I’m getting ready to share something very personal.
I struggle with body image and body positivity every single day. I can remember going all the way back to my childhood, playing at the country club pool and boys making fun of the way my stomach looked in a bikini. The boys would say I couldn’t play football with them because I would squash them like a pancake if I tackled them! Or my stomach looked like jelly rolls.
As I am typing these hateful comments, I feel my body tensing. These comments were being made to me as an eight-year-old child. Mind you, these were the days without social media, not quite as direct mainstream media being pushed into your face 24/7, and when middle schoolers actually went through that “teenage awkwardness phase.”
I’ll be the first to admit that I was never the tiny girl in the friend group. But I never saw myself as fat. Matter of fact, I cannot STAND when people call themselves or others fat. I always had meat on my bones and my mom never made me feel inferior for that. Thank you, Mom!
Looking back, it’s incredibly disappointing as a society to call out that body image issues usually start at such a sensitive, developmental time of our youth. The sad reality is: it continues through adult years and I see it impacting children more now than it did for me back then.
when too much goes too far..
They always say you’re your own biggest critic and I 100% feel that. Because of what I went through in my childhood, I’ve always been a little self conscious of my size and how I look. I began to overly analyze my body and image when I started college. I was surrounded by beautiful, fit friends and outside of my safe, know-everyone bubble back at home. This sparked the desire for me to look more like everyone else and go to extreme points to get there.
At one point of my college tenure, I became obsessed with exercising. I would wake up at 5 am and walk from my dorm to the university gym, by myself (which I would never do nor recommend nowadays). I remember being terrified to walk alone but I was so dedicated to the scale showing a certain number that the solo scary, dark trek didn’t faze me enough to be more concerned about my safety.
My diet consisted of Frosted Mini Wheats for breakfast, oatmeal for lunch, a can of chickpeas or a Special K cereal bar for an on the go snack, grilled chicken with lettuce for dinner, and yogurt or Jell-o for dessert. I pushed my body so very hard like this for months, to finally achieve my goal being in the 130-pound range.
Guess what happened next? A few weeks later, I got very sick. My body was running off fumes… I would cry because I was in debilitating pain and I couldn’t figure out what was happening to me. I had met my goal. I was “skinny” on the outside but perishing on the inside. I was depriving my body of rest and nutrients just to achieve a goal weight. Months later, I was knocked to my feet and diagnosed with tonsillitis.
My diagnosis was a pretty big wake up call to me. I finally realized crash dieting and burn out exercising was not the answer to reaching an ideal weight. Since then, I’ve done a much better job of relying on nutrient dense foods and strength training programs to take better care of my health and body. I won’t sugar coat, there are still times, such as before a vacation or a special event, when I put my foot on the gas and push my body a little harder than normal to get in the “best shape.” However, eating clean and working out in this manner felt really good to my body. I felt strong, confident, and energized as I followed this lifestyle routine.
As of recently, I became diagnosed with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. One major side effect of this disease is unexplained weight gain. I feel like I literally blinked, and I instantly gained twenty pounds. With my previous body image issues, you can imagine the toll this has taken on my mental health and well-being. It’s been very hard looking at myself, and even a lot of days not feeling like myself.
to wear or to not wear the bikini
I love summertime. If I could, I would live in a swimsuit! This summer has been particularly tough for me because my adoration of bikinis doesn’t really mesh well with my low confidence self these days. I’ve been the queen of one piece swimmies lately (which I really love!) and feel much more comfortable covering my tummy. I haven’t had the courage to rock a two piece all summer because I don’t feel like getting the up and down stares about my new appearance.
This past weekend, I opened up my swimsuit drawer to see the cutest mermaid vibes bikini bunched up amongst my other regularly worn one pieces. The little voice in my head thought, “let me put this cutie on. We are going on the boat with just family today, so I’ll feel more comfortable finally wearing this suit I’ve been dying to wear!”
Of course, my low body image self, still required asking for other’s opinion before I stepped into a zone of potential judgement from the outside world. My sister’s god daughter, who is in high school, was here with us for the weekend and I asked her opinion on the bikini. Her reaction was so kind and genuine. “You look amazing! You DEFINITELY should wear that! Why wouldn’t you wear it?!”
In this moment, I admired her positivity and flashed back to when I was her age. She is wise beyond her years, kind, inclusive, mature, and smart. She and the rest of teenage girls look to us, all women, to be role models, to be confident in our own skin, to show our real selves.
The younger generation of women need us to wear the bikinis. They need us to be confident. They need us to love ourselves. They look up to us in how we behave, what we say, what we wear, and how we feel. However, in this instance, the roles were reversed and this little reality check I received was the confident boost I needed to wear the damn bikini.
So how do you have a bikini body?
If you got this far and you’re still wondering my how to tips for having a bikini body, I don’t have the magic answer. The magic is gaining the confidence and IDGAF mentality to do you and not worry about what anyone else thinks.
Do I still have days where I don’t feel good enough to wear the bikini? Sure! But on the days that I am feeling myself, you best believe I’m going to be out there wearing that cutie kini.
The scars of those mean comments from my youth, the voice inside my head putting myself down, and the anxiety I feel from looking at other perfect girls in their perfect bikinis still swirl in my head today. I have to constantly remind myself that those emotions do not define me, my image, or my worth.
As far as I’m concerned, the future me will keep fighting these battles until one day they completely disappear. Peace out to the bad vibes and thumbs up to the body positivity. Let’s continue the battle in redefining our culture, empowering women, and normalizing confidence over perfection.
My Favorite Body Positivity accounts to follow:
@karinairby – Founder of Moana Bikini
@fittybritttty – Inspiring you to love your body
@jennakutcher – Entrepreneur & host of the Goal Digger Podcast
@ashleerosehartley – Body Confidence influencer
@aerie – inclusive & Photoshop free Clothing
Swimsuits worn in this post
Pink and Blue : Growing Gills by Moana Bikini
Purple and Blue: Dotty Dino by Moana Bikini