The term ‘beach body’ has had a lot of bad press recently. It all started last summer with Protein World’s bikini-clad campaign and culminated in Women’s Health banning the phrase. Now, I don’t know why that particular ad started the backlash, because it’s something anyone who has ever bought any women’s magazine ever will have seen a million times before.
In and of itself, the saying ‘beach body’ is not offensive at all, but the expectation that all us mere mortals should be 5’10”, beach blonde, long-legged, big-titted, with an ass like Kim Kardashian, abs like Jessica Alba and Jennifer Aniston arms is so overwhelmingly unachievable. Not to mention we all need to have completely hairless bodies, with no excess fat (except on the aforementioned ass and tits) the colour of molten gold that don’t sweat… enough already.
Lets’s look our bests, yes, but in an inclusive, mentally healthy way. With that in mind, here are my six alternatives to that impossible ‘beach body’.
1. A HUGE F*CKING SMILE
This is so cliché and I hate myself for saying this, but it’s so true, nothing is more attractive on a woman (or man) than a big, genuine smile. Forget the duck faces, ‘sultry’ looks and pouting – a sunny grin is so much more beautiful.
Plus size model Naomi Shimida is the perfect example of this, she doesn’t have your typical model rail-thin frame, she’s a curvy girl – and stunning with it! She always sports a massive smile and she looks so much prettier than the person who is miserable because they’re after that ‘beach bod’ and failing.
2. TONS OF ENERGY
The beach is a great place, isn’t it? You can play frisbee, swim in the sea and generally just lark around. Unless you’re too concerned with topping up your tan, avoiding sweaty activities or too weak from your pre-holiday diet that is. Use the sun’s rays to re-energise yourself and play!
3. SKIN THAT GLOWS, FROM WITHIN
There is no foundation, concealer, bronzer, highlighter or contour kit that is better or more effective than a healthy diet and stress-free life. Instead of focussing on the outside, think of your body as your most precious possession – feed it well. Think of that piece of fruit or veg as a well-deserved treat. Eat the rainbow. Drink water and not diet fizzy pop.
Simply forget about what you look like and respect your body and do you know what? You’ll look a million times better. It’s easy. Clear, fresh (makeup free) skin is so pretty – show it off.
4. A BODY THAT FEELS STRONG
Punishing yourself at the gym in order to lose a few pounds or emulate Beyoncé’s backside isn’t the way to do it. Like eating well, working out shouldn’t be a punishment, it should be something you do to enable your body to work well.
I’ve been every size from a UK 6 (US 2) to a big UK 12 (US 8) and I can honestly say I was happiest somewhere in the middle, at my natural weight. Being super svelte was hard work, I never ate and only exercised to burn calories, so I didn’t enjoy it. Ironically, I was much fitter when I was fatter because I was working out and running for the sheer joy of it and eating nutritious and delicious things (quite a lot of them, but ‘whatevs’) instead of low calorie diet products. There is no better feeling than knowing you can leg-it up a hill, swim for miles and carry your own heavy bags because your body is happy and strong, trust me.
5. A BIG DOSE OF ‘I DON’T CARE’
As Carrie Fisher put so eloquently;
“Youth and beauty are not accomplishments”
We need to stop comparing ourselves to models and reality TV stars whose JOB it is to look good. And *newsflash* a lot of these beautiful, picture perfect women in the media are either incredibly young (hi Kylie Jenner), just happened to win the genetic lottery, or in the case of Victoria’s Secret Angels get PAID to train and eat like athletes to attain near God-like bodies.
You my friend, as I am, are a mere mortal fighting against your natural body shape, face and hair. You have a normal job, responsibilities and life – no one cares what you look like. It is not your job to compete with Candice Swanepoel or some 15 year old Instagram star.
Stop caring about what you and others around you look like, and focus on having so much fun you could explode. On that note, some things that are sooo much more valuable than beauty: intellect, kindness, generosity, a dirty laugh, the ability to tell a tall tale, killer dance moves… I could go on.
6. DIVERSITY RULES!
I harp on about this a lot, because growing up as a mixed race girl in Leeds there were literally no women of colour in the media – they were all exclusively white and blonde. This made me feel hideous because I was taught to believe that fitting into that narrow beauty ideal was the only way to be attractive. Even my mum was a white, blonde (and very gorgeous) woman so I truly hated my looks. I used to pray I would turn white and my hair would lighten. At school I once got passed over by a boy (who wasn’t all that) because ‘he didn’t like black girls’.
Thankfully things have changed a lot now, I always say Beyoncé and J.Lo saved my life because they were the first women in the media heralded for their unique looks. Suddenly brown skin, thick thighs and a booty were in. YASSS! When I think of all the world’s most beautiful women now (Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, Jourdan Dunn, Chrissy Teigen) they are all so different and it makes me so happy.
Don’t get me wrong, while in terms of colour and ethnicity the world has moved on leaps and bounds, female conventions of beauty are still incredibly narrow. Only by us all embracing and celebrating our differences will things change more.
I have no boobs but a pretty good stomach, a great bum but thunderous thighs – so what do I do? I don’t mention the bad bits and flaunt my fab bits in everyone’s faces. You might have super long legs, nut-brown skin or firey red hair, whatever your USP is, shout it from the rooftops!
What do you think about the term ‘beach body’ and what are your tips for feeling confident on the beach?
Last note, this is a quote from Tina Fey’s book Bossypants about what attributes women are now expected to have. Funny but true.