I wasn’t sure if I would be beach body ready only three months after having my second baby. To test out whether I was or not, I put a bikini on my body and put it on a beach. And nobody arrested me. So it turns out I was ready after all! 🤸🏼♀️
Oh how I wish I could end this blog post here…
A lovely, confident, positive affirmation, leaving me to skip off into the sunset and you to feel wonderful about yourself too.
Here is the honest truth
I felt fine on the beach in my bikini. I felt happy, in fact, and I had ever reason to. It was a beautifully sunny day, it was my baby’s first trip to the beach, his big brother was enjoying the sand and having a little paddle, and it was warm enough for me to go in a bit further for a brief splash about. I felt a little bloated post fish and chip lunch, and well aware that I had not lost the baby weight yet, but not in any way self conscious or concerned about the way I looked because I had had a baby three months before so why on earth would it matter…Until we got home and I looked at the photos.
I must confess, I had a bit of a wobble.
I have never been overweight to any significant degree. I have never been super skinny either. I have always eaten pretty healthily, but I do adore cheese and all sweet things dairy, and I am never one to hold back at a buffet (on the contrary, I can get quite competitive sometimes, and the photo above is an example of that). I have always done exercise in some form or other and never obsessed over my weight – I have never owned a pair of bathroom scales which has helped with that! I am 5’6″ and my weight has fluctuated between 8 and a half stone and ten stone, discounting when I have been pregnant. I have never had a completely flat stomach. I exclusively breastfed my first son and had only just turned 25 when I had him – my body sprang back to its pre-baby weight very quickly as a result, as I hadn’t put loads of weight on when pregnant despite him being a huge baby. I was not the same shape, but that’s a different story! This time around, I put on a bit more weight as is common with second pregnancies (closer to two stone, first time it was one and a half) and my already stretch mark dimpled stomach has not been so inclined to dramatically reduce in size as it did the last time. In fact some days it feels like it’s getting bigger. I am the first amongst my close friends to have had a baby and I am the only one who has had two. Many of them are single, and they certainly don’t look the way I do in a bikini.
Other women’s bodies
Just look at this crap. Or even better, don’t.
There has been a lot of conversation about women’s bodies in the media – including social media – lately. Much of it is focused around positivity but most of it is still laced with judgment. That judgment can range from the judgment of others for making dramatic changes to their body (through diet, exercise or surgery), judgment of others for the misrepresentation of their body through photo manipulation, make up or clever camera angles, judgment of others for the way they judge their own or other people’s bodies, and of course judgment of their own bodies. I recently saw Sam Faiers on The Mummy Diaries say there was no way she was going to be wearing a bikini on the beach only a couple of months after having her second child, and if she, at the same age with the same number of children as me, is ashamed of the way she looks despite her slim figure and daily PT sessions then why on earth should I be happy with or proud of the way I look?? As women, we are surrounded by people and companies telling us that we should scrutinise every aspect of our physical appearance for possible ways that we might be able to improve ourselves, because we cannot be allowed to think for one minute that we are enough as we are. This is for one simple reason: if we are happy with the way we look then we will not spend any money on changing it, so it becomes impossible to make any money out of us. I remind myself of this fact every time I see a Dove advert that sells itself as being about positivity and that it’s ok to look how we look – as long as we are using Dove products to “enhance” our “natural beauty”. If the way we looked was actually ok then why would it need enhancement of any kind? It’s all still bullshit to make us spend money. Unless the way we look is affecting our health there is no reason any of us are obliged to change it to fit any kind of social standard, and that is the simple truth.
Easy to say, hard to believe
I used to look like this in a bikini. I don’t any more, and the trick I am trying to master is that not bothering me.
Of course I can preach this truth as much as I like, but for me or for anyone I preach it to to ignore the relentless and insidious messages from everywhere else is quite another matter. I have been unlucky enough in my life to go through a few experiences which have taught me why focusing on and obsession with weight loss is not a good thing. My best friend struggled with anoxeria for years – she still does, in fact, although she is no longer my best friend, so her mental health problems have outlived our friendship which makes me sad every time I think about it. I have seen a number of friends and relatives reach the ends of their lives whilst fighting cancer, and towards the very end they have always been so very thin, and so very frail compared with their former lively selves that I can’t help but associate dramatic weight loss with serious or terminal illness. When I was at university I had a boyfriend who was a lot older than me, and he was very controlling about my weight. I had an operation just before Christmas and couldn’t exercise during the recovery period, which also happened to be Christmas so of course I ate a lot, and he told me that if I put on any more weight he would break up with me as that had ended up being a problem which caused the end of the relationship with an ex. Cue my frantic scramble to lose weight through diet and exercise, during which I went down to a skinny eight and a half stone, then admitted to him that I was deeply unhappy because of what he had said. He broke up with me. After piecing myself back together I vowed to take a good hard look at anyone or anything – including myself – who told me that my body wasn’t good enough as it is. What was their motivation? Was it something I needed to act on, respond to, or just outright ignore? So far, every single time it has been the second or third option.
Practicing what I preach
So here I am, doing exactly that. I could have tried to ignore the voice in my said that said “Sarah – your belly looks awful. It’s really flabby, covered in purple stretch marks, it’s huge compared to the rest of you so it looks totally out of proportion, you don’t go in like you should at the waist you go out, for the sake of your dignity you need to cover yourself up and hide your stomach from the world until it is smaller. Your legs are looking chunkier than usual too, it’s high time you stopped snacking or even eating what you enjoy because you don’t deserve to, and you need to be exercising far more regularly.” The reality is that ignoring it doesn’t always make it go away, especially when it comes from someone whose opinion I consider to be important, i.e me. Instead, I have addressed it in this blog post. I have written it down, and picked through the reasons why that voice should be disagreed with, because I am not unhealthily overweight, and because I have had two babies, one of them very recently, and I deserve to be nicer to myself about it. But the other reason I have written about this publicly, rather than privately, is to make this a (hopefully) refreshing break from the usual bikini photos you tend to see on Instagram and social media in general. The filtering, the angles, the Photoshop, and everyone only ever posting their best photos subtly directs us towards believing that that is the norm. Well, it’s not. There is no normal, no two people look the same and nor should they. I am not posting this for affirmation, I am not asking you to tell me I look great and I am not saying that my body is a work in progress. I felt happy with my body when I was on the beach, and that is how I am deciding to continue to feel now. It is my body, that I live in in the present, it has grown two humans and has stayed alive with no major defects whilst regenerating cells for over a quarter of a century. It’s doing its job fantastically. It’s ok for me to look like me and it’s ok for you to look like you, and in a world designed to tell you the exact opposite of that, I hope this helps as a reminder that you do have permission to be nicer to yourself than that.