Bikini Body v Bikini Mind

free your mind At 43 years old I’m wearing a bikini for the first time in 15 years! Let me just say that again –

I’m wearing a bikini in public!

It’s summer here in Australia and that means one thing – swimwear season! This year I made a commitment to myself – that I would wear a bikini. For the last 6 months I have been working hard to achieve mind and body transformation; my challenge was to be bikini ready for Christmas – it’s a goal I visualised myself  achieving.

But the reality is a little different…can you ever really feel bikini ready?

Can You Ever Feel Bikini Ready?

Like so many women I have felt ashamed of my body, embarrassed by the lumps and bumps that document my pregnancies and the wobbly bits that used to be firm. I certainly won’t blame pregnancy for the gradual gain in weight, I’ve proved to myself that it’s a convenient excuse .  In truth it’s been a love of the good times, of drinking, eating and socialising that has added the extra kilograms over the last ten years.

I’ve been saying for a long time ‘I’m not ready to wear a bikini’, ‘I just need to lose another (enter any number here)’ and ‘Maybe 40 is too old for a bikini’.

But this myth is washed away every time I go to the beach.  How is it that some women exude confidence, sex appeal and empowerment in a bikini, whatever their size?

It’s clear that it’s got nothing to do with having a bikini body, but a bikini mind.

Shedding The Emotional Kilos

It seems to me that external change doesn’t  equate with internal change.  Losing those extra kilos will change your body shape, but if it doesn’t change your mental shape then it’s as if it hasn’t happened. Marc Manson tells of a guy who lost over 100lb but never really lost that weight emotionally:

His perception of himself was like the Titanic: he had…put the pistons in reverse, but the thing was hardly turning. And emotionally, he was still hitting the iceberg. …[I]n his head he was still that same fat guy. He still had shame attached to his body…despite his ripped biceps and his shiny new abs.

Marc Manson’s  ‘Shut Up And Be Patient’.

This year, for the first time I have lost the emotional kilos as well as the physical kilos and my mental picture has shifted.

I don’t have the bikini body that I imagined. That mental image was created after years of media saturation with thin, toned women who have that elusive thigh gap!

Shape Shifting

The desire to measure myself against the perfect bikini body has receded (not gone completely, but it’s fading out).  I have strength I never had, muscles in places that used to be soft and a growing feeling of ownership over my physical form.

The notion of ownership may seem strange, but reflect on this – 

During your teenage years you are at the mercy of your hormones, developing a size and shape that is beyond your control, there’s only a few years respite before pregnancy imposes a new shape, reconstructed again in the post-partum years, compounded with further pregnancies and before you realise it your shape has been morphing beyond your control for long time.

Shape shifting in this way left me vulnerable to measuring myself against the ‘ideal body’ and always feeling inadequate. Now I own the changes in my body, I’m defining my own shape for the first time in many years.

Bikini Mind

I’m wearing a bikini not because I have a bikini body, but because I have a bikini mind.

I perceive myself with strength, health and vitality, and I’m not afraid to show that to the world. That doesn’t mean to say that I don’t have my moments of doubt, years of conditioning can’t be undone in 6 months.  But 6 months of positive body attitude has given me the confidence to accept my imperfect self.

tranquil acceptance

 

 

 

Does My Mum Look Big In This? #NoDietDay

International no diet day

Back on the Menu

What Does a Photo Say To You?

Photos, we treasure them.

Whether in albums, frames or on phones they are the visual journal of our lives. Photos prompt our memories to recall those feelings and nuances that often fade from recollection.

‘A picture speaks a thousand words’, but some of those words are the ones I don’t want to hear!

I can’t remember the last time I looked at a photo of myself without checking out if it made me look fat. Only very recently did it occur to me how many of life’s precious moments have been tarnished with the voice that whispers inside my head:

‘Look how fat your belly is, you look disgusting’.

Pictures that captured a moment of laughter with my kids would be pushed aside because they spoke to me of belly rolls, bulges and bingo-wings!

 

Never Slim Enough

So it will come as no surprise that I have been on a perpetual diet for as long as I can remember.

As a child I remember wanting to have a figure like my Sindy doll (a UK version of Barbie) but I became ‘plump’ as a pre-teen and overheard plenty of comments like ‘how much are you feeding her?’

In my teens I discovered the relationship between food and exercise and exploited it, training daily and thinning down. But I was never as ‘slim’ as my friend, or as attractive as her mate.

When I was in my early twenties I reached a body weight where everyone said how well I looked, and praise about my appearance flowed in.

I loved that feeling, but I still didn’t love myself. I didn’t feel as slim as the competition.

Insecurity and self-doubt dogged my perception of body image and I dieted, often unsuccessfully.

 

Eating For Two

And then I became pregnant. The only time in my life where I could love my body regardless of its shape because it carried something precious inside.

And every body else loved my body shape, because a pregnant belly is big and beautiful.

Nine months of bliss.

But all good things must come to an end, and as a first time Mum, I resorted to survival eating! This means consuming whatever you can, whenever you can, with little or no thought to the consequences!

By the time survival mode had eased up, I was pregnant with baby number two and eating for 2!

 

International No Diet Day

So where am I now? Why the reflection on body image today?

Because tomorrow is International No Diet Day, and it gave me pause for thought.

In 21 Lessons I Don’t Want My Children to Learn From Me! I wrote that I eat when I’m happy, sad, stressed or bored saying:

Don’t fill your stomach when you could fill your brain or heart instead!

Good advice but how do I apply it?

I question that gnawing empty feeling in my stomach, asking is that really a message to eat? Could it be a feeling of discontent? Wanting something but more but not knowing what? Could it be a feeling of emptiness in my heart?

When I was grieving for my Dad, that gnawing empty feeling made me want to eat, continually.

But it was an unfillable space.

When I recognised that food couldn’t comfort me, I felt lost. Food had been my friend, comforter and confidante for years. It had abandoned me.

 

When Food Fails You

When the moment arrived that I realised that food is neither my friend or my enemy, it was a wake-up call.

Food has been the object of my emotions, but I can re-direct those emotions elsewhere:

  • Into writing.
  • Into fitness.
  • Into my children.
  • Into my marriage.
  • Into travel.
  • Into adventure.
  • Into passion.

I re-directed my focus.

I choose to talk about myself with respect and care, I choose to eat for health and vitality, I choose to challenge myself, I choose to value myself based on my goals, talents, accomplishments and character.

Take the Pledge:

So join me tomorrow, on May 6, International No Diet Day, and take this pledge;

I will accept myself just as I am
I will feed myself if hungry
I will feel no shame or guilt about my size or eating

…and I will LOVE MYSELF for who I am, not who I feel pressure to be!

Check out the No Diet Day Facebook Page  and don’t diet for 1 day!

 

Decide to avoid judging others and yourself on the basis of body weight or shape.  Turn off the voices in your head that tell you that a person’s body weight or muscularity says anything about their character, personality, or value as a person.

National Eating Disorders

Resources:

The Health At Every Size Blog promotes size acceptance and has a huge range of posts supporting acceptance of a range of body shapes and sizes.

National Eating Disorders Association NEDA (Australia) provides a comprehensive Parent Toolkit as a downloadable PDF or e-document.

Psychology Today runs through a history of how No Diet Day originated in 1991 with Mary Evans Young.