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The idea of getting a “summer body” is that in the months right before summer, one should be getting in shape through diet or exercise, in preparation for summer during which people are generally wearing bathing suits and more revealing clothes. A Google search of “getting a summer body” will result in an endless list of workout and diet information. While promoting improved health may seem like a good thing, the idea of transforming one’s body in a short period of time is a dangerous and ineffective message from the fitness community. 

TikTok — the social media app that has become a central source of relaxation and entertainment in young people’s lives — is known for its “For You” page feature. This feature uses an algorithm that predicts what the user may be interested in and allows the user to see content from creators they don’t follow. While the “For You” page allows people to access ideas and content that they are interested in, it also prevents the user from having much control over the videos they see and are thus influenced by.

For example, I often find myself on “fitness TikTok,” where the videos will include healthy recipes, workout tips, fitness routines and other well-being and lifestyle-related content. And, recently the fitness world has been marketing their workout routines and diets with titles like “20 weeks to get the summer body you’ve always wanted” or “your journey towards your summer body starts with this.” 

Generally, I find that many modern-day fitness influencers stay clear from promoting fad diets and over-exercising. The messages I receive from fitness Instagram and YouTube posts usually push the idea of finding balance, aiming for gradual long-term change and making sure it comes from a healthy mental place. It is these positive and healthy messages that have caused me to be so appalled and disgusted with the recent use of the summer body goal to attract views and followers. 

By promoting the idea of quickly getting in shape for the summer, fitness influencers are pushing people toward swift and dangerous fixes such as fad diets. Fad diets work by creating a negative energy balance, otherwise known as a calorie deficit, in which the dieter consumes fewer calories/energy than they expend. While slight calorie deficits can lead to healthy weight loss over time, diets that promise quick fixes and fast results usually involve extreme negative energy balances through either minimal eating, excessive exercise or both.  

Examples of fad diets include liquid-only “detoxes,” diets centered on one “magical” food such as banana or grapefruit-only diets and no fat or carbs whatsoever diets. These quick-fix fad diets offer extremely temporary results, usually result in a lack of necessary nutrients and often cause a rebound in which the dieter gains back even more weight than they lost. Quick, extreme weight loss also often causes dehydration, fatigue, nausea and other serious health problems.

If a person wants to get in shape and improve their health, the goal should be to make long-term, healthy changes. By using the idea of a summer body to gain the attention of people wanting to get in shape, fitness influencers are promoting unhealthy habits and methods.

With social media elements like the TikTok “For You” page, the Instagram “Explore” page and YouTube’s recommendations on its home page, social media users have little control over what is influencing them. Fitness influencers have the power to promote different habits, methods and mindsets when it comes to health and getting in shape. 

Results can take weeks, months or even years depending on the person. Focusing on a short-term goal like getting a summer body sends the message that if results do not come by that time, the efforts are wasted, and the individual is less likely to stick with working on their fitness goals. Furthermore, individuals wanting to get a “summer body” may actually become less healthy and malnourished due to the harmful effects of fad diets. The messages fitness influencers send should only focus on long-term, healthy habits and promoting physically and mentally healthy lifestyle changes. 

Lizzy Peppercorn can be reached at epepperc@umich.edu.

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