I’m 38 years old. At this point, my goal is to feel good in clothes, not look good in a bathing suit. Because really, how much of my time do I actually spend in a bathing suit?

These unwittingly wise words from my very smart bestie changed my life.

That very, very smart bestie and our extended families, along with our other bestie and her extended family, take a family vacation together every year. Like, every year since we were born. So, it’s a bit of a tradition.

And us three girls, at least since we hit puberty (some of us longer), have tended towards….let’s just say my dad used to call us “Big Girls On Parade.” (Such a sensitive guy.) Each a little differently, but each with our own body struggles. And every year since we were teenagers, the running mantra was, “I’m going to be so skinny for our holidays!” Every summer. For our whole teenagehood.

Three Besties - Sara Ramsay

Adulthood saw us faring a little more sanely. Sometimes. Having kids of our own, growing up, and caring less about the boys on the beach helped us feel a little less insecure about our bathing suit bodies…but only sometimes.

“I’m going to be so skinny for our holidays. You don’t even know.” It morphed from dead serious to dead-pan comedy somewhere through the years. Thank god.

Each of us has waged our own battles – some more privately, some more publicly – with our bodies over the years. And as I look down the barrel at summer again this year, realizing that I am an unwanted 15 lbs heavier than I was last summer, I am stopping to pause and reexamine a few things.

I am considerably more fit this summer than I was last summer, as I’ve been running as consistently as my body has allowed, for over a year now. I have good days and bad days, good weeks and bad weeks, good months and bad months, in terms of my body cooperating with my exercise plan. But overall I can move more, and that movement is full of more joy than it was a year ago. That’s a win.

I am once more facing the struggle of choosing to love my body where it is, because I know from years of personal experience that my body will not shift for the better until I love it as it is. I have not found the golden ticket. This is a struggle I come around to time and time again. I choose to see that as an opportunity for learning. And say thank you. Again.

The clothes I had that I rocked last summer are a little too tight this year. I’m a little too stubborn and a little too broke to buy new ones. So I’m deciding to force myself into them anyway, bound and determined that it won’t be long before I fit them properly. Not sure that’s really a win of any variety.

Wanting my weight back where it was so badly brings up all my food issues. Again. When I was so sick with migraines for a year and a half that I lost 85 lbs as a result of not being able to eat, that was what you call medical anorexia. It was the first time in my life I had ever danced with an eating disorder on that end of the spectrum. I’d always been a compulsive overeater – an emotional eater. But never purged or withheld food. But once I couldn’t eat because of the migraines, it was pretty easy not to eat for whatever reason. I was always aware that it was a slippery slope, and I kept in good communication with my doctor about it. And it never got too out of hand.

But boy does it look attractive now. I could just go back to not eating for awhile and drop the extra weight. Wouldn’t be that hard. Wouldn’t even take that long.

Fucked. Up. Yo.

This is what we do to ourselves when we wage a constant battle with our bodies. We need to work with our bodies, not fight against them. We need to love our bodies, not hate them into submission.

We need to work with and love our bodies, not fight against them. Not hate them into submission. Tweet it!

“I’m 38 years old. At this point, my goal is to feel good in clothes, not look good in a bathing suit.” I come back to these words again and again. I’m 41 now, but the words mean the same thing. At this stage of my life, I’m not here to have a Baywatch moment, I’m here to enjoy my life and feel confident in it. And feeling confident in my life includes loving the body I’ve got, dressing for the setting (I happily wear a bikini on the beach, baby tiger stripes and all, because dammit….they don’t make a one piece that will hold my tits up), and choosing confidence and joy.

It’s a choice. Nobody gets to determine how you feel about yourself except you.

You. You choose.

So how do you feel about yourself?

(Or…how do you want to feel about yourself, and what steps are you taking to make those feelings reality? Tell me in the comments below…)