Last year, I opted for a one-piece and a tankini set. A couple of reasons really, firstly, a one-piece is all that's allowed at my local pool so it's all I had at hand without spending more money (only to ditch it a few months later when another dress size was dropped). Secondly, even after losing loads of weight, I still felt ashamed of my body because of my various stretch marks and scars.
This summer is different. I'm still the same weight as last summer but my mindset has changed...
I had a conversation with a two guys in the gym the other day, who were complaining that their wives were 'harping on' [their words] about joining the gym and going on a crash diet to get a 'bikini body'. Somewhere between squats and bench presses, I arrived at the following revelation:
These ladies were letting the worry of what society will say about their bodies, affect how they felt during the run up to their holiday. This fear was putting a dampener on their excitement, when all they should be thinking about is the satisfaction of turning that 'out-of-office' reply on, packing their bags and getting to the airport on time. Instead the run up to the holiday is peppered with worries about the size and shape of their bodies, the paleness of their skin, cellulite, and how much flesh is socially acceptable to reveal on a beach full of strangers.
Generally, men don't care about any of this rubbish when they hit the beach and they're much happier and relaxed for it, so why do women care? (Spoiler: society tells us that we should!)
Think about it this way: women purchase magazines which then inform them of which parts of their bodies (or a celebrity's) need fixing with a particular cream, surgical 'correction', 'break through' diet, or targeted workout. Something is always too flabby, too skinny, too dimpled, too natural or not smooth enough, not defined enough, not airbrushed enough, not 'perfect' enough. Embracing these notions of body 'problems' we then head down to the nearest beauty outlet and spend more money on all of the products we're told (by the same magazines!) will solve the problems we probably didn't know we had until we read the magazine. If you lived in a society with no TV adverts and no magazines you probably wouldn't even know what cellulite was.
Do you see where I'm going with this? Cosmetics companies and plastic surgeons all want us to feel insecure so that we surrender our wages to them in the pursuit of looking 'perfect'... you know, that image which requires the use of photo editing software to obtain it.. so it isn't perfect by nature at all. Magazines act as adverts for all of the above!
Now I know what you're thinking. "You read magazines and use beauty products". Yes, that's true, I do. However, I apply a very healthy scepticism to the things I read and purchase. The beauty products I use (and blog about) are those that make me feel healthier, like body butters and moisturisers for smooth skin free from itchy dry patches, cleansers with skin-loving vitamins or facial creams and lip balms that provide sun protection in order to protect my pale skin from sun damage and skin cancer.
In much the same way I avoid newspapers whose political agendas scream through their absurd headlines, I will skip past any part of a magazine that features a seven day fat blasting/ fat melting/ or fat zoinking diet (I may have made that last adverb up). I also skip past any part that suggests there's a particular exercise to rid fat from particular areas of the body (you can not spot reduce fat!)
Why do I skip them? Because they're all crap! If any of it really worked, and it really did only take 7 days to do so, or whatever ridiculous time frame it suggests, no one would be overweight would they? Then we wouldn't need the 'advice' of the magazine so we wouldn't buy it, or the products it advertises. Well that's just bad for business, so of course they're not going to be straight with us about what really works. Which if you haven't already caught on by now, requires nothing more or less than working out and eating right!
I also don't appreciate being told by magazines that my body is somehow not 'bikini ready' because I haven't subjected myself to laser treatments, juice diets and vibrating plates in the salon. That's just insulting! My body is bikini ready as soon as I buy a bikini, thank you very much! It's disappointing that magazines do this as there other parts of magazines I do like. Often they run (arguably hypocritical) features on modern day feminism, body confidence (irony at it's best), careers, relationships and health issues.
The point I'm eventually getting around to making in between rants, is this: Our bodies are amazing. If you're healthy, then whatever you think is wrong with your body is whatever capitalist society would like you to believe, in order to sell you a 'cure' for it.
Some of you reading this have grown small humans inside you, ran marathons, perfected impossible acts of balance in yoga class, and/or lifted weights so heavy that people question whether you're actually a secret superhero in gym clothes (or maybe I just feel like this after a good workout).
Many of you will have scars and stretch marks, each marking an amazing victory of some sort: weight loss, muscle gain, pregnancy, childbirth, maybe even life-saving surgery. Physically, our bodies go through a lot! If they survive and even thrive, well then that's a pretty awesome body if you ask me! So why starve it? Why should you cover it up in shame on a beach?
We need to eat well for health and performance in our hectic lives, not for fast weight loss. We need to work out for strength and even stress relief, not flat stomachs and gaps in between our thighs. We need to relax on our holidays instead of worrying every five minutes about what we look like!
Let's just stop caring about whether we're 'bikini ready'. That's not even a real thing, magazines made it all up to sell you products and diet plans. Even gyms caught on to it in the pursuit of selling memberships in any month of the year that isn't January. It's hot on that beach you know, get your clothes off, put your sun cream on and have fun! It's only for a few days a year after all. Heck, even go to the shops near your hotel wearing just your swimwear, there's nothing more liberating than buying food and sun cream in what is basically underwear.
Want to ditch the diets this year, stop worrying about your weight and focus on improving your health instead?