The first time I learned about “spring break diets,” I was 15 years old. One of my best friends, who was a few years older, was going to a music festival in Florida for spring break. In the weeks leading up to her trip, she started exercising a lot and no longer wanted to share food with me. At first, I thought she was just transitioning to a healthier lifestyle, but as soon as she got back from Florida, she started to binge eat.
“I’m so glad I get to eat this stuff again,” she told me. “I missed it so much.”
At 15 years old, my friend’s intense short-term diet struck me as pointless and unhealthy. Five years later, I’m a college student, and dieting like that before spring break is the norm.
One of my classmates at the University of Michigan, Julia Woodson, noticed that the dialogue that we often hear on a college campus promotes bad body image more than the dialogue in the community she grew up in. She said, “This was my first year hearing about crash dieting before spring break, and it definitely put the pressure on to reconsider my own weight and appearance despite the fact that I grew up on the beach.”
Alexa Caruso, another one of my classmates, agreed, noting, “Right before spring break you’re constantly bombarded with tips and tutorials on how to lose a few pounds fast or get a ‘spring break body.’ It’s so frustrating because there’s so much pressure to look a certain way that just isn’t realistic, and dangerous to try to achieve—especially by doing extreme detoxes and things like that.”
How can college students counter this narrative of negativity and bad body image? According to Alexa, the first step is recognizing whether or not you’re actually benefiting your body.
“Most of these posts don’t promote healthy practices like eating balanced meals or moving your body in order to be stronger and healthier,” she said. “Instead they mostly promote dangerous fad diets. Your body doesn’t need you to detoxify it; it does that on its own.”
If a company advertises weight loss techniques, then that company isn’t doing you any favors. These techniques are typically not healthy or sustainable. Be aware of this, not only when you’re reading an ad on Instagram, but also when you’re chatting with your friends. Diets often come at the expense of a person’s physical and mental health.
Lauren Ranucci-Weiss, who also attends the University of Michigan, says that instead of focusing on looking a certain way for spring break, college students should focus on how they feel.
“You know that old adage that people who feel the best often look the best?” she asked. “Well, I’m convinced that it’s true. People with self-confidence glow in a very noticeable way; you can feel the comfort radiate off of them. And that’s the type of person that I want to be—this means that I have to accept my body type.”
When you feel your best, you’re able to put your energy towards things that you really care about, and you become a person that other people want to be around. Imagine being so full of love and joy that it radiates onto everyone around you. That’s a million times more better than looking a certain way in a bikini pic on Instagram!
Alexa said, “The best way to get a ‘spring break body’ is to do your best to live a healthy (and safe!) lifestyle, and to go on spring break with your body, plain and simple. You’re more than enough the way you are.”
Enjoy your spring break, college students, and come home with lots of funny stories and good memories! The best way to enjoy your spring break is to go on it as your happiest, healthiest self.
Hannah is a student at the University of Michigan with a passion for using her words to advocate for social change. Her work is regularly featured in two publications at her university, SHEI Magazine and The Michigan Daily, as well as Her Campus, where she works as an editorial intern. When she’s not writing, you can find her cheering on her school’s football and basketball teams as an avid member of the student section—Go blue!