"I've stopped being my own toughest critic"
courtesy Christie Kylene"In high school, I was pegged as anorexic because I couldn't gain much weight, barely had any curves, and stood petite at 5-feet tall. It continued throughout my life: when interning at a corporate office in college, I returned from lunch with a slice of pizza on my desk adorned with the message: 'You need this.' I was already a painfully shy wallflower, and got used to shrinking into the background in every aspect of life—from work projects to relationships. Fast forward to my 30s, and after having gone through a transformational coaching/self-development program, I learned that I've been my harshest critic to date. The key is no one has the power to make you feel 'different' or 'not enough' unless you let them, so choose love and watch the right people, the right energy, and the right opportunities enter your life. You just have to be open to receiving the beauty around you and within you. That's why posing in a bikini—after not even owning one after age 15—is empowering. I get to embrace my true self and be free of any judgement, including my very own." —Christie Kylene. Are you your own worst critic? Here's how to be kinder to yourself.
"I want women to know they can be muscular and feminine"
Courtesy Samantha Smitchko"This photo is empowering to me because it shows that you can be a woman, have muscle, and still be beautiful and feminine. I have been training for seven years to get to where I am today. It took so much time, hard work, and dedication to reach this point, so every time I look at this photo it is a reminder of what I have been through to get here. And that makes me extremely proud." —Samantha Dawn Smitchko. Here's how to boost your confidence ASAP.
"There is no age limit on feeling great about yourself"
Courtesy James Eickman/GW Burns Photography"For 28 years, I was a fitness instructor, but somewhere along the way of being a wife, mother, caretaker to my aging mom, and keeper of the books for our family business, I lost my mojo. I was exhausted, overweight, and feeling like less than a role model for the members who took my classes. The past two years have been an incredible journey. I have connected with women who inspire me and who have encouraged me to set goals and step outside of my comfort zone. This year I committed to the Team Fit Destination Photo Shoot in Sarasota, Florida. I followed our Team Fit workout and nutrition plan for 8 weeks and joined 40 other women down in Florida to celebrate our hard work in front of the camera. Our photographer, GW Burns, was amazing. He immediately put me at ease and I felt like a supermodel for the day! It was so empowering to transform from regular 49-year-old mom and grandma to almost a 'pin up girl!' This experience has changed me for the better. First it was about losing some weight, but then the journey evolved into being the best me I can be. I am healthier, fitter, and stronger than ever and best of all, comfortable in my own skin." —Sarah Foster
"Healthy is beautiful"
Courtesy Shelly Ramoni"When I see this picture, it reminds me that today, at 47 years of age, I finally celebrate my body rather than punish, harm, and shame it. After years of struggling with bulimia and compulsive overexercise, in which I ran my body to the ground, I am now a healthy and strong woman who is no longer hiding, manipulating, and starving my body. On this day at the beach at a restorative retreat in Bali, there was a large group of women taking pictures of each other all celebrating our different ages, races, ethnicities, shapes, and sizes. Each of us had a moment to shine and be proud in front of the camera, truly celebrating our freedom in self acceptance." —Shelly Ramoni. Here are the health benefits of being kind—to yourself, to others, to everyone.
"I love my curves"
courtesy @mybalancedplateLike many women, I've struggled with my body image most of my life. As a curvy Puerto Rican girl, I always saw myself as overweight and never thought of myself as attractive. Then I gained more than 100 pounds, thanks to PCOS and depression. I spent years not going to the pool or the beach because I refused to wear a bathing suit until I had 'the right body.' Now at the age of 38, I'm finally comfortable in my own skin. I decided that I was no longer going to let what others thought of me hold me back from doing and wearing what I want. As an educator, mom of two young girls, and life coach, I realized that I can't push others to be proud of the skin they're in if I'm not willing to do the same. This picture is empowering because it is the first time in my entire life that I've tried on a bikini! And I fell in love! It's empowering to be comfortable in my skin and know that I have no reason to hide or feel shame. What better way to empower others then by leading with my example of self love and acceptance? And by the way...I did buy the bikini and I can't wait to wear it to the pool this summer!" —Esther Gonzalez Freeman. Check out the body-confidence tricks plus-size models use to feel gorgeous.
"This body kicked cancer to the curb"
courtesy Pablo Solomon"This photo made me feel good about myself because at that time I was recovering from cervical cancer. The photos were so encouraging because I looked so healthy. And it is fun to hear people who see the photos now compare them—especially the back view—to Kim Kardashian, calling me her prototype." —Beverly Solomon
"Life is too short to hate your body"
courtesy house of winter"When I put on a bikini it represents my taking the power back to love my body after years of being body shamed and bullied. It's empowering as a plus-size woman to proudly wear garments deemed unsuitable just because I weigh more. This bikini is my statement to the world that I will not be ashamed of my body, that I will take up space and wear whatever I please. Life is too short to spend it hating your body and summers are too hot to hide under layers so I hope this photo helps inspire women to go out and rock that bikini they have been dreaming of whatever size they may wear!"—Kat Stroud
"I'm proud of my natural beauty"
courtesy Katie Niemiec"While I have a personal style blog, I don't typically post images of myself in swimsuits for fear of people's comments. However, I was excited about a recent swim purchase and had to take a few snaps. What I love most about this image is how beautiful my freckles look! I tend to not realize how much I cover them when I put makeup on, but after seeing this image, I've been trying keep my make up much more natural especially during the summer months." —Katie Niemiec. These natural makeup tricks will let your beauty shine through.
"I love my post-baby body"
Courtesy-De-Bolton, Fitness Blogger/www.FaithFueledMoms.com"I am empowered because there was a point when I first started this weight-loss journey that I didn't even aspire to put on a bikini. Eighty pounds ago, I just wanted to be able to go up and down my stairs without needing a nap to recover. Here I am two year later, not only wearing a bikini but one I feel confident wearing. Stretch marks, cellulite, dimples, and ripples—I could care less about showing them because I earned them. I stopped striving for perfection along this weight-loss journey and began to love the body I was given and appreciate all that it can do. This mama of three little divas will confidently show her tiger marks this summer in my bikini." —De Bolton
"I'm choosing healthy over skinny"
courtesy elizabeth peace"Eight weeks prior to this photo being taken, I was constantly bloated and way out of shape. My husband was deployed and I was really struggling with taking care of my health properly while working constantly and raising kids without him. I also am a volunteer who teaches child sex abuse prevention classes for parents, and a friend of mine was the former Mrs. Virginia. She talked me into joining the pageant and getting involved in Beachbody to get in shape. The photo was me winning the fitness award, and the crown, two months later. Since then, I realized how much I loved the world of health and fitness and am now helping others. I am finishing my certification this summer to teach fitness classes in person at our current duty station. Since then, I've learned a great deal about nutrition and have started lifting weights so I could focus more on 'healthy' as opposed to skinny and actually, I gained three pounds. I took myself from a place where I felt out of shape, and I was, but also I did something I didn't know was possible." —Elizabeth Peace