Ladies, look at this bikini: is it not the cutest, sexiest thing on the planet? Would you feel confident slipping it on, showing off your flat abs and prancing around on a beach?
I’m going to guess that most of you expressed a resounding “no way” and experienced an inner ‘shudder’ at the thought of your (belly) flab bounding around instead (if you answered yes to this, you are one of the lucky few. And if you are naturally thin and see the drawbacks to that, still consider yourself one of the lucky few for the purposes of this article).
I went bathing suit shopping recently because I was looking for something I could swim in, because I swim for exercise (and fun) once a week. When I mentioned this experience to other women, I was happy to find out that most of them – even people that I thought would look/feel great in swimwear – hated bathing suit shopping just as much as me! Even people who appear to be confident, well-balanced, healthy, and in good shape – they hate it too! It is so comforting to know I’m not alone.
Why do we hate it SO much, though? Well, besides the ugly fluorescent change room lights that highlight everything we don’t really want to see (ugh!! why do they do that to us?) we hate it because the beauty industry sets impossible standards.
But wait, we already know that! By now we’ve probably read countless articles blaming the media for our body image issues, etc. We are relatively educated about that and are probably maturing beyond many such insecurities. We get that not every body is the same, we are learning to appreciate our ‘curves’, we are accepting of each other, etc. We are intelligent, open minded, mature, healthy people. Carefree but slightly less skinny TV characters (like Hannah in Girls) are popping up a little more frequently in the media and inspiring better body acceptance. We understand the values of exercise and healthy eating, and many of us do just that. We know why and how to keep our weight to a reasonable level, and we learn to stop judging our Oprah wings/cellulite/belly/etc. as bad things. So why is something like bathing suit shopping still such a bane?
I think we still have a misconception that we can all ‘get’ to looking (something) like this
if we work our asses of. But I’ll bet that for most of us, this is an unattainable goal. And focusing on any unattainable goal will ruin the FUN!
So, do us all a favor: the next time you are trying on a swimsuit, will you please try to think really hard about how much FUN you will have while you are in it, instead of how you look? Of course you want to find something flattering and comfortable for your needs and your body type! Being comfortable is a given. But, most of us will never look anything like this picture. And that really has to be OK. It just does.
Even if you have some kind of extreme diet/exercise regimen and get close to looking this way, how long will it really last? What are you willing to sacrifice? It depends what you value.
I have to say that I completely support all those out there who have made a lifelong commitment to genuinely healthy, fit lifestyles, and this shows. Ko Kaleo is certainly an inspiration and I hope to have a journey similar to hers. But it took her years to really get off the weight and get toned.
I am not saying you can’t transform your body or shouldn’t try. I’m just encouraging us to be realistic about our expectations and priorities: we must align your goals to your lifestyle and your natural body type, including your naturally fatter or muscular areas. Some types of fat will take a long time to go. Some of us will end up with loose skin. Sometimes we can build muscle and fix this kind of thing, but it’s just not going to be the same for everyone.
I have been exercising more and watching what I eat more, trying for a while now. I’ve not really lost alot of fat but I DO feel a little stronger and more energetic. I recognize now that I have to keep building muscle for the rest of my life or that I will gain weight/age more rapidly and probably develop way more health problems. I will probably always be a bit stocky, and have sort of muscular arms. I am aligning my fitness goals with my body type and they DO relate to the way I look but are not about an unattainable image. I’m expecting it to take years to really change my body composition.
Given this, here are my workout goals:
1. To lose some fat around my waist, because it is a risk factor in diabetes, etc. This will probably also make me look more proportioned and womanly (bonus) but I’ll probably always have some belly fat.
2. To have a strong core and better posture.
3. To have more energy, especially as I age.
4. To challenge myself and learn new things.
5. To have fun, be social, and be outdoors.
I will probably never look ‘great’ in a bikini, but maybe I’ll just stay healthy and avoid many health problems as I get into my 40’s, 50’s, 60’s. Maybe I will be good and feel loved (love myself) anyhow. Maybe I’ll even prance around on a beach in one someday anyhow, despite the bits and pieces of flab that will probably be bouncing around. Maybe I’ll surprise myself and my body will really transform unexpectedly as I get used to exercising more and push myself harder. I don’t know.
I do know that every time I put my bathing suit on and have fun and get exercise, I care a little less about how I look, and a little more about how I feel, and I know that’s a huge step in the right direction.