Even though I know it's bad for me, every year I still find myself getting sucked back into the 'bikini body' talk and believing I need to lose weight before I wear one. I was hoping you could write something to remind us that all bodies are bikini bodies when we're constantly told the opposite this time of year.
First off, it isn't your fault that you keep getting sucked back in to the bikini body talk. It would take someone superhuman to be surrounded by the diet culture narrative we live in and come out with their body image unscathed. And when it comes to the messages telling us that only certain types of bodies are worthy of being seen in swimwear, we're reminded everywhere we turn.
This month's magazine stands carry all the usual photoshopped bodies and headlines that command 'SLIM DOWN NOW' and 'TONE EVERY ZONE' (these are actual headlines I saw during a trip to the supermarket, it's funny, I thought I just went in for a pint of milk, but apparently I missed 'body shame' off of my shopping list!).
Turn on the TV and you'll find shows like MTV's Ex on the Beach: Body SOS promoting the same old weight loss fairytale we've seen a thousand times over already. And social media sure as hell isn't safe either. Between the celebrities holding up pretty packages of detox tea *cough* laxatives *cough* with captions about getting those abs back for summer, and the usual onslaught of before and after body transformation images, it feels impossible to escape the diet culture downpour.
My own routine always used to be the same, as soon as I felt that first ray on my skin the crash diet would begin, the exercise DVDs would emerge, and a bikini two sizes too small would be hung on the wardrobe door, staring at me accusingly as I woke up every morning.
Year after year I told myself that I wasn't worthy of the sunlight, not in the body I had. So I shut myself indoors and made myself smaller by any means necessary. I would go to the beach after I'd lost the weight. I would wear the outfit after I'd lost the weight. I would eat the ice-cream after I'd lost the weight. Always, always, after.
I was only able to truly let go of the bikini body myth once I started questioning where it came from to begin with. And the answer has a whole lot to do with the £2billion that the UK diet industry makes every year from teaching us that weight loss is the way to happiness (and that goes up to over $60billion in the US). We've been sold the idea that our bodies aren't good enough so that the biggest industries in the world can make cold hard cash. The bikini body diet is one of the most profitable marketing schemes to ever exist.
You've been sold the idea that your body is a problem to be fixed so that someone else can profit from your pain. Get mad about that.
Especially because the big problem with waiting until we're smaller to wear the bikini, go on the adventure, or take the risk, is that life isn't waiting. It's already happening. And not allowing yourself to live it because of how your body looks takes away time that none of us can get back. Summer isn't waiting on your waistline to shrink before it starts, and neither should you. You are worthy of the sunlight already.
And if you need any more motivation to rock that swimsuit this year, here are my top three tips for beach body confidence at any size:
Detox your social media from unattainable body ideals and fill it up with diverse bikini bodies instead. The more people with different body types you see existing happily and confidently, the more you'll believe that you're worthy of existing that way, too. Some of my current body positive favourites: @iamdaniadriana, @gracefvictory, and @scarrednotscared
Start small. You don't have to throw on a G-string and strut down your local high street straight away (although I'm over here giving you serious praise hand emojis if you do). Wear the thing that scares you around the house first. Get comfortable with just you seeing your body. Maybe take some pictures – you don't have to post them! Ease into hitting the beach, and when you get there...
Remember that you do not exist for the viewing pleasure of the public. Your body is not an inanimate object for other people to pass judgement on, your body is there to let you live. It does not matter what anyone else thinks because you are not there for them. You're there for you. Keep reminding yourself that you're more than a body, and try to focus on what you're doing, rather than how you look doing it.
We all deserve summer, regardless of the body we experience it in. We all deserve to wear what we want, eat what we want, go where we want and make those hazy, sea-salt tinged memories. And the only requirement for a bikini body really is just having a body, any body, and putting a bikini on it. Now go get that sunshine.
Love & bopo,
P.S. If you like this column and want more advice like this, I wrote a whole book of it! You can find Body Positive Power here.