I had a small moment of panic last week after enjoying a burrito and a beer. Shit, I thought. I’ve got to do Dare to Bare in my sports bra. The portion of my brain preoccupied with body image immediately started to calculate how much cardio I could do plus what food I could cut out in order to magically get my abs back within 7 days. I could do fasted elliptical in the morning. And some stairmaster in the afternoon on top of my strength workouts. And cut out all my carbs. And no alcohol until after the event. And drink tons of water. Maybe hit the sauna a few times to get extra sweat out. My brain has done these calculations so many times in my life that figuring out how to quickly drop weight was an automatic reflex. Which went against everything that Dare to Bare was trying to promote.
Dare to Bare is an event run by the Movemeant Foundation , that celebrates women of all shapes and sizes. It’s a day long fitness and movement gathering that invites women to appreciate their bodies and what they are capable of, no matter what they look like. All of the proceeds go to programs that teach the younger female generation high self-confidence and body positivity. Everyone at the event is issued a complimentary sports bra and are dared to bare their midriffs alongside all the other women.
It was the first event where I knew I wouldn’t be wearing a shirt that I didn’t participate in some sort of diet and exercise routine to prepare.
I can’t think of a single vacation, trip, performance, or event since I was 15 that I hadn’t felt the pressure to lose weight beforehand. There have been so many instances where I told myself I needed to get “Bikini Ready” so that I could fully enjoy the experience I was planning on having. It’s not just me either; many of my clients first come to me because they have an event they want to look their best for. Weddings, island vacations, family reunions. The focus is often on how we think we should look to impress other people.
But just as quickly as I had regretted enjoying my delicious burrito and beer, a huge sense of relief came over me. Finally, I was participating in an event that not only didn’t ask me to look perfect, but actually encouraged me to be comfortable baring it all with the body I have. In fact, I could probably have a few more burritos before the event if I wanted to.
As I said, a lot of times during these events, our focus turns to how we think we should look to impress other people. We want to look good in our bikinis and our wedding gowns. We want to be able to wear shorts and tank tops without feeling like people are staring at whatever happens to jiggle a little bit. We want the photos we take to hide all our flaws and only show our best angles.
When I showed up at the event, I saw that it was mostly women who looked just like me; ladies who clearly exercised and took care of themselves, but weren’t going to say no to that second glass of wine. There were pregnant women there, women in their 60’s and 70’s, women on the larger side, tall women, short women, young women, old women. Nobody was eyeing each other and sizing one another up. We were all too excited to find our assigned bikes, take pictures in our colorful sports bras, cheer each other on. There was so much energy surrounding the event and so many women of different shapes and sizes trotting around in neon yellow bras that I didn’t have even a second to spare to worry about what anyone thought of me.
I had signed up for the 11amSoulCycle class with the founder of the event, Jenny Gaither. The ladies who shared the surrounding bikes with me all helped each other clip into the pedals, introduced themselves, high fived their neighbors, waved hello to friends across the aisles. I love SoulCycle because it’s an exercise that I can still do even with my hip injury. Sometimes I can’t always keep up with the brisk pace, but there’s so much dancing and cheering going on that nobody pays attention if I miss a few beats. Every time I thought I had reached my limit, the incredible DJ started a new upbeat song, or the instructors yelled out something inspiring or funny, or people on the sidelines cheered me on. Jenny told us to think of a time we had been made to feel ashamed of our bodies, and to exhale a little bit of that shame out with each breathe of the last song we spun to.
Sweaty and full of smiles, we all headed over to the mainstage to cheer on teenage girls from the programs funded by Dare to Bare as they danced for the crowd. I got to chat with Jenny and some of her Movemeant Foundation Ambassadors, and then was invited to join them all up front to do weights with the 12pm SoulCycle class as cheerleaders.
I think the coolest thing about this event was not just that we were all baring our bodies in an effort to show acceptance of them, but that because nobody was covering up, what you looked like became a non-issue. Nobody was saying “oh you look great” or “I wish I had your abs” or “you have the perfect body” or “cover up that jiggle” or “I really need to lose 5 pounds”. I didn’t hear a single comment from anyone about anyone else’s bodies. It was so freeing. What a glorious feeling to put yourself out there with zero judgement.
I don’t think I’ll ever go back to getting my body “ready” for an event in an aesthetic sense. It was so relaxing to show up just as I am. I have a feeling that I enjoyed the event even more so because I hadn’t worried about preparing for it. I didn’t waste any of my energy worrying about what I looked like and so I got to spend all of it appreciating the great event I was participating in, the beautiful weather, the smiling participants, my boyfriend supporting me from the sidelines.
There was so much more to take in and experience because I wasn’t focused on what might or might not be imperfect with my body, or anyone else’s for that matter. And that’s so true in the bigger sense too. Stop wasting energy worrying about what you look like and spend it instead on drinking in all the wonderful moments in your day. Don’t blow your money on beauty products meant to fix you and instead spend that cash on activities that put a smile on your face. Continue eating burritos and just live your life. Cheer others on. Show your body with pride.
Thank you SO much to the incredible people who donated to my Dare to Bare fundraising page: