My Big White Thighs & Me – now on public release!
17th January, 2019
In 2017 Hannah Maia’ made the film ‘My Big White Thighs & Me’ , in 2018 she toured film festivals with it – for 2019 she’s sharing it with the world (OSS first). Here she shares her journey
At the start of 2017 I set myself two simple goals. One: “To seek out open water and swim in it. At least once a month for a year’. Two: to make a film about it – ‘My Big White Thighs & Me’. To the non-initiated cold water swimming can seem like quite a strange thing to do. There is one scene in in the film where I’m jumping into the sea from a harbour wall, and a lady watching at the time asked me why I was jumping in. I didn’t really have an answer. ‘Because it was fun’ I said with a smile, but her face crumpled and certainly seemed to question my sanity. I guess different people have different notions of fun.
For me it was a glorious year, taking me back to my childhood and those carefree times of being in the moment, living life purely for the joy of it. So was the year that followed, when it won numerous awards at film festivals. For 2019 I want it to go further, so it is now on public release – I hope many more will watch it, enjoy it and share it!
HOW THE FILM CAME ABOUT
A couple of years ago I found myself at a low point. The slender legs of my youth had gone – they’d been surrounded. I was left with big white thighs, arthritic toes and a body I felt let down by after a recent miscarriage. I was spiraling downwards without fully realising it and regularly found myself eating sugar and sitting on my bum too much. On holiday I felt too fat to go for a swim in the hotel pool and was overcome by disappointment in myself for allowing bullshit societal pressures of body image stop me from being me, and doing the things I love. I wondered where the old Hannah had gone? I found myself at a make or break moment, and fortunately I decided to try and change something… that wasn’t to lose lots of weight but to try and change the way my brain was valuing myself.
The aim was to set myself a series of small objectives aimed at creating a bigger change which felt both achievable but also a challenge. There was no long distance, exotic travel involved, nor any athletic prowess. It wasn’t about distance or temperatures but rather an urge to bathe and to immerse myself.
I am also a filmmaker so perhaps one of the biggest challenges came from my decision to film myself. I hoped the act of making a film would provide me with focus and enable me to heal from the recent miscarriage, whilst also encouraging me to keep up my two passions; getting outside and being creative. On some level I suppose I felt like I had a story to tell (albeit a fairly average one) but possibly something that would connect with other women. And I felt comfort in knowing all the footage could just stay on my hard drive and no-one would be any the wiser if I wasn’t able to share my story. The thought that my big white thighs might someday be screened on a giant cinema screen was filed away in the ‘do not open’ box at the back of my mind. This wasn’t a year for overthinking but for taking one small step – or dip – at a time.
As the year progressed I found swimming became a way to discover new places and opened my eyes to a whole new watery playground. From the very start I decided I wouldn’t wear a wetsuit as I felt it would be a form of sensory deprivation detracting from the sense of water on my skin. I wanted full immersion – senses overwhelmed – to be completely in the moment.
I can confidently say that dunking myself into water has been part of my healing process. On some level, I’ve always known that when I go outside into hills, forest, mountains, it’s like a reboot. Mentally I begin to feel better about myself, and about life. Now adding water into the mix has taken things to a whole new level. I have become hooked on the rush of cold water endorphins pulsing through my body and what I can only describe as the energised calmness which enveloped me post-dip.
My fairly average story seems to have connected and resonated with women and men across the board. I’m chuffed. On a personal level I’ve gained a whole new life coping strategy as I now know that when stresses or anxiety build there is always cold water and I can always go and dip in it.
FIND THE SWIMS
Hannah’s Big White Thighs swims are documented in the Big White Thighs Swim Collection on wildswim.com
MORE ABOUT HANNAH
- Hannah runs her own business as a filmmaker and creative at Maia Media. Often working on projects that involve travel, tourism and outdoor adventures, she is a passionate outdoor swimmer, lapsed mountain biker and wilderness lover!
- In celebration of sharing My Big White Thighs & Me Hannah has created a number of swimmer anatomy illustration prints which you can see online at Maia Media Etsy shop.
- Her next film is called Beyond the Bay. A documentary and coming of age story following a small group of teenage girls canoeing in the Canadian wilderness. Free from mainstream society’s expectations they begin to explore their physical surroundings and their inner selves.