Women have been cutting carbs and ramping up their workouts for weddings and beach vacations since forever. Now, some are trying to lose weight (like it or not) for an entirely different occasion—Coachella.
The massive California festival, which takes place this year on the second and third weekends of April, was created as a freewheeling celebration of music and art. But in recent years, it's become a hot-weather Fashion Week of sorts—marked by boho chic, hippie-inspired looks (instead of Balenciaga and Burberry) that are intended to be worn in the sweltering desert heat. Crop tops, short shorts, and over-sized sunglasses are practically mandatory.
And with barely-there fashion pressure, some say, comes fretting about exposed midriffs and limbs. Hence, the arrival of the "Coachella Diet."
It wasn't always the focus, says 22-year-old Kyla Rae, a college undergrad living in New York City, who'll be headed to the festival for the seventh time. "There's more competition style-wise now. The number of Coachella virgins increases every year, and, if anything, they're really into the image aspect."
Kirsten Potenza and Cristina Peerenboom, the creators behind the Pound Rockout Workout (where drumsticks stand in for weights), who've both attended the festival, say that their clients "definitely" intensify their fitness regimens for Coachella and that many of their students begin to make healthy recipe swaps as it approaches.
This year, they introduced "Cut by Coachella," a 30-day competition that includes a workout calendar and prizes for participants. But Peerenboom says they're careful to not "focus overtly on weight loss," and Potenza characterizes their program as being centered on the "effort and exhilaration of each workout" rather than a "body-centric weigh-in mentality."
Rae says that while she believes veteran Coachella attendees are more about celebrating than judging, she does tend to do a little physical prep. "I don't change my diet as much as I exercise more before it," she says. "I'll do more yoga, SoulCycle, and Physique 57 classes. I step up on the late nights of dancing to get in the practice, too."
Another college student, Sara Green, 21, has attended the festival twice. "I'm terrible at dieting," she says, "and would probably fail if I tried." But the scads of women dressed in bikini tops at the festival can be a motivating factor for some. "I definitely think a lot of people diet for Coachella because it's so hot that everyone wears small outfits, but there's such a vast range of people that I think most just go with the flow."
Of course, the concept of dieting for a weekend that's dedicated to losing yourself in music and art is ripe for parody (and scrutiny).
Coachelladiet has its own Twitter handle, which tweets questions like "Anyone know how many calories are in this Molly?" and "Just purchased size 0 jean shorts, a teeny bikini & an Indian headdress. Just need to fit in any of this by Friday."
While other outlets ignore the irony altogether and publish how-to stories like Countdown To Coachella 2012: Healthy Ways To Get In Shape.
Which makes us think the festival may be on its way to becoming the next "bikini season" (sigh) when it comes to the marketing of cheap tummy-toning tricks and body-size obsession.
Here's hoping women can cut through the quick-fix messaging, and use the occasion as motivation to stick to a healthy living plan that just happens to include dancing, carefree, in the sun. —Jamie McKillop
Note: Some names in this article have been changed at the request of the interviewees.
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