It’s that time of year again when you get bombarded with advertisements, magazine articles and day time TV segments claiming they have the perfect method to get your body ready to go to the beach this summer! These schemes range from slimming aids to fad diets to impossible exercise regimes. Although the variability may be huge, they all have one thing in common: they are there to shame you into thinking your body is not good enough. They want you to think your body is simply not okay in its current state to go and chill at the beach. Y’know what they make from making you feel that way? Money. A shit ton of money, because everyone wants to be beautiful, right? You know what’s also a tried-and-tested way to keep you paying for things that promise to make you more beautiful? To keep telling you that you are not.
So, you want to feel beautiful enough to hit the beach? Rest assured, help is at hand! The best part is it won’t cost you a penny. Here’s my top tips for getting yourself ready for the beach. If you keep this up you might just be beach-ready all year around!
I’ve filled this article with images of my own beach-ready body to hopefully encourage you along.
Step One: Get an Ad Blocker
I cannot stress this step enough. If you are often on a laptop or tablet and browsing the web, you are likely to see body-shaming side ads often. The type of crap they spout is of the “this weird trick will eat body fat” or “reduce 12 inches off your belly by eating this one strange food” variety, often paired with cartoonist, obviously doctored before-and-after shots. Not only do these ads prey on your insecurity, they have useless and sometimes dangerous advice in them. They are also often phishing for your contact details (never give your email address to this kind of thing). If you have an ad blocker installed on your computer or tablet you can avoid a lot of these advertisements, including those pesky facebook ones. They are usually free to install, but may ask for a donation. Just give “Ad Block” a google to find on that suitable for your laptop or tablet.
However, they won’t block everything, so you still need to be vigilant. Never click on those ads, don’t even look them in the eye!
Step Two: Mute the TV
If you have a TV that you regularly watch you are probably already irritated by the vast number of adverts between and in the middle of your favourite shows. Here’s a simple trick to reduce their impact on your wellbeing. Mute them. Just press the mute button as soon as they come on. If you aren’t too worried about missing the start of the next segment of your show or you have one of those fancy TVs that you can rewind live TV, then go do something else while the ads are on. Make a cup of tea. Get a snack. Play on the internet. Talk to your family or housemates. Even better, keep a good book resting on the arm of your sofa and read a couple of pages. Whatever you do, pay as little attention as possible to the adverts on the TV.
Body-shaming messages can also wriggle their way into daytime TV shows, particularly breakfast shows such as Good Morning Britain. Be on your guard during any hosts-with-guests format TV show. If they start talking about anything that might make you feel bad about your appearance, mute it and turn away. Or change the channel.
Step Three: Boycott Body-Shaming Magazines & Websites
These are basically all glossy magazines aimed at women. Also some “news” papers and websites, such as the Daily Mail (there’s always at least one side ad/ “story” that’s shaming a woman’s body) or the Sun. There’s two simple questions you can ask yourself to work out if it is okay to look at the media: does this magazine / website / paper print photos aimed at shaming people’s bodies (e.g. photos of celebrities that make fun of a part of their body, their weight, or they general appearance)? or does this magazine / website / paper almost exclusively print photos of airbrushed people with impossible to attain standards of beauty alongside products or advice on how you can improve your own appearance? If the answer to either (or both) of these questions is yes, you need to boycott that shit. If you find yourself face to face with one in the supermarket, turn your back on it. Don’t give it the satisfaction of your gaze.
If you must buy a magazine that fits the bill, try handing it over to a trusted friend or partner before you read it. Give them a permanent marker. Ask them to rip out or scribble out all the offending images or harmful rhetoric before returning it to you to read (don’t be surprised when it’s only a tenth of the size it was when you brought it). For the websites, try using a solid piece of black cardboard to cover up links to bad articles that run along the side and at the bottom. For extra larks, cover the card in pictures of kittens and baby sloths.
Step Four: Change The Way You Talk
After a few weeks or months of closely following steps one to three, you’re hopefully already feeling a little more ready to hit the beach. The weather’s getting warmer, and without all those pesky ads lying to you about what your body should look like you might be happily getting some sun on your legs and arms already. Here’s a trick you can do alongside steps one to three to speed things along a bit.
Change the way you talk about people’s bodies, and your own. If you catch yourself commenting on a colleague’s weight, stop yourself. Just don’t say it. Simple as that. If you notice a friend hasn’t been shaving her pits, don’t mention it to her or anyone else. If you think your niece’s skirt is far too short, keep that information to yourself. If your gossipy friend tells you Sandra has had a boob job, ignore the comment. Sandra’s body is none of your business. If you stop evaluating the bodies of other people around you, you might stop evaluating your own so much. Commenting negatively about any aspect of your own appearance should also be avoided as much as possible. Commenting positively about your own body is strongly encouraged. Other people’s bodies are still none of your business, even if you think you have something nice to say.
Step Five: Change The Way You Think
This one is tough, but if you’ve already mastered steps one to four, you should be in a good place to begin this penultimate step. Think about what your body does for you, how it allows you to move and feel. Think about the pleasure it can bring you, be it from an orgasm, a massage or a simple foot rub. Whatever your body looks like, it is fucking amazing. It can make you feel really, really good. Look down at your body (it’s better than looking in the mirror) and decide that you really love your body. Just tell yourself that you do. Think about how beautiful your thighs are. If you are able, grab your own butt with appreciation. Point your toes and admire the shape of your foot. Admire every crease and line that your body possesses as if it were a work of art. Say to yourself “I really like my tummy”. Smile as you look at yourself naked in the mirror.
I know it’s difficult, you might have years of bad advice telling you to loose weight or tone up to combat. But keep trying. It will get easier. If you catch yourself thinking something negative about your body, stop immediately and hum or sing your favourite feel good tune. My personal tune of choice at the moment is Take your Mama by the Scissor Sisters. Once the tune has put you in a better mood, think a positive thought about your body. I’m not saying it’ll be easy, but with practise you’ll be able to master it. When you wake up every morning, say out loud “I am fucking beautiful and this body is amazing. The beach would be damn lucky to have me.”
Step Six: Buy Some Beach Wear
If you’ve made it this far, I’m really proud of you. You’re almost ready to pack your bags and hit the beach. In fact, this last step is optional. If you’ve already got some bad ass swimwear, or you’ve found a nudist beach that really appeals to you, you can skip this step altogether and get your beautiful self to a sandy shore of your choice. However, if you’re a little less prepared, it’s time to get shopping. Rather than looking at those glossy magazines you have worked so hard to boycott for fashion advice, think about a style that appeals to you. What would make you feel good? Perhaps a bit of a vintage look? Maybe you’d prefer something sporty? Or a sexy little number? Floral? Black? Feminine? Exotic? Punk? Once you’ve got an idea of what you’re looking for, grab a friend and hit the shops. Pick up whatever fits your own personal style and try it on. If it fits well, is comfortable and makes you feel good, buy it. Smile at the thought of sun on your body and the sound of waves in your ears. Don’t forget to pick up a beach towel and sunscreen!
The last part is easy. Put on clothes you can swim or sunbathe in. Go to the beach.
So there you have it, a simple and practical guide to get your body ready for the beach. With all that training you’ll soon find you are thinking less and less about the appearance of other people’s bodies, which you will hopefully also apply to yourself. Try to be kind in the way you think about yourself, and avoid toxic body-shaming messages as much as possible. By refusing to comment on other people’s bodies (including celebrities) with your friends and acquaintances you could pass on some of your new found body positivity to them. If you have children, they will be more confident about their own bodies as they grow up if they see a body-positive example the way you talk and act around them. Never speak negatively about other people or yourself in front of children.
When it comes to the summer holidays, the best thing to remember is the beach is not a battle-ground full of vogue models who will look down with scorn upon the smallest hint of cellulite or the slightest belly bulge. It’s just regular people, their to enjoy some fun and sun. No one but the creepy dudes will even give your body a second look, and lets be honest, you don’t give a damn what those creepy losers think.