You've probably read headlines like this one many times before, but this is not your typical bikini season prep list. I'm going to be blunt about exactly what you need to do before you show yourself in public, barely clothed. Ready?
1. Buy a bathing suit.
A bikini, a one-piece, a sexy old-fashioned granny panty and halter combo—whatever you like. Or maybe just dig around in your bottom drawer and pull out an old one. (I rocked a fitness tank and side-tie bikini bottom all last year.)
2. Take off your clothes.
Feel free to admire yourself in the mirror. Or maybe wait until after the next step to do this.
3. Do whatever it is you do in the body hair department.
You be you.
4. Apply sunscreen.
Because skin cancer.
5. Finally, put on your bathing suit.
If it's new, remember to take out that gross crotch-protector thing!
And there you have it. Do you have a bathing suit? Do you have a body? Then you already have the "beach body" you need to go out and enjoy your summer. We all do. And let's not let anyone tell us otherwise.
If you're looking for a little beach-body extra credit, here are a few more, totally optional steps:
6. Post a pic.
You can tell when someone posts a half-dressed photo of themselves in search of validation, and it's kind of sad. On the other hand, it's totally kick-ass and inspiring when someone shares a photo as an act of challenge or to make a powerful statement, a lá actress Amy Schumer, writer Kelsey Miller, or even model Ashley Graham. It's challenging on a personal level, perhaps, but it's also a reminder to the rest of us to take a moment to think about our values around beauty, enjoyment, and embodiment.
7. Put on earrings.
Because everybody looks more baller on the beach while wearing earrings. Yes, they may get ripped out of your ears or rust right there in the holes, but that's OK. And I'm not joking. I wear earrings on the beach.
8. Stop sucking it in.
In fact, let your bathing-suited belly shake like a bowlful of jelly. Need some inspiration? Watch these dogs work on their bikini bodies, admire a few true coastal beauties (so gelatinous!), and then read this snark-filled beach body masterpiece.
Sunny Sea Gold is Greatist's body image columnist and the author of Food: The Good Girl's Drug—How to Stop Using Food to Control Your Feelings (Berkley Books, 2011). The views expressed herein are hers. A health journalist by trade and training and a mom of two little girls, she's also an advocate and educator focused on reducing the rates childhood obesity and eating disorders by building Body-Positive Families. Reach out to her @sunnyseagold.