My body is 41 years old, has carried and delivered two children, remained in mercifully good health and, so far, has given me little to worry about. So, why did the younger me, like over 70 per cent of women, judge it so harshly? Here’s what I wish I could tell my 16-year-old self about the body she was born with.
Don’t put off the bikini
Nora Ephron was absolutely right, as always. Now is the time to put on a bikini and revel in the fact that your body will never look better. You will one day laugh at every body insecurity you had in your youth. In middle age, having not only given up on bikinis but also one-pieces, you will marvel at how insanely hot you were while fretting about nothing. No one in the world scrutinises your body as closely, nor as much, as you do. That bum cellulite you’re obsessing over? Few boys/men in Britain could even tell you what it is, and those who could would be so delighted to get close to it that they wouldn’t give a damn anyway. The gorgeous girls at school aren’t focused on your flaws either. You may not realise it, but they have a million concerns of their own.
You are never going to grow
Stop stressing about height. The number of inches between the top of your head and the soles of your feet is an extremely weird thing to worry about. I’ve no doubt it’s lovely to be tall, but being short has many benefits. It’s simply a fact that shoes look miles better on small feet. You will be able to buy children’s clothes VAT-free when even your own kids no longer can. Your low centre of gravity means your tall friends would kill for your ability to sprint for a bus in Louboutins. You will sneak and weave through the tiniest openings at crowded gigs and get to the front without anyone noticing. Your date or partner will always be taller than you, if that stuff is important. It’s very easy for a short person to hide from the terrible person at parties and you’ll always, always have legroom when flying economy. Besides, Madonna says “short people try harder”, and so it is law.
Follow the six-pack
There are six things you can do for your body now that you’ll never regret: look after your teeth (including regular appointments with the hygienist); wear sunscreen religiously; get cervical smears bang on time; don’t start smoking; check your boobs weekly; leave your eyebrows the hell alone. Most other things can be easily reversed or laughed at.
Do not crash-diet
You may currently know that the simple act of not eating much for a week will cause you to lose a large amount of weight in time for a party/prom/date. But please don’t engage in it because, however effective it is now, it will play havoc with your metabolism and, 20 years down the line, not only will you have the ability to gain 5lb in a single chippy supper, you will also find that any form of starvation alters nothing but your mood, to the point where you would do actual murders for a bite of Ginsters.
Nora Ephron was absolutely right, as always. Now is the time to put on a bikini and revel in the fact that your body will never look better
Avoid weight bores
People who obsess over diets, health and weight are the most boring people you will ever know in your life. Don’t let their insecurities ruin your lovely time or, worse still, encourage you to judge yourself with the same harshness. Nobody wants to hang out with someone who scrutinises menus before ordering steamed greens and a sorbet. Conversely, people who like food are fun, sensuous and celebratory. Some of the best laughs of your life will occur over a table of great food and wine, never over the roar of a NutriBullet.
Take a compliment
Compliments are like medicine. You may not want to take them, but they ultimately make you feel better. If a nice, well-meaning person says you look lovely in your dress, or that you’re talking nonsense about your small boobs/big bum/round tummy, then be polite and listen to them – don’t start arguing that they’re wrong. When people think a nice thing, they should be free to say it and not see it thrown back in their face. And then you, in turn, should pay it forward to the next person. It’s what makes the world go round.
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KNOW THERE ARE SOME UNIVERSAL TRUTHS
No one’s body looks its best, or even good, in ski pants, “skorts”, or boxy jumpers and T-shirts that finish on the waist. And that includes Kate Moss. Only Katharine Hepburn looked great in culottes and only toddlers and medical professionals can get away with Crocs. Tapered jeans make everyone look like they have an arse the size of Paris. Dresses in the right size are far more flattering than clothes bought too small. Clothes bought too big make you look massive and misshapen. However lame you find wedding dresses and bride fantasies now, if you get married, you are guaranteed to end up choosing the dress that makes your figure look banging. Resistance is futile.
LEARN TO LOVE EXERCISE
This is vital. Yoga, pilates, running, swimming, boxing, cycling, taekwondo, hula hooping – find something now and be a person who exercises, or else, mark my words, you will enter your thirties and forties surrounded by people who post their running stats on Facebook or photos of their climbing expedition on Instagram and you’ll wonder if you missed the meeting where everyone became so damn sporty. To not have nurtured even the vaguest inclination towards fitness is to feel embarrassed and left out.
CELEBRATE THE HANGOVER
Enjoy the elasticity of recovery following a huge bender of alcohol and whatever else. Because, in two to three decades, a hangover will feel as painful and protracted as a Labour leadership fight. Your body will no longer be able to bounce from the shower, ready for hair of the dog at your local beer garden. Instead, you will want to lie under your kitchen table, face against cold tile, and tell your kids to heat their own spaghetti hoops for the next six to nine days.
It's #BodyHonestly week on The Pool and all this week, we will be discussing our bodies, and how we feel about them.