Saying no to getting bikini body ready

Next week Barry’s Bootcamp launches Hell Week, just one example of the many extreme measures we are supposed to take to get in shape for summer. This year Laura Craik says no 

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By Laura Craik on

“Hell Week is here!” proclaimed an email in my inbox yesterday. Golly. While it was true that I’d been experiencing a particularly busy and testing week, I’d have stopped short of equating it with actual Armageddon. Intrigued, I clicked open the email. It was from Barry’s Bootcamp.“It’s the one we’ve all been waiting for!” it crowed. “Hurts like hell week… join us for one class a day for seven days straight. There’s no better way to get those abs, buns and guns in gear for summer!”

As someone who has been to Barry’s Bootcamp – once – and nearly collapsed with a pulmonary embolism after fifteen minutes, nothing, not even the sight of a half-clothed David Beckham, limbs glistening in a sheen of superior, Brand Beckham-scented sweat, could persuade me to go back again. No, not even the imperative to “get in gear for summer”. This is principally because for me, getting in gear for summer means stocking the fridge with wine and beer, and buying steak and burgers under the illusion that this will be the year I finally use my barbecue. We don’t always get much “summer” in this country, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend it fretting about my guns. Not least because I’m not entirely sure what they are. 

For me, getting in gear for summer means stocking the fridge with wine and beer, and buying steak and burgers under the illusion that this will be the year I finally use my barbecue

Still, it would be a trifle (not the edible kind – get behind me, Satan) disingenuous to claim that when May rolls (not the bread kind) round, I don’t experience a pang of “oh – bikini season – probably should’ve stopped the weekly curry sessions back in April.” At this time of year, it takes a strong, confident woman indeed not to be affected by the annual three-pronged attack from the beauty, diet and fitness industries entreating us to shape up, slim down, and *buy our products because we are depending on your insecurities to swell our profit margins* get beach-ready. After all, we’ve been subjected to pics of celebrities frolicking on the beach since Boxing Day 2015. Maybe if we exercise a bit more, and ditch cheese, and eat freekeh once we’ve Googled what it is, we too will look like Alessandra Ambrosio in a bikini. Like, maybe if we suffer – really, really suffer – out of the ashes of our denial and our pain, a perfect body will rise.

Only it probably won’t. And we know it. The only certainty in this equation is that the industries preying on our seasonal asceticism will get richer. 

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I’ve nothing against a spot of self-improvement. Lord knows I could do with losing a pound or two. But it vexes me, the language used. It’s so… extreme. Hell Week. Juice Fast. No pain, no gain. And I look down at my stomach, and wobble it, and see how it spills over my waistband, and I feel sad that this flesh that has kept my intestines snug and borne two children is viewed by some as a defective body part to be either honed, planed and shrunk or covered up in mortification. Which is why every summer, I make the same vow. I will wear a bikini. I will wear one and remember what a holiday is for. And what it is definitely not for is self-flagellation. 

When I look up from my lounger each July, the thing that strikes me every year (and let’s admit, for the first 24 hours it’s uber weird to find yourself poolside with a random bunch of almost-naked strangers) isn’t how different we all look, but how much we look the same. We’re all just doing the best we can, in our bandeaus and our one-pieces and our trunks and our sarongs and our tankinis (and our Speedos, if we are German). We may not be Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds. But we are alive, we are on holiday and there is beer. 


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