Bluetits Body Stories: Kelly

August 20, 2021

Bluetits Body Stories: Kelly

Hello and welcome to the penultimate blog post in our gorgeous D&B x The Bluetits Body Stories series. We have absolutely loved telling the stories of these remarkable women and we have loved your response to them, too.

Today we chat with Kelly who is another brilliant Bluetit, based in Yorkshire. Kelly talks about body confidence, pregnancy, hiding in wetsuits and the life changing impact of meeting the Pencarnan Bluetits.

It's a great one: enjoy.

Tell us a bit about you.

I’m Kelly, I’m married and have twin boys. I usually swim with my best friend in the lakes, rivers and reservoirs of South and West Yorkshire and together we run The Yorkshire Sou’wester Bluetits. What I love about outdoor swimming is that it seems to attract people who are likeminded and a little bit fearless. I find I quickly trust fellow outdoor swimmers and other Bluetits - not just with the experience of getting in and out of the water, but more generally, you feel they are going to have your back, that they’ll support you.

Deakin and Blue - The Bluetits - Body Stories - Kelly - Sustainable Swimwear - Body Image & Body Confidence - Wild Swimming

Tell us about your relationship with your body confidence

I didn’t swim at all for years and years. I remember being at university and all of my friends going swimming and I made excuses. There was no way I was putting on a swimsuit and going in a swimming pool. Having children was the big turning point for me – nothing was going to stop me from teaching my children to swim.

I hated it. I hated being in a swimsuit, especially that walk until you get into the pool. In a swimsuit there is nowhere to hide and I hated the way I looked. I felt sure everyone was going to look at me and judge me. One year I got a shorty wetsuit to help me feel more covered for the hours stood in shallow water on the beach as my children played with their bodyboards in and out of the waves. I felt constantly on show and in the wetsuit I felt I could hide. But when I saw the photos after the holiday I cried and felt so ashamed.

And then one year we were at Pencarnan where the Bluetits originated. We’d been holidaying there for years and years, since long before the children - it was my husband’s 40th birthday. And the Bluetits were on the beach heading into the water. They were all shapes and sizes. I remember seeing one larger lady in a really flamboyant swimsuit, she so obviously felt great and didn’t give a toss what others thought. They were getting ready to swim out to a buoy that was 150m out and I wanted to go with them. I wanted to have what they had. That feeling.

I walked over and asked “if I ditch the wetsuit, can I come?” They cheered and welcomed me and I peeled the wetsuit off to join them. Someone was handing around glasses of prosecco and a photographer was taking photos. Without even thinking about it I posed with my arms in the air. I remember laughing, I was having a whale of a time. I had no idea what the photos were for or who was taking them, and so it was to my complete surprise when I learned the photo had been featured in a national magazine.

I looked at that picture and it changed everything for me. I just looked like a regular person in a swimsuit having a great time. It completely changed my attitude. I realised we can be so critical of other people’s bodies and of our own, and that when you have that voice inside your head criticising others it is easy to assume everyone is also doing it back to you. After years of assuming people only saw me for my size I realised that when people looked at me on the beach they would see a mum with her children, having fun, making sure they were safe.

Deakin and Blue - The Bluetits - Body Stories - Kelly - Sustainable Swimwear - Body Image & Body Confidence - Wild Swimming

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

When I was a young, prepubescent child, maybe 12 or 13, I had puppy fat and felt really big. I remember going from being a tall skinny kid, running around doing everything, to suddenly being quite chubby – I don’t remember how it happened. My eating habits didn’t change and I was still as active as before but suddenly my body was very different and I remember feeling quite judged because of it. I started to think about what I ate, to not have seconds. I remember thinking “this is rubbish” and being very unhappy with my body. I constantly tried to hide myself, wearing leggings and baggy tshirts and not taking care of my appearance. Nothing changed for many years and I was probably at university when I started trying to have more care and respect for my body.

I have stayed large for most of my adult life. I lost about six stone when I was in my early 30s and my body changed a lot. But honestly I felt I received more negative comments about my body when I was at my slimmest. I have always been tall and I remember being at the theatre with a friend, I was about a size 12 at the time, I was wearing a black dress that I loved and heels so I was probably about 6 foot 3 or 4, and I remember people pointing and staring. It was a completely awful experience. I’ve never felt worse.

Deakin and Blue - The Bluetits - Body Stories - Kelly - Sustainable Swimwear - Body Image & Body Confidence - Wild Swimming

Was there a time that you felt good in your body?

Pregnancy was a really happy time for me. I loved being pregnant and I loved being huge. I had twins: my body grew two human beings at the same time! I have never been happier with my body than when it was pregnant. It felt like an excuse for it to look that way. I remember thinking ‘this body is amazing, I am growing two human beings.’

I had a high risk pregnancy with fears that my twins wouldn’t make it. So the bigger I got the better, every week was a bonus – cooking them for a little bit longer. In the end I carried them for 36 weeks. My body is amazing.
And then of course 3 days after the birth I remember being asked “when are they due?” and it felt straight back to disliking my body again.

Deakin and Blue - The Bluetits - Body Stories - Kelly - Sustainable Swimwear - Body Image & Body Confidence - Wild Swimming

What makes you feel good in your body today?

Swimming. If years ago someone had said to me that I’d stand on the bank of the canal happily stripping off and getting changed, I wouldn’t have believed them. These days I don’t even notice if someone is walking past, I just want to get swimming. And I don’t even mess about trying to change under a robe, I know that that quickest way to get warm is to get your wet clothes off and your dry clothes on. So I strip down and get dressed without thinking about it.

And then of course getting in the water, knowing what my body can do. That makes me feel really good. I remember planning to swim through the winter but saying “okay but not when it gets below five degrees”. And now there is a photo of my friend and I with masonry hammers and safety glasses smashing the ice to get in. We did it! The safety glasses! The best thing about the photo is that we are both stood on a completely frozen lake trying to break into the water, both wearing tow floats. Very optimistic. I’m not sure where we thought we would be swimming to… But yes, I have smashed the ice to get into the water. Some people might say that’s crazy, but for me it’s amazing. Look what my body is capable of doing and capable of enduring.

Deakin and Blue - The Bluetits - Body Stories - Kelly - Sustainable Swimwear - Body Image & Body Confidence - Wild Swimming

What makes swimming with others special?

I love the community of swimmers. I never feel judged around Bluetits. It’s a tribe: I’ve found my tribe. These are my people, they’ve got my back. The nine other Bluetits at the photoshoot – I had never met any of them before but I know they are my people. There is an unspoken understanding: what happens in the water stays in the water, what gets talked about in the water stays in the water.
I only started swimming regularly last June. It was a really difficult year. My husband was struggling with his mental health and well-being and it was just the two of us with the children for a lot of the year. There are times I remember lying in the cold water, either having sounded off at a friend or just needing to escape, and the water was a place to go where I didn’t have to deal with anything else. There are conversations that you can have that it can be hard to have elsewhere.

And I love taking new people swimming too. I love watching the change, from them saying “I don’t think I can” and us telling them ‘hey, it’s no pressure, just dip your toes, come in up to your knees, go slowly’ and then watching the sheer joy, how exhilarated they feel once they’re in.

I never feel more alive than when I get out of cold water. I don’t know if it’s because your body knows it’s really dangerous, but doing something so extreme gives such a huge endorphin high. You’re on cloud nine. So to watch someone else do that and then to hear them say “I’m so proud of myself” - no matter what their body size or shape is, they are just getting in the water and loving it.

I think the whole challenge of the cold water and also of overcoming any body confidence issues – this means that you know the people swimming with you are like you in some way. There is a safety in being able to share whatever it is that might be dark or difficult because we are all doing this crazy thing together. And if we can do this crazy physical thing together, then we can do other things as well. And support each other through that too.

Deakin and Blue - The Bluetits - Body Stories - Kelly - Sustainable Swimwear - Body Image & Body Confidence - Wild Swimming

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I would tell her that nobody cares, that nobody is looking. That you are your own biggest critic. I would tell her to be proud of her body and what it can do. You only get one shot at this life and fear stands at our way so much – fear of being judged for how you look, for what you say – and yet so much of this fear is in our heads.

I remember talking about a kayaking trip with my sister and telling her “I’m scared I’ll fall out and won’t be able to get back in the boat. It’s not that I’m afraid of dying, I’m afraid of being the person that gets towed in because they couldn’t get back on the bloody boat.” I heard myself say it out loud and I thought ‘That is not a good reason Kelly! It is not a physical risk. It’s in your head, it’s fear! Ignore the hell out of it and do it anyway!’.

So I can tell my 20 year old self all this great advice but I’m still telling my 43 year old self too. We’re all a work in progress aren’t we? So shut up brain. Get your butt in a swimsuit and enjoy yourself!

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Kelly wears the Signature Swimsuit in Cobalt in a size 18 Hepburn

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Want to read more in our D&B x Bluetits Body Stories series? Have a read of the previous conversations in this series including with Bluetits Founder Sian and fellow Bluetits Ali, Sophie, Lisa, Nic, TracieWendy & Fran. Enjoying reading? Join our community to be alerted when new stories go live. 



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