Proud2Bme | Rejecting the Myth of the "Bikini Body"

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Rejecting the Myth of the "Bikini Body"

By Annie Stewart--I grew up on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the beautiful, quaint, picturesque peninsula that triples in population in the summer months. Cape Cod is a tourist destination for thousands of people every summer and you know what summer tourist destination is code for, right? THE BEACH.

When I was a child, I loved going to the beach every summer, spending hours swimming, skim boarding, and eating ice cream. There came a point however, when I was about eleven, where I realized that appearance plays an incredibly crucial role in whether or not you are ‘ready’ for the beach.

There are certain rules I had to adhere to in order to feel good about myself. I can eat this but not that, I can’t eat past a certain time, insert whatever lie ED whispered to you during these summer months. These rules are unrealistic commands placed upon us, rules that held me hostage and didn’t enable me to have a positive body image. In fact, these rules only made me restricted and unhappy.

When I was fourteen, I started working retail jobs. This was also the year my eating disorder had escalated into a full-blown, overpowering disease. Cape Cod is a wonderful place to get experience in the work force, and I learned invaluable skills that I have taken with me wherever I’ve gone.

However, there was something else going on beneath the surface as I went to work every day. As my friends and family were worried about my decreasing spiral into anorexia, I had no idea my surroundings were feeding the disease. I would see skinny women come in to work every day. On my days off I would go to the beach and see girls who had appeared to have no body fat whatsoever.

(Oh and just a word about when I'm talking about skinny individuals—I do not use these terms to shame people who are naturally skinny. I think it is important to recognize there are people who are naturally very skinny and it is not right to shame them for being that way. What I AM saying is that seeing incredibly skinny women every day motivated me to sink even deeper into anorexia.)

Of course, I was in denial; I didn’t think I had a problem. One of the reasons I didn’t think I had a problem was due to the sub-culture of Cape Cod summers—and probably many quaint beach towns everywhere, where gym memberships are skyrocketing, and where cleanses and detoxes are on the forefront of many people’s minds. The first summer I began recovery it felt as if recovering from my eating disorder was utterly impossible when the culture I was living in was so sick. I began to think that perhaps I was  not the only sick one…perhaps my culture was sick, too.

I would hear people speaking about diets and calories everywhere I went—from the grocery store checkout line to the local coffee shop  to the beach to the conversations of customers at work. When I began recovery, I had to arm myself with new thought patterns and behaviours. It was not easy but slowly over time, I returned to the summer activities I used to love as a little girl—swimming, skim boarding, and yes—a thousand times yes—eating ice cream and damn well enjoying it thank you very much.

This time of year no doubt brings everything even remotely related to diet and fitness up to the surface—and understandably so. You want to look good in your bathing suit, right? But have you ever thought to consider, how do you feel? Do you feel guilt when eating ice cream? Do you feel the need to constantly compare yourself to every woman that passes by on the beach? How do you actually feel in your body? Your body is incredible.  What is holding you back from accepting this truth? You deserve to love your body. You deserve to not be held back by the limiting constraints the cultures we have grown up in have placed on us.

Now when I think of summer, I do not think of days spent loathing my body, slaving away at the gym, or restricting my body of essential nutrients. I think of the summers of recovery: going on long runs in the mornings before work and the joy of drinking iced coffee or a smoothie on a hot day. I think of fresh berries and pineapple and barbeques and drive-in cinemas. I think of basking in the beauty of nature when everything feels so fresh and open.

So if the summer months are a triggering time for you, if you feel trapped and unable to enjoy those beach days, if you feel uncomfortable or ashamed of your body, please read my story and take heart. Take heart in the fact that there are others who have walked a similar journey and come out on the other side. Take heart that change does and will happen as you make the necessary steps to health and wholeness.

Focus on YOU and your own journey. Do not look to others to left or right of you. Eat what you want to eat; exercise as little or as much as you like. Nourish your body with foods that make you feel good—whether that be a salad or a bowl of ice cream. Do something new or creative this summer—engage in activities that celebrate your talents and honour the unique person that you are.

Oh and want some advice to get  bikini body ready? Let me share this from another blog post I read last week:

Put on your bathing suit top.

Put on your bathing suit bottom.

Okay, now you are ready. 

 

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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