Facebook decided to add some memories to my timeline this week, which was awfully, awfully sweet of it.
Especially sweet of it given that one of the photos was of me in a bikini.
CHRIST ALMIGHTY. Like, there should be a warning for that kind of thing.
The photo had been taken four years ago and in it I’m posing on a beach in Crete in a little H&M bandeau bikini set with the turquoise waves lapping at my ankles like Rudey when she’s in a hell of a mood and wants nothing more than to turn my ankles to shreds of gleaming red ribbon. She’s cute like that.
I remember this photo being taken so vividly because I remember feeling ridiculously self-conscious. I wondered if people would watch me pose by the sea, wondering why I – with all my rolls and tree trunk thighs, would want a bikini snap of me looking like this to look back on.
I’m posing with both hands on my hips, desperate to hide any signs of back fat snaking its way round to my sides – to flatten down my muffin top, to hide any evidence that my body was anything less than 102% toned.
I look back at that girl and all I feel is overwhelming regret.
Because when I look back at her now all I see is a smokin’ hot babe. I think I look great. In fact I look the best I’ve probably ever looked as an adult and yet I had no idea.
I was so completely absorbed in the fact I no longer weighed nine stone the way 15-year-old me had weighed nine stone that I couldn’t see myself as anything but hideously obese unless I weighed that end target.
I’d just started my job at LOOK and was commuting from my dad’s house in Sussex. This was during the time he was ill and my life had become a repetitive circle day in and day out. I’d wake up at 6am for the 6.40am train from Angmering station. I’d roll in on the 6.30pm train and head straight to Virgin Active for a swim and then I’d have a small dinner and bulk cook enough pasta with vegetables and chorizo to last me several days worth of lunches.
When this photo crept onto my timeline it made me question how I’d looked on previous holidays – had I always looked like this and always hated myself for no reason?
I found another photo of me in a bright blue size 12 Topshop bikini from the summer before, when I’d jetted off to Magaluf on a post-graduation holiday with my uni pals.
I’d been dieting for 6 months prior to the trip, I’d been running a lot. I’d been eating a LOT of melon and grape salads from Tesco Express for dinner, paired with a packet of Chicken Fridge Raiders (FML, I’m so mortified – who actually eats those? *enters 64275746352 of the laugh-cry emoji).
I’m posing on that island in the middle of the sea just off the Magaluf beach – y’know, the one you can just about pedalo out to?
I remember posting this photo to Facebook too. I in no way felt good about myself in the photo, but wanted to show off the fact I’d just been on a beach holiday because isn’t that basically what we all use Facebook for, anyway?
My best friend had commented ‘Cracking body HG’ and I’d been pleased that it’d had some pity attention. That she was trying to build my confidence up. But i was so overly aware that I was so much bigger than all the other girls who uploaded bikini snaps to social media.
But now? Now I look at this photo and think how utterly and unbelievably stupid 21-year-old me was.
How blinded by a need to be a size 8 I was. How sure I was that I’d find true happiness, true successes, that boys would flock to me, that everyone would love me, if only I was slimmer and hotter and sexier.
Granted, I’m not toned, but there’s so many wonderful things about my body that I totally ignored at the time – my tiny waist, the way my body had that 1960s siren curve to it and the fact I was always smiling, always happy and beaming confidence even if it was fake.
Some days I still feel like that insecure, body-conscious. That blogging would be easier if I was less of an in-between of classic Missguided model and plus-size.
And a lot of the time I find it mortifying to look back on recent photos of myself in bikinis, especially ones that I haven’t known have been taken. I’m not proud of my body and when I’m on a beach on a press trip with fellow journalists and bloggers, it DOES embarrass me. I do feel self-conscious and I beat myself up for not having the will power other people must have to look after their incredible bodies.
I don’t laze around the house surrounded by piles of rotting pizza and overturned tubs of pick ‘n’ mix, for the most part I’m a healthy eater, but not an extreme healthy eater. Sometimes I eat pasta, sometimes I eat salad, sometimes I eat granola and sometimes I go out for brunch and order all the bacon. I eat in moderation.
But then I remember something I hear time and time again – that losing weight doesn’t bring happiness. And that’s from people who’ve beaten the main hurdle, they’ve stuck to their diets and exhausting exercise regimes and they’ve whittled themselves down to a smaller number on the scales and then they’ve reflected back and realised they were happier before.
That actually, happiness has nothing to do with our body shape.
As we get older our bodies and our faces get further and further away from the way the media and society deems us to be beautiful.
I read somewhere that someone’s main piece of advice to their younger self was to take more selfies because you will regret not making the most of looking as beautiful as you do before age gets you.
And, as scary as that sounds, that one day we will look back at all the photos we have stored up on iPhoto and iCloud and Instagram and whatever the future invents and feel waves of sadness that we no longer look the way we once looked, it’s motivation to love ourselves now.
We need to stop looking for flaws. Stop trying to bring ourselves down by concentrating on all the things we hate – the lack of thigh gap, the flat chest, the oily t-zones and the little roll of belly fat that appears when we sit down – and learn to appreciate how hot we are.
To see how amazing we are, even if we don’t look like we were born to a human and a Photoshop update.
We need to love ourselves and the way we look because otherwise in a few years or a few decades we will look back and wonder why we didn’t wear the damn mini skirt whilst we could. Why we didn’t wear thong bikini bottoms whilst our bums were still the right side of our knees. Why there’s no photos of us on that beautiful beach to prove we were there.
But most of all,we’ll wonder why we spent so long whirling up negative thoughts about ourselves in our heads when there was nothing negative about us. Why we wasted so much time and energy on hating ourselves instead of being the happiest, best versions of ourselves.
Our bodies represent such a tiny part of who we are, and I think sometimes, amidst all of the Mail Online’s ‘flaunting her curves’ and the ‘beach body ready’ ideas floating around in lame advertising, we forget that.
So, here’s to being proud of everything that we have. Even if you’re lumpy or bumpy or small or big, you’re pretty damn ace.
No really, you are.