1. Eat what you normally eat because you're a living human with caloric needs. You are everything you need to be right now. You don't need to be less or more of it to look good in a bikini. So if you already eat pretty healthy and sometimes want to eat pizza, eat pizza. And if you do want to make changes, do it because you genuinely want to, not because you feel like if you don't, then you don't belong in a bikini, because that is false.
2. Pick out a bikini that makes you feel cute as hell. It doesn't have to be a string with a small square of fabric that goes over your vag either. Shop around and find one that makes you feel excited instead of terrified.
3. Stop comparing your bikini body to someone else's. Magazines and TV and movies have given us all this idea that we have to look like supermodels if we want to wear bikinis and that is such bullshit that I can't even stand it. So let me just tell you right now. None of your friends expect you to look like Gisele in a bikini. They expect you to look like you in a bikini because they love you and this beach trip took weeks to plan. Which brings me to...
4. Forget that models and celebrities in bikinis even exist because they have trainers and nutritionists and armies of people to tone them. I know a lot of it is good genes, but I still believe that if it were my job to have a slim yet perfectly toned body all the time and I had trainers working me out for hours a day and feeding me astronaut space meals while I tried not to breathe in too much air because it might cause bloating, I'd have that body for sure. But also that life sounds miserable and I do not have that kind of time.
5. Eat chocolate sometimes if you want to because you live only once. Having a piece of chocolate here and there isn't going to suddenly make you gain 45 pounds. And also, have you had chocolate? It's delicious.
6. Exercise because it keeps you healthy, not because you're trying to run off your "problem areas." Guys are never told they have problem areas. Not in those words. But women are told they have problem areas like it's this deeply urgent thing they need to attend to or else. Exercise is supposed to make you feel good and have endurance, so you don't run out of breath after you've only been swimming for three minutes—both good things! It was not intended to be a punishment for being a woman. Stop doing that to yourself, please. And while you're at it...
7. Realize you do not have problem areas. You know that thing (or multiple things) that you hate about your body that keeps it from being as perfect as you'd want it to be? Accept that thing. If you think your ass is big? OK. Your ass is big. So is Nicki Minaj's and have you seen Nicki Minaj? I know it's not that easy all the time, but even for a moment, put as much love and compassion into that thing you hate because no one is looking at it and judging it anyway. Promise.
8. Bring your biggest cheerleader with you. You know, the one with buckets of body confidence who makes you feel like a supermodel just by being around her because she's that supportive and fearless. Sometimes it even helps to bring a friend with a similar body type to yours who might be more accepting of her body than you currently are with yours because you'll be able to see her own confidence and hopefully, it'll rub off on you.
9. Drink lots of water because it's great for your body, not because you're trying to flush toxins or some shit. I'm not trying to keep you from flushing toxins if you want to flush toxins. I get it. They're toxins. Flush away. But don't drink water like you're on a mission to not become a diseased flesh bag. Drink it because you're a human being who shouldn't be dehydrated because it's dangerous and awful.
10. Look at beach photos of yourself as a little kid. Even if you feel like you were too heavy or too thin, you would never, ever say that to a child. Plus, look how happy you were then! How crazy lovable is that child? Spoiler: just as crazy lovable as the person you are now.
11. Realize you already have a bikini body because you have a body and a bikini can physically go on it. Also, I have literally never seen a woman and thought, Ugh, she doesn't belong in a bathing suit, because I am not human garbage. And I like to think most people aren't either.
12. Know that you are more than just your body anyway. You're also a person who loves water and wants to experience things and deserves to be able to enjoy wearing a bikini without worrying if her thighs are touching too often or if her stomach sticks out too far. I really want this for you. And I believe you will get there.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.