Every summer, I envision myself feeling confident and amazing in my new bathing suit, only to feel a familiar pang of dread when it actually comes time to wear that new bikini at the pool or beach. Have I worked out enough over the winter? What will other people think about how I look? In the past, it was enough to make me skip pool parties or beach hangs, or at the very least, keep my shorts on.
This is an issue for many people of all genders every year, but it may be even more prevalent for some people this summer. For starters, we’re coming off an anxiety-filled year, but on top of that, some weight loss companies (who have no doubt lost revenue during the pandemic) are trying to come for our post-lockdown bodies with targeted ads and tips on how to lose the “quarantine 15.” Our body shame, after all, is their success. And so what if we gained a little weight along the way? (Author Jennifer Weiner wrote a great op-ed on this topic for The New York Times).
On the heels of the initial success of The BodCon, the first-ever virtual conference to focus on body confidence and self-acceptance, comes a new event focused on promoting body positivity despite this weight-loss-fueled messaging that can seem impossible to escape.
The virtual event, known as TheBodCon TALKS: Beach Bodies — A Virtual Pool Party and Discussion, will take place on June 27 at 2 pm EST and will include a panel discussion with some inspiring and well-known influencers, models, and more, plus a keynote interview with influencer Alicia McCarvell. If you’re interested in attending the awesome virtual event, you can buy tickets for $20 here.
Zach is an actor, comedian and the first model to sign to IMG Models’ Brawn division. He was also Target’s first plus-size male model, and his image sparked important conversations about body inclusivity in media and the fashion industry. He now owns his own lifestyle and swimwear brand Meekos, whose mission is to make clothing more comfortable and accessible to all.
Sunday Edit: What is your advice or things that have personally worked well for you when it comes to seeing triggering content (let’s say an article about weight loss or an ad that only features thin bodies)?
Zach Miko: After a year like 2020, I have seen countless articles that have upset me, whether it be something less than body positive or just the general state of our world. It is easy to fall into an outrage spiral, and no matter how justifiable it is, blind outrage does more harm to your mental health than good. What has always worked for me is taking a moment to acknowledge my initial reaction, because my feelings are valid. Then I breathe and move forward, I always try to focus on what I can change, and what differences I can make. A lot of what upsets me is ingrained in society for generations, I know that me firing off an angry tweet or snapback will not make me feel better, and while it will encourage those on the same side like me, it will just entrench those who disagree with me in their own sometimes bigoted beliefs. I’d rather change things, and change the lives of people that I don’t agree with as well as those who do agree with me.
SE: What are your tricks for deciding if you feel comfortable in a bathing suit before you get to the beach?
ZM: For me, there is no one-trick to feeling comfortable in a bathing suit. For a lot of people who grew up with larger bodies, being in a swimsuit in front of others is a very scary experience. Feeling comfortable in a swimsuit marks a goal for many people on their body-positive journey. Once you start to realize that your body is yours and no one else’s and that putting on that suit and feeling comfortable is for you, and not for the judgment of others, wearing a swimsuit becomes a lot easier, and a lot more fun. After that, it’s just finding a suit that fits well, is comfortable, one that makes you feel proud of who you are, and a style that heightens how amazing you are.
SE: Are there certain bathing suit brands you feel especially good in?
ZM: Well funny that you ask! This year I am proud to have launched my own swim and lifestyle brand MEEKOS. The main focus of MEEKOS is stylish, modern, comfortable swim trunks in sizes LT-9XL. I created MEEKOS because I didn’t want anyone to feel the way I did when I was younger and was terrified to take my shirt off in front of anyone. I’d definitely say MEEKOS makes me feel especially good.
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SE: I recently went on a warm-weather vacation and it was my first time in a swimsuit in over a year. I psyched myself to wear the suit by looking at body positive accounts in the days leading up to my trip, but when it came time to take off the cover-up I still felt shy and embarrassed about parts of my body. How can people take body positivity from an idea (or resonating with it on social media) to action (i.e taking off the coverup)?
ZM: For me, implementing what I learned in my body-positive journey into practice was a very daunting prospect. Only one thing worked for me personally, and that was baptism by fire. Just do it, jump in, face it head-on. Acknowledge every feeling, good and bad, honor your insecurity but don’t let it hold you back. The first time taking off your coverup, your armor, and being exposed is terrifying. It is scary the next time too. But with each time, and each practice it gets easier and easier until you couldn’t imagine staying covered up at the beach or the pool ever again.
SE: What do you do if you start to feel insecure?
ZM: Honor it. But also analyze your insecurity and break it down piece by piece. I am afraid to take off my shirt at the beach. Why? I am afraid they will judge me and think I am gross or weird. Do you want to be friends with someone who judges you like that? No… Why would they think that? Because… maybe I don’t feel good about myself? The farther you break it down the more you realize that it is about loving yourself, and learning to accept yourself for who you are at whatever point I am at in my journey.
SE: What are you most looking forward to about TheBodCon TALKS: Beach Bodies?
ZM: I feel like though we have made great strides in the last few years, men are still often counted out of most body positivity questions. I am excited to talk about the issues that every young boy has dealt with as they learn to have a relationship with their body as they grow and change. The panel at Beach Bodies includes three absolutely incredible women who have done so much to help women love themselves. I just hope to give back a fraction of what they have given to the Body Positive community for any male or masc community members who may not yet feel represented.