I’ve always dreaded summer. While everyone around me, both online and in real life, pines for the long, warm days and nights of the sunny season. I feel anxiety creep in at the mere mention of the subject.
Because summer, to me, has never meant barbecues in the garden or Aperol Spritz on a roof terrace but rather body anxiety and the ritual of having to swap my usual uniform of baggy, body-covering layers for more socially acceptable skimpy summer attire: shorts, swimwear and strappy tops. Summer forces me to confront a body I’ve been incredibly uncomfortable with, and that has been painful.
All of this, of course, has been compounded by diet culture-driven narratives from the media around being ‘summer-body ready.' Growing up ‘chubby’ – an adjective I detested, but one that people often used to describe my body – I was often on the receiving end of a lot of commentary about my shape and size. A few things stuck: Being told at age 14 that I shouldn't wear short shorts anymore because of cellulite, being steered towards tankinis rather than bikinis because ‘they will suit your shape better’ by a well-meaning shop attendant and, most mortifying of all, overhearing a boy tell his friends I had a ‘body that blocks out the sun’ on my first-ever friends’ holiday at 17. I ran straight to my hotel room and locked myself in the bathroom, crying as I pinched my fat in the mirror. I stayed as covered up as the clothes in my suitcase would allow for during the remainder of the trip.
But the summer body anxiety didn’t disappear as I got older and began to gradually lose weight, all while inching closer and closer to an eating disorder. Just before I was admitted to hospital for anorexia nervosa and my weight was painfully low, I went to Mykonos with my then-boyfriend and refused to take my cover-up off at the beach because I was convinced people were looking at how ‘big’ my body was.
Recovery from my eating disorder forced me to tackle all of my body image demons
Recovery from my eating disorder forced me to tackle all of my body image demons, and it was long, arduous and painful – but it has been, hands down, the best thing I have ever done for myself. Therapy – something I was lucky enough to have access to – played a vital part in this; my therapist pointed me in the direction of books, documentaries, videos and podcasts that openly – and positively – discussed body image. This vast support network made me finally realise that I wasn’t alone in my struggles, and that brought me immense comfort at the time I needed it most.
Recovery also taught me about diet culture, an arbitrary world I had lived in my entire life where nothing was supposed to matter as much as thinness; an arbitrary world that was built and thrives because it makes a lot of people in the diet industry a lot of money. And in the process of growth and self-discovery, I discovered a community I never knew existed – one of self-acceptance and body confidence, where the typical beauty standards that we’ve grown up with are challenged. A world where wearing bikinis, and shorts and strappy tops is celebrated, no matter the shape or size of your body.
Now, I’m trying to help other women unlock this world and start to feel more comfortable in their own skin. Because nobody needs to be ‘bikini-body ready’ in order to enjoy summer – we simply need to show up as we are. As the phrase goes, ‘If you’ve got a bikini and a body, you’re bikini-body ready.’ Besides, I promise you that nobody cares about your cellulite, or your stomach rolls; people are too wrapped up in themselves to give a damn. And if they do? They’re projecting their own issues on to you, and it’s nothing to do with you and your beautiful body.
I no longer dread summer or feel scared to show my body; I’ve made peace with it
I won’t lie; I still have some residual anxiety around summer – I think I’ll always prefer cooler weather and feeling covered up – but I no longer dread it or feel scared to show my body; I’ve made peace with it. And after the lost summer of 2020, we should be ready to live our best one yet this year and make the most of what summer is all about – having as much fun as possible, enjoying every minute with friends and family and exploring the great outdoors, all of which is entirely possible at any size or shape.
My Swear-By Summer Beauty Buys
One of my favourite things about summer? Summer beauty products. I love swapping out my heavy, winter scents for soft, floral fragrances and faking a sun-kissed glow with lightweight cream bronzers and subtle, shimmery highlighters, all while using multi-tasking products like primer containing SPF to simultaneously protect and smooth skin. Here are my top summer 2021 beauty buys:
Lancome Teint Idole Ultra Wear Highlighter Stick; £29.50
Offering three different shades to suit all skin tones, this compact product can be applied alone or on top of foundation for a luminous glow.