Embracing the whole, beautiful & imperfect me. Swim outfit & all!
The surprising gift of my first 2017 adventure
This trip was significant for me as it meant tackling a list of fun “FIRSTS” that included pushing outside of my comfort zone. I’ve been on a personal mission to say “YES!” to life since I lost weight and put myself in the equation five years ago.
Before my personal transformation, I held back and lived a “small” and safe life. I didn’t put myself out there or take risks. Too often I let fear rule my life decisions — fear of what others would think, fear of looking silly or doing it imperfectly, and fear of failure often stopped me in my tracks.
Perhaps the saddest part of this reality is that I had convinced myself that I could be happy living small and safe. But the truth is, I wasn’t happy. I was hiding behind the layers of fat I donned for self-protection. I hid behind my work. And at my core was a foundation of low self-esteem, lack of confidence and a fear of not measuring up.
But I’m a success story. In 2012, as I reached my goal weight and the peak of living a healthy, happy and WHOLE life, I realized by definition “living WHOLE” meant putting myself out there. Taking risks and going for it, even and especially when I was scared. I decided to live brave. That meant saying “YES!” to life and tackling a whole list of “firsts,” seeking opportunities to grow and expand — even if that meant falling or failing. It’s been a fun and joyous ride, and five years in, I’m still going strong.
So what surprised me about my first big adventure of 2017 was how in the process of saying YES! and doing new things, I ended up embracing my whole and imperfect body and self in an even deeper way. That’s pretty cool and the focus of this blog.
I’ve decided to up the ante in 2017 by inviting and tackling new adventures and a host of “FIRSTS” — stretching myself farther than ever before. I’ve already done some pretty brave things since I began this journey to put myself in the equation back in 2010. I prioritized me and learned to practice self-care, attended weight-loss boot camp and eventually lost 200+ lbs, climbed mountains, fell in love, became a motivational speaker and a certified health and wellness coach, and launched a second business to help motivate and support others to get healthy — all pushed me outside that comfort zone to live in bold new ways.
But as I reflected on the lessons of 2016, I realized it was a hard year, often void of fun and the personal adventure that I need to continue to grow and thrive. So, to be true to Lori-in-the-Equation, 2017 needs to kick it up a notch and include a renewed focus on pushing outside of my comfort zone in even bigger and bolder ways.
The first opportunity out of the gate was my trip to Cozumel, Mexico, which represented a host of fun firsts:
- My first time traveling abroad by myself (on my way to meet a friend and travel companion);
- First time flying First Class;
- My first experience seeing and swimming in the spectacular Caribbean Sea;
- I learned to snorkel and ventured out twice in a choppy Caribbean (albeit with help);
- First time swimming with sea turtles!
- Met a host of interesting and fun people from the States and all over the world;
- My first time coming face-to-face (well almost ) with an Iguana (not my fav);
- Tried a host of authentic Mexican food for the first time, including plantains (not a fan), fresh papaya (good, but not my favorite fruit), flan (yes sugar! I liked it but didn’t fall in love) and more!
- And, spent most of my vacation in a swimsuit or swim outfit — something I was not sure about going in!
The surprise gift
There’s a sense of adventure, anticipation and exhilaration in tackling something new for the first time. And, although these were all fun “firsts” and I was on vacation in a gorgeous place, I still had some anxiety about a few of them — namely snorkeling in the choppy sea for the first time. But pushing past fear or anxiety and doing something new almost always gives me confidence and propels me to do even more.
The big surprise in this list of fun “firsts” was the latter — donning swimsuits and swim outfits on a beach, at a resort, in public! I was surprised how comfortable I became with my still somewhat “new” and imperfect body. I was able to embrace my imperfections as a vital and important part of me. A ME that I think is pretty kick ass!
It might sound trivial to some of you. But on this trip, I became even more comfortable in my own skin, literally. I began to experience an evolved appreciation and respect for my body, all its been through and how well it has served me today. Instead of only seeing my flaws or imperfections, I was able to celebrate being a fit, active, healthy and happy girl living WHOLE and BIG — saying YES! — and loving life.
Now, given where I started on the self-confidence and body image scale, this is BIG. And it’s many years in progress. So I decided to unpack it here in this blog and post some pictures — another big step for me.
Let’s start with the swim outfits
If you know my transformation story, you know that I almost didn’t go into the pool for cardio workouts in weight-loss boot camp in 2010. The fear of donning a swimsuit at 360+ pounds and the shame that carried with it was a deal breaker for me. I had not been in a swimsuit for 20 years and was determined NOT to be. I was so headstrong in this decision that I arranged a deal with the program director of the boot camp arguing that I couldn’t do the pool workouts due to a previous injury.
My sister suggested that I might regret that decision as the pool workouts would likely be easier and feel better than not. She urged me to reconsider and introduced the idea of a swim outfit, like they wear in triathlons. The swim outfit (swim shirt and crop pants) turned out to be my ticket at 360+ lbs. I got comfortable in the pool and survived weight-loss boot camp in my “cute” swim outfit.
So now fast forward to my trip to Cozumel earlier this month. As I was packing my swimsuits and swim outfits, I imagined feeling somewhat uncomfortable among the bikini-clad women all looking spectacular in their swimsuits. I wasn’t thrilled about exposing my post weight-loss self to the world wearing so little.
I packed the swim outfits in part for the reason of vanity and in part for practical reasons — I don’t do a lot of “sunning” on beach vacations as I’m cautious of the sun given my skin pigmentation and family history of melanoma cancer. For me, the swim outfits served a functional purpose too — color blocking of the sun’s harshest rays.
Well, the weather was cool enough in Cozumel to make a swim outfit the far better choice, especially when in and out of the water. But what I found once I decided to embrace both my swimsuits and swim outfits was a profound step forward in acceptance of my total self and body image. While I did note my body imperfections and admittedly comment on them a few times to my friend, through the week I practiced learning to embrace them as key part of me. And it worked. It came fairly easily to me, actually.
Do I wish I had perkier boobs at this age? Sure I do! (What woman doesn’t?) Would I be happier with less loose skin due to my severe weight loss — probably. It would be one less thing to worry about. But, despite this, I was able to get comfortable in my swimsuits and my new body. I began to embrace and really like ALL of me. And, in another bold move, I took photos of me in my swimsuits and swim outfits to aid in the positive and self-compassionate self-talk. This was the surprising gift of my Cozumel adventure.
Most of us have things about ourselves we’d like to change — physical and otherwise. But as a total package, I am finally able to love, accept and appreciate myself exactly as I am. I consider my current body, the right body for me after the battle I’ve put it through in my lifetime. It suits me. It is a record of how far I’ve come. I have so many things about myself I totally love — like my killer smile, my sparkling eyes, my height, my kick-ass red hair, and how strong and fit I feel. So to me, my body is beautifully imperfect. That is progress and therein lies the surprise gift.
The struggle with body image is not uncommon
It’s natural to struggle with body image — especially for women. I certainly struggled for most of my adult life and I work with people every day who have a hard time seeing and appreciating their real beauty — inside and out. Body image often has nothing to do with size, shape or being overweight. Most often it is the product of peer, social, cultural and familial values that we grow up with and that influence our self-perception and self-worth from an early age.
It occurred to me as looked around the pool in Cozumel, that there were very few, if any, people who looked perfect in their swimsuits. Well, okay, there was one tiny, gorgeous 20-year-old from Chicago who wore her bikini extraordinarily well. And a couple of young guys with six pack abs. But that was not the norm. Rather, I saw lots of beautiful and imperfect women (and men!). Most had flaws and imperfections, like me. Many had a lot “hanging out” of those swimsuits. In fact, there were more middle-aged men with pot bellies in those swim trunks than I can count. This should not be a surprise, right? It’s reality.
I settled into the notion that the most beautiful people on the beach and around the pool were those who did their thing and strutted their stuff with confidence and a smile, no matter what they looked like on the outside. The people who didn’t necessarily care what others thought about them. The ones who were laughing and enjoying the beauty all around them, including me and my brilliant role model friend.
A work in progress
I’m still a work in progress on this body image point, for sure. I think most of us are. It’s easy to slip back and let a self-critical comment slip. But the test for me is that after I returned and viewed my photos, I felt a sense of gratitude for my new healthy self — body imperfections and all. When I look at these photos and some that are too revealing too post here, I see a healthy, active, happy and fit girl living life and saying YES! I am not embarrassed. I am not ashamed. I am content and I’m a beautiful work in progress. I have to continue to work at my healthy, happy and WHOLE. But I am grateful for that gift as well.
For those of you reading this who are attempting to lose weight and envision a perfect body when you get “there,” I encourage you to be patient with yourself and to trust the process. To be open to your new self as you emerge and to love and accept yourself exactly as you are. This — I am learning — is one of the ongoing challenges and extraordinary gifts of personal transformation.
Thanks for letting me process and share this growth here. I appreciate it. And, while I don’t believe in sharing full on swimsuit shots on the Web for the world to see, I am sharing some of my swim outfit shots as a sign of a braver, bolder more confident me. I wish this for each of you as your personal transformation journeys unfold.
Cheers to many more “firsts” and to saying YES! to life and adventure in 2017!
View my photo gallery of fun and firsts in Cozumel, Mexico:
Read more of my blogs on body image, saying YES to life and living brave:
- Grateful girl on the mountaintop (Oct. 2016)
- I lived! I did it all! (Dec. 2015)
- Beautiful or Average? …Beautiful! (April 2015)
- How I lost 200+ lbs & reignited my life! (Feb. 2015)
- Battling with self image (Dec. 2013)
- One Brave Thing Series