The body beautiful

I’m catching my breath, two days into my new job, but that’s a whole other post…

Last week I was on my holidays, basking in warm sunshine on the Turkish coast. Pasty and white-skinned, it’s only when you realise you’re going to spend a lot of your time in swimwear that you begin to wish you’d had the self control to stick to your bikini diet like you promised yourself you would four weeks earlier.

Body angst, though, isn’t real. It’s a figment of our minds, something our psyche does to torment us, trip us up and make us ashamed and insecure and afraid. This is not how we are meant to be.

I spent a lot of time last week lolling around with excessive amounts of flesh exposed to a burning sun contemplating this, and hearing the battle for what is true going on in my head.
There’s the truth that I know – I’m not fat. I’m not even overweight.
And there’s what I feel to be true – I am fat and if I don’t do something to make myself skinny, I’m going to become morbidly obese before you can open that packet of crisps and buy me a beer.

The moment I got into my bikini, the battle commenced. BUT it’s not like there were model-like women (FF being the exception here of course) to compare myself to and feel inadequate in comparison with. Instead, our company on the hotel’s rooftop pool area were two 70 year old ladies, and a group of Romanian women, with bellies like tubs, who strutted around in their underwear – non-matching bras and briefs that even Gok Wan would blanche at. I couldn’t blame the company I was keeping – the answer has to be rooted somewhere inside myself.

In the middle of all this, I distracted myself by indulging in a guilty pleasure passed on to me by RH – Jilly Cooper. As someone who happily identifies herself as a feminist, reading her books probably seems like a contradiction – the men are fatally misogynistic, and even the feistiest of women fall prey to strong arms and a commanding tone of voice.

Still, Jilly Cooper writes about the whole range of women’s bodies – tall, short, fat, thin, curvy, lean – and celebrates them all as attractive. Her characters (who, granted, all inevitably fancy each other at some point in the book) aren’t stereotypes with perfect hair, and perfect teeth, and perfect proportions. Some of the women know their powers of attraction, and some don’t. A bit like real life.*

Learning to embrace your body for what it is, and be delighted that it is good because it works and lets you do things like run for a bus, and hug a friend, and watch an amazing sunset, and get suntannedburnt is to learn to accept the truth. Now I just need to practise inhabiting my skin, and telling my mind that it’s okay for me to do that.
Maybe I’ll just have to read another Jilly Cooper novel to pick up some tips…

*That’s probably the only part of her books that’s even vaguely near real life, but give her credit where it’s due.

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