I’m currently house sitting a massive 15 minute train commute from where I’m working. Given my usual 95 minute commute this is a massive blessing. It does of course play merry hell on my ability to people watch. But the people watching on this train line is very different to that on my normal Central Coast to Sydney run.
Last week I was standing near the doors of the carriage when I overheard a perfectly natural conversation between two young women. As the weather begins to heat up – although today is proving that theory incorrect – and people across the nation begin their annual pilgrimage to the beach.
Australia is a beach culture. There are hundreds of kilometres of golden sand beaches, oceans of water all around us. We are, by our very national identity viewed as bikini clad beach babes and speedo wearing life guards.
On the train the conversation went as follows:
Girl 1: Oh it’s gotten so hot so fast this year, and I’m not ready for the beach yet.
Girl 2: I know what you mean, I’m already regretting letting myself go in Winter. I’ve bought some tablets though, last time I used them I lost 4 kilos in the first week. I’m going to start hitting the gym so I can be ready to wear my bikini on the beach.
Girl 1: Me too. We should go together.
At this point I really had to fight the need to interject into their conversation Miranda from Sex in the City style. You know the scene, where she overhears two women debating as to whether or not a guy one of them is interested in is interesting back. She approaches them and says “He’s just not that into you,” and despite them calling her a bitch she walks off with a sense of satisfaction at having passed on some wisdom.
As I get older, I find myself wanting to do that more and more. I over hear things and think “Oh honey, let it go, trust me I’ve been there.” But honestly, it’s none of my business so I go back to my book or twitter and that is that.
Back to the girls on the train though. I glanced up at both of them. They were both beautiful, healthy looking young women in their early 20’s. Were they the swimsuit model look. No. They were just healthy, gorgeous women, with some curves here and there. And both were preparing to starve or sweat or take pills to obtain something in a magazine that is airbrushed to buggery and nowhere near realistic.
I got home that night and looked at my own battles with weight. Whenever I’m depressed I eat. Ice cream, pasta, hot chips. You name it. If it’s either salty or sweet I’m all up in that business. Usually sitting in bed, watching a romantic comedy and dribbling salty tears into a soup mug filled with Coke.
My body does two things well. It puts on weight at record speed but it also adapts to exercise and changes to eating plans well too. My weight goes up and down like a bloody yo-yo. When it goes up, I hate myself. When it goes down, the only way I can tell is because I need new clothes. My vision of myself remains the same. An amiable looking old fart with a belly you can balance a tea cup on.
At the moment if I tried to do that, that mug would fall off and I’d end up with a burnt crotch. But the image in my mind superimposes itself over the reality of what I see in the mirror.
I’ve been on every diet under the sun. Fit for Life, Weight Watchers, BodyTrim, Atkins, The Cabbage Soup diet (just don’t), The apple diet where all you eat is apples (also, don’t). I’ve cut out sugar, and fat, dairy and carbs. I’ve lived on protein only and I’ve lived on water and fruit. None of them lasted. Eventually my need to eat became too strong.
Back in the early days of my life I was rather large. Then I came out. The butterflies in the club were all tiny. Thin. Young. The first time I went to a gay bar not a single person spoke to me, and I decided “right, it’s because I’m fat.” So I left the club that night and went home and lived on apples, water and steak for dinner. That was it. I rode my pudgy legs on the exercise bike for three hours a night while watching TV and only allowed myself to drink water. The weight fell like a stone and the following month when I entered the club one of the pretty people I’d watched the month before came over and invited me to join him and his friends.
Granted, a lesbian couple asked me if I was sick because I’d lost so much weight so fast, but it didn’t matter because all of a sudden I was “in.”
The next month I halved the apples, doubled the water and left the steak at its previous levels and increased the exercise. The weight continued to fall and suddenly I had to buy new clothes. I bought skin tight stuff, pants that highlighted here, hid there. I walked into the club and a whole new group of people invited me to join them. I made friends, I was happy – hungry but happy – and I felt like I’d found a home.
I’d also dropped a dramatic amount of weight in the most unhealthy way possible and still saw myself as fat as a house.
One night as I was wondering around the house in 4XL sweat shirt that reached my knees and was getting ready to go to a party my mother came over and went to hug me. I stepped backwards into the grip of my fathers hands. As mum hugged me dad lifted up the sweater. Ribs poking out, chest sunk, hip and collar bones on display for all the world to see.
I twisted and turned, invented some rather descriptive swear words and was basically dragged into the lounge room, sat in a chair and received the lecture of my life. I was banned from eating my dinner alone in my room. I was banned from using the exercise bike for more than half an hour a day. I had to eat all meals in front of my parents. I could either agree to that I was going to be taken to the hospital. I hate hospitals. I agreed.
When I realised that my mother was reinstating the “clean plate,” policy of my childhood I had a few moments of absolute terror. How do you ignore stuff, or hide stuff when the plate is checked before you can leave the table.
Funnily enough, from those days I still have the habit of having a glass of milk with my dinner. I wasn’t going to have soft drink at that stage, so mum just replaced one of my waters with milk and made me drink it.
With the reduced exercise and the increased food I started to put on a little weight. I hadn’t realised it back then, but I was nothing but skin and bone. I looked like I was dying of something. A couple of months later I went to the club and the Lesbian couple took me aside and told me I was starting to look healthier, like the old me when I first came to the club. I went back on a diet.
Eating is – and probably always will be – a problem for me. I eat because I have to. I eat because I need the fuel. It brings me comfort when I’m sad, and when I’m not things taste better and I eat to enjoy it. But there is still a part of mind that blames huge swathes of problems – real and imaginary – on being “fat.”
Logically, I know I’m not fat. I’m a bit podgy here and there. I’ve got a bit of a belly and in a famine my love handles could probably keep me going for a week or two, but the thoughts remain the same, as do the images of myself inside my head.
When I over heard these two beautiful and healthy young women on that train I wanted to tell them one simple, guaranteed way to be bikini ready for summer. So instead, I leave the advice here. Not just for the women wanting to be bikini ready, but for the men who want to be swimwear ready to. Are you ready for the advice? Here it is;
If you want to be bikini ready for summer, put on a bikini. You do not need to change yourself, or how you look to the outside world to wear a bikini. Put one on and there you go, ready to wear your bikini this summer.