In one week, I’ll be flying to the sunny shores of the Algarve. When I do so, I’d very much like to be in possession of a ‘beach body’. Don’t close your browser, I too blaze with fury when I see the happy words beach and body coupled in this noxious way. I know all too well how galling the oft-used expression is, full of conformist overtones and demeaning undertones. More to the point, the expression simply doesn’t really mean anything.
Okay, I’m being glib. I of course know what the coupling is intended to mean and, as one interested in beautifying and who spends a large portion of time writing about beauty, I am naturally curious as to how a greater degree of pulchritude can be achieved in minimal time. And yet I am somehow still irked by the idea that we women (and some men) must capitulate to a certain aesthetic on the beach (‘long legs! caramel skin! honed abs!’), and also completely demoralised by the implication that the body we inhabit year round just won’t cut the mustard on the beach.
While ranting about this yesterday, my patient listener pointed out that only five minutes previously I’d been extolling the virtues of herbal tea for slimming down prior to my holiday. I was guilty as charged – I’d like my legs to be long, my skin to be caramel and my abs to be honed for both the beach and an outing as a bridesmaid later in the summer. Do I want to do this so I can parade my body around invoking envy in others? God no. I want to look good because it makes me feel good. I like the comfortable sensation of being able to slide my skinny jeans on with ease, the liberation in being able to jump and run without wanting to readjust my clothes to hide the bad bits and the shortened dressing time (good body = slip on a dress. Done).
Does my stance on this preclude me from being a feminist? I like to think not. After all, surely feminism is about choice: that I find my body more comfortable when it is less commodious is as much a choice as any other. Granted, my ideas on what constitutes a good body may be conditioned by advertising/Western beauty ideals but let’s leave that aside for now (whole other massive post) – the point is that I, like many, want to feel healthy and toned all year round, but particularly so during warmer months when more of me is on show. I’m not talking dieting yourself down to a bag of bones. No. Simply little routines that will make legs look a little longer, skin more uniform and abs a little more visible.
My Ideal Routine //
Before Breakfast /
My sister has recently discovered apple cider vinegar. It’s one of those cure-alls health food shops like to push as it supposedly helps diminish acne, reduces bloating, keeps the body alkaline and all that jazz. While I was a little sceptical, I started taking little shots of hers in the morning and before meals and am hooked. It makes me feel ‘clean’ (I cannot think of any better description for the sensation after downing a little) and curbs my appetite slightly.
After my vinegar in the morning, I’ll have a hot water with lemon. Another recommendation that makes it onto most health gurus lists, this is another way to start the day feeling ‘clean’.
While my tea is cooling, I try to fit in some yoga. While I won’t always manage an hour, I do ALWAYS stretch in the morning (if any of you don’t do this, could you please tell me how you get through a day without it? My muscles knot horribly if I forget). As it’s warmer at the moment, I’m doing this in my BAM 3/4 yoga leggings and bamboo long sleeved t-shirt – they’re comfortable, stretchy and allow the skin to breathe.
I’ll also quickly give my body a good brush and hop in the shower with a body scrub (my current favourite is the Body Shop’s Cocoa Butter Scrub – very granular, very smoothing) and Balance Me’s Toning Body Wash. Once out, I rub Burt’s Bees Coconut Foot Cream on my feet and Balance Me’s Toning Body Oil on the rest of me.
I’ve made sure I don’t skip a single breakfast – apparently this is where many go wrong with diets. Having said that, sugary cereals aren’t exactly going to do you any favours either. I’ve started eating Primrose’s Kitchen Raw Carrot, Apple and Cinnamon muesli with Koko coconut milk – together they are slightly sweet and full of flavour but provide slow release energy.
If suffering from hunger around 11am, I’ll drink herbal teas. My favourites for diminishing stomach rumbles at the moment are Teapigs Liquorice and Peppermint or Clearspring Roasted Twig Tea. I also take another serving of apple cider vinegar.
Lunch / Loading a plate with fresh, organic greens is always a good move, but if, like me, you’re a hungry person and need some carbs to keep you going, this is the time to have them. In Copenhagen, I was surprised (and delighted) to see lots of extremely lean women eating bread with gusto. When speaking to a baker out there, he told me that in Copenhagen everyone eats bread because they make it all fresh with whole, unadulterated ingredients. When I add bread to my plate, I try to follow the same rule (rye and wholegrain are current favourites).
Mid-afternoon / More herbal tea and a sensible snack in the form of a few almonds or anything protein-rich to keep me ticking over nicely.
Dinner / Another good, proper meal here. I find that if I eat a little salad, I’ll tend to feel I’ve missed out and as a result am more likely to want to eat a snack late at night. This is when I take supplements (currently: Advanced Nutrition Programme Skin Accumax and Skin Vitality). Also, I’ve been giving alcohol a miss as much as possible – it doesn’t provide any nutrition and makes me look puffy and unhealthy.
Before Bed / If I have time, I have a bath with some of my beloved Kneipp bath salts before doing a little more skin pampering (frequent readers, you’ll be used to my obsession with skin – new readers, I’m enormously fond of silky smooth skin). First, a little body oil (right now, Jurlique’s Lavender Body Oil). Then more foot cream, followed by hand cream (I’m using Korres Almond Oil and Calendula at the moment).