How To Have a Beach Bod by Sarah Herron
In celebration of our new #SuitUp campaign we asked creative director and founder of SheLift, an organization that empowers young women born with physical differences, Sarah Herron to share how she gets ready to dive into summer. But we could have never predicted how her photos created a deeper conversation on her own story of acceptance and offers advice to how we can all look and feel our best.
Preface: I wrote the following blog before seeing the photos that would accompany the post. When I partnered with Athleta for their #SuitUp campaign, I figured it would be an easy, breezy, wham bam thank you ma’am photo and caption about why I loved their product – which I totally do! So before heading to the beach to snap some pics, I wrote the accompanying piece. I was feeling really excited about this particular opportunity to discuss body image and I knew I wanted to tell a story about body acceptance – especially the complexities looming around being in a swimwear. Being photographed in a swimsuit is an extremely vulnerable expression for me, but this campaign perfectly timed up with my trip to Mexico… so I figured why not!? I ordered the suit from Athleta (details to come) and snapped some pics before a morning surf. Easy enough. But when Dylan showed me the photos, my immediate reaction wasn’t as I expected… and certainly not how I’ve reacted in the past to similar photos.
I saw my body. Different. Curvier, fuller, and dimple-ier than I have seen it in recent years. Surprised at myself for not immediately throwing Dylan’s very expensive camera across the room… I took a deep breath and reminded myself that “what I see is not a representation of me” …and then I ate some tacos.
Before getting into the thick of this post, I wanted to show you two photos of me in the same suit, 4 days apart…. I repeat FOUR DAYS. The first photo, I LOVED and thought I looked so great in. The second, I was repulsed by the sight of my cellulite. Fortunately, I recognize that my body hasn’t physically changed in these two photos… it was the perception of which I saw my body that changed. It’s still the same person, same body, same heart photographed… not much can physically change in 4 days. The lesson here is this: to anyone who has ever seen an image of themselves in an unflattering light and had their thoughts immediately begin racing with stories of how old, fat or out of control you’ve gotten… please know that it’s NOT real. Don’t let the wrong light, a bad angle, an unflattering outfit or a few margs determine your value in this world. You are loved 100% as you are… and the angle you take your photos isn’t fooling the people who see and accept you as you are.
HERE’S THE ORIGINAL WRITTEN PIECE…
This month my boyfriend and I made a trip to Sauylita, Nayarit, MX to attend our good friend’s wedding. Everyone knows I love me a good trip to Mexico and have been lucky enough to have my passport stamped by this fine country four times within the year already. Typically, when I know there is a beach vacation ahead, I start working out, eating healthier, planning my outfits, shopping for smelly-good things… and feverishly shopping for swimsuits. And as for most women I’d assume, anxiety ensues.
The pressure – induced solely by me – to be beach-bod ready, look great in photos and smell good (LOL) is insane when I say it out loud, yet remains a real behavior I am guilty of engaging in. What begins as an exciting and romantic, vision of vacation turns into an expensive and triggering month of anticipation.
We’ve all seen it, or maybe we’ve been it; the woman who over-exercises, restricts food intake and goes to the extremes to slim down… for a vacation or a wedding. I’ll admit I have been no stranger to get-slim-quick-fixes like liquid diets, cleanses, colonics, 2-a-days and in the past, even diet pills. This was NOT OK!!! Let the record state that in no way do I condone these behaviors. Going to the gym twice a day or starving yourself before a vacation is not how you will achieve lasting results or the confidence to fix deeper rooted insecurities. Besides the obvious health risks, this is the most ridiculous pattern of behavior we get ourselves into because as soon as we arrive at the wedding day… or the beach… we sip too many pina coladas, eat too many tacos and we feel more bloated and disgusted with ourselves than before we started and the cycle repeats as soon as we get home from vacation. The pressure we put on ourselves to “look thin” for these events is absurd.
So let’s put the “beach-bod” bone of contention to bed. Having a beach bod is not having Kim Kardashian’s, Bahati’s, Ashley Graham’s or even my body at the beach. Having a beach-bod means loving, accepting and feeling comfortable in the body you have – while at the beach. If having a body that you love, accept and feel comfortable in means you need to step up your yoga practice, cut back on processed foods or spend a little more time on your self-care before a big day, then ROCK ON GIRL! I fully support that. As long as diet and exercise are done in healthy moderation, and without the expectation that immediate results are not long-term impact. Feel good in your suit, but don’t punish yourself for not being the images you see in the media.
Then there’s swimsuit shopping – a woman’s most dreaded activity. The process of trying on swimsuits is enough to send my self-conscious demons into a tailspin. I am one of the lucky ones – like Kate Upton, Beyonce and Hilary Duff – who was born into cellulite. Ew, we are so flawed how can anyone stand to look at us, I mean really? But whether I like it or not, the dimples are probably with me for life and a cute, cheeky bikini bottom is not so I have to settle up with this body I have for the long haul. Over the last year or two, I have actively tried not to do any swimsuit shopping as I know it prompts negative self talk and behavior. Instead, I’ve found a few suits that I know I love and feel confident in – and have stuck with them.
When Dylan and I booked our trip to Sayulita, I knew it was going to be a psychological challenge for me. This particular trip was on the heels of a business trip to Los Angeles, which was on the heels of a the SheLift Mother + Daughter Ski Retreat, on the heels of a trip to Kenya, on the heels of a trip to Todos Santos for the SheLift Escape, on the heels of winter. AKA, several months of a lot of over-indulging… poor me, I know. But I knew I wouldn’t have time – or the ability – to spend weeks getting beach-bod ready. So I let it go and in return the universe gave a me some amazing gifts in exchange for surrendering.
The first was a swimsuit from Athleta. Without having to step foot in a store – with that godawful, unflattering fluorescent light, I quickly picked the Aqualuxe Lotus Bandeau Bikini and High Waisted Bottoms online from Athleta Swim and had them shipped immediately to my house. It was a total gamble, but I know I like high waisted bottoms (for extra coverage) and I know Athleta’s sizing has been tried and true for me in the past. The suit arrived and without ANY question it was the most comfortable suit I’d tried on in years and fit like a gem. I knew I’d feel confident surfing in this suit as it gave me lots of movement security and didn’t feel like it’d come ripping off in a wave.
The second gift from the universe was the realization of acceptance of differences in foreign countries. Being in Mexico, I was quickly reminded that women of all body types, sizes, colors and shapes are loved and accepted here. Seeing this acceptance surrounding me, gave me the confidence to walk town in my bikini, let loose, eat the tacos and drink the margaritas my heart and soul deserves!
I have been working on my self-acceptance for my entire life and I would be lying if I said I had the problem solved. I’ve spoken openly about my body image complexes in other posts and on my podcast. Why I love talking about body image is because it helps me heal and arrive to a place of personal compassion and acceptance of others. The more I openly share my feelings, struggles or insecurities about my body, the more women share with me – ultimately pulling back the curtain on the things we’ve all been trying to hide and keep secret for so long.
I would love to hear how YOU define what a “beach body” is. Do you have a vacation coming up or just the anxieties of summer swim activities that have your mental health doing a number on you? Comment below! If you’re looking for a great, athletic and fashionable suit to feel comfortable, confident and in control in, shop Athleta Swim here. #PowerOfShe #SuitUp