aka What hurtful things have people said about your body?
aka Why I love Italy so much.
When I was in highschool, I wasn’t allowed to wear a bikini. I think because my parents were super Christian and were doing everything they could to make sure I wouldn’t have sex before I was married. Whether it was their personal opinion or the church’s, in their mind, bikinis = promiscuous = sex, and therefore were banned.
But, seeing as I really like tan lines, and it was somehow OK for me to run around in a sports bra at track practice and panty-shorts at track meets, I didn’t see why a bikini on the beach was such a big deal.
But, since I didn’t own my own, any time I was going to the beach with friends, I would borrow my BFF’s. It was always a green and purple striped one, I think from the Gap. I’d leave the house in my one-piece, change at the beach, and then change back again into my one-piece. We laugh about this charade to this day.
One day, I must have gotten sick of the hiding.; or maybe it was the summer after I graduated highschool and I thought, this is ridiculous, I’m practically an adult now and I’ll wear a bikini if I want to.
So I didn’t change out of the bikini and when I got home, dad was there. I remember I was on my stairs, looking into the mirror that hung on the wall. I think I was doing dips and leg raises, bc that’s where I always did them, and what other reason would I be sitting there for?
Now, don’t ask me why I working out in a bikini. The only thing I can come up with is that I hadn’t done my allotted amount for the day and it was easier to do them in the bikini before I showered, than to change into workout clothes and dirty another outfit. Yup, that sounds like me.
So while I agree that working out in a bikini may not be so sexy, I’m not sure it warranted this comment from my dad: ‘Do you think you look good in that?’
I don’t remember exactly what I said, but something along the lines of ‘Yeah, I do think I look damn good in a bikini. And who are you to tell me otherwise?’
The thing is, that seemingly confident response was more of a rebellious teenager reaction than a true confidence.
It was 8 years before you’d catch me in a bikini again. I think that says it all.
My freshman year in college, I wouldn’t say I was promiscuous, curious was more like it, and I was hanging out with a guy one night. I think we were kissing in his bed, and I don’t remember what we were talking about or how this came about, but for some reason he referred to me/my thighs as ‘cottage cheese’.
As in the cellulite on my back upper thighs and my ass.
This time, I was humiliated.
I also had very little self-respect, because instead of being like, um excuse me, WHAT did you just say!? And get up right there and then and go back to my dorm room without doing the walk of shame…
I took the punch lying down.
And not only that, I assumed he was right. That my legs were bumpy, lumpy and gross.
Not the toned, sleek, muscular, 0% body fat legs that all the top runners and athletes sported.
My only way of dealing with this real life Mr. Dick, was to hide how I was really feeling (completely mortified) and try even harder at proving myself on the track.
Spoiler alert, that didn’t work out for me so well.
You’ll hear more, but today I want to jump ahead and bring you some hope.
Fast forward 8 years later. I was in Positano on the Amalfi Coast for a long weekend with a friend from London. It was the epitome of a girl’s weekend in the sun. Wake up, stroll to the sun loungers, plop ourselves down with a book, take a dip before overheating, enjoy a Caprese sandwich for lunch at the beachside Ristorante, soak in the afternoon sun, meander through cobblestone streets and browse the shops on the way back to the hotel. Shower, get ready for dinner, sip wine and limoncello, crawl to bed. Sleep and repeat.
This break was just what I needed. It was a gift I was giving to myself. I was living in Manhattan at the time, was 6 months out of a 5 year relationship, had just taken a 10 week Italian language course just for kicks, because I wanted to. I was playing soccer once a week after work, making new friends and I was becoming more of me.
Bonus: the bulimia was fading. I hadn’t purged in at least a year if not more (my memory is fuzzy on this).
I wasn’t completely out of the woods though. I was still nervous around food. Would I eat too much? Would I binge? And I was still restricting. I didn’t feel free to eat ‘normal’ food. eg Burger and fries, pizza with cheese and butter on toast, were not in my diet.
I was a salad girl who engaged in secret sinful splurges.
And I was not comfortable in my body yet. I was still relying on running and working out in the gym to keep it’s shape. I wasn’t satisfied with how it looked or performed. There was no gratitude. It was just there. This thing that I had to maintain. A chore.
But in Positano it was different. It was like I transported to a place and time that was showing me the possibility of what could be.
For the whole weekend, I didn’t think twice about what I was eating. I didn’t go for a run, or do situps, or pushups; I didn’t even WANT to.
I lived like an Italian.
And I dressed like one too.
I bought myself a black string bikini that I still have to this day (gosh that thing is 10 years old now!) And I wore it proudly. Even with cottage cheese.
And trust me, it was NOT like the bikinis you buy in the Gap or Old Navy that are designed for fuller figures. This was literally two triangles on top and bottom.
The most beautiful part: I could give a shit about what my body looked like in it because I felt like a million dollars that weekend.
Here’s the crazy part:
I got back to NY, got dressed for work the next day, and my clothes felt loose. I had lost weight over a 4 day period when I was eating everything I wasn’t ‘supposed’ to eat and the only form of exercise was walking to and from the beach chair.
This blew my mind.
Here I was for years trying to make my body look a certain way, thinking that once I did, I’d be happy with myself.
What had just happened was the opposite. I was happy with myself, doing something I loved, living life the way I wanted to, and my body followed suit. I dropped a few extra pounds because I was happy.
The secret wasn’t hours in the gym, laps around Central Park and salads for lunch. It took doing life on my terms, being quintessentially me, AND not caring about what my body looked like, in order for me to be happy and my body to respond.
Except it’s not so bonkers.
Our bodies know what’s good for us, even when we don’t.
When we’re living a life where our sole purpose doesn’t revolve around this question: ‘Do I look OK?’, our bodies are then free to do what they naturally: self-regulate.
They tell you when they need more energy, tell you when they’re full, when they need a rest, when they need to be used.
It is a beautiful thing.
What’s also beautiful, is that an item of clothing that added fuel to shame, also brought redemption.
To go from sneaking around in a bikini and receiving negative comments about parts of my body that are visible in a bikini….
to wearing one freely because that’s what felt right for me.
That’s kind of the whole point.
It’s your life. It’s your body. Do right by both.
Some things to think about: What negative comments have you received about your body? How have you reacted? What is something that you’ve always wanted to do for yourself or for your body that would be an act of redemption? What is it you’re really craving in life?
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