The Bikini Body Myth | An Interview with Mandy Richardson
Bikini enthusiast and blogger Mandy Richardson has a few opinions on what it means to have a bikini body in this day and age. Full time blogger and writer for mandylandrocks.com and Pastry Pimp for toogoodtriangles.com, Mandy has spent her share of time figuring out who she is, and having fun doing it along the way.
The idea of the bikini body or the beach body is one which has given Mandy much pause to think over the years. Being a lover of healthy living, and as someone who loves to don some skimpy swimwear, even in the privacy of her own backyard, Mandy has spent years pondering what it means to have a bikini body, or want one.
As much as women would like to think that a bikini body is a cookie cutter template that they can force their own body into, based on fluctuating societal expectations, Mandy knows that it’s not that simple as that.
This is what we wanted to talk to Mandy about. Is achieving the perfect bikini body more than just working out, eating right, and sculpting your body as you like it?
Here in this interview, Mandy dives deep into questions around this topic to try to examine, in a holistic way, the ideas and emotions around the bikini body concept. Enjoy!
What does a bikini body mean to you?
Despite my love for wearing bikinis, the term ‘bikini body’ seems absurd to me because it implies a restriction as to who should wear one based on body type and a bikini can be worn by anyone regardless of body shape or size.
In my opinion, there’s no such thing as a bikini body, but there is certainly a lot of societal judgment surrounding certain body types, as well as ridiculous arbitrary rules as to what can and cannot be worn by women at various sizes. If you have a body and you put a bikini on it, then you have a bikini body. That’s the only sane definition I can think of.
I happen to live in bikinis pretty much 24/7/365 and yes I even wear a bikini top under my clothes in winter, but that has nothing to do with my body and everything to do with what I feel most comfortable in. I feel free and summery in a bikini and bound and restricted in things like bras and sports bras so I embrace the former and avoid the latter as much as possible.
I think people should just wear whatever feels great to them, whether that means being scantily clad, covered from head to toe, or anything in between. Bikinis aren’t for everyone and wearing a bikini isn’t everyone’s goal in life, nor is having a body that society deems acceptable for wearing one.
If you feel more kickass being fully clothed year round, then keep your clothes on. It’s no one’s business what’s going on underneath them and you don’t owe anyone a glimpse of your goods. And you’re certainly not missing out on anything in life if you never achieve the illusory “bikini body” people seem to be so obsessed with.
Do you feel like you’ve always had a bikini body?
I have always been most comfortable in a bikini regardless of my size (which has fluctuated over the years from petite to more curvy), and that’s because I’m a summer lover and I think a healthy dose of sunshine does wonders for our spirit and our health so the less clothing the better for me!
Was there a time when you felt self-conscious about your body in a bathing suit?
More accurately I would say that I have spent most of my life feeling self-conscious about my body regardless of what I was wearing or not wearing, which is an inner struggle I still face to this day but much less often than I used to. I am a work in progress just like everybody else, and my goal is to continue to learn how to be as self-loving and as self-accepting as possible.
I do think I’ve always had a body that certain others find appealing, but that has never helped me to feel good about my own body. Self-love and self-acceptance is an inside and lifelong job and it’s not always easy. Not for me at least.
Plus, I don’t want my love for myself to be dependent on the size or shape of my body or how I look at all. I think it’s fine to love and celebrate these things and I certainly do through flattering photos, but I don’t want my happiness, self-esteem, or self-acceptance to be dependent on externals because all these things are temporary. I think it’s much wiser to learn to practise unconditional self-love because that good stuff is forever.
What do you do personally in order to get a bikini body?
I exist. I can put a bikini on whenever I wish regardless of what my body looks like. Just like anyone else reading this.
Once you’re rockin’ a bikini body, how do you maintain it?
The things I do for my body and health are not inspired by vanity or for the purpose of looking good in a bikini (although looking great is a sweet bonus), but if that’s someone else’s sole purpose for making significant changes in their diet or exercise routine, that’s awesome and just as powerful! Do your thing!
Personally I don’t maintain my health just for looks because I need a deeper and more meaningful reason to commit to something or else I won’t stay the course. So I maintain my health and well being because I want to feel as great and as light as possible in my body while I’m lucky enough to be alive. Liking what I see in the mirror is just icing on the cake.
I keep myself and my spirit feeling good with healthy foods, occasional indulgences, lots of water, daily naps, daily sunshine, daily exercise, daily gratitude, daily writing, creative self-expression, positive thoughts, deep and meaningful relationships, doing work I enjoy, actively working towards my dreams, spending time with trees, and lots of snuggles with kitties.
Generally, what kinds of foods do you eat?
Overall I follow the Paleo diet because it reflects the way I naturally like to eat. I’ve never been a huge fan of breads and grains so it’s easy for me to eat clean and gluten-free without much effort. Getting off sugar was the biggest challenge for me but I’ll speak more on that later.
I primarily eat foods that I prepare myself and a rarely have anything processed. That being said, I’m not super strict. As long as I’m eating amazing 80%-90% of the time, I don’t mind indulging in something I normally wouldn’t.
I eat lots of veggies, homemade dressing on my salads, homemade non-bean hummus made out of cauliflower and zucchini and other yummy things, berry smoothies laced with spinach, kale, flaxseed and hemp hearts, almonds and almond butter, tuna, salmon, eggs, salads, sweet potato is definitely a staple, quinoa on occasion, and an insane amount of mayonnaise.
I don’t think I’ll ever cut that out regardless of my health goals. I also try to have a burger once a week or at least once or twice a month. I love red meat but don’t typically prepare meats at home. I prefer them as treats when I’m out with friends or on my own and need a bite to eat.
Have you ever tried a diet, and if so, what was it?
I’ve tried plenty of diets while believing I needed to change how I looked (which I didn’t) on the way towards self-love and a more meaningful reason to care for my body. I went on Weight Watchers as a young teen with the permission of my mother.
Please note that I have never been overweight, especially as a teen, but I believed I was fat. I tried Eat Right For Your Blood Type. It was cool. I did a 30-Day Vegan experiment. It was cool. I tried the Raw Food Diet and maybe lasted one or two meals.
Ultimately Paleo was the winner for me because it feels like the way my body naturally likes to eat. It really suits me and I’ve been doing it off and on over the years and currently it’s on like Donkey Kong. It doesn’t feel like a diet. It’s an easy and natural way for me to maintain my health and energy.
Have you ever tried fasting or cleanses and what do you think of those in general?
I fast 15-16 hours out of every 24 (usually from 7pm – 11am) and I think intermittent fasting is amazing! It’s great for my body and my health and there are a slew of incredible benefits so I highly recommend that anyone reading this does some research on it and if it sounds good and makes sense, give it a whirl!
As for cleanses, no I haven’t done one before. They have yet to appeal to me but I will try them out if I ever feel interested. For now I prefer to chew and eat my food rather than drink or eliminate it.
Do you have any nasty habits you’re trying to kick these days?
I have been actively reducing my sugar intake for almost 5 months. I’ve been primarily sugar-free during that time with a few exceptions. I do eat fruit so I’m fine with fruit sugars but I don’t eat any processed sweets.
This is my 4th time going sugar-free and the other times I did them just for 30 days. It was hard for me to maintain after that because sugar addiction is a really hard habit to kick. I’m sure many people reading this would agree.
I can happily say that I haven’t had a sugar binge in almost 5 months which is a huge win for me because I binged almost daily. I’d eat a whole cake in a sitting. A whole box of butter tarts. 2-3 chocolate bars within minutes. I was definitely an emotional eater and used sugar to soothe myself.
I decided to “get clean” because I was ready and willing to treat my body better. Sweets are amazing and they have their place, but overindulgence, especially daily or multiple times a week, is not something that your body should have to manage. That’s a lot of pressure on your system. Ultimately I just wanted to be kinder to myself, so I gave my body less work to do and more things to help it thrive.
Do you do yoga or meditate?
Yes I do yoga occasionally. 12 rounds of Sun Salutations is my go-to but that’s about it because I find yoga pretty boring. The Sun Salutations are quick and a great full body workout so I add it to the mix for added flexibility. I wish I was a yoga girl because I’d love to be able to do all those fun poses, but I much prefer cycling, dancing and weight lifting. And yes, I meditate twice a day (15-30 min per session).
Where is your favourite place to go and show off your bikini body?
Surprisingly enough, I am not very comfortable being seen in a bikini in real life so I like to pick a secluded spot to sunbathe in nature. That’s my favourite place to be in my bikini – laying on the grass amongst the trees with no eyes on me.
I do love celebrating my body through pictures that I post on Facebook and Instagram so I guess that’s my favourite place to show off my body, but despite how confident I appear online and in my pictures, I am actually quite shy and self-conscious about my body in real life.
Being online allows me to feel free with my body in a way that I can’t be in the real world. I don’t mind eyes on me when I’ve chosen what’s being looked at and I have implicitly given permission to receive comments on what I’m presenting online, but having eyes on me or receiving comments on my body in person makes me uncomfortable as hell and I do what I can to avoid it. This does not apply to someone I’m actually interested in though. Praise from someone you’re smitten with is oh so lovely.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Yes. Wear whatever you want. Take proper care of your body. Become your own best friend. Celebrate yourself in whatever way you wish.
And if you’re diggin’ my vibe, go to www.mandylandrocks.com and sign up for my free monthly newsletter to receive a hearty dose of my personal writings, poetry, visual diaries, podcasts, videos and more.