"Judy" and "Lisa", and two of their friends. Photo: Supplied
How are you going with your New Year's resolution to shape up – ready to hang out nude at the next pool party? While some Australians continue to chase happiness through competitive skinniness, with selfies of their thigh gap and bikini bridge the ultimate achievement, others have found freedom and acceptance by baring it all. Shed your hang-ups about your body with your clothes when you take a leaf out of the naturists' book. Sarah Scriven is editor of the naturist magazine Australian Sun and Health and thinks getting around in the buff is no big deal. "As far as I'm concerned we're all naturists, even if it's only for five minutes alone in the shower.
"Most people would agree that wearing clothes in the shower is absurd. I'd suggest the idea that I have to get dressed when I get out is equally absurd. So why should I?" she says. While Sarah's view might be unusual, it is not unique. The Australian Naturist Federation is for people passionate about "living naturally, respecting nature – and accepting all other humans, in whatever way, shape or form." And they do so naked. It is about personal freedom, not sex; naturists are adamant that mainstream media have brainwashed us into believing nudity and sexuality always go together.
To be honest, most of the glossy, full-frontal photos in Scriven's magazine would arouse only the interest of a cosmetic surgeon looking for tummy tuck and liposuction candidates.
They feature real people (not models) relaxing at the beach or campsite without clothes. And more than 60 per cent of naturists are married or in a committed relationship.
Scriven says they are "normal people doing normal things just without the hang-ups of body image and without clothes where it's appropriate." Judy Wilson* describes herself as one of the most incorrect" body types to go about naked, yet she would rather go to a nudist beach than find a swimming costume to wear to a beach where clothes are required. She says people often make assumptions about you based on your appearance but at a nudist beach, "no one judges you. No one has clothes, make-up or jewellery and you're starting from a blank canvas. So people have to talk to you to get to know you." One of Judy's friends, Lisa Brooks*, takes naturist holidays. At first, she says, she was quite nervous. "It was a big step for me to take." She now regains her body confidence with each holiday.
"It's really nice being with a group of people, in particular with a group of women, who accept you the way you are, with your lumps and bumps and everything else. It's quite liberating and very confidence boosting. If people can accept you regardless of how you look, that's a big deal for most women."
Lisa's husband Paul can testify to naturism's uplifting effects. "I'm amazed at the transformation my wife undergoes every time we have a naturist holiday, where everyone is equal. She becomes more relaxed, less stressed, and increasingly confident."
He points out that naturism places a high value on health, and many of their naturist friends focus on being healthy instead of pressuring each other to look a certain way.
Acceptance among naturists of bodily diversity extends to pubic hair. There is mainstream debate about whether the bush is back, or hairlessness is here to stay. But you'll find all styles at a clothes-free beach.
Judy says while some naturists make an effort and others are very natural, anyone who grooms their pubic hair does it for themselves, not to impress.
Scriven agrees: "People don't become naturists to show off how good they look. And it wouldn't work anyway because very few naturists will care. That's the point."
So don't count on naturists to help send your "thinspiration" selfies viral.
Judy offers reassurance that "we're quite normal people", yet she's not "normal" enough to make a weight-loss resolution.
Instead, she wants to travel more, while cutting back on washing (get it?).
Her friend Lisa doesn't even have a New Year's resolution. "I don't normally set New Year's resolutions. I'm usually just happy with life in general."
*Names changed for privacy.