20something women discuss what a ‘beach body’ means to them

Colleen Woodward
Colleen is a24-year-old recent college grad and NYC newbie who enjoys writing about her day to day life epiphanies (which hopefully help others around her). She's enjoys exploring all of the coffee shops Brooklyn has to offer, spending way too much time binge watching shows on Netflix and snuggling her dog (well, really any dog). Instagram: @Collwoodward Twitter: @Collwoodward LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/colleenwoodward

I don’t think there has been a time in my life (besides when I was a carefree kid and didn’t think about this stuff), where I’ve felt like a fucking rockstar on the beach in my bikini. No matter what size I am, I still feel like a beached whale laying on my towel. I’m not sure how my mind turned from “yass, girl roll around in the sand and build those sandcastles” to “do not get up, every one will see your stomach rolls.”

Maybe it was the pressure in high school to be a size 0, and a few “friends” who encouraged eating next to nothing to get rid of my love rolls filled with chocolate chip cookies. Now, as a 25-year-old, I wish I could say I’ve grown out of the fear of letting people see my beach body, but I can only say it’s just as bad.

It really struck me a few weeks ago when I went to the beach, still thinking that everyone would judge me because I’ve been out of the gym for a little while now, only to see another girl to my right crawling into herself to hide as she took off her dress and sat down in her bikini. She looked great in my opinion, but she still did that awkward “no one look at me while I strip down into my bathing suit” move. And then I got to thinking, why? Why do we feel this way? Have women always felt like they need to live up to this magical and mysterious “beach body”? What even is a “beach body,” and why do I have this need to obtain it every year?

I decided to actually ask real women what a beach body meant to them. Not because this is some original question, or something that hasn’t been talked about before, but because I think this is a conversation that needs to keep happening. While summer is coming to an end, I hope we can take what we learn from others and create a new mindset about what a “beach body” means come next summer (or gain the attitude that my dad has about his beach bod- ‘I am what I am!’).

 

“It should mean that you’re comfortable in your own skin while in a bathing suit, but unfortunately that is not the first image that comes to my mind with that statement.” 

“I think a ‘beach body’ to me means that my body is fit as a result of working out in some way, but that it really only means this because of the way ‘beach babes’ and ‘beach bods’ are portrayed in popular culture. You’ll unfortunately rarely see someone described in a magazine as having a ‘beach body’ without abs or being thin in some way, so I naturally associate that image with that body type.

I’m lucky enough to be skinnier and I do work out fairly often, but I find that when the summer comes, I want to make sure my stomach is flatter and I have more muscles in my legs so that I fit into the image. It should mean that you are comfortable in your own skin while in a bathing suit at the beach, but unfortunately that is not the first image that comes to my mind with that statement.

I am happy with my body honestly, I am still a bit uncomfortable taking off my clothes into a bathing suit in front of hundreds of people in public. I think the reason for this is that a bathing suit is essentially underwear for the public, and makes us incredibly vulnerable to a reaction and to judgement from others, no matter how your body may look. I think the other reason is that our culture often body shames women, especially, no matter what their body type is, with heavier women getting the brunt of the reactions and judgements. – Ashley

 

“The body that you’re bringing to the beach.”

“Beach body doesn’t really have a meaning to me other than the body that you’re bringing to the beach. I’ve never said ‘I’m working on my beach body’ because if I’m working on anything, it’s the body I deal with everyday, not just the body that has to fit into a bikini at the beach.

However, I do feel the most self conscious at the beach or pool. I feel like everyone is staring at me and judging me (even though in reality, I’m sure no one gives a fuck what I look like or what I’m doing). It causes me to stay in one spot, and not go down to the ocean from the sand if I get hot, or get out of the pool to go tan in a chair, just because I don’t want to draw attention to myself. The bad self esteem also causes me to avoid fun beach trips with friends because I don’t want to have to take off my shirt. Self body shaming — it’s a thing!” – Samantha

 

“I feel nothing but awesome in my two-piece.” 

“Previously, my ‘beach body’ was this dream image of myself in a string bikini with zero cellulite, toned ab muscles, perfectly painted nails and breasts two sizes larger than reality. While I’ve certainly worked hard in the past and gotten close to this ideal, I never quite found that woman looking back at me in those cabana mirrors. Now that I’ve donated my body to human creation, I am very appreciative of this place that I’ve gotten back to.

Having a child, watching yourself balloon to a point you only thought possible after a defective Willy Wonka chewing gum stick, makes one very, very proud of their body when they get back down to a weight that doesn’t sound like a heavyweight champion’s stats. I don’t mind taking off my wrap at the beach. Instead of fighting against myself, I have learned to dress for my shape, accentuating my slim waist and camouflaging my less than flawless thighs. I look good, and with my little work of art splashing next to me, I feel nothing but awesome in my two-piece.” – Marien

 

“It is all about attitude and feeling good in your own skin.”

“I feel that a ‘beach body’ is something you are confident to show off. I don’t think there is one definition to the term ‘beach body’ because every person is different. You could spend all day comparing yourself to others but at the end of the day, that won’t change the way you look. I think it is all about attitude and feeling good in your own skin. Easier said than done, I know, and I have had my fair share of body image issues but I feel that a ‘beach body’ should be a body you are confident in no matter your size, shape, body type, weight. It is about attitude and confidence.

Initially I feel a little uncomfortable when I walk on the beach. I usually do a scan of the people around before I take off my shorts and shirt. I have realized as I have gotten older that everyone is NOT staring at me and judging me like I always thought they were. I have always struggled with body image issues but I try not to get down on myself. When I exercise,, I have to remind myself that I am doing this for myself. I don’t do it ‘just to look good in a bikini.’ If that is always the goal then I feel like that is too much pressure. I am who I am and yes some days I feel lousy about myself but I try to have more good days than bad and tell myself that I am strong and beautiful and worthy. Be nice to yourself and be nice to the other ladies out there struggling with the same things.” – Frankie

 

“We might have to focus a bit more on our beach mind instead of our beach bodies.” 

“A beach body: you have a body and you take it to the beach. So, everyone on the beach has a beach body 😉

Just kidding, but I wish this would be the first thing that would pop up in my mind when I hear the word. Yet, I have to admit, the first image that pops up in my mind is ‘perfect body,’ a super fit body without love handles, cellulitis, hanging boobs, six-pack etc. I am afraid that my interpretation of beach body is formed by the media and not by the beach reality.

“I am self aware when I walk in my bikini, but not super insecure. I love to go to beach, I don’t hide glued to my towel. There are moments on the beach I look at my belly and wonder if I have to to do more sit-ups and drink more water instead of beer/wine/cava. But these moments don’t last very long. Sometimes I hear women say about other women: ‘She shouldn’t complain, she has a perfect body’. But while it sounds like a cliche, how you see your body depends a lot on how you see yourself and not on how other people see you.

We might have to focus a bit more on our beach mind, instead of our beach bodies.” – Bianca

 

“I’ve got curves, thick thighs and a butt that rarely fits into anything other than a large – and I’m okay with that.”

“A beach body signifies something that women (and I say women because rarely do I see anything targeted to men for this) are supposed to work towards from about September to June every year, and when ‘beach season’ comes, society tells us that our beach body is a product of our hard work over the winter. It’s a tagline that the health and fitness industries make a KILLING from, because essentially it’s the most important season to look and feel your best. And come January 1, everyone tells themselves, ‘Ok, I’ve got 5 months to buckle down and then I’ll be ready.’

But if you’re a real human, you know that’s just not how it works. Life gets in the way, good food and drink, lazy days and better plans come along, and every year I feel like, ‘Well – better luck next year! Summer 2018 is the summer for me!’ There just is never enough time for me to get it together, but I admire the people who do – good for you, you go.

I’ll never be a bikini model, and I won’t be the same weight I was in high school. That’s just a fact that I’ve learned to accept – my body is different now, it’s more mature and my metabolism just isn’t as fast as I’d like it to be. I’ve got curves, thick thighs and a butt that rarely fits into anything other than a large – and I’m okay with that. And as long as I’m keeping myself healthy and strong, working out consistently, and not eating cheese fries for EVERY meal, the beach is going to get whatever body I give it.

Well, I can’t say that I’m necessarily “comfortable” in a bikini. I will never be the girl who frolicks down the beach without a cover up, and whenever I get up to go into the water, of course I feel like everyone is staring at me and judging me.The truth is, they’re not. And if they are – Who cares?

A beach body is anybody enjoying the beach – short, tall, round, lean, skinny – the beach is my escape, and is way more than a runway.”  – Susan

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