Advice for a body positive summer (Things I wish I could tell my 17-year-old self)

I don’t really remember ever not feeling body conscious, but I’d say that 17 years old was the height of my body insecurity. I’d lost some weight at 16 and was probably a ‘thin’ person, except I was totally fucked in the head from dieting. But then I changed school, hated it so ate my feelings for a year, resulting in me putting all the weight I’d lost plus an extra couple of stone (of course, thanks dieting). I was wearing a size 20 jeans and absolutely hated my body.  

I grew up by the sea but idea of revealing any more of my body than necessary was my idea of absolute hell. A shiny personality can’t cover you up on a baking July day on the beach.  

I never went to the beach except to hang out smoking while looking at the sea from my car. I remember spending one day on the beach with my boyfriend at the time and his friends. I was the girl who’d ‘watch the stuff’ rather than make the long walk to the sea. I was painfully self-conscious in a swimsuit.  I could cry thinking about how I used to feel. I wish I could turn back the clock and tell that girl the things I know now. But I can’t have any regrets about who I was back then because it brought me here and to what I do now.  :) 

Anyway, I don’t have as many big ‘ah ha’ moments that I used to but I had one this week when I went to see my brother who lives in Boscombe beach, Bournemouth. It was a baking hot day and as soon as I got there I was desperate for a swim, and I wore this cute yellow polka dot bikini that I’ve got. Big deal? Actually, fuck yes. A FUCKING HUGE BOPO MO!

I made my brother take a photo of my afterwards, not because I think I look ‘amazing’, but because I literally gave NO FUCKS what anyone thought of my body.  Literally. I threw off my clothes and ran into the sea with nothing but joy.  

It was only after that swim that I realised just how far I’ve come on my journey to self-love (it’s such a naff expression but it is what it is) Sure, there are times I still wish my things were thinner and my arms were more toned... but that’s only because diet mentality takes a fucking really long time to get over and magazines, especially at this time of year, are bombarding us with messages to change our bodies.

Seriously, loving your body, flaws and all, is a revolutionary act in these times. That moment, I fully realised that I’ve nailed a LOT of my demons. Honestly, I felt genuinely proud.

So here's my advice for a more body positive summer... (but it's more the things I wish I could go back and say to my self-conscious teenage self about summer:

  1. There is no such things as a ‘perfect’ body - magazines lie ALL THE TIME. There is also no such thing as a ‘Bikini diet, beach body diet, holiday blitz’ that will make you feel better about yourself without fucking with your head forever.
  2. Bodies come in a gazillion different types and every one is beautiful. Seriously, you’re a fucking snowflake.
  3. And yet… every body is the same - a leg is a leg is a leg. Your legs are just as amazing as the next person. Your heart beats the same. You are a miracle of science.
  4. Cellulite and stretch marks are part of life. You are not uglier for having them.
  5. Very few people have ‘abs’ in real life. And if they do they likely a) have incredible genes b) spend a LOT of time working on them, way more time than you (past Harri) would actually want to give them
  6. Embrace the shape you have. Whether you’re athletic, curvy or somewhere in-between you are lovely (And to past me: being tall and curvy, stop wasting hours of your life wishing you were petite and skinny.) Spend some time thinking about all the juicy good stuff that having the shape that you do provides you with e.g do you have great boobs? Excellent! Some people pay ridiculous sums of money for those. Tall? Yay! it’s great being tall at gigs. Petite? Then you have what I always wanted and you can snuggle up in super small places and whip through crowds really easily. There is something awesome about the shape that you have. Own it.  
  7. The people who love you, will love you regardless of how you look. Those who don’t are fuck boys/girls/people and really aren’t worth the brain space thinking about anymore.
  8. Invest in summer clothes that make you feel good, fuck whatever ‘fashion’ says
  9. EVERYONE feels hot and bothered in Britain when the weather is over 30 degrees. It’s not just you.
  10. Don’t spend time front of the mirror criticising yourself and picking on every area that you wish looked different. Instead, buy an outfit/swimsuit that makes you feel anywhere from ‘100% sexy’ to ‘OK’ (meet yourself where you’re at). Then when you look at yourself, pay yourself a compliment. Yup, this may be hard. But even if it’s just ‘good hair’ that’s a starting point. Repeat this exercise daily.
  11. Look for positive body role models and think about what they would say to you if they were there. Past me: sadly there wasn’t the movement of body positivity, but now there’s a whole heap of incredible women to look towards.
  12. When you feel yourself worrying about your body spend a few minutes getting mindful. Appreciate where you are and who you’re with. Think about the small details. What would you like to remember when you look back at this moment. If you’re on the beach, how nice does the sand feel between your toes? Is there the smell of the sea? Have you put your feet in the water? Have you smiled at something today? THESE are the moments that count. Not what strangers think about you. I really wish I had spent more time doing this.  
  13. You will never know what other people think (unless they say mean things to you, then you’re allowed to get very, very angry - and tell them what a total twat they are. #sorrynotsorry) We all believe that we know what people are thinking, but in reality, you’re unlikely to be right so try not to worry so much about it.  Especially as our brains are wired to think negatively (an evolutionary blessing but a social curse) so you’re always going to think the worst. Try this instead: if you catch your brain sending you negi-vibes, say, ‘thanks for that’, and try to counter it with some good vibes. For example, Brain: ‘Omg, I feel so hot, sweaty and disgusting. I bet I look a total mess.’ New posi you: ‘Thanks for that. I am hot but then so is everyone else. I look fine and no one is looking anyway, so no need to worry.’ This exercise is like a muscle, the more you do it the easier it is.
  14. Surround yourself with positive people. Don’t spend time with people who make you feel insecure. It’s totally OK to not want to hang out with those people who give you bad vibes!
  15. Eat the summer rainbow! Embrace all the amazing summer food e.g. all those fresh fruits and salads. Feed your body well and watch how your skin improves, your energy improves and your mood improves. How you feel is WAAAAYYYY more important that a number of a machine. Tip: get quiet and ask your body what type of fresh foods it’s craving, then eat those! Fuck any summer eating plans.
  16. And once again, THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS BEACH BODY READY. 

Summer is made for fun (on or off a beach) I wish I could have embraced more of these fun moments and worried less about my body so I hope these pieces of advice help you get out there and soak up some of Vitamin Sea. 

What are you top body positive tips for summer?

Let me know, 

Harri x