I remember a time, long ago, when the internet was just a household fledgling and Sarah McLachlan played nonstop on my Walkman.
It was 1996, and I was so unhealthy and sick when it came to my body image. Now keep in mind, I was also the thinnest I’d ever been. Weighing twenty pounds less than I should have, my body cried out for nutrients. But because I’d been told by many a person that I was “Super-skinny”, I decided it was finally OK for me to wear a bikini. So I bought one and wore it on vacation to Panama City to visit my half-brother, who was stationed there at the time.
And I hated it. I felt like I was crawling out of my skin the entire time we went to the ocean or a water park. I was paranoid people were staring at my body fat and shuddering in disgust. When I developed the pictures from the trip, I despised looking at my stomach in them. It seemed to pour over the bikini bottom and just looked, well, gross.
(And the fact was, it was just ill-fitting, and I was so weak I had no muscle tone.)
Fast forward eighteen years. (Excuse me while I go have an age-related heart attack.) I’m twenty pounds heavier, have had a child, and have some rumply skin right above my belly button since giving birth to my daughter. I also have some rumply skin underneath my arms, just a little bit, that’s popped into existence over the past couple of years. I have stretch marks, but I’ve had those since I was a kid.
Before this recent Fourth of July weekend, I briefly contemplated buying a bikini. I hadn’t worn one since that trip to Panama City, and thought maybe I was finally in the right head place to do so. “No”, I grimaced to myself. “My abs don’t look like those people’s I see on the beach. I’m too white. I’m suppposed to be tan. People would laugh.”
Then, I realized, I was listening to my old eating disordered voice, and f%$& that s*$%.
I’d been listening to it all along. Who the hell CARED if my stomach looked fish-white? I’m supposed to look like that, I’m Scottish, Irish, English, German and French! Who the hell cared if my bikini bottom was too big and someone saw my ass for a second as my daughter climbed onto me? It was at a freaking family BBQ. I realized I’d been missing out on being me, crazy, “who gives a shit”, outspoken Amanda all these years because I was listening to an old tape inside my head.
So I picked out a polka-dotted bikini, and I wore it on the Fourth. And here’s the reasons why I think I was ready:
- I stopped giving a shit about what others thought of me. Was this easy? Hell no. It probably took about eighteen years! But – the second you realize the things people say about you negatively are directly related to the way they feel about themselves, you are set free. Seriously. So that friend who always makes comments about what you’re wearing and how you look in it? Probably hates herself. And her body hate doesn’t have to influence the way you feel about yours.
- I gave love to the places on my body that needed it. Some of you may remember the “Tummy Love Project” that I started on here. I never finished it on the blog, but I finished it in real life. One of the reasons I never wore a bikini was the amount of hate I had for my stomach. So, I meditated about it, I gazed at it lovingly in the mirror, and I strengthened it (I find in my recovery that muscle strengthening exercise does not trigger me, but instead makes me feel empowered.) You may be laughing at the gazing at it part, but it worked. Why? For years, I’d been pretending it wasn’t there, silently excluding it from existence. For the first time, I acknowledged it and respected it. And that started the hate loss.
- I respected my body for what it’s gone through. The funny thing is, before I’d given birth, I loved my body way less than I do now. Part of it is – I didn’t know what I was working with before. I didn’t know that I had this amazing body, capable of producing and giving life to this world. Again, you may claim corny, but I say it’s astounding that women can do this, and be up and walking the next day. It’s a miracle! So, I respected my body – and flaunted its magical prowess when I wore a bikini. I gave birth, goddamnit.
I’m sorry if you read this article expecting some miraculous not-yet-discovered secret about weight loss that made me look bikini-ready. I was only bikini-ready because I finally loved my body and respected it, not because I had finally achieved some weight loss goal. My head had to be in check to wear one. Interestingly enough, I was less bikini ready when I was thinner.
So here I sit, in my bikini, writing this out in the sun on our front lawn while my little one naps. My legs are pale white, some fat hangs over my bikini-bottom (PS, we all have it when we hunch over)…
and I’ve never been happier with my body.