Trigger Warning re: body image
CASTING: I'm looking for a group of people to join me on the beach in swimwear for a group photo, and possible individual photos designed to celebrate us as we are. More on the thoughts behind this below.
Ideally I'd love variation in the group including various ages, sizes, body types, races, genders and sexualities, abilities / disabilities, mothers, pregnant women - you name it. I want to hear your story.
How this began...
My Story; It's that time of year - the desperation for the perfect beach body is everywhere. If it's not a slimming world leaflet through my door it's an invasive, targeted social media advert telling me to make myself smaller. And I've been desperately trying to care less and just accept myself in a world that is telling me to worry about my appearance. So instead of miserably trying to shift the weight that I've gained through illness that WILL NOT MOVE I decided to buy a new swimsuit. You probably know what happened there if you follow me online....
All I wanted was to see swimsuits on an average body, not being sexualised, not only in sizes 6-12, not photographed as though it were for a 'lads mag'. I couldn't believe how some of the companies worked. Then I found Figleaves where varied, natural bodies wore the same line of items for sale - in the sea, by the pool, with smiles even. These women were having a great time. And It made me feel like I could have a good time, too! And before I knew it I'd bought 4 sets to try on. This shopping experience was a revelation. And for the first time in... I can't even remember how long.. I will be going swimming with no fear.
But I go back to my timeline and see friends saying that they didn't lose enough weight after winter to go to the beach this year. And then I get invited to a beauty party with prosecco and botox. And then I'm sent an advert for a company that claims to be the new weight watchers. But there's been a shift in my mind in the last few months; I will be healthy, of course. But I know what it takes for my body to be small and I'm not about to make the 'perfect body' my life's work, my life has so much more in it than this. Power to you if you have the drive to sculpt the right body for you! But it's not for me. Despite spending the majority of my life focusing on things I'd like to change about myself. And it's hard enough to tune out the media aspects but the people around us can be as bad. Someone I know called Holly Willoughby 'fat' last year when we happened to see her on TV. I mentioned that she'd not long given birth but the shocking insults kept coming... It dragged me down - she was looking incredible and I wasn't. And then you see headlines like this that make you feel like you're the odd one out. Why can't I do it, too?
I know how awful this perfection problem is, it's EVERYWHERE. So I decided to be brave and share a photo of myself in my new swimwear on my Instagram. Tagged; Beach Body. And right now I BEG you not to search for the words Beach Body, anywhere if you're struggling with body image. I was googling and going through Instagram hashtags... hopelessly trying to find anything remotely positive to do with 'beach body'. After wading through tonnes of muscly/thin humans, or badly photoshopped ones with exercises typed over the top, models on tropical islands with sandy bottoms, front covers of gossip mags and the desperately sad-looking before photos of perfectly fine people. I found a photo of a smiling woman on a beach in a bikini who was about a size 18. She looked great and was having a great time. Unfortunately, this photo was posted as the 'before photo' for a gym that basically swore you could look like Kim K in time for your holiday after signing up with them.
< Oh, and this from the Independent. Which made me chuckle.
But I thought... Imagine if we could one day search for beach body and just see humans on the beach having fun as they are. Because companies rely on us feeling awful about our bodies. They get to sign us up to their transformation program, diet groups and personal training courses. And when they wear off we go back. Or we choose diet pills, waist trainers, cellulite creams, anti-ageing potions, botox, collagen, fillers, plastic surgery, liposuction, hair extensions, hair laser treatment, implants, laxatives, disordered eating, self-harm... Whatever will make us marginally more acceptable or punish us for not making it. And the more open I become over this issue, the more private messages I get saying 'Me, too.' So If I can, I want to make something that will change our minds about our bodies and instead of fighting to change our natural biology or hiding away - celebrate our lives as we are now. My hope is that it positively affects everyone taking part, and the people it reaches. But in the long term, I hope more people get together and do this. I hope more people realise we're being fed an unrealistic dream that lines the pockets of CEO's. And I hope that this ridiculous way of selling things to women by making them insecure, dies.
If you are struggling with body image, Body Dysmorphic Disorder or Eating Disorders please start the conversation with a friend, loved one or your GP.