There is no way you will have missed the furor a few years ago about the advertising which introduced the phrase “beach body ready” into the general parlance of the country. The ad, which has been described as both wildly offensive as well as a work of PR genius, basically shows a woman who is (to most minds at least) classically attractive, standing in a bikini and nothing else in order to promote weight-loss products.
I’m not going to rehash the whole debate from 2015 about body positivity as I’m definitely not qualified to do so, but the phrase has stuck in my mind over the years as more than simply an example of how to generate attention in the media (good or bad).
I’ve never had a body which I would consider ready for the beach. By that, I mean something which I would class as chiseled and defined. Think Ryan Reynolds in Blade 3 (here you go), Channing Tatum in Magic Mike (have a peek) or Idris Elba in almost anything (you’re welcome).
Yes, yes, I know that not everyone finds that sort of thing attractive. Apparently there are some women out there who actively like the dad bod, or a much bigger, burlier man, or perhaps even a skinny weed instead (see my ex-wife and her current activities for evidence of the latter), but I, for one, think that those three aforementioned man-gods and their ilk represent peak physical beauty in terms of body shape in my eyes.
In my younger, mid-20’s years I used to be hyper-fit. I played a lot of Australian Rules Football (if you’ve never seen it then you need to check it out), which meant training twice a week and then playing at weekends (I’d often play two games as they needed British players). I also cycled sixteen miles to and from work each day and went to the gym to do fitness work, lift weights and swim. And do you know what that did to my body?
Not a bloody thing.
I’m sure my insides were all sorts of loveliness, but outside I barely looked any different to normal. I could do 100 sit-ups and 50 push-ups each within a minute without breaking sweat but not a hint of a six pack nor a defined bicep was to be seen. I know this was probably down to the amount of cardio I was doing, and how I didn’t concentrate on building mass and defining muscles, but I still expected to see something.
These days I lead a far more sedate lifestyle. As I’m a single parent I can’t commit to being part of a sports team anymore, and as I am busy searching for the love of my life I’ve not really got time to commit to the gym. I have run (I did my first ever 10k last year, and managed 55 minutes despite zero training) but I’m not yet a runner as, though I like having run, the process of running bores me.
As a result, I’ve not got the body I want. One where I can tense a muscle and it can be seen in definition through my shirt. Where I can wear super tight fitting clothing and not worry that it’ll pull at the buttons the second I slacken my posture. One where I’ve got a flat stomach rather than a slightly concerning waistline that is starting to feel a little tight in some of my 32″ waist trousers. And certainly not one which I would be proud to show off on the beach.
That’s not to say that I don’t feel attractive. As has been written about by people far more knowledgable than I, attractiveness and sexiness have little to do with the shape of a body. Whilst some of the sexiest people in the world actually do have stunning bodies, others have less traditionally sought-after silhouettes. After all, I’m pretty sure no-one is after Boris Johnson because of his fitness regime.
I know I’ll never have a Magic Mike body as that’s not really in my gene pool. Even if it were, I simply wouldn’t choose to dedicate the amount of time required to build and maintain it – I like fry-ups and alcohol far too much for that. However, I do know that I’ve not got the body I want, nor one that I’m capable of. And I’m noticing it more and more.
I’m starting to get self-conscious when I look in the mirror. I’m starting to worry that a woman might look at me and see my body shape while sleeping and feel even slightly disappointed or repulsed. I’m starting to not wear certain clothes as they’re too tight around my body. None of that is good.
What I need is some motivation. Something to aim for. Something which I can set as a goal, and prepare for as I do with other things. I have the ability to run in order to work off some of my body fat, and now that the weather is getting warmer I’m likely to start doing that again. I’ve got some weights which I can do of an evening in front of the tele, even when the kids are here. All I need is the motivation to do them.
There was a classic Friends episode, where Phoebe was dating two guys at the same time (there are recaps on YouTube if you’ve got four minutes to spare); one she thought was really smart and sensitive while the other one had a smoking hot body. Turns out they were both smart, sensitive and had great bodies. I’m at least 30.2% smart and 47.9% sensitive; I’ve always wanted to add that last element to myself too. Not because I want to be the centre of attention, not because I think it’ll make a blind bit of difference in the grand scheme of things but because I want to. For me.
This year I know I’ll go to the beach at some point. I’ll take my top off, and walk around displaying dark tattoos on white skin to the embarrassment of my kids. This year though, with a little support, encouragement and motivation, I might just do it without the thought that my body is anything other than worth looking at over a pair of lowered sunglasses. And in a good way, this time, rather than a “get a load of what that lobster looks like”.