I don’t know if anyone noticed, but last week we had a bit of a heat wave here in Britain! For over a week, we were all ROASTING and while at the minute the sunshine has taken his hat off and the clouds are back, I’m hoping that we’ll see at least another couple of sunny weeks before summer 2017 is over.
And here’s the thing – Even the fact the fact that I wrote that last sentence is nothing short of miraculous because for most of my life, just the mention of a heat wave would have sent me headlong into a spiral of panic and dread. I’d have panicked about my sweaty face, chaffing thighs, exposed bingo wings and I’d have spent the long, sunny days beating myself up for having failed to achieve the perfect body for yet another summer.
I’ve lived in Cornwall for the last 17 years and while I love walking on the beaches with my two dogs, I have definitely not made the most of that idyllic, picture perfect “beachy” way of life. Hot summer days and dips in the sea have never really been my thing because I have always done such a great job of convincing myself that I wasn’t invited to the party because of the way my body looks. In my mind, the beach life was strictly for the beautiful people only.
But then last week’s heatwave happened and the sun was inescapable. The garden was too damn hot, the kids were over excited and the husband was dead keen because the surf was good. So without too much hesitation, we resolved to spend as much of the weekend as possible at the beach (or 5 different beaches as it turned out!) and right there and then, I decided that I was going to dig out my bathers and go swimming in the sea with my children.
As I stepped out of my sun dress and on to the sand, I took a look around me and was hit by the fact that I was surrounded by hundreds of COMPLETELY different bodies. Tall ones, short ones, thin ones, fat ones, taut ones, wobbly ones, stocky ones, willowy ones, old ones, young ones, scarred ones, blotchy ones, lumpy ones, black ones, white ones, red ones, big boobs, big bums, pear shapes, apple shapes….. It was a truly phenomenal sight!
Now maybe it’s always been this way, but I can honestly say it’s never struck me quite so dramatically before. Why? Well I guess it might be because I’ve been so damn busy stressing out about my own wobbly bits, feeling hot and uncomfortable and trying desperately (and unsuccessfully) to cover my imperfections, that I’ve not really had the time to notice everyone else.
What has changed this year? Well……me! And when I say me, I mean my mindset, NOT my body. I am not suddenly the taut size 10 I once dreamed of being. I am still the wobbly size 16 that my body seems to have settled at since I ditched the diets a couple of years ago. But, a few things have occurred to me which encouraged me to unleash my tankini on the beaches of Cornwall so I thought it might be worth sharing them.
- Bikini/beach bodies are bullshit.
I mean seriously bullshit. In fact, as I sat on the beach last weekend I spotted one woman who could have legitimately featured in a bikini body magazine spread. ONE!!!!! There were HUNDREDS of scantily clad women on the beach and only one actually looked the way the media has brainwashed us into thinking we need to look if we want to spend the summer on the beach!
- I’m angry
Angry at the media, but mostly angry at myself because I’ve allowed myself to be brainwashed. I was so busy believing what I was being told and being seduced by the airbrushed pictures I was seeing that I didn’t take a minute to look around me and think about it in real terms. Of course bikini bodies aren’t real. Hell, not even the models used in the campaigns look as good as the finished images that appear in the magazines!
- I have a duty
A duty to my children to prove that my body has just as much right to be on the beach as anyone else’s because that’s exactly the sort of thing I want my kids to remember when they grow up. I want my daughter to see a woman who doesn’t flinch at peeling off her dress and parading her wobbly, dimpled thighs proudly into the sea so she can jump and splash and cool off with her two precious children. And while I’m at it, I also have a duty to others. In fact, I really hope that there were some women staring at my body last weekend! Not because I’m some sort of exhibitionist, but because I would love to think that by seeing me having fun in the sea with my husband and kids, it might have encouraged someone else to get her swim suit on when maybe she’s not had the confidence to strip off in public before.
- I want to have fun
I am not prepared to miss out on any more fun with my children because I’m too busy apologising for not being the right shape or size. This is my body. It’s the only one I’ve got, just as this is the only time I’ve got to enjoy my children’s childhood and to create happy memories that I pray they’ll carry with them for the rest of their lives. Life is too damn short to spend any more of it sitting on the sidelines while everyone else has all the fun!
So I say it’s time for all of us to stick two fingers up at the “bikini body” lie and reclaim our right to beach life. Do you know what? When you dip your toe in the water, amazing things can start to happen!
I haven’t stepped on the weighing scales for over 2 years, and I can’t tell you how much freedom that has bought me. Gone are the days when I would weigh myself umpteen times a day and then allow the number before my eyes to dictate how the day was going to pan out.
These days, while I can’t tell you my exact weight, I haven’t lost all sense of perspective when it comes to my body. Hell No! Have I put on weight in the last few months? Yup! How much? Enough to make my chinos a little too snug for my liking. Do I know what has led to this? Yes, yes I do, but I might save that for a separate blog post! Am I going to do something about it? Yup, I’m going to drink more water, swap my (too many) refined sugar snacks for some thing else (or maybe just eat less of them) and I’m going to keep cracking on with my new fitness regime. Do I need to get back on the weighing scales? Errrrrrrr, WHY?! What further valuable information would they give me? Would they make me feel better? Would they fill me with hope and positivity? Or would they fuel a little simmering well of self hate and send me “off on one”? I think we all know the answer to that!
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still keen on having a concrete way of judging and plotting progress. I am a bonafide list lover, and as such I definitely get pleasure from tracking my goals and ticking shit off! Unfortunately, the way that most of us are encouraged to do this is by keeping a food diary (groan) and being a slave to the weighing scales, and let me tell you, that is 100% NOT where it’s at if you’re aiming to pack a little more positivity into your life!
So in a bid to buck the trend, here are my current go-to tracking tools which help keep me focussed on the good stuff:
Have I eaten a rainbow?
Back last year, I bought one of these lovely rainbow charts from Liz Cook charts in order to encourage my kids to eat a wider range of fruit and veg. But guess what? It worked just as well for me as it did for them! I loved keeping a little mental tally about which colours I’d managed to eat each day. I didn’t nick their stickers – honest!!
And while I was concentrating on getting the good stuff down my neck, there was inevitably less space for those beige foods…… Yup, it’s back to my old favourite, crowding out not cutting out!
How much H2O am I necking?
It’s a great idea to keep track of how much water you’re drinking. The experts suggest that in order to keep our bodies ticking along just as they’re meant to, we should be aiming to drink about 2 litres per day (you’ll need more than this in hot weather or if you are doing a lot of exercise). Now in simple terms, the easiest way to monitor this is to grab yourself a litre bottle and drink two fills of it per day. Simples! However, a quick scroll through the beautiful world of Pinterest will also show you some gorgeous ways of marking your bottles with washi tape so that you can ensure a steady stream of water throughout the day, rather than forgetting all about it and trying to drink it all in the two hours before bed, which really isn’t great for undisturbed sleep!
How do I feel?
Rather than using your weight as the only measurable which dictates how your day goes (we’ve all been there!) why not have a go at really getting in touch with how you feel?
I like to use my Happilicious scale which kinda does what is says on the tin. It’s a simple 1-10 scale (in your head or on paper – your choice) with 10 being “totally Happilicious, on top of the world, I feel so good I want to sing from the rooftops”, and 1 being “I want to wrap myself in a blanket, curl up in a ball and shut out the world.” When you get up in the morning, take a second to think about your score on the scale and feel free to revisit and reappraise as many times throughout the day as you like! Taking the time to really get in touch with what’s going on inside your head is a great practice. It helps you to slow down and take stock of all the little facets of your life rather than getting over whelmed by the big headlines. Which brings me on to…….
A bit of daily journaling
In an ideal world, we’d all set aside 10 minutes as soon as we wake up in the morning and 10 minutes just before we hit the hay, to set some intentions for the day ahead and then reflect on our day at it’s end. However, I know that in the real world of children/packed lunches/teeth cleaning/dog walking, that’s something which is easier said than done; but having said that, it’s definitely something worth aiming for!
Now if you head back to Pinterest and search for bullet journals (or bujos if you’re really down with the lingo) you will all at once be inspired, in awe and terrified of the beautifully constructed works of art that you see before you! But, don’t panic – your journal really doesn’t have to be anything fancy shmancy and there’s no right or wrong way of doing it. Just grab a notebook and pen and do what works best for you. You can literally just write out whatever is going on in your mind in one big splurge, or if you prefer, you can stick to a regular daily pattern, helped along by some prompts to get you started.
In a similar vein, I’ve recently discovered Fran at thehappiEmpire and I love the Playsheets you can buy from her on-line shop. There are three different sheets available, “self care check in”, “Happi Maintenance” and “Clarity” and while I love them ALL, I’d say that in terms of getting to grips with a daily practice, the “self care check in” or the “Happi maintenance” sheets are a great starting point.
Now it’s your turn!
If you decide to give any of these methods a go, I’d love to hear from you. Or if you have any other ways which work for you, please drop me a line or hop into the Facebook group to share them. Let’s work together to come up with some fabulous ways of kicking the weighing scales into touch!