Trying to Stay Body Positive at 40 Plus

I used to be a bikini model. I spent most of my teens, 20s and early 30s running around in a tiny bikini for various swimwear companies. Now I’m nearing 50 and usually opt for some modest boyshorts and tankini style beachwear. I recently accepted a job doing a video for a self-tanning product and when they sent the creative brief than mentioned most of it would be done in a bikini, I honestly freaked out a bit. I didn’t want to do it! And then I got mad at myself for comparing my body to my own 20-something body and feeling bad about it.

Me at 28, with zero Photoshop and feeling very comfy in my bikini:

I was always a very skinny kid. Too skinny, but it wasn’t for lack of eating. I was just naturally thin. I never needed to lose weight and even tried to gain more just to get some curves on my stick figure frame. I was like that all my life, until I got pregnant.

I had a baby at 40 and it seemed that everything just crashed and burned after that. I wasn’t expecting it to come on so fast. I was hoping to bounce back to my previous shape. Apparently, that shape had been stretched out to accommodate a 7 lb. living being, and there was no going back. There was a general soft, squishiness that wasn’t there before. My hard angles and all been filled out, leaving lumps and curves. I spent the first 6 months post-partum wearing my husband’s clothes because I looked like a stuffed sausage in my own.

Dealing with the Baby Weight

I had a tiny little baby belly all the way up until the last couple months when all I wanted to do was eat the Chantilly cake from Publix. I managed to pack on about 50 lbs. Afterwards I managed to shed most of it, but an extra 10-15 more pounds than I’m used to stuck around. And no matter what I do it still seems stuck. My body isn’t the same after pregnancy, and combine that with the natural effects of being over 45, well nothing seems like it will ever be “normal” again and I’m trying to accept it.

I went from a size 4 to a 12, then settled somewhere at an 8/10. I’m honestly ok with my size now. I look good in clothes. It’s just…everything is not as firm as it once was and being in bright light and swimwear really drives that point home.

When I saw that the job required me to put the self-tanner on while wearing a bikini, my first thought was, Nope! And then I was like, am I really going to give up a very good paying job because I’m embarrassed about my squishy belly? The same I see on other people and don’t think twice about because it’s really not that big of a deal?

Suck It up, Suck It In, and Do the Job

I mustered up my inner body-positive cheerleader, tried to tell myself, “All bodies are beautiful, including yours and everything it’s gone through,” and I turned on the camera and did the tanning video. And I get to do it all again tomorrow because they want me to film two applications.

Just getting through one set of filming was enough to make me want to run to gym and start doing sit-ups. Bright lights and a bikini, combined with the bending and twisting required to apply self-tanner, well… let’s say the final footage was not something I’ll be posting on Instagram myself. All the sucking in, posing just right and standing tall don’t work when you have to bend and twist to apply tanning foam.

It’s the natural progression of life. I know I couldn’t stay in bikini model shape forever. I just didn’t expect it to come on so quickly and be so persistent about staying around! I thought I’d go back to normal after pregnancy and then have some time to get used to things. It seems the last thing you have after having a baby is time to get used to anything.

I think this experience may inspire me to make a little more effort to work out. I know I won’t ever be in the same shape I was in my 20s, but I can certainly put up a fight and stay in a bit better shape now.

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