I’m getting married in October. I haven’t talked about it much on my blog yet (except the odd bits and pieces every now and then in my weekly training diary) mostly because I haven’t really felt a connection with what this blog is about. A lot of women preparing for their wedding will embark on a crazy diet or fitness regime to “get ready for the dress”. But not me – I’ve bought my dress and it’s the right size, apart from a few adjustments to make it the perfect fit – I don’t see the need to diet down for it. And I certainly don’t need the added pressure.
However, after the wedding comes a honeymoon. We’ve gone for your typical exotic beach honeymoon, choosing to go to the amazing-looking Sandals resort in the Bahamas. I can’t bloody wait.
Except that I’ll have to wear a bikini.
The realisation came to me when my fiancé asked what I’d like for my birthday and of course, like most other women planning a sunny holiday this year, I’ve been coveting the Triangl bikini range. Pretty much ever since then I’ve been thinking to myself: “I really want to feel confident in my bikini on holiday this year”.
But why is it that when I think about confidence the first thing I think of is “I better lose some weight”?
I see photos of perfectly sculpted stomachs and slender limbs modelling bikinis (and fitness kit for that matter) all the time and I don’t look anything like them. As a fitness blogger I feel there is perhaps more of a pressure to – whether that’s self-inflicted or not.
I know the “bikini body ready” fiasco has already annoyed a lot of people, so I won’t go on a rant as there are far more eloquent ones out there than I’m likely to muster, but what I will do is talk about the headspace that can so easily be taken over by negative thoughts and confidence issues.
The trouble with diets is…
I’ve proven to myself that being slimmer doesn’t necessarily equal body confidence. A few years ago I was about 10kg lighter than I am now. I was about 4 inches slimmer on my waist, and even had the correct proportions for fit modelling. But I was also in the midst of depression and an eating disorder – something I haven’t mentioned on my blog before. Even though I’ve written it up countless times, I’ve never had the guts to post it – either because I haven’t felt ready, or I haven’t found the right way.
The photos below aren’t your typical “before and after” photos. On the left was me at my slimmest. On the right is me right about now. On the left I was in a horrible cycle of restriction and binging. I would congratulate myself for every temptation turned down, but then gorge myself on all the food I was restricting whenever I “messed up” my diet. I even tried to make myself sick, but never could, which only made me feel like more of a failure.
I thought I was fat. Really.
Now, on the right, I don’t restrict food (whether that’s quantity or type) – because every time I try to “diet” I slip back into bad habits. Almost everyone knows that feeling of “failing” a diet and then having a blow-out – imagine that, but on a much larger scale. It’s hard to recover from.
I know I’m not fat, but I’m far from happy with what I see in the mirror. All I see is the damage caused by those thoughts and behaviours and the years spent punishing my body for not being “bikini ready”.
Where body confidence really comes from
I’ve come to realise that body confidence isn’t a number on the scale, or a dress size you can fit into. It’s not rippling abs or a thigh gap. It’s not from external validation either – I always remember people asking me “why can’t you just accept a compliment?” as I’d brush off any that came my way. So I learned to smile and say “thank you”, all the while not believing a word they said.
It’s also not someone else’s body… it’s important to let go of that “I want to look like so and so” and instead look to ourselves for inspiration and motivation. Yesterday I volunteered at a school doing interviews with 14-15 year-old kids and something one of the girls said to me really hit home. She was a dancer and has been for most of her life, yet she’s somehow managed to avoid being sucked into the comparison game right at the time you might expect her to the most. On the subject of working with others in a team she said: “there might be someone who can do something better than you can, but you have to think about what you can do and not compare yourself to them”. How can she believe it at the tender age of 14-15 but I, and I’m sure thousands of others like me, can’t?
Body confidence is the most sought after yet most controllable thing we could seek. I’m still learning and it’s a slow process, but it comes from the inside out. It comes from self-love (as cliché as that sounds), dismissing the “ideals” and putting a stop to endless comparisons. It comes from acceptance, gratitude and appreciation of what your body can do rather than what it looks like – a message I have started to believe ever since I started CrossFit.
My “bikini body ready” mantra
This year, on honeymoon, I will wear my bikinis with pride. I will savour the moment, take in my surroundings and enjoy myself rather than stressing over whether I look disgusting getting in and out of the pool. I will look at my thighs and calves and think of all the miles they’ve carried me. I will look at my stomach and think of how strong it is to allow me to do toes to bar and endless sit-ups. I will look at my shoulders and arms and think of the weight I can pull off the floor and shift above my head. And I will eat what I want, when I’m hungry – without judgement, self-criticism or guilt.
Triangl bikini photos from triangl.com. “After” photo from contrejour-photography.co.uk