You may think the best thing about summer is warm sunny evenings, spontaneous barbecues and a strawberry glut, but for me, the best thing about summer is my bikini.
Not because it bares my curves and allows the sun to kiss my skin and make me feel sexy.
Not because it makes me move more.
Constantly, in fact.
Ever conscious of offering the most flattering angle to anyone who might be foolish enough to look. (I am literally never still on the beach, unless fully reclined and hidden behind a book.)
No, I love my bikini because it forces me to confront my body after many long cold months hidden under sweaters, jeans and boots. So, at the first sign of summer I slip into my fancy frilled bikini and suddenly there’s my body, grinning at me like an old friend back from the wilderness, usually with some concerning new hair growth.
I know what you’re thinking. Why would any woman in her forties, who’s had kids, want to study her stretchy bits? And I get it. It’s far easier never to look at your naked reflection and avoid glancing down in the shower. I have friends who cheerfully ignore their body for months on end, only allowing it out of hibernation for a wax or birthday massage.
But here’s the thing. Our bodies are continually communicating with us, and if you can’t see what’s going on, you can’t do anything about it. If you’re not watching for the telltale signs of imbalance, or listening for the whispers of symptoms, then you’re already on the back foot in terms of your health.
Our bodies aren’t just the vehicles that carry us around. They’re a reflection of how we’re feeling in any given moment. Our cells respond to every thought we have and offer non-stop communication in a, “hey, let’s connect, I’ve got something going on,” kinda way.
If we don’t pay attention, the friendly chat becomes inconvenient physical symptoms.
Wearing a bikini forces you to re-acquaint yourself with your skin and what’s beneath it.
When was the last time you felt a change in your body (and by that I mean pain, discomfort or anything unusual) and had a look, and a feel, and spent some time playing detective?
How often do you intuitively know some part of you needs support, but you dumb it down and take a painkiller instead?
Believe me, when you’re in a bikini, things get real. Fast. They’re literally right there in front of you.
In a semi-naked state, you notice everything. How you move and where there’s stiffness. The bloat that makes you look three months pregnant after you eat pizza. That dry, itchy skin that would usually stay hidden.
Even more miraculously, you begin to notice the parts of your body you do like. The way your skin glows when it gets regular fresh air. The way your tummy tightens from endless sucking in because, yes, you’re in a bikini. The way you stop and think before necking that tub of ice cream, because you can see exactly where that sugar would end up.
Befriending your bikini means taking responsibility for your body.
Owning it. Showing up for the bits that are trying to head south and loving them anyway. They are all yours and they have served you well.
Summer gives you a chance to get to know your body again and information is power. Information offers us options to ensure our longevity. You want to be strong and healthy for next summer don’t you?
Wear a bikini. Regularly and repeatedly. By yourself or with friends. Get comfortable with how your body looks and feels. Don’t try to immediately love the bits you hate, just accept them and do what you can to heal them, because in doing so, you will heal yourself.
Your bikini can help you turn self-loathing into self-acceptance, because familiarity is a formidable ally when looking after yourself.
Get your bikini on and stand in front of a full-length mirror. Look at your body front and back. Touch, feel, connect. Forget the media images of what a perfect body should be. Take in, YOUR body, and where it could use a little support.
Spend as much time as you can in your bikini for as long as the summer lasts. You will stop judging, you will pay attention, you will feel sad to put clothes back on when the weather turns colder, and you will, almost certainly, have more sex.