Body Stories: Charlotte

April 17, 2020

Body Stories: Charlotte

In Body Stories we talk with ten different customers about their relationship with their body and body image. We ask them how their relationship with their body has changed over time, the influences and pressures, and what they love about their bodies today. 

We loved the honest, thought-provoking conversations that we had with each of the ten women as part of this series. The conversations were both poignant and surprising. We left each one feeling inspired by their story - and hope you do too.

Today - meet Charlotte.

Tell us a bit about you.

I’m Charlotte, I’m a journalist, podcast producer and content creator. I live in Brighton with my two kids. I swim in the sea every day as part of my exercise and for my sanity. In fact, I’ve been swimming in the sea this morning.

What is the earliest memory you have of your body image and body identity?

When I was younger I rode horses every day and was really fit. I remember, even aged 15, boys appreciating my figure and the power it could have. Then I gave up horses, went travelling, stopped exercising, started drinking and put on quite a bit of weight, becoming heavier than I had ever been before. I really struggled with my confidence at this time. I became aware of how your body can make you feel either really empowered or really shitty. I also realised how much better I felt when I was fit, active and eating well.

I got back into riding and also started doing triathlons, which I loved. But after the birth of my second child I developed a condition called Lupus, which stops me from doing aerobic exercise, like running, as the stress on my body brings on a ‘flare’ which makes me feel run down and exhausted. It’s been a huge life change for me, and something I’ve struggled with. But it’s also made me really appreciate my swimming. The great thing about swimming, and cold-water swimming in particular, is that it doesn’t have to be too strenuous. Even a very short dip is so good for you – mentally and physically. I’ve been sea swimming for a couple of years now and I absolutely love it.

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - Charlotte - Body Confidence - Body Image - Sporty Older Woman Healthy Happy

What have been some of the biggest influences on your body confidence?

Swimming in the sea has been amazing for my body confidence. It’s not just about the challenge of cold water, but also getting into a rough sea – taking on nature and coming out the other side! I also love that the women I swim with are all shapes and sizes – but we are all achieving amazing things. It’s makes me realise how bloody unimportant body shape really is. 

I also compete in eventing with my horse and that makes me feel really strong and powerful. Before an event I often get so nervous I feel physically sick: it’s terrifying. But then I do it and it makes me really appreciate my body, because of what it can achieve. The great thing about competing on a horse is it doesn’t matter what size you are, or how old you are, it’s about how you ride, and communicate with the horse, rather than how you look. Competing makes me feel like I can achieve anything, it makes me feel proud of myself and my body. For many women, so much mental head space is taken up thinking about what we dislike our bodies – the things we would like to change – but when I’m riding it is just me and the horse, and none of those things matter.

I’ve never exercised for the sake of doing exercise – it has always been about taking part in a sport or activity I love: riding a horse, walking my dogs, cycling to get somewhere, swimming in the sea. For me exercise is about having fun, and being outdoors – the fact that it keeps me fit and well is an added bonus.

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - Charlotte - Body Confidence - Body Image - Sporty Older Woman Healthy Happy

What do you love about your body today?

My strength. I love feeling powerful – especially as a woman. After years of riding horses and lifting hay bales I have really strong arms. My kids love them - they are really proud to have a mum with such big muscles!

That said, I still can’t help wishing I was more petite, a bit more fragile, because muscles aren’t seen as very feminine. I know it’s total bullshit, but it can make me feel self-conscious. It just shows how these traditional ideals and expectations of what women should look like are still deeply entrenched.

Thankfully, it is changing. We are celebrating more powerful, muscly women, and it’s great to see more women playing sports and changing the expectations around what healthy women’s bodies can look like.

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - Charlotte - Body Confidence - Body Image - Sporty Older Woman Healthy Happy

What makes you feel amazing in your body?

I love doing things that push me physically and mentally. There are days when I’ve gone in the sea when its rough and thought “if I can do this, I can do anything”. Or if I have a training session on my horse that pushes me out of my comfort zone – it reminds me that my body can achieve amazing things. And in a world where we’re so hard on ourselves, so judgemental, where we are so quick to compare to others, it’s great to do things that make me feel appreciative and proud.

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - Charlotte - Body Confidence - Body Image - Sporty Older Woman Healthy Happy

What would you say to your younger self if you could go back and offer her advice on developing a positive relationship with her body?

I’m sorry to sound like an exercise bore, but I would recommend any young women find an activity they love. It doesn't have to be something that makes you super strong, or lose weight – just something that makes you move your body, use your body and love your body. Even dancing can do that!

That’s what I try and instil in my 12-year-old daughter: the belief her body can achieve whatever she wants, and that she can have fun with it. She is mad about football, which keeps her fit and strong, but she doesn’t play football for that reason – it’s because she is passionate about the sport, and being part of a team. We need to get more girls into sport, because using your body is so empowering. It’s about being fit for purpose, rather than staying slim just to look good, and that will stay with them for life.

But sometimes loving yourself can only come with age. I am more body confident now than I’ve ever been. I bloody love being in my 40s! I definitely appreciate myself more and the amazing things my body can do. I feel strong and fit and capable. Maybe it’s because people don’t expect a 48-year-old woman to do these things? 

I know that when I’m doing exercise I function at my best – both mentally and physically. I’ve also learned how to dress to flatter my body – to make the most myself. This has definitely come with age. Wearing a fabulous swimsuit, or a stylish dress, or a well-cut shirt can make such a difference. As can a decent haircut. As Fleabag says: ‘hair is fucking EVERYthing’.

But I still judge myself harshly and I have a strong inner critic. I don’t think I will ever reach total acceptance. I wish I was kinder to myself, more forgiving, that I could love myself unconditionally. I’m a work in progress. But then aren’t we all?

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - Charlotte - Body Confidence - Body Image - Sporty Older Woman Healthy Happy

Loved reading this?

Take a look at the previous blogs in this series featuring AmyMelanie and Kath.