Unhappy with body shape at 50? 

I received this message last week from someone who’d just been on holiday... 
“Lisa you need to do an urgent blog before everyone’s hols that being older and maybe curvier does not mean digging out a plain, black, shapeless, beyond boring swimsuit like the one you had to wear for school swimming lessons….you could spot the UK ladies a mile off sitting in the beautiful hotel around beautiful pools and on the beach. It just demanded bright, sunny, vibrant colours. Dare I say the foreign LCA's (ladies of a certain age) didn’t care and looked fab!! Help the UK out” 
Here is my response... 
In an ideal world we would all be 100% accepting and happy with our body shapes. Sadly, many of us aren’t. 
It could be body shape changes due to weight gain from motherhood/menopause etc. or even go as far back to school days and being teased for knobbly knees or tree trunk legs, big boobs, no boobs, fat bum, flat bum - whatever...sometimes these things stick and can make you self-conscious and affect how you show up in the world even as a midlife woman. 
You might very well be that woman in the black, boring swimsuit, not wanting to draw attention to yourself. The kimono/sarong/cover up your saviour as you stroll to your sunbed? 

Feeling self-conscious about my body 

I’m going to share some practical tips with you this week but before I do let me take you back to the early 1970’s. I've got a plaster cast covering my torso. It's from just under my armpits and goes all down my left leg to just above my ankle. It was after this surgery that I first recall being body conscious. 
Three months of the plaster cast and complete inactivity followed by crutches (the ones that hurt your armpits) meant that I got a bit tubby. I also had a large, raised, purple scar that ran from just under my waist to mid-thigh. Things were never the same again. This was when I started to limp. 
I think you get self-conscious around the age of 9/10 anyway as you hit puberty, but it was made worse by the scarring, limping and feeling fat. 
It was a Saturday morning. A cold, dusty church hall with that weird, varnished floor and puke smell. Rows of little girls in pink leotards. I'd wanted to have ballet lessons for ages, to learn how to spin round on my tippy toes and wear a tutu. 
The teacher wanted us to stand on one leg with our other leg bent up in a triangle, foot to knee, passé. I was struggling. My balance wasn't great (still isn’t) and mum had thought ballet lessons would help strengthen those muscles that had atrophied over the summer. 
The teacher came to help me. She was tiny. That's when I fell over on top of her. 
I was mortified...That's my first memory of feeling self-conscious; tubby, another large scar from my waist to mid-thigh and now unable to join in the same as everyone else. These days I don't mind the actual scars per se, although I am conscious of how they change my shape and how it looks in clothes. I work around it. 

Self-image and identity after weight gain 

This story from the 70’s is just one of my stories about self-image and identity. It’s a small part of my back story and is linked to why I'm so passionate now about empowering other women to look good and FEEL fabulous. 
Another part of my story is that I gained a lot of weight during my pregnancy with my son. Feeling conscious of my size, I started to live in loose-fitting clothes. Lots of black. I hated my body and never felt nice, whatever I wore. 
For seven years I kept pre-baby clothes in my wardrobe, the idea being they would inspire me to get my act together and lose weight. I yo-yo dieted and lost a significant amount of weight several times but even then, I never got back into those clothes. They languished in the wardrobe and seeing them was a daily reminder of how fat and frumpy I was feeling. 
A turning point came in the summer of 2007 when I decided I’d had enough. I remember making the decision that I needed to accept that I was now firmly in the plus size category. I removed the too-small clothes from the wardrobe and made room for new clothes that I liked and that didn’t just hang shapelessly on me. 
I looked for more colourful things to wear in brighter, bolder patterns. I put my clothes on the diet instead of me and started to wear more fitted stuff, which accentuated my assets and actually made me look slimmer, instead of hiding in baggy clothes. 

Body acceptance 

For me, it’s not about faults or flaws but more to do with accepting that we women have hang ups and baggage about our bodies. (There are years of shit from the media to blame for that, but that’s another topic altogether.) I personally can’t go as far as the #BodyPositive campaigners who celebrate being fat, because if there was a pill I could take that would make me a size 14 overnight I’d take it. So, although I don’t enjoy having excess fat, I accept that my shape is what it is. I have an ongoing struggle to change my weight still, meanwhile I can choose to dress well for my shape. 
My approach is to give you information, tips and tricks that will help you detract from your flat/fat bum, chunky thighs or thickening waist (insert perceived flaw) so you look and FEEL good in your clothes and become more neutral about said body part. I want you to feel empowered and confident in your clothes, not hide away or feel shame because your waist is not smaller. 
Tips for choosing swimwear to make you feel good 
So, back to the swimwear…Not sure which shapes or styles to go for? 
Here are a few tips for you… 
there are so many variations in swimwear these days if you look in the right places you are bound to get fixed up with something that will make you feel fabulous 
bra sized swimwear can be a confidence booster if you are well endowed 
solid colour side panels with a patterned middle section will give the illusion of a smaller middle 
shorts styles can make your legs look shorter/wider 
high cut styles elongate your legs 
bottoms with ties/ribbons/detailing will draw attention downwards 
strapless and bandeau styles work best for smaller boobs and shoulders 
wider straps will make your arms/shoulders/boobs look smaller 
tankinis are a good if you need to mix and match your top/bottom 
dense patterns or ruching camouflage lumps and bumps 
swim dresses are good for creating balance 
triangle bikini tops and halter necks are good for straight up and down shapes 
brief skirts (all in one) are good if you are conscious of your hips/thighs 
lighter/brighter coloured tops with dark bottoms will draw attention upwards 
halter necks accentuate cleavage 
These are my favourite places to look for swimwear 
EVERY body is a beach body 
So, whilst my clients might not all have stories of shame from when they were 8/9 yrs old I know for sure that how you look on the outside can change how you feel on the inside. And that can impact so many areas of your life including how you show up at the pool or on the beach. 
The one thing my clients do ALL have, is a sense of feeling LIBERATED, EMPOWERED and an increase in CONFIDENCE when they're working through my 4 step Project FAB! framework. You can have that too if you want to do the work. Imagine what you could achieve with a power boost from your wardrobe! 
And before I sign off remember – EVERY body is a beach body. 
‘Nobody is perfect. I just don’t believe in perfection. But I do believe in saying, “This is who I am and look at me not being perfect!” I am proud of that.’  
Kate Winslet 
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