Way back in the fall of 2015 my bestie and I were chatting and we made a plan. We knew the cold dark winter of the Subarctic would be a challenge to get through without an extra dose of sun and warmth. So we did the thing and got some points tickets to a visit a tropical island over the 2015-16 holidays. It was good self-care. I was thrilled and I was also a little worried that a beach vacation could trigger my feelings of body shame. Instead, I can happily say I feel like I learned some new and valuable Body Love Lessons.
You can upsize your body love journey.
I had some trepidation about traveling to a hot place knowing that I would be in a bikini and that I would be exposing more skin than I usually do in winter. Still, I couldn’t NOT wear a bikini. It had become my new favourite thing. Back in the summer of 2014 I was inspired by Sonya Renee Taylor and gave myself the challenge to wear a bikini for a month. I called it The Bikini Body Project. I can proudly say that by day six of the challenge I was rocking my bikini everywhere and doing whatever I wanted sporting my bikini body.
Although I had gotten pretty comfortable with wearing a bikini over the past two years, I have *upsized this past winter, so this body was a different and bigger body than the one I had shared before. This did not deter me. I just upsized my love, upsized my self-acceptance and upsized my body love journey. I just remembered that I am a badass bitch and applied all of those feelings of not giving a fuck about what people thought about my body to my bigger body.
*Note on the word upsizing. Isn’t it great? It’s my friend Jen Knowlan’s word, and ever since she said it to me I no longer use the words “gained weight”. Upsizing makes it feel like you are doing something positive. Like you are upgrading. And it helps to take away some of the negativity that we can feel about how our body is changing, even if we are on a body love journey.
You might find freedom from negative thoughts that you weren’t even aware of
The first body love benefit I noticed upon arriving at our destination was the acceptance of all the sweating I was doing as we waited on the tarmac to enter the airport. The sweating, and the fact that I have curly, chemically treated hair so it really likes to go wild with frizz in the humidity of a tropical environment. In the past I might have suffered. I can recall feeling great mental anguish when the soupy humidity of the summer heat meant my hair was full on out of control. Adding to that summer mental anguish was my discomfort with any makeup I had on slowly melting off my face. And (some of you might identify with this) since my body didn’t meet society’s standards, even though I was doing all of the dieting and exercising I could to change it, I was left with focusing on being pretty and having good hair, which, most of the time, I had much more control over than my weight. Is this ringing true for anyone else out there?
You will have wonderful new experiences
On day one I bicycled through the downtown. I let my body show up and be observed… moving… in public! This is one of the great ironies of being fat: we’re supposed to exercise to lose weight, but also not to let anyone see our bodies as we do it! On this day I went on to jump in the ocean right along the main road in full view of all of the packed streets to cool off in the incredible midday heat. NEVER would I have done this two years ago. And it felt wonderful. It was wonderful to finally get in the ocean. It was wonderful to feel free. And I wouldn’t have been able to have this experience back when I hurt, and still cared too much about what other people thought of my body.
No one will care to judge your body (and if they do, you won’t care)
I lounged by the pool in my bikini. No one cared.
I lay out on the beach. No one cared.
I went to a packed beach club and snorkeled in my bikini and no one cared.
I went back to that same beach club the next day and… it felt like people cared. A little. There was no direct comments or actions per se, but there were looks and stares as I made my way from my beach chair to the water. You know how you can sort of tell when people are assessing and judging you? Like for real?
The thing about it was, I could feel it, but I’ll be damned if I was going to let it stop me from enjoying my break from winter. We have 7-8 months of winter where I live so just seeing the sun and getting some vitamin D is part of my strategy for good mental health. I may have even pranced a little extra in front of those judging eyes, all the while knowing that if they were judging me and my body, that they were the ones suffering and that I don’t have to suffer along with them. It’s very interesting to think that just showing up at the beach in my bikini is an act of defiance. Just because I love the sun and swimming and feel best doing it in minimal clothes, I am a rebel.
You will connect with your tribe
On that same day, there was this wonderful moment when I was climbing down the stairs to enter the water and a group of women was preparing to exit the water and our eyes met. They were in bigger bodies and were wearing similar swimsuits that I used to wear to cover up my body. The kind of thing that didn’t allow me to feel free. The kind of thing that restricted my movements in the water and what I used to call my “modest skirt”. And now I can’t know exactly what they were thinking, but when our eyes met, the look I saw said, “Look at that! I want that! I want my body to feel the sun. I want to feel like I don’t have to hide my body. I want my body to feel free. I want that! Maybe I could do that too?” I really have no idea. But the looks we exchanged and the silent connection said, “Hey! We’re in the same club. We get it. And we support each other in whatever choices we make, be it the full swimsuit with skirt, or the skimpy bikini.”
Do you have any vacations coming up? How are you feeling about them? Any body love lessons you learned on vacation that you would like to share?