When I first moved to my rock all those years ago, I discovered a miracle diet. Which gave me a beach body. Without even trying!
Although I was already respectably fit when I arrived (thanks to regular workouts in my overpriced Seattle gym and a tiny bit of help from a very skilled surgeon), who would say no to losing a few more pounds? Not this woman! Bring it on.
And because all amazing discoveries need a name, I called my find The Ultimate Island Girl Beach Body Diet. (Not to be confused with its less-desirable cousin, The Island Girl Cocktail Extravaganza Diet, which works exactly as you imagine it would.)
But back to the miracle discovery. Turns out, all it takes to become the skinny bitch of your dreams is moving to a rock and hauling your previously sedentary office ass into a physically demanding job.
In my case, I worked as a dive instructor in a very busy shop. When I wasn’t in the water enlightening the masses to the wonders of the deep, I was slinging scuba tanks. A lot of fucking scuba tanks. Nothing like manual labor to get you ripped, right?
But it wasn’t just the 6-7 hours of daily & totally non-optional strength training that worked its magic on my physique. There was something else, too. Possibly a much bigger influence, actually.
My monthly salary. I’m not sure if salary is the right word, though. Pittance may be more accurate. If you’ve never worked in the dive industry in the Caribbean, you may be shocked to learn that nobody becomes a dive instructor to get wealthy. But what it lacked in monetary gain, it made up for in fun. And fringe benefits like losing those last few, pesky pounds.
The reality of those aquatic times though was that I usually found myself with barely enough money to cover rent each month. Let alone little extravagant extras like, you know, food. And since I was determined to live only on whatever income I could cobble together (and leave my meager pre-island savings untouched…that was the original plan, anyway), this arrangement had the unintended consequence of giving me the bikini body of my dreams.
Of course, even if I could have afforded to maintain a plentifully stocked fridge, I was usually too damn exhausted at the end of the day to cook anything anyway.
But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Beyond helping you lose every ounce of body fat, this dramatic weight loss program also offered one other unexpected side benefit: Tips go up dramatically! And if your shop shares tips (as mine did…mixed feelings on that one), your co-workers love you, too! Yay.
The other exciting thing about this diet is that you don’t even realize you’re losing weight. Seriously, the benefits seem endless, don’t they? I still remember the excited thrill I got when, after putting on long pants for the first time in a long while, my formerly snug skinny jeans were hanging on my frame. I’ll take it!
Unfortunately, like all good things, this miracle eventually had to come to an end. As we all know, you can’t maintain a strict diet forever. Eventually, you slip back into old habits. Like making money. The “charm” of being a destitute dive shop manager quickly wore off, as did the novelty of moving hundreds of scuba tanks. Every. Damn. Day.
So I left my aquatic gig and started my own business. One that offered slightly more remuneration yet also required sitting in an office. With a desk. And a lot more “ass in chair” time. Not-so-shockingly, my girth grew alongside my bank account.
But then I made one other critical decision that truly helped kill off any results The Ultimate Island Girl Beach Body Diet granted me. I started dating a chef.
Possibly he was even more attractive in those early days because he offered me insanely delicious meals every evening. Always paired with the perfect bottle of wine. What starving Island Girl could resist such bounty? I felt like Tiny Tim on Christmas morning – after Ebeneezer got to know all three ghosts.
I didn’t hesitate to climb aboard the “Date a Chef” train. Hell, I even claimed a first class seat and married the damn guy. Next stop? Love handles and cellulite. The train is now leaving the station. All aboard.
I think we all know where this is going, right?
These days, my beach body is more Rubenesque than Vogue, and my choice of swimwear veers more to “full coverage” than “cheeky bottom.” My closet is also overflowing with those loose, comfy tunic tops that conveniently hide so many sins. God bless you, designers of forgiving clothing for “mature” ladies who indulge in life’s pleasures. And about the change in my former “beach body”…well, I just don’t care too much. Liberating, huh?
I have forever sworn off melba toast & mustard (a dive shop days dinner essential) and am pretty damn happy. Thankfully, my self-esteem is no longer tied to how much I weigh. The privilege of growing a bit older. And wiser.
Of course, if I ever decide that losing weight is a priority, I still have one trick up my sleeve. And no it is not divorcing the chef.
I just head to the grocery store for a little weight-loss inducing sticker shock. Which brings us to yet another #islandtruth. There are so many, aren’t there?
Food is insanely expensive on a rock.
Not just, “Oh gosh, that seems a little pricey,” but “Holy F*%!, I can barely afford hot dogs” expensive!
Tip for tourists: Anyone who lives on an island already KNOWS this. It is wholly unnecessary for you to stand at the check-out line at the most expensive grocery store here and exclaim – loudly as we Americans tend to do – “What the … ?!? How can our bill be XXXX? We only bought the basics!”
First of all, no you didn’t, my island-visiting friend. A $30 bottle of wine is NOT a basic. Neither is that hunk of cheese in your basket that retails at $24/ounce. Nice to have? Yes. In fact, I’ll pop by later for a drinky-poo and snack. But basics? Not unless you’re royalty. Or one of those annoying Kardashian sisters.
This being said, it is a free world and congrats on being a high-roller. But if you must shop like you’re preparing your rental villa for a lifestyle shoot courtesy of Travel + Leisure Magazine then please just smile and keep your thoughts to yourself. It does not endear you to the full-time rock dwellers to make such obvious (and oblivious) proclamations in their presence. (It also makes me cringe that my fellow Americans still behave so badly in foreign places.)
But back to groceries. If you are planning a move to the islands (especially if you’re considering trying to live on an island salary)…be prepared to open your wallet a little wider than you’re used to back home. After all, almost everything we have the pleasure of enjoying on a rock has to get here by boat or airplane, and that ain’t cheap. Higher food prices are a natural consequence.
Still, it takes some getting used to. Paying $4.00 for a dozen, boring eggs that aren’t even free range or organic? Blasphemy. And a $16.99 price tag for a single dragonfruit? Even I, the seasoned island dweller, experienced heart palpitations at that one. (No, I did not buy it.)
Yet it only takes a few rock grocery shopping trips for your perspective to change. Eventually, you won’t bat an eyelash when the cashier tells you the total for your tiny single bag of essentials is upward of $50. (I personally find it less shocking if she provides that information in Dutch. I guess the time it takes for me to translate it back into English in my head distracts me from the initial shock & awe.) Welcome to island life!
Of course, the flip side is that when you return back to your homeland for a visit, you will suddenly find yourself wandering in ceaseless amazement through your local chain grocery store. What a selection! Such low prices! You better grab a bigger cart!
And therein lies the paradox of living on a Caribbean island. Life here isn’t cheap, especially when it comes to food (and booze! the irony!). But while the sticker shock takes some getting used to, it is more than offset by other things. Like epic sunsets. And beach parties. And relaxed rules. Ok, no rules.
And occasionally losing a few pounds, too. Just don’t marry a chef.
P.S. If you’re still wondering what the secret to having a beach body is…allow me to enlighten you…finally (I know right?). Put a damn swimsuit on your body and go to the nearest beach. (Or read it from another perspective here.) It really IS that simple. We’re all shapes and sizes, so just do YOU and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks.
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I’m a writer living on the Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire. Originally from the U.S., I followed my heart to the tropics in 2011 at the wizened age of 43. Since then, I’ve been blogging to inspire and entertain. I love kitesurfing, a good gin & tonic, and corgis.
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