Confession a Real (Thick-Thighed) Swimsuit Model

Hi. My name is Heather and I’m a real swimsuit model. Thick thighs, post-baby flab, deflated nursing boobs and all.

Of course I’m not the kind featured in Sports Illustrated. You’ll never see me in a suntan lotion ad or on a billboard holding a summer-y beverage. My modeling role isn’t formal. (Trust me, no one will ever pay to take pictures of me frolicking in the surf.)

I’m more of an “amateur” swimsuit model. My job is not to look perfect. Quite the opposite in fact. But, I’d say my type of modeling career has a far greater purpose. I must show my children what a real woman looks like so that they won’t be swindled by the lies of beauty when they’re older.

Now you may be thinking: What child is checking out how mom looks in a swimsuit? Do they even notice?

To this, I say, you are correct. Our kids don’t examine how we ‘look’ in swimsuits. My children express no concern over my dimply thighs that touch in the middle. They don’t freak out if my suit top rides up and exposes a bit of my love handles. And, they’ve never once mentioned that I should do more crunches to flatten my stomach.

They just want me out there, enjoying summer, with them. They likely don’t think at all about how I look in my swimsuit, now.

But, someday, I know that will change. Someday, they’ll notice that the women on TV don’t have the same build as dear old mom. Someday, my sons will be tempted by the images of women luring them to look. My daughter’s heart will be tested as she’s offered a message of life and love that comes through attaining greater beauty. My son’s heart will be tempted by beauty’s siren to affirm his manhood.

Some day, soon, they will form beliefs about what beauty looks like and what beauty offers. Today, I model as a way to invest in those decisions of their hearts.

Yep, this is me in a swimsuit. Oh my.

Yep, this is me in a swimsuit. Oh my.

What Can They Learn From a Real Swimsuit Model?

I have a model thin friend nearing thirty who spends hundreds of dollars each month on cellulite cream. I’m not against cellulite cream, but her dependency on the stuff is nearly an addiction. She works out, diets, and spends a lot on clothing. She reads all the fashion mags and never misses the latest movies. Though she’d never say this out loud, she commits in her hearts, each morning, to keep up with beauty. There is no room in her mind to accept a body that will eventually change and no longer meet Hollywood’s standard.

I used to be just like her.

Sure, aging has mellowed me a bit, made me more realistic about my complete lack of control over the aging process. But, living a life bound to beauty is tiring. I want more for my children than that.

Children need to know that real bodies come in all shapes and sizes. They need to understand that real bodies age and change. And, they need to accept and acknowledge that God designed us that way.

Many of our misconceptions about beauty start when we are young. We watch and learn from our parents. If your mom never put on a swimsuit because she was “too fat” — this made an impression on you. If your dad leered at the women in magazines while mocking the neighbor lady who carried a few extra pounds, this also taught you something about physical beauty.

From a very early age we are able to see both real beauty and its counterfeit. Unless our parents point out to us the difference, we are apt to confuse them.

Both our girls and our boys need us to tell them and show them what true beauty is. They need it modeled. They need someone who will not just give lip service to scripture’s exhortations of true beauty, but one who will live it.modeling for children Compared to Who all rights reserved

The Danger of Not Modeling

What happens if we don’t model true beauty and expose beauty’s lie for our children? We put them in danger.

I don’t say that lightly.

Culture will taunt our daughters with a dangerous lie that says true happiness, love and all they could ever desire will come if they can wear a size zero while filling a C-cup bikini top. Chasing this lie will only lead to heartache, pain and disappointment. This pain will often manifest in eating disorders, anxiety, depression, insecurity, or other self-destructive behaviors.

Culture will lure our sons with the deafening myth that air-brushed perfection offers sexual satisfaction. It bombards them with messages that women are one-dimensional accessories for their pleasure, not valuable creations made in the image of God. Should they believe the lie that a woman’s physical beauty will fulfill them, they’ll similarly face depression and despair–not to mention anger and frustration in real relationships.

Modeling Requires More Than a Swimsuit

My body does not look like that of a real model. I have stretch marks, cellulite, areas where I can “pinch an inch” and funky marks on my skin in places. But by acting ashamed of the ways my body has changed and aged, I confirm for my children that I believe culture’s definition of beauty. I subtly encourage them to do the same.

If I want my children to learn that true beauty derives from service to Christ, not service to the treadmill, it takes more than just sporting a swimwear three months a year. I must actively teach them to see the truth. I don’t just mean pointing out who’s been air-brushed and who’s making ridiculous, TV commercial claims about how great beauty feels. (Though these activities are helpful.)

Rather, even more important than modeling lycra is modeling a heart that finds its fulfillment in Christ alone. When my heart rests content in this place, I’m better able to show my children an example of true satisfaction–the kind that fake beauty promises, but never brings.

This kind of modeling happens year round, not just in the summer, of course. But, every swimsuit season as I struggle through the dreaded exercise of trying on swimsuits or as I wrestle to accept my own appearance in swimwear, I know that I only have two choices. I can either affirm our culture’s message that the only beautiful body is that of a thin, never-had-a-baby, eighteen-year-old and act ashamed of mine. Or, I can rebel against this lie and enjoy summer in a double-digit sized tankini.

Which would you choose?

 

8 Comments
  • Vaughna
    July 13, 2016

    I understand that insecurity can come from any body-type, but as an unmarried 25-year-old who has never had children and whose body doesn’t even begin to stand-up next to your post-children body, that picture of you is a shocker. Any man would choose you over me in an instant. I know we have to accept things for ourselves, but you are beautiful now (even by worldly standards), as I imagine you must have been at my age.

    From a young woman who probably will never be looked at twice (hasn’t happened yet in 25 years) because of the worldly standards of beauty set up around me, which I will never ever meet, I encourage you to be thankful for the gifts of marriage and children and a lovely, healthy body that you’ve been given.

    Pray for those of us who must press on, unnoticed because of looks and not for lack of deep, deep love for the Lord, because of the satanic infiltration of these standards and their being adhered men and women – even those who claim to denounce worldliness. It is a very harsh reality. It breaks my heart.

    • Heather Creekmore
      July 14, 2016

      My dear Vaughna, I so understand and appreciate your heart in this comment. I hope you can also understand that our struggle–yours and mine –is still very much the same. If we look around, we will always be able to find someone to compare ourselves to. Sometimes we’ll feel like we are okay in comparison, most of the time we’ll fall short. There will always be someone more beautiful to compare ourselves to if we view other women as our competition. I’m not saying you are doing that overtly, or directly, but I do want to encourage you not to try to compare yourself with me or anyone and to please, please, please, release yourself from the bondage of feeling like your struggle is different and more than anyone else’s. There is no struggle that is uncommon to man, the scriptures tell us. Supermodels write books on body insecurity. I believe with all my heart – having been overweight and underweight and everywhere in between – that this is a heart struggle. I looked around hoping to be noticed when I was heavier, but I had the same “someone please notice me” craving when I was super thin too. Now that I’m married with four kids and solidly shaped like a mom, I can tell you I still struggle. I still wonder if my husband notices me enough. I look around at the pool and feel I can’t measure up physically to other women–just the same. I think I understand your heart–we all long to be deemed beautiful. We all want someone to notice us, choose us, pluck us out of the crowd and have it said that “this one is mine.” But, a man — any man–even the most wonderful man on earth (if there is such a thing) is not going to satisfy that craving for you. I’ve been married for eleven years now (almost) and my husband can’t fulfil that longing in me as I assumed he would. We were created to desire that–but the only one who can meet that desire is Jesus. No man looking twice, three times, or four times at you…no man ogling over your beauty…will ever fill that heart’s desire.
      You are right- the enemy has wreaked havoc on the culture in this area. Lust has distorted what beauty is, and that’s why I wrote this post. But, please, in no way believe satan’s further lie that you have it worse than anyone else does or that you have less of a chance of being noticed, loved and cared for in the ways you crave. I’ve written many posts on lessons I’ve learned in marriage -but I can assure you – yes, I do feel blessed to be a married woman with children (I didn’t marry until I was 31 by the way, so I was very much a single 25 year old woman in your position)–but, I can tell you that the freedom and heart change on this issue ONLY came after I uprooted the idolatry in my heart surrounding beauty and decided that Jesus was enough. I pray that you will find that His notice of you, His love for you, the way He looks at you…twice, three times…always…is enough for you too. In his love – Heather

  • Vaughna
    July 28, 2016

    Thank you for your reply!

    I certainly am aware that I am not the only one with a struggle (thus, this helpful blog!), and I know women all across the size charts who are broken in this way. The point I was trying to make is that although thin and….thick women have the same internal struggles – and the thin woman often has just as many insecurities about her image (like you said you knew from experience) – however, thin women do not face the same external judgements much of the time. The fact is, as a naturally thick and tall woman, I do have less of a chance of being ‘noticed, loved, cared for’, or chosen by any man in this culture, but not less of a chance of being happy in Jesus. I do not know any truly plus-sized women who, though they have strong faith in the Triune God and are gifted and well travelled and hard working and modest and kind and on and on, have received offers of marriage (and I know a LOT of women). Yes, you hear me right: I have not known ONE of these woman to be chosen, but I know many – insecure or not – in the church or not – who are thin and who have been selected. Does it mean they’re happy? Not at all. It means that unmarried, big women suffer in a special way from this image our culture calls “beautiful”, whether they personally struggle with body image or not. I don’t say that to quarrel; I say it because it’s true and I have to live it everyday. I also know there is nothing you or anybody else can do about that.

    I still have questions I want to answers to, but I may not get them this side of heaven. Why did God create women to want to be considered beautiful? Seriously. If I could turn off that irritating thing, I would – as I imagine most would. Why must women be put on display based on their outside in such a different way than are men? What I hear you saying is that no man will ever meet that need or satisfy that longing, only Jesus can. Jesus is enough for abundant life, godliness, eternity, endless praise, profound humility – but he doesn’t meet the need He created in us to be called beautiful. He never called us that, and won’t ever call us that. That is what I don’t understand. And he created men to look for that beauty in us, which also isn’t their fault, but it makes it really hard for someone (and many others) who will never be lovely in the way men are wired to want (again, whether or not the woman does her utmost to value the qualities Jesus prizes in other areas).

    You said you found freedom after you uprooted the idolatry in your heart about beauty. How? I know you still want to be considered beautiful, or this blog wouldn’t exist. There has to be a better answer than that God created us with a need He doesn’t address. I haven’t found it yet.

    • Rebecca Gregory
      August 19, 2016

      Miss Vaughna, I know three big, beautiful, beloved women who are happily married to both men and Christ. There are billions of people on Earth. Get out and meet some more!

      • V
        September 28, 2016

        Rebecca, I appreciate your go-get-it attitude. I have met thousands of people, and no doubt, will meet many more. My inability to be attractive to a man is not because I haven’t met any or do not meet them frequently. I am even grateful that you think that is what the problem is, but trust me, it isn’t.

        And I know you mean to be encouraging by mentioning these three big women, but do you not hear yourself? Three out of how many dozens of others? You prove my point by making that kind of statement! Still, I should rejoice that there are three.

        I will continue to meet people. I’d appreciate your prayers that I would be satisfied in Christ no matter the sacrifice I am called to make due to things outside my control. There is no loneliness or suffering which our High Priest cannot understand.

    • Heather Creekmore
      August 19, 2016

      Hey Vaughna – Sorry I was taking a break for a few weeks and didn’t get to read or reply to your reply.
      I think I take issue with this statement “He doesn’t meet the need He created in us to be called beautiful.”
      My God supplies ALL my needs according to his riches and glory in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:19).
      He hasn’t created any need in us that he can’t meet.
      Idolatry is often exposed when we think we have a need that God can’t meet. When I depend on and look to my husband to affirm me, tell me I’m beautiful, I am always let down. For the first few years of our marriage I thought it was because he wasn’t doing it “right” or “enough.” But, what I found out later was that my idolatry was soooo, soooo deep in this area – he had no chance of fixing it. I had decided God couldn’t meet the need. I knew a man would. And, he couldn’t. Because it was an idol.
      An idol is something that begs us for attention and promises to make everything in our lives “better” once we have or achieve it. For me, my body image was an idol. I thought if I could just be “thinner” and “prettier” then I would have a man and my body image problem would be forever fixed. It did not work this way at all.
      I relied on my body image to save me. Allow me to explain – I thought I would feel free — finally feel “good” about myself — feel and know I was loved — feel and know I was beautiful — feel and know I was “enough” – as soon as I had a man to tell me and affirm all that. I thought salvation would come two ways to me as soon as I got married. First, I’d have the assurance I was good enough because a man would be saying I was “beautiful” enough to marry. And, second, I would not have to worry about my body image anymore because a man had already chosen me.
      Marriage did neither for me. Because these were my idols, my husband could never convince me that I was beautiful enough. He could never convince me he “loved me” enough.
      It was only once I said, “God, I’m sorry for the way I’ve looked to beauty and a mortal man to save me.” Once I repented of the ways I had chased love here on this earth and lusted after beauty so that I could get more glory and (what I hoped) more love … then I started to see a new freedom to accept and embrace the love that Jesus actually offered me.
      Do I still want to be considered beautiful? Of course!!! But, every time I feel those feelings start to take over — where I start to get compulsive about diet or exercise – or when I start to bug my husband and get mad at him for not telling me I’m beautiful enough or in the right way — I recognize my idolatry. I say, again, “Sorry God. I know that it doesn’t satisfy. I know it never will. Fill this place in my heart that still longs for something that I think you can’t give me. Forgive me for not turning to you to get these needs met.”
      Can I encourage you Vaughna that the closer you get to the savior, the less need you have to find others to meet your needs. It’s only when we surrender to Him, completely, and repent of all the ways that we’ve chased vain idols that He can do a work in our heart and show us how we have all the love we’ve ever needed in Him.
      Yes. We live in a screwed up culture that doesn’t treat all women equally as God’s creation. But, this culture isn’t God’s kingdom. We can be free in him. And, let me tell you, I know some women that this world wouldn’t look twice at but who are SUPER free in Christ and know how much their savior loves him – and they are so much more attractive than most super models because of the light that beams from them. They aren’t caught up in comparison or thinking that they can only get married if they lose 50 lbs. They know that their life is in God’s hands. They have great purpose in him and they are going to live it out no matter what they weigh.
      Can I encourage you that he has a GREAT purpose for your life too. Maybe it includes marriage. I don’t know. I didn’t marry until I was 30 and almost figured I never would. I have a good friend who had the same experience at 39! Don’t limit what God can do in and through you by chasing the idol of body image though. Please, don’t let the devil’s lies convince you that you are being held back.
      I pray this helps.

      • V
        September 28, 2016

        This culture is not His Kingdom, but I must live in it.

        Thank you so much for taking the time to reply with words of truth and encouragement. I think you nailed it in the end, when you talked about purpose. Really the thing I was raised for was to be a wife and a mother. That’s the thing I’d really want to do if I could choose: I think it is an invaluable role. Because that doesn’t seem to be in God’s plan for me, I feel untethered when it comes to purpose. I really do not have any idea what He wants me to be doing in the long run.

        I have had to change careers 3 times already. I am currently so repressed that I can’t find zeal for much of anything. If you knew me, you’d know how peculiar this is. Everyone wants to know that their life has some meaning, and I’d like to know that it has some meaning to God and for God. I’m not a career woman. Right now my existence is pretty pointless, and I desperately want to know the point (something a bit more specific than what I know the ultimate point is). Plus as a single woman, I must make an increasing amount of money just to survive, which means I find it almost impossible to do things that make life feel worth living.

        Thank you for your prayers that my life not be a complete waste to God. That is what matters.

        • rhonda
          October 28, 2016

          I was like you at 25. I never thought I would find a Christian man to have a family with. I lived in a small town and I knew everyone in town and there was no one interested in me. I prayed and hoped, and prayed and cried, etc. When we truly want something in life and pray for it, we can’t see anything else. It consumes us. I was so lonely even though I went to church and prayed. Is God hearing me??? It is hard to see that God knows when we are mentally ready for marriage. We may need to work on something to be ready for HIM. I do know when you feel like you say you do about yourself it does portray to others around you even if you don’t realize it, My suggestion is to volunteer! When we do for others it help us not focus on ourselves and do the work God wants us to do. Rebuke the devil, he is subtle, he is telling you that you will never find anyone!
          Yes I did find a Christian man at 25, in my hometown! He was my roommates brother home from college. You just don’t know what God has planned for you!

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