When I was a kid, I loved swimming. Wet N Wild was my Nirvana. I could spend hours ducking under the water, pretending I was a mermaid – my hair looked amazingly green under water. But then I grew up.
Almost overnight, I started to notice my body and loathe it. My feet were too fat. My belly suck out. My thighs were humongous. They weren’t, I was ‘normal’ for my age, but rationality didn’t get a look in.
Swimming became something I started to dread. I would run from my locker and haul myself into the water, not getting out at the end of lesson until all of my classmates had retreated back to the changing rooms. As soon as swimming lessons petered out, I stopped going swimming altogether. I didn’t swim for years, until we went on our first family holiday to Tenerife. By then I was anorexic and dangerously thin. My swimming suit hung off me, but fuck, did I milk the Lido. I would swim until my parents would scream that my lips and skin had turned blue. Even then I’d ignore them and pummel through the water. When I’d get out, the first thing I’d do was wrap my legs and stomach in a towel, one that ending below my ankles. Walking was difficult. My legs were weak and could hardly support my body. But I determinedly put one shaky foot in front of the other, to keep up appearances. Collapsing onto the concrete was strictly forbidden.
More family holidays followed, but my paranoia only increased. Soon I wouldn’t even bother putting my costume on.
A couple of years ago, I appeared in a shoot for the magazine ‘Easy Living.’ The feature was called ‘Why I Dare To Bare,’ and featured woman who had been through hell and back with their bodies, and how they now felt confident to show it off to the world. But I didn’t. I wasn’t confident wearing a swim suit – at all. I was still ill and hadn’t been near a pool for almost a decade. But that didn’t matter to them. I just had to smile and pretend.
I’m twenty six years old now and I’m well. I can put butter on my bread. I can miss a day at the gym. I can wear sleeveless tops. I can stay in bed until noon and not feel guilty. I feel ready to get back in the pool. I have control over my body again and I want to sculpt it. Not in a dangerous, obsessive way. In a healthy, regulated way. I’m planning on buying a new swimsuit next week, and afterwards, I’ll celebrate.
I’ve been doing some research into the benefits of swimming to help me get back to the pool. Unsurprisingly, there are loads.
- It tones the whole body
- It strengthens the heart and lungs
- It’s excellent for weight control
- 30 minutes of swimming is equal to 45 minutes of activity on land
- It produces 90% less stress on your joints than other exercise
- It’s perfect for de-stressing
So, wish me luck. I’ll keep you updated on my progress. Hey, maybe I’ll get back to Wet N Wild one of these days, though I’ve heard it’s now a grimy haven for Chavs. Maybe not then.