Body Confidence – Why We’re Doing It All Wrong

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”?

Bikini

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?

IMG_3951.ftc

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.

Credits

Triangl bikini photos from triangl.com. “After” photo from contrejour-photography.co.uk

16 Comments

  1. 30th June 2015 / 6:20 pm

    I love this post. I just recently made two videos both on how we can’t compare ourselves and also on how this society focus on the “perfect body”, one that isn’t attainable without starving our bodies and lots of editing in photoshop. You are SO enough girl, just the way you are. And I’m glad you are seeing that! <33

  2. Jo
    30th June 2015 / 7:24 pm

    Well….I think you’re bloody brilliant to say the very least George 🙂 big hugs xx

  3. 1st July 2015 / 7:45 am

    Hey George. This was a great read and something I think really resonates with us all.
    It’s definately something I find although I still stress about, especially now living in a hot country, I’ve got a bit maturity to realise when I’m over-analysing.

    Good job x

  4. 1st July 2015 / 8:23 am

    One of the hardest parts about losing weight and getting fitter is that it’s suddenly made me more ‘aware’ of my body. I actually find my body confidence DECREASING as I get closer to what society deems a “beach body” (even though that’s not my goal) because because I’m suddenly noticing of a lot more eyes on me (perceived or otherwise).

    I guess it was easy to hide behind my flab before.

  5. 1st July 2015 / 8:39 am

    Brilliant post Georgi! I’m on a pretty similar boat, but need to keep reminding myself to thank my legs as they can run a lot even though they don’t look skinny. It’s hard and I’m still struggling with this…

  6. Louise Westley
    1st July 2015 / 8:46 am

    Fantastic read! Thank you for sharing. I can really empathise with the feelings you’ve had and I’m aiming to achieve the same thoughts. I’m starting to become proud of what I’m doing, I feel like I can praise myself and that I shouldn’t be ashamed of doing so. I’m doing much more than I was 1-2 years ago (pre-pregnancy) and I’m seeing changes but above all I know I’m working hard. My LO will be 7 months old tomorrow and I’ve come a long way in my strive to get fit to ensure that my LO will be proud of me for doing it but also to make sure I’m fit and healthy to enjoy my time with him and do lots of fun activities. I’m at the point where I don’t care what people think of me or what I look like. I’m just looking to the future and what I can and will achieve within the next year!

  7. Katie
    1st July 2015 / 9:05 am

    What a brilliant post. Whilst I’ve never struggled to the same extent as you with body image, I was never happy with my legs – larger than my friends and I could never buy knee-high boots (because clearly that’s important…!). However I’ve really got into running over the last year or so and now, instead of being embarrassed to get my legs out, I wear my running shorts with pride. My legs are not fat (well, there is some of course), they just have lots of muscle and I am now incredibly proud of those muscles and what the distances they are able to carry me. I embrace my thunder thighs now 🙂

  8. Deborah Reid
    1st July 2015 / 9:22 am

    Fantastic read George, open and honest. You ARE a beautiful person inside and outside x

  9. 1st July 2015 / 9:57 am

    Wonderful post! I am also about 2 stone heavier now than at my worst but I’m happier, healthier, and generally more confident than ever. I get bad days, especially in this weather when I dread getting my legs out, but yesterday I wore shorts with pride!!! Good for you and happy honeymoon!
    Natasha || http://danceflowlift.com

  10. 1st July 2015 / 3:44 pm

    Well done George for your honesty. We could do with a lot more of it. I’ve not had a weight problem but plenty of other mental issues which are not top priority in the medical world. My next book may touch on some of them. Don’t forget to come and see me with Dimple Boy some time. xxx

  11. Clare
    1st July 2015 / 9:40 pm

    Georgina you are an inspiration.. not just to me but many.. this really hit home.. I spend hours doing gym work and stress all the time maybe I should see things from a different angle.. you should be very proud of yourself and thank you x

  12. 6th July 2015 / 7:48 am

    I am pretty sure all fit and strong women feel not-so-body-confident from time to time. And that just shows how messed up this world is 🙁 I’m struggling at the moment with the fact that I’m gaining weight from Crossfit and not losing my insulation much so the general size is a bit larger than I’m used to. If I lived alone in a jungle with no mirrors and no other women (sad to say), I would be happy as larry, for when I close my eyes and move my body it feels great to be in it.

    That said. I wear a damn bikini every chance I get because somebody has to stick it to the world! 😀

    So – let’s rock on!

  13. 13th July 2015 / 7:23 pm

    I’ve just seen this – such a beautiful post, thank you! I’ve also been stuck in a cycle of endless comparisons in the past and been unable to accept compliments – even listening to compliments was really hard for me as I was instantly dissecting them and twisting them into negatives as the person was talking. Thinking of all the things I’m now able to do that I would have run away from just a year ago is my main motivation at the moment – our porridge cafe breakfast for instance, a year ago I would have forced myself to say no to seeing you, or to wake up at 5 to do a HIIT workout because I thought I could only have carbs after workout – and what a fantastic breakfast I would have missed! (Also – our running round the station trying to find each other was probably a HIIT in the end!!)

    Emma x

    http://www.FitFoodEmma.com

  14. TLasadeA
    14th July 2015 / 4:29 am

    This post made me a bit teary – because I can totally relate. I’ve been living abroad the past year and been punishing myself because I’ve gained weight – when looking back at photos from last year I actually thought I was fat! It’s absurd the pressure we put on ourselves…! I love the line “Body confidence is the most sought after yet most controllable thing we could seek.” So true. Just got to keep working on it every day 🙂 xx

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