Bluetits Body Stories: Lisa

July 16, 2021

Bluetits Body Stories: Lisa

Welcome to the next instalment in our D&B x The Bluetits Body Stories series. In this inspiring campaign we celebrate 10 remarkable women who swim outside year-round. Through their honest accounts they explore the impact of their lives on their body image and body confidence, and talk to us about the joy and redemption that comes with getting into cold water with a bunch of likeminded people.  

This week we introduce Lisa who lives and swims in Milton Keynes with the Milton Keynes Bluetits. Over to Lisa...


Tell us a bit about you.

I’m Lisa, I’m 51 and a Psychology teacher and year leader in a secondary school. I went to University as a mature student with two young children and met my husband 10 years ago.

I can be quite determined when I set my mind to something and last year I started a year-long no alcohol challenge. I enjoyed a glass of wine or a beer so it was a major thing for me! Taking on the challenge encouraged me to think about other ways to stretch myself and I’d previously run the London Marathon for the MS Society so wanted to do something a bit different. My husband trains for triathlons and I used to cringe at the lake swimming part, telling myself and anyone who would listen that it was something I would never do ‘keep that lake juice away from me!’ But I guess never say never! I was out for a long run one day and saw a friend getting out of the lake and thought ‘maybe this could be my thing after all.’

When I had been thinking of something to challenge myself the open water swimming felt out of bounds as, like so many women, I didn’t want the lumps and bumps to be on show. But before I knew it I found myself in the middle of a lake and I couldn’t believe I was actually doing it! Then I looked around for a swimming group to join and found the Bluetits online. They encourage people to set up local groups which I did and the Milton Keynes Bluetits was born. There is nothing better than being in water to make you feel alive. It’s exhilarating to swim somewhere, like a lake or a river, that you might otherwise walk past. I find myself thinking ‘this is a crazy thing to do and here I am doing it’. It’s an absolutely amazing feeling made even better in a Bluetit group!

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - The Bluetits - Lisa - Vitiligo - Fitness - Loss - Sustainable Swimwear

At the age of 49 my mum died of lung cancer. For years I dreaded being the age she was when she died. But I’ve also realised that every day I live longer than she did I should make the most of it. I turned 50 in November 2019. I had challenged myself to be running my 100th parkrun on my 50th birthday and was up late the night before making cakes for a charity bake sale for Cancer Research UK in memory of my mum. As midnight came and I turned 50 I thought instantly of my mum and felt so guilty that I was alive and she wasn’t.

My mum was an incredibly inspiring person in so many ways. She cared a lot about how she looked and when she gave up smoking she put on weight and so started smoking again which ultimately led to her dying so young. I feel terribly sad that my Mum lived during a time when females had so much pressure put on them that it was better to smoke and be thin. I want people to see me swimming in a lake, wobbly bits and all, and think they can do that too. Losing your mum when she is so young can’t help but have an impact on you and your outlook on life and it certainly has on me. Her death has encouraged me to do the things that I want to do, not to think ‘maybe one day’ but instead ‘why not today?’ We don’t even know if we have tomorrow so living life today is so important. Taking part in the Bluetits shoot felt so out of my comfort zone but then I thought ‘Do it. Live and enjoy life, don’t be scared!’

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - The Bluetits - Lisa - Vitiligo - Fitness - Loss - Sustainable Swimwear

Where does your body image journey begin?

I was a teenager in the 80s at a time when people were on TV doing aerobics in legwarmers. I remember watching them and thinking about my own body and making comparisons. My sister is slimmer than me and I guess I always felt like the fat one in the family. No one would have ever said that to me but I can remember looking at us in photos and wishing I was more like her in those days. Of course being slim isn’t everything and I don’t recall discussing weight with friends – we were probably too busy climbing trees or out on our rollerskates, but as I got older I started to think more about dieting. Over my adult life I think I must have tried just about every diet – some have been successful and some haven’t!

It was then much later in my life, probably from around 35 onwards, that I’ve been more body conscious and the weight has stayed around longer and been harder to shift. When my mum died I lost a lot of weight. It was unhealthy but I physically couldn’t eat. I went through the menopause quite young: I was around 43. Today I feel like my body shows the history of my life. I have wrinkles because I’ve lived and laughed and cried. Why hide the history of my laughter and tears! The experiences have shaped who I am and how I look. These days I try to think about fuelling my body to achieve things but it’s not always easy.

I also have vitiligo which has always limited how much of my skin I’m willing to show. When I was in primary school I fell over and got cuts on my knees. I picked at the scabs and underneath was left with white patches. People thought the patches would go but I gradually got more. Over the years the patches have changed, some appear more clearly and others don’t. Throughout my teenage years I was so conscious of my vitiligo that it probably defined me in some ways, and certainly more than my weight did. I didn’t want to wear skirts or shorts and I have patches on my ankles so I would only wear very long jeans or trousers. Gradually over the years I have become more confident and today it doesn’t worry me so much. Of course in a swimsuit there is no hiding them – I would never have had the confidence as a teenager to go swimming with my friends - but it has never even been mentioned in my swimming group. I’m not ashamed of it, it’s part of me, but it’s something I have never spoken about before.

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - The Bluetits - Lisa - Vitiligo - Fitness - Loss - Sustainable Swimwear

What does it mean to be a Bluetit?

Swimming with the Bluetits has totally changed how I feel about my body. The Bluetits provide an inclusive, happy environment so I don’t even think about my body shape or the white patches on my skin when swimming. I meet up with other Bluetits, get changed, swim, eat cake and laugh. No sucking in my belly or worrying what others think of me. It’s just laughter and swimming and not giving a shit about all the body image crap that surrounds us constantly. When swimming we all float the same! This is me, I’m a Bluetit and I swim in lakes and rivers and sometimes even the sea and I love it!

When I applied to take part in the Bluetits shoot I briefly worried about being photographed in my swimsuit and the old thoughts circulated in my head ‘I need to lose some weight first’. But the swimsuit arrived and I tried it on and felt amazing. These days I try to think less about what I look like and instead ask ‘what can my body do for me?’ I love that my yoga, park runs or open water swimming are all about what you can physically do, not how you look. And outdoor swimming is a big leveller: there are men and women of all shapes and sizes. I’ve never thought ‘I can’t go swimming because I’m too fat today’. But I do still want to look good and in a swimming costume there is nowhere to hide, nothing baggy that can cover your curves. But I love my D&B swimsuit – I feel confident in it and can swim easily. And once you’re in the water you laugh a lot. I absolutely love that.

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - The Bluetits - Lisa - Vitiligo - Fitness - Loss - Sustainable Swimwear

What do you love about your body?

I love that my body can get me to where I want to be. Looking back, it has achieved amazing things: it has given me two children and it has helped me to have lots of adventures – driving off in the campervan, yoga, swimming, running, cycling, walking – I can get to where I want to be. Getting older has also given me the opportunity to realise that my body is more than what it looks like. I know now how important it is to feel comfortable and appreciate yourself in a wider range of ways.

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - The Bluetits - Lisa - Vitiligo - Fitness - Loss - Sustainable Swimwear

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Bodies: we’ve all got one but we’ve only got one. My mum absolutely dreaded getting to 50 and then in a cruel twist of fate she didn’t make it. So make the most of what your body can do today, because you will never be this young again and tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. I’d also tell myself not to worry too much. I’d want to have a healthier relationship with food and that doesn’t mean you can only eat lettuce! I’d say eat whatever you want. And celebrate what you can do and achieve. And push yourself: don’t ever think that you can’t do something because of your body. There’s that saying: if you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right. Imagine if I had thought that because of my size I couldn’t run a marathon, I couldn’t do those yoga poses, I couldn’t swim in a lake. I would have missed out on so much! The only limit is your mind and definitely not your body.

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Lisa wears the Signature Swimsuit in Cobalt in a size 16 Monroe

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Want to read more in our D&B x The Bluetits Body Stories series? Have a read of our conversations so far with Sian, Ali and Sophie. We'll be releasing a new Bluetits Body Story every Friday for the next 6 weeks. Sign up to our mailing list to be alerted when these beautiful accounts go live.

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About The Bluetits

The Bluetit mission is to create a confident, capable community through cold water swimming and adventures.

No club fees, registration, rules, requirements, expectations. We are an informal group of mixed gender people who just like to swim together. Some carry on throughout the winter months, some don’t. Some enter swimming events, some swim across the Channel, some meet every morning same time, same place and swim chat their way through the water. Others swim ice miles, some meet for coffee and cake, and maybe a swim or even a paddle. Our link to each other initially is the joy of challenging ourselves to potter in and around open water together throughout the year in swimsuits.
Find your local flock

For more information visit:
The Bluetits Chill Swimmers on Facebook
The Bluetits Website

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - The Bluetits - Lisa - Vitiligo - Fitness - Loss - Sustainable Swimwear



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