life and was left resembling the female version of Hulk.
This is what I ended up with:
- Gained 8 kilos.
- Layers of fat which was still present.
- Barely fitting into 3/4s of my trousers, tops feeling like they are going to burst, and no chance of fitting into any of the classic dresses.
- Constantly feeling tired.
- The first few months I would knock out for 8 hours + (when I usually sleep not more than 6 hours). In the last few months, I could barely sleep for 5 hours.
- Lacking the taste of food which later led to the loss of appetite, I pretty much had to force myself to eat.
- Everyone kept saying gym makes you feel energized… I was drained from day 1 till the very last day.
- My temper became similar to a volcano that would explode over nothing.
- I couldn’t look at my own reflection because every time I did I had a mix between wanting to smash the mirror and simply crying.
Clearly what others see as a perfect summer body is very different from what I am looking for. So I decided to block out the outside world and listen to what my body needs.
First, I stopped gym altogether. Went back to my usual eating habits and within 2 and a half weeks I was back to my normal size. I never felt happier about being my good old 57 kilos and having all my wardrobe fit me perfectly. Many women nowadays thrive on that ‘perfect’ body. The reason why I say ‘perfect’, is because each of us has a very different understanding of what is perfect in our perception. Nonetheless, many have opted for a muscular build physique as the perfect body. Going back to body types, for some women, this sort of body may be one that their bodies naturally are prone towards and will keep them in balance, whilst for others that may not be so.
We have all been exposed to the healthy eating trends that go hand in hand with the perfect summer body slogan. I think it is crucial to understand that at our core, our bodies all react differently to any element we intake. This is something that the field of Nutrigenomics looks into. In simple words, it is a study that focuses on how nutrition and genes interact. Since we are all compiled of a complex equation of genes, each of us, even members of the same family, may react differently to the same meal depending on the interaction between the nutrients and other dietary bioactives, with our genome.
I think it is very important to speak to a nutritionist before making any major dietary changes. In my experience, when I try something new, my body almost instantly lets me know if it’s not accepting this change. I pretty much get sick very fast and I have learned to listen to my body, even if it may not make sense at that specific moment. Personally, I do not agree with protein shakes. They look awful and taste even worse. I also find it ironic how those who shout for a healthy lifestyle, drink this powder which is pumped with taste additives and some brands add a lot worse to the powder.
I’ve noticed the recent rise of judgmental comments towards what I eat. Funnily enough, I get unasked for, comments from people who 1. spend way too much time counting calories and never seem to be happy with the way they look and 2. Speak to me as though I am the one who is eating and they are the ones gaining my calories??? Any time someone decides to voice their opinions on my food choices, it just shows to me just how unhappy they must be in their life to find the time to put their nose into my plate instead of enjoying their own.
Allergies & Intolerances
Let me first explain the difference between an allergy and intolerance. Allergies cause an immune reaction that can affect numerous organs. Allergic reactions can be severe and even life-threatening. There are many different symptoms of an allergic reaction. Being intolerant to something is less serious, maybe short-term and you may even be able to intake small amounts of that substance without any discomfort or a reaction.
Some of the common causes that may result in food intolerance include:
- Sensitivity to food additives
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Celiac disease
- Absence of an enzyme to help fully digest a specific food item
- Stress or psychological factors
There is a food intolerance test or as some refer to it as the prick test, available nowadays. I would recommend it to anyone, regardless of their lifestyle. With today’s food industry and pollution pretty much all around us, our bodies are adjusting to all the changes around us. But our bodies do not all function the same way. There are a few factors that may go into why your body may not agree with a certain substance. External factors may be triggers to this, so can your genetic makeup or even stress, among many other factors. In the case of allergies and intolerances, the discomfort or the extent of how your body may react, varies.
Immunologists place a drop sample onto your skin of a certain concentrated substance and lightly prick the drop and your skin. It is left for a few minutes and this allows the doctor to see whether or not you may have an allergy or intolerance towards that specific substance. The reaction varies from a little inflation in the area of the prick (like a mosquito bite), a little redness, itchiness sensation, etc. The immunologist will be able to let you know how severe your body is reacting to that substance, depending on the extent of the reaction. This test can help you understand your body more and even help avoid future discomforts.
This is another topic that I have come across that people are taking pretty lightly, especially around women. Many women, in different circumstances, talk about hormonal imbalance like it is a mere headache and something completely harmless and normal. Hormones are no joke, especially for women. If you don’t believe this then ask a doctor just how significantly our body changes once the hormones don’t function the way they should. Even a little dis-balance can have an effect on our physical, emotional, and mental health. The physical effects are easier to notice, but the emotional and physiological are much harder, which makes an imbalance so important to take care of and not just brush it off or add to the list of struggles of getting that perfect summer body.
The reason why hormones are covered in this post is mainly that hormones play a huge role in growth and development.
It is crucial to know how your body reacts to the type of exercise you do and the diet you have, to avoid any disturbances in your hormone levels. The reason why I say this is more aimed at women is that, as many of you know, testosterone is the hormone that helps muscular development. If a woman has high levels of testosterone in her body, androgen (a male sex hormone of which testosterone is part of) does not allow the female to ovulate. The ovaries are responsible for the production of both estrogen and testosterone. Estrogen is crucial for ovulation, among other things which keep a female body balanced and healthy, therefore being fundamental for a woman’s wellbeing.
In the world of sports, certain female athletes have had to undergo sex verification, a test that shows whether or not that person has the presence of the Y chromosome. Only males are born with the Y chromosome. The reason this is done is that some female athletes have such high levels of testosterone that they need to run additional tests to check their gender. It is believed that such high levels of testosterone may give them a competitive advantage over the other athletes they are competing with. If you take a look at professional female athletes, there is a reason why many face fertility issues. This, of course, may also depend on the type of sport they practice, but overall, they have trained and conditioned their bodies over many years that their testosterone levels are higher than they should be in order for a woman to be able to conceive. More information.
Clearly, the majority of readers are not professional athletes and their bodies are not used to intense training, this is why this is even more dangerous for someone diving into an intensive fitness lifestyle. Athletes take years to conditioning their bodies. If your body is not used to such intensity, it may react to this change very negatively and you may cause even worse damage to yourself in the short term as well as the long term. Another perfect example of how important hormones are to the proper functioning of our bodies is if you take a look at menopause. The time when specifically, the Estrogen level drops.
Here are some facts and functions of Estrogen:
- Increase in fat storage around the hips and thighs. When women are given hormones to help get pregnant, you can notice that most of them become curvier due to fat storage. Makes you wonder what we put our bodies through when we thrive for a body compiled of muscle and skin.
- Increases sensitivity to insulin. Insulin influences the amount of body fat and lean muscle a person can develop.
- Influences body hair to become finer and less pronounced while making the hair on a woman’s head more permanent.
- Estrogen makes the voice box smaller and the vocal cords shorter, giving females a higher-pitched voice than males.
- Estrogen suppresses the activity of the glands in the skin that produce oily substances. This reduces the likelihood of acne in females.
Getting your hormones working properly again, is also not a walk in the park. So, if there is a chance that you may be feeling off because of your hormone levels, it’s not a simple headache, get to the doctor and take action. It is very important to be aware of the type of exercise and diet your body accepts and not push it too far. Listen to what your body is telling you. See it as a machine, which functions at a certain speed and in a certain environment. Overloading your body can cause long-term physical damage, followed by emotional and psychological damage and your overall wellbeing.
Stress can affect each of us physically, mentally, and emotionally. In this section, I am focusing specifically on the well-known stress hormone known as Cortisol. Certain levels of stress are actually healthy for us but to an extent. When we find ourselves in a dangerous situation and our fight or flight survival instinct kicks in, the adrenal gland releases several hormones, after which we receive an adrenaline rush that allows us to escape the danger we are facing. As this happens, cortisol is released from the zona fasciculata of the adrenal cortex within the adrenal gland. It is also known as the stress hormone.
If cortisol levels remain high during a long period of time, you place yourself in a dangerous situation that can cause long-term damage to your body. Most of our cells in our bodies have cortisol receptors, therefore cortisol may affect different functions of the body, such as blood sugar levels, metabolism, and reduction of memory formulation. Some of the main problems caused by high cortisol levels may include hypertension, hyperglycemia, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and suppressed immune system.
Unfortunately, symptoms of high cortisol levels may be hard to detect right away, however, blood tests can show a clear picture of your cortisol levels. It is very important to first, be ready to check your levels and secondly, to find which changes in your lifestyle can suit you best to get your cortisol levels back to normal, before it causes any long-term damage to your body.
Once you manage to bring your levels within normal range, my best advice is to do something which allows you to zoom out from your reality and allow you to de-stress. Many have turned towards workouts, this has not worked for me. Actually, my workout routine added additional stress to my body. So, make sure when you choose to do something to de-stress, it is something which actually does help you and it is not something that all your friends are doing or because it’s in trend.
Accept your body
Understanding your body as the functioning mechanism that it essentially is, will give you the knowledge of how best to operate it. You are the best person to know what exactly your body needs and how it functions. Keeping yourself healthy and in balance should always be your priority, and as a result, that is how you get your perfect summer body and more.
The business of trends
Keep in mind that the fitness lifestyle is a business just like any other at the end of the day. Make sure you choose the path because you truly want to and not because it is a trend going around. The lifestyle is one that costs money, time and may even cost you your health, so make sure you are going into it because it is what you want and you feel it is right for you. If you want to begin fitness but may not be sure where to start, I would suggest trying out different classes. There are several classes out there which will give you a very good idea of what you may enjoy.
Embrace your body
Trends come and go. A lot of people seem to think that when there is a trend, that all of a sudden unless you follow the trend, you won’t fit in and be accepted within the circle of beauty and ‘perfection’. Please keep in mind that it is not trending which claims what is beautiful. I always say, there are as many versions of beauty, as there are humans roaming the world. The point is, do not chase a trend or a commercial image of a perfect summer body that is fed to you. Understand yourself and accept yourself. If a trend comes along that suits what you like, then go ahead and embrace it. But don’t feel like you have to live up to what is in trend today. That is a never-ending battle that will never leave you happy.
There are those around us who take pride in body shaming or pretending to know better, actively judging and shaming others for their choices. This is probably the toughest aspect to face for many people. Then again, there is one thing you need to keep in mind when facing issues as such, the social factor will only be an issue if you give it the power to define who you are and what you should look like.
In reality, most people around us are all searching for their own perfection and in the process of that, tend to judge others around them, to justify their own actions to themselves. If you know yourself fully, keep yourself healthy and accept yourself for who you are, then be ready to face a lot of comments from those around you who are still looking for their own happiness and acceptance of themselves.