At brief points this summer, the sun will emerge and when it does you should head for the beach. The backlash against body-shaming tells us that everyone is beach body ready and this is truth. However, there's no point pretending that none of us are bothered about stripping down to a swimsuit. If you're feeling apprehensive, read on for some last minute body-boosters.
1 Have a good scrub
This one will make you both look and feel better. Exfoliating gets rid of dead skin, unclogs pores, increases cell turnover and gets the blood flowing around your body. It speeds up the skin's natural renewal process, meaning your moisturiser will penetrate deeper. Your circulation will be ramped up and your skin will be glowing when you hit the beach.
2 Get a fake tan
If you can be bothered, slapping on some fake tan before you head to the beach will hide a multitude of blemishes and can be a good confidence-booster. To ensure it doesn't look patchy, exfoliate and moisturise first, paying special attention to the elbows and knees. Wear latex gloves to apply the tan as bright orange palms are a dead giveaway.
3 Get a new swimsuit
For many women, summer fuels body anxiety and the thought of getting in a swimsuit can be triggering. A study from Flinders University in Australia found that, for women, even imagining trying on swimsuits can bring on a low mood. "Self-objectification has a variety of negative consequences: always worrying about how you look and it's linked to eating disorders and depression," said study researcher Marika Tiggemann. While change will ultimately come from within, treating yourself to a new swimsuit will help. Allow lots of time and take along a friend for support. From one-piece wonders to boy shorts and tank tops, there will be one for you.
4 Boost your feel-good chemicals
Most of us know that regular exercise strengthens the heart, lowers the risk of chronic disease and blood pressure and helps keep weight in check. However, less talked about is the fact that exercise can also give your mood a boost, both in the short and long-term. Thirty minutes of moderate aerobic exercise is enough to release the beta-endorphins that increase feelings of well-being and to lower levels of cortisol, the hormone associated with stress and anxiety. Not only will you have a glow from your power-walk or swim, you'll be feeling happier too.
5 Stand up tall
You'd be surprised how much difference simply standing up tall can make. Good posture instantly changes the way your body looks, making you appear more streamlined, graceful and, importantly, more confident. In fact, walking tall will affect how you feel. Studies have shown that faking confidence leads to the real thing. Lift yourself from the rib-cage, keep your shoulders back and chin up.
6 Get a hat
A stylish hat will detract from areas you're less confident about and, better still, provide essential protection from the sun. A wide-brimmed hat covers places we usually forget to lather with sunscreen, including the top of the ears and back of the neck. The delicate skin of your face will also be protected, as will your eyes. Don't forget to wear sunscreen as well though.
7 Pamper yourself
Research has shown that the act of self-grooming will make you feel more confident and attractive. One study revealed that simply putting on deodorant is enough to boost the way you feel. Among a group of people who judged themselves to be heavier than they actually were, wearing deodorant improved the accuracy of their self-assessment. Similar studies have shown that wearing perfume will improve the way you feel. Allow yourself some time to get ready and you'll feel better all day.
8 Get a good cover-up
No, we're not telling you to hide yourself away, but if you're going to be out in the sun all day, some sort of cover-up is essential. Invest in a wrap, kaftan or sarong that you can throw on when needed. Not only will it protect you from the sun, it's reassuring to have something to throw around yourself when you totter from the sand for an ice-cream run. If you're confident enough to hit the shop in your bikini, good for you, but for lots of women a strategically-placed cover-up is essential.
9 Beat the bloat
If you're prone to a bloated stomach, be aware of what you eat the day before you hit the beach. Constipation, one of the lead causes of a bloated stomach, can be avoided by making sure there's enough fibre in your diet; include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds. You need to be checked out by a doctor if you think you're lactose or gluten intolerant but both of these can cause bloating. Fizzy drinks, processed food, and beans are all common culprits so give them a miss if a flatter belly is your goal.
10 Get some sleep
Getting enough sleep such as sleeping for at least six hours will help to speed up your metabolism, allowing your body to get back to operating at peak capacity so that food is processed efficiently. However sleep is also one of the best beautifiers, giving your skin time to heal and brightening your eyes. And last but not least, getting enough sleep allows you to keep your emotions regulated, lifting your mood.
11 Change your attitude
The bottom line is, you are ready for the beach this minute. You could ignore every single piece of advice we've just given you (apart from the sun-protection) and stride down to the ocean right now and you would be absolutely beach perfect. Life is short, we all have a finite number of trips to the beach in our allotted time, and society's narrow beauty standards are as irrelevant as grains of sand in the big scheme of things.
But words are easy and the painful reality is that many of us find it unbearably stressful stripping down to a bikini. There are some psychological tricks you can employ if this is you. One of them is to consciously phase out fat-talk from your conversation. "Women are notorious for passing the baton when it comes to body image," body image expert Robyn Silverman told Women's Health magazine. "If a woman says 'I'm so fat,' the other woman might feel like she has to say 'no, I'm the fat one. Have you seen my thighs?'" Silverman says that, by following this pattern, everyone ends up feeling worse.
And finally, be kind to yourself. How would you feel if you heard someone criticising a friend the way you criticise yourself? Remember, one day this trip to the beach will be a memory; don't look back and regret spending the day worrying about your cellulite. This life, this time on the beach, belongs to you.
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