2007 – Taken the day before my eldest was born.

Was this not the picture you were expecting?  I’m not surprised.

I’ve been a bit obsessed with body-image as of late.  With my youngest having “Belle” regularly used as part of her nickname at daycare, to my eldest getting angry at me because I chose the jeans that aren’t “pretty”, I’m becoming more and more aware of how my body-image perceptions are (will be?) affecting my little ones.

With this on my mind, I was recently having a chat with my twenty-something cousin.    I was complaining about feeling guilty for not running on a regular enough basis.  She (self-proclaimed overweight, smoker) was talking about the steps she was taking to get healthier.  We got on the topic of body image.  I told her I could totally see her in a bikini, which she vehemently denied as a possibility.   I asked her “Do you think I could wear a bikini?”  Her answer: “Of course!”  I replied “Well, I certainly don’t feel confident enough to wear one right now.”  But at a petite 5’2” and 120 pounds, most people think I have perfectly lovely figure, suitable for flaunting in next-to-nothing swimwear.

Moving on.  A few days later, I got annoyed with some of the phraseology this article.

What exactly does it mean to be “bikini-ready”?    I have serious issues with the way language is used in the media these days (forever?)  We become conditioned.  We hear something and are trained to match the sound with a certain image.  (IE. bikini-ready = skinny)

And “shape”?  What is “shape”?  “In shape” doesn’t imply “healthy” anymore.  We’re not referring to it as a synonym of “silhouette”.  In shape = thin= something that is just not realistic for many people.  In the article, it states that Katherine McPhee dances five hours a day. No shit!  That’s part of her job!  And let’s not even go into the details.  The wrinkles, moles, scars, dry skin, discoloured skin, stretch marks from simply growing up or having babies, bruises from being kicked by said babies, lumps, bumps, cellulite, fat, skin, bones, muscles… the things that make us human, unique, who we are.   We are programmed to see them as flaws… not as fact.

What is attractive comes in all shades and sizes.  And yes, you could argue that there are more attractive ways to dress than others.  Ways that clothes flatter one’s shape more than others.  But confidence is also sexy.  Perhaps even sexier than the package it comes in.  And one should be able to wear anything, even a bikini, no matter how he or she looks, without being concerned that their body is going to be perceived as “not-ready” for it.    That is bullshit.

I won’t ever be able to break myself of some of this conditioning, but I’m trying to be more aware of it for my own sake and for my kids.  I can’t shelter my kids from the media.  I can’t deprogram myself.  I may always be shy about the jiggle in my thighs and my un-toned stomach.  But I can focus on some things:

–          I am unique, wobbly-bits and all, and that is nothing to be embarrassed about.

–          I am not special.  Humans all over the world have these “imperfections”.  If so many of us have them, why must we fight so hard to wipe them away from our existence?

–          There are things I can control.  I can eat sensibly.  I can stay active.  I can take care of my mental health.

–          I am defined by who I am, not by how I look or what I wear.

I took a picture of myself every month during both pregnancies and put them in a book along with my journal notes.  Years from now I want to be able to share them with my girls, to show them how fascinated I was with the changes my body was going through…  How blessed I felt to be growing them inside me…  How fortunate I was to be so healthy.  Would I have felt confident going out to a beach dressed in said bikini at the time?   Probably not, and that’s kind of sad now that I think about it because I was at one of the healthiest moments in my life.  Hell, I was growing life at that moment!  If there ever was a time for my body to be ready for anything, it was then.  I want my girls to know that.


8 thoughts on “Bikini-Ready

  1. Natalie Soo sooo sooooo love what you wrote. Was just having a conversation about this with someone. I too have been struggling lately with my body image etc. this is a new thing for me because on the whole I have ALAWAYS liked the way I looked. Sure I might have wished I was taller or had clearer skin but my figure, I was always happy with that. Now I find myself going through changes completely beyond my control and struggling to reconcile myself to the fact that my body IS changing and there is nothing I can do to stop it. This was such a great thing for me to read this Sunday morning.

  2. This is a long-winded comment – hope you can forgive but you inspired me!

    Growing up with a mother who had a poor body image, I was determined not to adopt that mindset. All my life people told me that I looked like a ballerina, that I was “tiny,” “thin,” “waif-like,” “skinny,” even “anorexic-looking” and I took those comments as compliments (except for the anorexic-looking, obviously) – that they envied my frame. It was validation that I had a healthy body and therefore a healthy body image (despite the fact that I always worried that my breasts were too small).
    At different points in my life, four people have also told me that I was some variation of the opposite of thin – “out of shape,” “plump,” “fat-ass,” “soft tummy, ”or just plain “fat.” I remember each person and each incident vividly.
    The last time, a boyfriend (now ex), who worried aloud from time to time about my changing shape, even tried to convince me to go on a 1200 calorie a day diet (I was a size 4 at the time and rejected the idea, much to his chagrin). Around that time, people had stopped commenting on my tiny frame and I took it to mean that what I had originally thought was a little bit of healthy, normal weight gain was actually hideous – that I was no longer special. I worried that in everyone’s eyes I was extremely bloated, that I had aged, lost my looks – that everyone was talking about this behind my back but no one wanted to say anything to my face – and the only person willing to tell me the truth was my closest friend – my boyfriend. Before we broke up, I had gained eight pounds over the course of a few months and he wasn’t afraid to point it out directly, without tact or concern for the impact his words would have on me. When our relationship ended, I started working out obsessively and a few months later went on a raw food diet until I was down to an emaciated-looking 123llbs. When I look at photos of myself from that time, I look gaunt and child-like. I realize that part of my obsession was with keeping the “waif-like” image that I had identified with all through my twenties, but also once we had broken up, some part of me thought that if I returned to that shape and size then maybe, just maybe, my boyfriend would come back to me. He didn’t. And whenever I looked at my body in the mirror, regardless the progress I had made with training that week or the bragging I did in the dressing room about my amazingly sculpted body, I would only hear his voice in my head telling me I was “a bit plump” (among other things). All the work I had done to resist inheriting my mother’s poor body image was for naught. I was trying to lose weight so a boy would love me again. Pathetic. I’m surprised they didn’t rescind my subscription to Bust Magazine.
    Before this time, I had always been a healthy eater and maintained a fairly active lifestyle so a few months later I stopped going to the gym, started eating whatever I wanted again and am now back at a healthy weight (I don’t actually know how much I weigh but I look amazing naked). I’m noticing for the first time in my life that people describe me as a “sexy,” “voluptuous,” and “hot” woman in a way that I never heard when I was a skinny-mini. I love looking at my body in the mirror – I have curves and am starting to make friends with my imperfections. Perhaps this makes me approachable as men check me out and flirt with me now more than ever before and I receive distinctly flattering compliments about my looks rather that the observations that I mistook as compliments when I was teeny. People don’t call me waif-like anymore and, while I still mourn the loss of that title now and then, I realize that I never felt as sexy or as confident when I had that bony frame as I do now. I’m still a size 4 and I feel amazing (and the boobs I always worried were too small are now the perfect size and I love them). Sure the aging thing still worries me from time to time but I know look 5-10 years younger than I actually am so the worrying is just vanity. Naturally there are days when I don’t feel great but all in all I realize that I can take responsibility for my body’s shape and size and make choices based on my own ideals. I like to think that I look exactly how I am meant to look at this point in my life – and I certainly don’t need a 1200 calorie a day diet or a boyfriend to tell me that.

    • Bravo!
      My favorite line is : “Naturally there are days when I don’t feel great but all in all I realize that I can take responsibility for my body’s shape and size and make choices based on my own ideals.” My personal fear is that my ideals were (still are?) too based on social “norm” and what is “acceptable”. But anytime we open up our minds to examine what we normally take for granted, there’s the possibility for change and improvement. I think we are both stronger and smarter for taking the steps to fully appreciate who we are, “imperfections” and all.
      Love you… and thanks for commenting.

  3. Very well said. I’m 41. I’m seeing wrinkles and cursing saggy this that and the other. But been wondering what feeling gorgeous inside and out would feel like. Not there yet. But, for us all, pudge and all, I’ll wear that bikini in Mexico… ;-). Thank you.

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