By Bee Williams
When I played dress-up Spice girls as a kid I always got given sporty spice, but I really wanted to be Ginger Spice. Partly because Geri was always the coolest and most outspoken, but also because being Sporty Spice had the worst outfits. To remind you, it was tracksuit bottoms and normally some kind of crop top. The nineties may have been a peak for the crop top, but in recent years I’ve seen more and more of them on the streets of London, and especially in gyms.
In my mind, there are specific people who wear the crop top. When I’m at pure gym, I notice them in their shorts and brightly coloured sports bras crushing it on the treadmill. At my gym, physical culture, there’s a couple of absolutely incredible women who wear sports bra type tops and they nail some of the biggest lifts in the gym; but then there are the people I see in nightclubs wearing “boob tubes” or tops that expose the majority of their midriff. You might assume that all these people have killer abs, taught young skin and a desirable belly button, but that’s not what unites all of these women- it’s actually a mindset that allows them to do this, and I suppose the best way to describe it is body confidence.
At the start of the year, I was 71kg and a size ten (ish) and many of my friends would encourage me to wear clothes that would expose my figure. I felt like that was an absolutely crazy concept, why would anyone want to see my belly? What if I felt fat that day or what if someone heckled me in the street? No thanks. I wanted to stick with my baggy t-shirt and sports leggings. I’m lucky to work in a corporate office that encourages very casual wear which means I can wear pretty much whatever I want, so the formula of trainers jeans and a nice big jumper suits me just fine. Even when I look back at photos of myself age 18, I’m always the one wearing something that goes in at the waist and then hides everything lower than that. My body shape has changed a lot in the last ten years, but I’ve never been brave enough for anything more than wearing leggings on a night out.
That’s why, when I started my diet in January I really thought I’d end up in August totally beach body ready, and likely to be the first person to whip off my sarong at the beach. I now weigh 57.8kg, and I’ve got actual ab muscles, and I could not be further from that objective. I assumed that changing my body was all that was needed to mean I could buy the elusive crop, but even though I’m the leanest and most muscular I’ve ever been, I still shy away from the camera at the pool parties, put my arm over my belly when I’m talking to someone and avoid full-length mirrors. The kind of confidence that I’ve grown in the last nine months is not less important- I’m now much happier to be in the gym on my own, I’m definitely more assertive in a group discussion about diets, and people now come to me to ask how I’ve done my weight loss.
One of my best friends genuinely does have beach body confidence, and when I look at her versus the other women I see on Instagram, she hands down wins the competition for most fabulous- she exudes assertiveness, she loves how she looks in the mirror and men/women are drawn to her because of it. Sounds like an impossible goal, but the only difference between me and her are mindset. It’s not about how many times my fiancé tells me I’m fit, or if my friends encourage me to show off the new six-pack, it’s about how I feel on the inside. A lot of people assume that because I’m the boss at work, and that I show a lot of confidence when I’m meeting or presenting to people, that this would naturally transfer into me getting out parts of my body after work, but it’s just not true. I’d sooner stand in front of 1000 people to present an idea than I would stand barely clothed in front of 2.
It’s not just women that suffer, either. My brother is ridiculously jacked, as is my fiancé, and they are still both hesitant when it comes to getting their shirts off in the hot weather- for my brother, he finds that the more muscles he has the more confident he becomes, and therefore working out not only makes him feel good, it makes him look good and feel good about looking good. It’s a positive cycle once you get into it. I really enjoy walking into physical culture and someone saying “wow, you look different”, or “look at those gainz” but until I can make the mental jump between people telling me something, and me actually believing it, the crop tops will be staying firmly in the drawer.
Having someone help me with my diet and my training plan has revolutionised how I look, but it also changed how I feel, and there’s no price on feeling good about yourself. Whilst the last hurdle for me is definitely still a challenge, I know that with the right support one day I’ll be the one posting bikini shots on Instagram and deadlifting in my boob tube.
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