Body Stories: Lynette

February 13, 2022

Body Stories: Lynette

Welcome back to our beloved D&B Body Stories series. In this series we speak with D&B customers from around the UK about their relationship with their body, how that has evolved over time (and in response to lived experience) and what role, if any, swimming and being in water has played in helping them love the bodies they wear.

In this week's post we speak to Lynette who lives and swims in Brighton. Lynette came across Deakin and Blue shortly after we launched in 2017 and was an early supporter and fan of the business and our mission. 'I've never really felt good in things' she tells us, but wearing her Signature Swimsuit was 'the first time I’d ever felt like I could get in that swimsuit and walk down the high street wearing nothing else.'Five years in to running this business, comments like this still really make me pause and feel proud.

This is a gorgeous, honest and funny Body Story. Lynette speaks candidly about her early body image memories and the things that have shaped it since then. It was such a pleasure to meet her in person (finally) in January this year for a (surprisingly) sunny shoot on Hove beach. I hope you love this story as much as I do. 

Content warning: this story contains reference to cancer and loss. If you're not in the right head space for that today, please feel free to come back another time.

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Lynette, tell us about you.

I moved to Brighton 11 years ago having spent ten years living in London. I’m originally from the South Coast and have always had a ridiculous craving to be near water. I loved being in London in my 20s but after my first few years in Brighton I realised how much better I felt living so near to the water. It’s funny I didn’t realise that is what it was, for years. In fact, it wasn’t until I was swimming regularly that I realised ‘oh I feel better now’. I suppose that love of the sea was instilled in me as a child; my parents used to throw my sister and I in the sea from a young age, we’d have holidays around the coast. My sister was born in 1976 so we always heard the story about how it had been the hottest year on record and our mum had been in the sea basically the whole time that she was pregnant. Because of that my sister was always called a water baby and I’m exactly the same.

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Tell us about your early memories of your body image

As soon as I hit my teenage years I developed very rapidly. I was curvy but also had a bit of puppy fat. I was bullied at school for being fat which instantly made me not want to wear a bikini. I remember being 14 or 15, and my sister would be laying out on the beach tanning. But I was a burner and my mum would come and slather me in cream and hide me under an umbrella. I’d be covered up.

I loved being on the beach but I hated everything else about it. Good swimsuits: they didn’t exist. Instead I’d be wearing ridiculous outfits to cover up, I hated it. And of course invariably I burned and burned! So I was very paranoid about being out in direct sunlight which went on for years. Weirdly, I don’t think I’ve ever been badly body conscious – nothing will stop me getting involved – but it’s always there: that feeling of body-awareness.

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My sister, my best friend and I have been close friends for over 40 years and still talk every day. As children we used to swim at our local sailing club in the harbour at Portsmouth. It was filthy! But we’d spend every day in the summer holidays running to the end of the pontoon and jumping in. I was scared of being out of my depth and they weren’t. But it was really fun. My friend had brothers who were two or three years older than us; they’d get a speedboat out and we’d hold on and be dragged around. We weren’t naughty, we were just kids, mucking about and having fun in the water. That’s a really strong memory of my childhood: always down at the beach or the sailing club, jumping into water.

Those early friendships played an important role in my body confidence, I think. We’ve known each other forever and of course there have been highs and lows of the friendships over that time but Carly is still a best friend to my sister and I. Her mum was my second mum, mine was hers. We message every day and video call as much as possible. I was very lucky: Carly has always been incredibly body confident. She came from a family that was very encouraging and motivating, they’d say things like ‘you’re the best’ ‘you’re amazing’. And that kind of messaging rubs off on you! So even if you’re feeling a bit shit about yourself, having someone like that in your life who will confidently strip naked and run around having great fun: it has always been incredibly infectious.

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What are some of the other influences on your body image?

My mum spent her whole life telling me she was fat and commenting on her own weight. Her mum did it in front of her, and her mum’s mum did it in front of her too. It’s a learned behaviour to hate themselves and it can be really hard to break the cycle. If you listen to your tiny mother saying she feels fat you can’t help but think ‘well if you are, what the hell am I?’ I think unfortunately that’s where most of us learn our negative body image.

My mother died a couple of years ago from stomach and oesophagus cancer. She had breast cancer at 30 and really struggled with swimsuits. She didn’t have a reconstruction after a mastectomy and instead used to have a sponge that she had cut herself that she would put inside her swimsuit. It was rough and jagged and I knew she didn’t feel good in a swimsuit for years. But still: she did it. She put the swimsuit on and got involved.

At the end of her life she was very ill, they thought she had stomach ulcers, but she struggled to eat properly for over a year. She was sick a lot. She sadly died of starvation due to cancer. She must have been 5 or 6 stone. So tiny. Whenever I have a bad day about my body I think of her and tell myself ‘stop it’. My mum spent all her life saying how she wanted to lose weight so it feels so sadly ironic that when she got thinner it wasn’t the ultimate goal. 

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All my friends are absolutely beautiful but every one of them has a hang up about their bodies. It makes me so mad that we live in a society that puts image over everything else. Fundamentally as a woman you are defined by what you look like from start to finish and that needs to change. I find it hard when I hear people talking negatively about their healthy bodies, I really have to hold my tongue and want to shout at them that they are beautiful. Being a different shape or size doesn’t change how you feel inside. I feel so sad that people don’t just feel good about themselves. I would love to give all my friends the ability to see themselves the way I do whenever they feel shit about themselves.

I guess spending months being with my mum trying to help her get better but watching her slowly slip away makes me want to see the best in everything, every day. So even things like ‘Dry January’ annoy me. The way we are obsessed with denying ourselves things. My mum used to say ‘eat anything you want but always eat in moderation’. But even she barely drank, ate salads and never had pudding. She was very healthy. I just think: what was the point? If you want something just don’t eat the whole cake. And don’t beat yourself up about it if you do.. On the whole I try to be positive about what happened to my mum; I’d love to find a way of building a positive experience about what happened to her, to use that knowledge and experience to help others know it’s okay to be who they are.

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - Self Love - Cancer - Loss - Bereavement - Body Image - Body Confidence - Sustainable Swimwear - Curve-friendly Swimwear

What makes you feel good in body?

Being in the water. You don’t feel all the lumps and bumps that you can feel when you have clothes on. A lot of people joke that I’m a naturist but I’m not. I wouldn’t comfortably go to a naturist camp, walk around and play tennis naked. But I am comfortable naked. In fact I feel my best when I am not wearing a tight bra, when there are no waistbands. Clothes can dig in and at the end of the day I just want to get home, take my bra and jeans off. But when you’re in the water you don’t feel that quite as much. In a tight bikini maybe, but it matters less. Because once you are covered in water it takes that feeling away. And whether you feel heavy or not, the water allows you to balance to a point where that heaviness doesn’t matter anymore.

And of course I feel good in my body when I’m swimming. When you haven’t got the rest of the world to think about: I am just swimming to swim. You need to do stuff to not sink and to keep going, and that is an amazing distraction. You can get moments where you realise this doesn’t matter or that doesn’t matter. It gives me a good perspective. I see friends having really bad days and they get in the water and it’s instantly different. Of course you can plateau – we’ve been doing it for years and sometimes it does feel a bit cold and a bit shit! So you have to remind yourself that it is lovely. Over Christmas a friend was having a bad day and so we decided to go into the sea for a dip. I had to really gee us up and get us excited and pumped up to go in. And if I’m honest I don’t get the same euphoria I used to get, because I’m much more used to the cold dips these days. But we went in and it was so worth it. I like to remind myself why I do it.

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - Self Love - Cancer - Loss - Bereavement - Body Image - Body Confidence - Sustainable Swimwear - Curve-friendly Swimwear

What do you like about D&B?

I’ve never really felt good in things. Traditional swimwear brands don’t fit me or my shape. I hate those weird side cut outs. And bikinis are generally a nightmare because they are not designed for bigger boobs. When I first came across Deakin and Blue I was first attracted by the colour: you had launched the Signature Swimsuit in a bright pink Coral colour. I tried it on and it made me feel amazing. There’s something about that Signature Swimsuit style. It just holds you in, in all the right places. No bra, no underwiring but it completely works. I don’t like underwires in a swimsuit, it makes it hard to get on and off and they’re often not very flattering. But the Signature Swimsuit just fitted like a glove. For the first time I felt like I had everything in the right place. I didn’t have to breathe in or hoike my boobs about. The designs really work for me and my body type.

It’s the first time I’d ever felt like I could get in that swimsuit and walk down the high street wearing nothing else. In fact, last summer I was riding to the beach for a swim. I had my dress, coat and shoes on over my swimsuit. Suddenly it started pissing it down. Torrential rain. I stopped underneath a tree, took all my clothes off, shoved them in my rucksack and cycled the rest of the way to the beach in my swimsuit. People were looking at me but I was thinking ‘I’m the one in the right outfit for this weather!’ If it wasn’t that good a fit I wouldn’t have done that, I wouldn’t have had the confidence. It feels like a power suit. I could wear it anywhere. It feels like you’ve designed the suit just for me.

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What advice would you give to your younger self?

I would say be more active. I grew up (physically) very quickly – I’m tall – and as a result my joints are a bit loose. And I’m slightly hypermobile. As a young child I danced until I was about 12 but then I became a teenager and sat on a chair and did nothing for years. This sedentary lifestyle and my hypermobility instilled in me, from a young age, a sense that I couldn’t physically do a lot.

My dance teacher used to say I was too fat to be a ballerina, too fat to dance. And I think around 12 I sort of decided I was too fat to do anything. I still rode a bike but I got lazy. It has been life affirming having a personal trainer as an adult – I’ve been working out with her for two years now. I saw her yesterday and she had me doing a glute exercise that I would never have attempted previously. I wouldn’t have jumped off a step, I’d have thought ‘my back will break, my knees will hurt’. But she has spent two years encouraging me, saying ‘just do it once’. And I’ve learned that my brain is a real blocker. So I psych myself up to do a small jump onto a step. It feels like jumping off a cliff into the sea. I have to say to myself ‘you are doing it’. There was so much stuff I couldn’t do.

Swimming was great for that too. I used to always swim in London and when I went back to swimming in the sea, I remember doing front crawl and thinking ‘this feels safe, you’re not going to break your back’. I can front crawl or breaststroke for hours.. So I think I’d say to a younger me, stay active, keep moving, listen less to what other people say, and care less what other people think.

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - Self Love - Cancer - Loss - Bereavement - Body Image - Body Confidence - Sustainable Swimwear - Curve-friendly Swimwear

Being tall at a young age was hard too. I was 5ft9 from about 10 or 11. All I ever heard was ‘god aren’t you tall!’. I spent years crouching down to talk to my friends. I towered over everyone at school. I used to look at little petite girls sitting on boys’ laps and I just felt like a weird giant. And we have weird social expectations for height as well as weight; it’s not just fat versus thin, it’s also tall versus short. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realised that everyone battles it though. I have friends that are very slim who have been upset when they are described as ‘skinny’, which never feels like a compliment. Or why do we think it’s okay to ask someone ‘have you lost weight?’

The changing rooms at my swimming club are a really safe space. It’s a very small room and everyone gets naked to get changed. There is an unwritten rule that no one comments on someone else’s body: whether it seems like a compliment or otherwise. No one is there to have others stare at them or assess them physically. I’ve swum with Brighton swimming club for over five years now. So yes I think I’d tell a younger me to keep swimming in the sea, too.

What I love about the swimming community is that it doesn't matter what you look like, you are welcomed, encouraged and people achieve amazing things when they start to believe their bodies are incredible. If we can all tell our younger selves something it's that the ultimate body you think you will have one day might not actually be the body you really dreamed of then we can maybe love to live in the skin we already have.

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Lynette wears the Signature Swimsuit in Cobalt and Navy in a size 14 Monroe.

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - Self Love - Cancer - Loss - Bereavement - Body Image - Body Confidence - Sustainable Swimwear - Curve-friendly Swimwear

 



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