For years the media have drummed into us the need for a summer body. Adverts on the TV, in newspapers, in shops and more recently online have all urged us to get bikini ready and to make sure we have the best summer body to get ready for the season of sunshine and beach holidays.
I have always had hang ups with my body and didn’t wear shorts in the UK until last summer. Until a couple of years before I wore nothing but jeans all year round as it was how I was most comfortable but then I discovered linen trousers and those lightweight trousers that look like pyjamas. My wardrobe was revolutionised but I still would not show my legs above the knees in this country. For some reason being on holiday abroad always feels different. I’m sure I am not alone – so many people have different issues with their bodies and they are all so personal to the individual.
We all have things we like about ourselves, things we don’t like, things we have come to terms with and things we want to improve. These views affect us all in different ways. Some people can look at themselves and have an opinion on their body and then hide away, feeling like if they showed their wobbly bits or skinny bits that they’d be ridiculed by others. Some people have views on their bodies but put the bikini on, put the shorts on, put the playsuit on and hold their head high. They are completely confident in the skin they’re in, accepting every blemish and dimple and not letting it affect their life in any way.
Over the last couple of years there has been a huge online revolt against summer body advertising. We are all being told to love the skin we’re in and that to truly be bikini ready we just need to put that bikini on and wear it with pride whatever our size and shape. Everybody is born summer ready and we shouldn’t need to change our bodies seasonally, we should just stick the swimsuit on and be done with it.
And I love the wave of body confidence that is flowing across the internet and into day to day life. I love seeing a more varied range of models in swimsuit advertising in shops and I love that, thanks to this new focus, so many people have been able to wear things the wouldn’t have dreamed of wearing before. So many people are embracing more of life because they no longer fear what other people think and are confident enough to wear whatever the hell they want.
I am sure there are people who are looking at the body confidence movement and wondering what is wrong with them. They don’t feel confident, they aren’t happy the way they are and they still want to lose a few pounds or even put some weight on, they want to tone up or be able to run without feeling like they’re going to die. They want to lead a healthier lifestyle and they want to make changes that conflict with every bit of body confidence advertising they are seeing.
And this is where I find it really hard to get behind body confidence when your health is at stake. I know that I am overweight as I am now. I know that if I ran for a bus I would get out of breath and walking up more than three flights of stairs puts a strain on my body. I am unfit and at an unhealthy size for my height so for me to stick a bikini on and say that I am full of body confidence and summer ready would just be a lie. Yes, I could stick a bikini on now and people would say I look fine – and I probably would – but I wouldn’t feel body confident as my body is not being as well looked after as it could be. It’s not a healthy body and that is what I think this should all come down to.
There are many people in the same situation as me who are happier not wearing swimwear and they know that if they put a swimsuit on they would not have one jot of confidence in it. They don’t even want to fake it until they feel it. They want to exercise, fake tan and diet until they have a bikini body that is both healthy and makes them happy rather than being body confident in the skin they’re in.
And there is nothing wrong with that.
A couple of years ago I wore a bikini on holiday for the first time in years – and I felt great. Last year I was heavier and happier in a swimming costume. This year, at the moment, I would hate to put a swimming costume on in public and I know that before our summer holiday I want to lose some weight, tone up and get healthier. I want to get to a point where I am comfortable, healthy and a good role model physically – at that point I know I’ll be truly confident on the beach or by the pool in whatever swimwear I choose.
But, it doesn’t feel like you can say that right now. It doesn’t feel like you can stand up and say actually, I want to be healthier and fitter, I want to lose weight, I want to tone up, I want to exercise, I want to eat better, drink more water and be the best version of myself I can be because that will make me truly confident on the beach and in day to day life.
Society was swinging all one way for such a long time and now it’s swinging so far in the other direction that I think really some of us just want a happy medium. At the moment we are at risk of glazing over our health in favour of promoting body confidence regardless of our lifestyle which could be a dangerous thing.
I don’t want advertising to just show tanned, chiseled, perfect bodies on the beach. I want advertising to show a real, healthy cross section of society and I want advertising to inspire me to be whatever I want to be – and if that is different to how I am right now then I should be allowed to make changes without feeling I am going against the body positivity movement that I know has come from a really well meaning place and is helping so many people.
If you’re happy as you are and confident as you are then that is great. But, if you’re not happy and want to make changes to any aspect of yourself or your life then that is great too. There are different paths for different people and it takes all sorts to make the world go round.
Whether you are summer ready just as you are or you are making changes to feel better on the beach and have a healthier lifestyle it’s absolutely fine. Do what works for you and everyone else can do what works for them too.