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9 Reasons the Phrase “Bikini Body” Should Be Banished From Your Vocabulary STAT

Checklist for a real bikini body: A body and a bikini. Got both? Put the suit on your person and—boom!—bikini body, at your service.

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Labels suck

Labeling your body at all, much less in terms of an article of clothing, is counter-productive says Tracy Stickler, editor-in-chief of Healthline.com. Labels assume there is a “good” or “bad” body or a “right” or “wrong” way to dress said body. In reality all bodies are good bodies. “We need to move beyond labeling our bodies as anything […] and respect our bodies, as is, regardless of the season or what we’re wearing,” she adds. (Labels are not for people but they can be hilarious on inanimate objects, like these 21 hilarious product labels.)

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“Bikini body” is code for “go on a diet”

When you hear the phrase “bikini body” or see it on a magazine, it’s never just a statement of fact. More often than not it’s used as a bludgeon for women to punish themselves and their non-perfect bodies with. “The phrase ‘bikini body’ is almost always paired with action items like ‘how to get a…’ or ’10 steps to a…’,” Stickler points out. “Instead of offering yet another reason to diet and exercise our way to Sports Illustrated perfection, let’s move beyond the notion of an ‘ideal body’ and empower one another to #embracethesquish.” Not to mention crash diets don’t work anyhow.

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It implies that you aren’t good enough

“When we read the words ‘Bikini Body’ in a magazine, we are reading in between the lines that say, ‘I’m not good enough unless I have that body of that girl on the cover’,” explains Robyn Cruze, Eating Recovery Center national recovery advocate. “For me, just the term implies that if I show up as I am, I will be judged and rejected.” And not only does it set you up for feeling less-than, it also gives other people power to judge your body based on that arbitrary standard, making for a vicious cycle of self-hate and public body shaming.

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There is no such thing as an ideal body

Pick the most beautiful woman you can think of. Now think of a flaw she has. Chances are you can probably think of at least one thing. This thought exercise isn’t to denigrate beautiful women but rather, as Stickler points out, to show that “perfect” simply doesn’t exist. The concept of an ideal body is only good for making women feel bad about themselves so they’ll in turn buy products to “fix” their bodies. Perfectionistic standards have no place in real life (and shouldn’t be in ads either but that’s another argument for another day). And you might be succumbing to this type of thinking more than you think — check out these nine clear signs you’re a perfectionist.

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It makes you terrified to go swimming

Swimming is great exercise and great fun yet so many women are too scared to get within sight distance of a pool or beach. Why? “The concept of a bikini body perpetuates the belief that there is a body standard that I must conform to in order to feel like I am worthy enough to go to the beach, lake or pool,” Cruze says. But it shouldn’t be society that has the last say about whether or not your body is “good enough” to enjoy the water, she adds. “Only you get to decide—you define your worth,” she says. (And when you do hit the pool, make sure you’re following these 42 safety tips from lifeguards.)

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It perpetuates eating disorders

Not everyone will read the phrase “bikini body” and immediately start a crash diet but it happens enough—and the consequences are severe enough—that experts are worried about this kind of messaging. At best, it just makes women feel bad about themselves and at worst these messages can launch a lifetime of harmful habits, including eating disorders. “For those struggling with an eating disorder, they may believe that if they can control their body then that will make them a good person, a better person, and a safe person,” Cruze explains. “It’s a hard sell when trying to convince them otherwise, especially because our culture reflects and encourages unhealthy body messages, along the same lines of that of an eating disorder.”

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Self-esteem starts on the inside

Many people get trapped in the cycle of thinking that if they can achieve the body of their dreams then they’ll finally feel good about themselves. The reality is the opposite, Cruze says. You learn to love yourself and you’ll naturally want to care for your body in a healthy and happy way. Need some ideas? Try these 30 simple things to boost your confidence instantly. “I think it is unrealistic to think that both women and men, will give up focus on physical aspects and it’s okay to want to feel good and look good in our bodies,” she says. “What’s not okay is the unrealistic cultural gauge of what society tells us we need to look like in order to feel good about ourselves.”

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It may not even be an achievable goal

If your mental image of a “bikini body” is of a 20-something, tanned, tall, blonde model then you’re setting yourself up for serious heartache. “The truth is, most people are not born with the genes of today’s models. So no matter what we do, we will not ever look like them,” Cruze says. (Which is why seeing plus-sized models is so good for our mental health.) “For me, it’s recognizing that just like art, bodies come in all shapes, all sizes, all colors. And they’re all beautiful.”

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You are so much more than your body

“Our bodies are just one aspect of who we are and should be treated as such,” Cruze says. This means taking some of that time and energy you’ve been putting into worrying about whether or not your body is worthy of a bikini and focusing on all the other beautiful gifts and talents you have. There’s a reason people often appear to become more beautiful the more you get to know them—true beauty radiates from the inside.