Are you beach ready?

In the run up to summer, it can be hard to avoid the constant reminder that we’re a bit out of shape and could do with going on some sort of diet and exercise regime before donning swimwear.

The volume of these messages can imply that should I not hurry and do something about it, the body beautiful police may harpoon me and drag me away from the other perfect beach-ready beauties as I’m spoiling the view.

This year it pleased me to see a bit of a backlash on social media – some piss-taking or even angry responses to the ‘getting summer ready’ messages. The other extreme is the messages about how we should love our bodies, viewing each stretchmark as a mark of how amazing we are and each thigh dimple as a dent left behind from angel’s kisses (or something). Now, I’m all for positive thinking and sometimes these messages can be inspiring, but they can also make me feel guilty for not loving my lifeless tits.

I’ve just come back from a beach holiday; the overwhelming thing when I really looked around me is that we really do come in all shapes and sizes. Over two weeks I saw perhaps one body that resembled the kind of toned woman you might see in an ad, and I’m being completely honest when I say she looked odd next to the rest of us. There were big butts, flat butts, pendulous swinging boobs and teeny tiny ones. The array of bellies was tremendous – tiny waists, muffin tops, athletic toned midriffs and many, many mum tums. It’s not even about weight when it comes to the belly area after you’ve had kids. Once that skin has been stretched, especially more than once, it changes. Oh, it changes.

With such an array of bodies, and yet apparently only one type of beach body perfection ie very slim and toned, something isn’t quite right. Having asked friends how they feel about the ‘are you beach ready?’ messages, they all find them exhausting. None of them were totally happy with their body, but all found being reminded of this annoying; being guilted and shamed in to doing something made them feel angry. They also found that despite using up mind-space thinking about it, they hadn’t actually had the time to do anything to feel better, so the run up to holiday was full of ‘I should probably…’ and then feeling they’d let themselves down when two days before they were due to fly the six pack still wasn’t forthcoming. Oh the irony that a holiday is supposed to be our break from normal life and worries and yet the lead up can cause this additional anxiety.

I think many of us have demons about our bodies. There’s not a lot someone else can say about my body to make me feel differently. If I’m in the right frame of mind I can drag out that old favourite – perspective. I have my health, and I know that my post-baby body is what it is; it has positives and negatives. I could change some parts should I really want to, but I also want the balance of enjoying life, and food. Everyone has a different motivation, but the calls to get summer ready are often driven by companies wanting to sell something. Mostly they’ll be encouraging something faddy rather than lifestyle changes that will actually benefit us in the long-term. Looking awesome on the beach might work for some as a driver, but having just been on holiday with my family, I wanted to take a moment to point out how utterly RIDICULOUS the idea of being ‘beach ready’ is for many of us.

I don’t know one woman that relishes putting on swimwear. It all starts with that dreaded encounter in the changing room. Firstly – bright lights shining from above that show every bit of cellulite in all it’s glaring glory? Meh. Retailers should consider introducing candle light, they’d make a killing. Then there’s the added mirror so you can see your rear view. Or in the right (wrong) position you can see multiples of yourself, like the Gok Wan mirrored box thing he does. Except you haven’t got him next to you saying ‘Go sista, look at your a-may-zing jugs – you are WOMAN’. Your greying pants and ill-fitting bra look even sadder when you can see them from all angles.

Posturing in front of a changing room mirror is one thing. Standing stock still, sucking everything in and viewing yourself from your best side, you may reach a purchase you’re comfortable with. Over the last few years I’ve avoided the changing room horror and relied on my old faithfuls, purchased for my honeymoon 6 years ago. Due to age and having seen me through two pregnancies and the accompanying weight gain/loss, the elastic is not quite what it was and it all sits a little precariously. Which brings me to the real test of swimwear and our summer bodies – forget the changing room, we’re at the beach. More specifically, the beach with small children.

Gone are the days of sauntering on to the beach, a small canvas bag thrown over your shoulder containing little more than a book and a towel.

Now you make your entrance stumbling across the sand juggling a couple of kids and what you shamefully know is the most ridiculous amount of stuff. There’s the array of awkward-to-carry plastic shit, six towels (of course you need spares), various only-partially-deflated inflatables, multiple changes of clothes due to likelihood of someone getting covered in wet sand before you’ve had a chance to get swimming costumes on, an unfeasibly large cool bag, Beach umbrella, large bottle of thick-as-paint suncream plus sunsuits, sun hats and armbands, and a book that will remain untouched, mocking your optimism. Once a spot has been agreed upon (I don’t recall ever wondering along a beach in my twenties looking for the ‘right spot’) you throw everything down and notice one boob is hanging out.

One hour later and you’ve managed to get everyone in swimwear and applied more paint-like sunscreen. You’ve enthusiastically got the kids building sandcastles, and you have learned your lesson from last summer’s terrible tan lines. You’ve worn a strapless swimming costume with the wisdom that the mum-tan means excessively bronzed arms and shoulders whilst everything else remains pale because you can’t. lie. down. No flies on YOU. You’re on all fours and glance down to see your crepey belly and boobs are hanging like upside down pyramid tea bags, but it’s ok because *sharp intake of breath* the kids are happy playing and your partner has suggested you go and lie down.

Just as you’ve got to the towels, he says ‘oooh, can you do my back?’. You leap up with an ‘of course darling’…ahem… and then you lie down. Thirty seconds later you’re running across the beach to rescue one of the kids, who has fallen face down in to the sand, waves lapping over them, somehow unbeknownst to daddy. Once the wailing has stopped and they’ve also covered you in wet sand, you look down to see the smugly-chosen bandeau top of your swimmies is round your waist and both tits are hanging out. The other thing about running in swimwear is that it ain’t going to be pretty. You know those images of people in wind tunnels and the skin ripples and dents and flaps? That. Hats off to the lady playing bat and ball topless. I wish I had your balls. And your buoyant boobs.

Then one of the kids takes against the sand. It’s become like hot lava and must not touch their feet, even though yesterday they happily rolled in it. They’re crawling up your body in desperate panic, grabbing whatever they can for purchase – bikini bottoms, belly skin, nipple. Both your arms are still grappling with the inconsolable sand-hater as you stumble your way back to the safety of the towels. In the kerfuffle your slightly-sagging bikini bottoms have got displaced and you can feel the material creeping up your bum due to aforementioned sagging-elastic pants. You’re worried that asking your husband to remove the wedgie will make more of a scene (and possibly be misinterpreted as a come-on), so the material stays up your bum whilst you head to the only place that can offer sanctuary and calm – the ice-cream freezer. Of course a boob is hanging out. If you’re really lucky, the material of your bikini bottoms is askew at the front too.

How to have a beach body

Having shared parts of your body that only a lucky few and your midwife have seen, it’s time to sit back, lap up some sunshine and scoff a cheese and ham toastie. It gets washed down with a well-earned holiday measure of gin.

You see, after the first couple of hours of being on a beach with kids, the image of those bikini-ready women in the ads is so laughable that it’s beyond ridiculous.

So ladies, are we beach-ready?

I think I speak for all of us when I say

Oh fuck off.

Do the summer-ready messages drive you nuts, or are you in fact beach ready? I’d love your comments below.


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25 thoughts on “Are you beach ready?

  1. Rosie says:

    Somehow your posts always arrive at just the right time to give me some much-needed perspective and a good chuckle. Having just emerged from the first year of parenthood, I am still dazed and a bit lost. This “beach body” nonsense has definitely got to me more than usual this year as I prod and poke and moan and snap at my husband for suggesting that I am anything other than a hideous crepey whale.
    Thank you for being the voice of common sense, humour, and reassurance. You really do make such a difference.

    • Steph says:

      Ah thanks Rosie – this has given me a sisterhood glow! Thanks so much for the feedback, really gives me a boost PS well done on surviving the first year! x

  2. Jo Kemp says:

    That’s why we only do UK holidays now (while kids are young anyway) – the weather is never hot enough to necessitate baring any flesh!

  3. Claire Gill says:

    Hilarious! Really identified with this a having returned from a 2 week holiday with a 7yo, 3yo and the dreaded 1yo. I noticed a lot of normal looking women too which made me feel a lot better about myself. Why are we hit with such unrealistic images and made to feel bad about ourselves?!

  4. Ems says:

    Major lol at husband thinking that helping unpick your bikini bottoms might, just might be the sign of a come on! Having to deal with then batting away the hand that was supposed to help, not cool!

    Brill post x

  5. Becky | Spirited Puddle Jumper says:

    Love this post! I totally agree with you. Weirdly, the older I get and the less ‘beach ready’ (aargh) my bod is, the happier I am with it. When we went on holiday in May, I was pleasantly surprised to see many much older ladies, with less than perfect bodies, baring all. They were so confident, and I thought it was so ridiculous that I should ever feel bad about mine! After all, it’s only going to get worse, so we might as well enjoy our skin, right?

    • Steph says:

      Right! It’s only going to get worse and we already wasted years (when it was actually perter and smoother) worrying about it! x

  6. suzanne3childrenandit says:

    Ha ha I laughed out loud on more than one occasion here, mainly because you’re talking about my crepey stomach and upside down tea bags for tits!!! So glad I’m not alone. Although I’ve never been brave enough to go for the bandeau. Do yours actually hold that thing up??? Obviously not! So funny and so very true. ‘Have a body, go to the beach’. Love it!

  7. Kerrie McGiveron says:

    Absolutely! I always feel self-conscious in swimwear but then once you look aroudn and realise that there are everyone of all shapes and sizes – you realise that there wasn’t really anything to worry about, especially when one of the kids is squirting sun cream into your drink and the other is doing a wee on your hat… 🙂 x

  8. Lauranne says:

    Another brilliant post, and why do changing rooms have to be so god awful. Even on a good day I walk in to them and feel like coming out with a brown paper bag on my head to hide my skin, and I feel so depressed I find a large chocolate anything to cheer myself up, but because the mirrors made me look so bloody awful I regret it with every mouthful and for the rest of the day!!

    However, a bonus of the break-up. No beach holiday this year, ok it’s cause I can’t face the idea of holidaying alone, but still.

  9. Sezam says:

    I read this thinking you were a single parent! No mention of dad sauntering alongside you in his shorts, enjoying the stroll to the beach while you contend with the offspring.

    How about next year you let him do all of the work/running/rescuing and you lay back and enjoy your book? I think you’ve earned it!

  10. Nia says:

    Oh Steph I can’t stop laughing! This is so true. Made it to a local beach last weekend and didn’t come out of the tiny tent as I was constantly feeding my three month old due to it being so hot. Was even fed chips by my toddler through the tent window in an attempt to keep me from passing out! At least the public were sheltered from my (what-a-load-of-bollocks) non-beach-ready body! Loving your blog x

  11. Grace says:

    Absolutely spot-on – all of it! Having spent a couple of hours on a sandy beach yesterday with our 2 boys your description really made me chuckle, it’s all true! And I can’t help but roll my eyes at every ‘beach diet/body article’ etc I see advertised on magazine covers – just who are these people that fall for that nonsense? I feel rather sad for them, if you need to spend months working on your body in order to enjoy a holiday then perhaps you’ve missed the point of life somewhat!

  12. lisa gardiner says:

    Brilliantly said Steph, yes totally hate all that diet crap and will be ‘healthy’ when i want to not when I’m told to!! Gar, my wonderful better half says he loves my after children body (a curvy 12) to the waffer super skinny (size 6) i was prebabies!! Lifes to short to worry about every lb, gram or oz, i say bring on the cheese and wine and eat grapes with it too for a 5 a day portion so i somehow loose the guilt trip. Much love Steph, keep writing your fab xxxxxxx

  13. Jude says:

    Love it! Beach ready? A joke. I’m ready for biting insects. Sunburn, Mid afternoon sugar lows. Inflatable puffing and swim nappies. Anything else is just showing off. Great post as always lovely x

  14. Stephs Two Girls says:

    hahahahahaha, yes, ALL of this. Especially the bit about Dads not really being able to watch/take care of their children properly. Ooops, did I really just say that?! 😉 Joking aside, I hate the fact that you have to take everything but the kitchen sink onto the beach – an yet you are still bound to forget something. Like the plasters, or the magic bandage. Ho hum. Beaches are rubbish with children, am seriously thinking of planning a beach holiday alone! 😀

    • Steph says:

      It might be an idea. That entrance on to the beach carrying all our worldly possessions is so embarrassing – and the packing up is ridiculous! x

  15. Life at the Little Wood says:

    Haha! Hallelujah lady! I can totally relate to the tummy issues after kids-mine has not seen the light of day since number 3 was born. As you say, it’s more the wrinkly, saggy skin than the weight, but we all have our insecurities! Brilliantly written Steph, and totally empowering xx