As soon as the sun comes out so do the ads for how to get “bikini ready”. Whether it’s a promise to “bust the belly fat in 2 days” or the advice to “do this one simple thing to lose inches off your waist” the constant message seems to be that we need to change our body. We’re too fat, too thin, not round enough, not toned enough. Too wobbly, too bony, too much and too little. There is literally no ad telling us that we are fine as we are, and why would they – when it’s in their interest to make us think otherwise. The diet industry is a multi-million pound machine, after all.
But here’s the thing: none of those ads are telling us the truth. Because, getting “bikini ready” is really very simple. It doesn’t need to take months of gruelling self-punishment, starving yourself until your stomach is flatter or downing protein shakes like they’re going out of fashion in order to “bulk up”. Nope, getting “bikini ready” requires two simple steps: step 1) find your bikini and step 2) wear your bikini. It really is that simple.
Body confidence hasn’t always come easy for me. Pre-kids there were many days I’d moan about my body. In the past I’ve been known to wail over “bingo wings”, a “wobbly arse” having “no thigh gap” and – my personal favourite – having “manly swimmer’s shoulders”. I wish I could go back in time and tell my 20 year old self that I’d never be that young again and that I looked lovely. But I can’t, so instead I’m learning to tell this to my 34 year old self, because the same rules apply today.
My body is fuller than it was ten years ago. There’s more wobble, more jiggle. The boobs are even flatter than they were before and where there was once a chunk of light between my thighs there is no longer. There are thin little lines on the lower part of my belly, war marks from carrying two babies, and there’s a little scar on my upper thigh from the time I spilt a scalding cup of tea on myself (the one time I got to drink a hot cup of tea in the past three years!). I have protruding veins on the backs of my legs and the swimmer’s shoulders are still there, looming large. But I feel great. I honestly, truly feel great.
That wobbly tum? It grew and housed two babies. Those flat boobs? They kept two tiny babes alive and went onto feed the second for three years. The thighs? They walk up and down the stairs umpteen times every day and carry me on my solitary shuffles around the country lanes as I plod along in my trainers. The arms that I once moaned about? They carry children, baskets of washing, book bags and lunch boxes miles and miles each week.
This new way of thinking has been a learned thing. Rather than looking in the mirror telling myself what I don’t like, letting that inner mean voice whisper horrible things, I look in the mirror and tell myself what I love. I’m pretty sure when people first meet me they’re looking at my open smile and sparkly eyes, not the jiggle of my bum wiggle. I’ll never be this young again so why waste these years on self-hatred?
There’s also a sense of responsibility that comes with being a mum. If I want my daughters to grow up body irreverent then I need to show them what this looks like and lead by example. How can I expect them to love their own bodies as they grow older and become more aware of this stuff, if they’ve witnessed me starving myself, calling myself fat and generally being mean about this body that grew them both?
Also, I enjoy food too much. Also, I know that there are more important things than the shape of my body. I genuinely believe a person’s self worth is not measured by the way they look. That is not the stuff that matters, despite what those “bikini ready” ads would make us think. All that really matters when you’re on the beach in swimwear is that you’re having a good time, feeling the sun on your back and the sand between your toes.
Next time you go to the beach, have a look around. Is anyone actually looking at you? I’d put money on the fact everyone else is either too worried about what they look like in a cozzie, or too busy playing with their kids themselves to give a rat’s arse what you look like in your bikini.
I’m just tired. Tired of being told that only certain bodies are worth celebrating. Tired of hearing that beauty is in a particular shape when we all know it’s in a person’s personality and confidence. Happiness breeds confidence and there’s no more attractive trait than confidence and a smiley face.
I took the picture above in my garden on a sunny day last week. As I pranced around making the video I’ve shared at the end of the post it dawned on me that my neighbours might think I was making a blue movie, posing in front of my camera in the garden. It felt faintly ridiculous to be honest. But then I started getting women messaging me their own pictures, and telling me their own stories. And the more I heard other women telling me about their own body hate in the past, or current body love, or simply the fact they’d stopped caring, the more I wanted to share my own thoughts on the subject. And so, here I am.