Look, I think we can all be a liiiiitle honest here and say that being confident in a bathing suit is something that doesn’t come all that easy. (If it does for you, then comment below your secret, I’d love to know…). In our society we have been tricked into believing there is only one type of body that is beautiful and one type of body that should be seen on the beach without being ashamed. Everyone else should be working towards that body and if we don’t have it, we should wear the most flattering bathing suit to hide all our lumps and bumps. Rolls are no long acceptable at the beach over 4 years old, and anything past that we better get “beach body ready” starting after Christmas.
There was a time, where by societies standards, I had what you would call, a “bikini body.” I was fit, flat and firm. If i’m being honest, even then, I was insecure about my body and being in a bathing suit. I constantly compared myself to others and I think it’s pretty obvious by my blog content what I was doing in order to have that body. I was starving and over exercising. The amount of effort I had to put into getting and keeping my body like that was in hindsight, ridiculous and honestly, dangerous. (Now, before I get yelled at, I know that not everyone who is fit is starving and running all day. I’m just talking about my experience with dieting, an eating disorder and over exercise.)
When I decided to recover from my eating disorder I knew I would gain some weight and feel uncomfortable with my body. I knew I would have to buy some new clothes and deal with some extra pounds for a year or two (ummm now its three). That has been really really hard, but I’ve done the best I can and have accepted it the best I can, for now. But let me tell you, wearing a bathing suit, after gaining weight in recovery, is a whole other ball game. So much so that, I’ll be honest, I refused to wear or buy a bathing suit for two and a half years. Until about a month ago I had not bought or worn a bathing suit since the summer of 2015. Ugh.
Why? I’ll keep it simple. Shame. I’m embarrassed. I don’t want to be seen. I have stretch marks everywhere from the extreme weight gain in such a short time. My body has a shape that I have never had before so I feel self conscious about it. I don’t want to be seen as the “fat” girl on the beach. I don’t want to be judged by others and have them make assumptions as to why I’m heavier. I’m uncomfortable with having boobs! There, I said it! I use to say I was an inverted A cup my whole life and now I have cleavage that makes me acutely aware of my every bend over. I feel like my hardest moments and my deepest insecurities are right out there for everyone to see! That belly I try to hide with kimonos and boho shirts….its now out there..... in spandex. The thighs that I use to be able to see through, now rub and bulge. That’s it. I’m embarrassed and ashamed of my body. I don’t feel comfortable in it and slapping it in a skin tight barely there piece of fabric and flaunting it for all to see while I recover has been I would say…..dead last on my list of things to do.
Not having a bathing suit and being overcome with fear to wear one has made me miss out on SO many things. I have gone to the beach, but I wore running spandex and a bandeau with a cover up. I NEVER went in water. I never put on my suit and assumed the tanning position like I loved to for years and years before. I sat in a chair, in a cover up, reading a book, watching my family jump over waves and play in the pool because I just couldn’t do it. The community I live in has three pools. I use to spend every lunch break at them soaking up the sun or playing with my niece and nephew. I haven’t done that now in three years. I’ve had friends ask me to go on girl trips to the beach, I decline because I don’t want to have to wear a bathing suit. The list goes on and on.
What’s funny is I don’t judge other people in a bathing suit. When I go to the beach, I could care less what other people look like. Yet when it comes to myself, it’s the end of the world. I think I’ve convinced myself that how I look in a bathing suit truly says something about my worth and identity. I want SO badly to change this. It’s a body image issue and it’s SO hard to overcome.
Fast forward to this summer and I finally decided that after having dreams of swimming and just wanting to be near water again, and participate in life, it was time I found a bathing suit.
Finding a bathing suit didn’t start with going to the store and trying one on. It started with me sitting down with myself and accepting my body. Notice I didn’t say liking my body or trying to convince myself I look amazing. I said accepting my body. The truth is, I don’t like my body right now. I don’t like my weight. I want it to change. I am doing everything I can in a healthy way to have that happen. It is still recovering and this is where it is TODAY. I want to swim. I want to hang out in my parents lake with my nephew and sister. I want to sit on the beach like a normal human being. So, this body. The one I have right now. Is going to put on a bathing suit. I needed to find one I felt at least comfortable in, that is somewhat stylish (because a girls gotta be cute) and that’s it.
Once I decided this was going to happen and I had accepted what was, it was time to find a bathing suit. First I went to a store. This was a big mistake. Many tears later I left the store. Look, I said I needed to accept my body, but it’s REALLY hard to do when you are surrounded by a ton of tiny bikinis that are super cute that you wish you could wear but know you won’t, and that also remind you of what your body use to look like but don’t worry there is one rack of plus size fugly one pieces in the corner. Not to mention the wonderful lighting in the dressing rooms that show you every nook and cranny and crevice and ripple in site. SO, I realized that shopping for a bathing suit in a store was torture and it was going to be a hard no from me to ever do that again. BUT, I still needed a bathing suit.
I’m not a huge lover of the internet. There is a lot of really negative aspects to it, but let me tell you, when you want to buy a bathing suit and not walk into a store, the internet is like a little slice of heaven! I googled the best places to find a swimsuit and finally settled on Swimsuits For All. They had a range of sizes, styles and for once I didn’t have to pick out a bathing suit for my new curvy body after only seeing it on a stick figure. After a couple of hours I finally narrowed it down to a black one piece that can transform into a bandeau top (I hate a tan line) with some funky fringe and called it a day…..until I remembered that I need to pick a size.
This was another hard part of shopping for a suit. What size do I get? This wasn’t a s, m, l situation, this was a numbers situation and at this point I just don’t know what size I am. They gave me a key of numbers to help me figure it out and despite being terrified, I grabbed the measuring tape, took a deep breath, reminded myself that my body is not my worth, these numbers don’t mean a damn thing and I just need to pick a size and that’s all it is. I measured myself, felt a small amount of horror at the numbers, found them on the chart, picked the size that seemed the most fitting for my very interestingly dis-proportioned recovering body and called it a day.
I DID IT! I BOUGHT A BATHING SUIT!
I was really proud of myself. In fact, I may have even had a glass of wine to celebrate! About a week later the suit came in the mail. I stared at it for a minute, nervous, and then decided, what the heck, it either fits or it doesn’t. I tried it on and it fit!! Did I feel like a million bucks? NO! But did I have a swimsuit on my body after almost three years of being afraid to? YES! I say that is a BIG WIN.
My plan was to still just wear a cover up anywhere I went and not go in the water, but at least I had a real bathing suit on. I was really proud of myself and I actually did it with a minimal amount of tears!
So you would think the next day I would run to the pool, book in hand, bathing suit on and celebrate! Nope. I actually didn’t wear my bathing suit for over a month. I couldn’t do it. I kept making excuses as to why I couldn’t go to the pool. I even went down to VA Beach for a couple of days, where I could have definitely put it on and went in the ocean, but I didn’t. Why? I just couldn’t overcome the shame. Yes, I have a suit, but wearing it in front of people? Even my own husband? I just couldn’t do it.
If I’m being honest it makes me sad. I so desperately want to just NOT CARE. But I do. It has made me realize I have a long way to go still with my body image and loving myself. My ideas about my body and my worth definitely still need some work. But don’t worry, this story has a happy ending.
A week ago I went to Ohio again to visit my family. I was having a really hard time eating enough and with stress so my husband said, “You know what? Let’s go to Ohio! Get around some family and get your mind off everything!” I’m too practical to just up and do something so he made us flip a coin and the coin said Ohio, so off we went. When I packed in a rush, I saw my bathing suit sitting there and I hesitated and thought, should I bring this? My parents have a big lake that we swim in and I would love to swim this summer, but I just didn’t know if I could wear it. In an instant I grabbed the suit and told myself I will bring it just in case, but it doesn’t mean I have to wear it or swim.
Whelp, Saturday was hot as Satans butt crack again and my Mom suggested we all go swimming. S$&T. I guess it’s now or never, right? So I walked upstairs, I peeled on my new swimsuit, took a deep breath and called out my sisters name. She came in the room. I asked her if it was terrible and she said, “OMG! That’s so cute! It’s 100 percent not as bad as you think it is.” So I said to myself, I know I can’t trust my own brain because of my eating disorder voice, so I might as well trust my sister. So I threw on my cover up and walked out to the lake.
Once I got to the lake I decided I would keep my cover up on and just put my feet in because I was acutely aware of the circumference and paleness of my thighs and didn’t want to show them to anyone. But again, there was a problem! I WANTED TO SWIM! It was hot as hades, my cute nephew had his swimmies on, my sister was flaunting her curves and I wanted to participate. So finally I took a deep breath, took of my cover up and said F. IT., its just a freaking bathing suit. I'm Sara, God loves me, my husband isn't going to leave me over my thickness, no one really cares. Here I go.
It was wonderful! It felt SO SO SO good to swim. The water felt nice. It was fun to laugh and swim with my sister. It was great to be in the water with my nephew and actually get some exercise swimming to the pipe and back. I was SO proud of myself. Did I put on my cover up the minute I left the water? YES! Do I still feel uncomfortable? YES! Will I walk around in my bathing suit? NO! But you know what? Recovery is about celebrating the SMALL steps we take to healing, and eventually those small steps add up and things change. Last week I was able to take off my cover up half way in the water near the dock and swim. Maybe next week I’ll be brave enough to take my cover up off at the shore and not the dock. The cool thing is now when I feel anxious about it I have the experience of being able to say, “Sara, you put on your bathing suit and went swimming last week and the earth did not fall off it’s axis. No one made fun of you. Everyone still loved you. It felt amazing to swim. You had a fun time. DO IT AGAIN!”
I’m so proud of myself for doing this. I’m going to Ohio again soon and I fully plan on swimming every single day. I still don’t love my thighs and I am very embarrassed about my weight, but it will not stop me from getting in a bathing suit and swimming with my family. Will I go to the beach and swim with strangers. I don't know. I will have to take that one step at a time too, but I think I’m off to a good start!
p.s. Thank you to SwimSuits For All for having amazing bathing suits for people of all sizes. I highly recommend them. The quality is great and they are super cute!