How Not to Obsess About Looking Fat in a Swimsuit and F-ing Enjoy Yourself!

Art by the fabulous Jodee Rose
Art by the fabulous Jodee Rose

Do you know Golda Poretsky?  You should.  She is a very cool woman doing great work in the Body Positive Community. Her site is Body Love Wellness and I highly recommend it.

Yesterday she tweeted;  “Rec’d a link to “How Not To Look Fat In A Swimsuit”. Wld ♥ to see “How Not To Obsess Abt Looking Fat In A Swimsuit & F-ing Enjoy Yourself”

Well Golda, your wish is my command!

Seriously, let’s talk about this.  It seems that almost every woman I know, of any size, starts to have panic attacks the first time she sees swimsuits out on the floor of her favorite store;  their pesky cheerfulness belying their greater purpose of  prodding us into going on insane cabbage soup diets and considering a move to Alaska.

Let me preface this by saying that I don’t personally spend much time at lakes, rivers, oceans, pools or water parks.  It has nothing to do with my size or how I feel about wearing a bathing suit.  I am half Irish and half German so my skin can only achieve two colors:  translucent and lobster.  I’ve tried every sunscreen in the world and nothing works.  But don’t cry for me Argentina, I don’t really enjoy being in the sun so it all works out.  I’m a chlorinated, heated water, ambient temperature controlled, indoor pool kind of girl – I’m not high maintenance, I’m highly maintained.

That being said, I will strut around my gym in a bathing suit with no worries.  Here are a few reasons why:

1.  It’s my BODY.  I live with it 100% of the time.  It does awesome things for me like breathing, and walking, and swimming and I decided long ago that I am not going to allow anyone to convince me to hate or be ashamed of  something that I am with 100% of the time for the rest of my life.  I get to choose how I feel about my body – nobody else can make me feel good or bad, it’s on me.

2.  Because it’s a pool and when you go to the pool, you wear a swimsuit. It’s not for vanity – it’s practical.  The last time I was at the gym ready to make use of the pool there was a “thin to average size” (probably a size 8 or 10)  woman in a large t-shirt with a towel wrapped around her legs and all the way to her ankles.  She scooted to the edge of the pool and, in a move that I can only describe as ninja-esque, threw the towel behind her as she jumped into the water as fast as she could whilst grabbing a kickboard off the side.  But her Crouching Tiger Hidden Swimwear moves could not mask the fact that she was wearing control top pantyhose under her suit.  She looked at me and said “Nobody should have to see these legs without hose on”.  Before I could reply, she realized that her shirt was caught on the side railing, then her pantyhose got caught on her kickboard.  While I swam laps she spent most of the time dealing with being in the water with a giant shirt and pantyhose.  I am simply not willing to put up with that kind of inconvenience, or  have my technique interrupted by a ginormous swatch of cloth which, when it is wet, hides nothing anyway; and pantyhose which I will not wear under any circumstances in the world, ever.

3.  I do not care if people are offended by my body.  People are allowed to be offended by whatever they want and it’s really none of my business.  I’m offended by people who I perceive to be too easily offended, but it turns out nobody gives a damn which is as it should be.  It is my BODY, if we all treated each other with basic human respect it would be impossible to be offended by someone else’s body.  The very idea is ludicrous to me. Regardless, it is not my job to protect people’s delicate sensibilities – there are at least three alternate cardinal directions in which they can look if they don’t want to look at me, they are free to choose one.

4.  Hypocrisy is an ugly thing.  It always seems like the same group of people who are  telling me that I should lose weight and are subsequently  offended by my body in a swimsuit.  While I would prefer that they just shut up, I insist that they choose – you can’t complain about my weight and then complain about what I do to stay fit.

5. It is maddening to me that the diet industry makes 40 BILLION dollars (UPDATE:  as of 6/15/14 this number is now over 60 BILLION dollars) a year convincing women to hate themselves.  They create fear and uncertainty by saying things like “Swimsuit season is just around the corner, are you ready to wear a swimsuit?”  Well, let’s see here…  Swimsuit?  Check.  Body to put it on?  Check.  Yup, I’m all set thanks.  Plus I think I’ll keep my money you bloodsucking leeches.

6.  People can see me.  So they know how big I am whether I’m in a swimsuit, or jeans and a t-shirt.  If they are shocked at my size in a swimsuit, they should have been paying better attention.  That’s just a big sack of not-my-problem.

I realize that my swimsuit preferences are not everyone’s which is awesome.  Not everyone, regardless of size, is comfortable with how much skin a swimsuit shows.  Here are some more ideas  to help you stop obsessing and start having fun in the sun (or the oh-so-flattering incandescent glow of the overhead lights at the gym).

1. Alternative Swimsuits.  These are often created for women who want to keep to specific religious clothing guidelines or who just want a more modest look.  I did a quick Google search and found  I’m not affiliated with them at all so I make no guarantees, but it will give you an idea of what’s out there (and some of their plus size swimwear is actually modeled by plus-sized women.  Woot!)

2.  Fabulous Cover ups:  If there’s a particular part of your body that you prefer to keep covered for whatever reason, an (aptly-named) cover-up might be just the thing.  Here are some examples (again, no affiliation, check out the vendors before you buy!)

3.  Safety in numbers.  Go with a group of people who make you feel good about yourself and focus on the fun and not on any body insecurities you might have.  Think about how fantastic your body feels when you are swimming, or going down a water slide, or splashing in the waves.

4.  Reality check.  One of my favorite quotes is by Mark Twain “I’ve had thousands of problems in my life, most of which never actually happened”  When I’m worrying about something I try to remember that I am wasting energy on something that is not actually part of reality.  So instead I…

5.  …Expect the best, plan for the worst.  Think about what your true fears are about going out in a swimsuit.  Write them down and then create a plan to deal with each of them.  Are you afraid people will say something mean to you?  Create some scripting and practice it until you feel comfortable (you might check out my “How Dare You” post). Afraid of chaffing?  Hie thee to Google and read up on the various lotions, powders etc. that can help with that, or look into swimsuits that can help. Worried people will talk about you behind your back?  Maybe get over that – I actually think that’s the best possible outcome because frankly I don’t want to hear it anyway.

In the end of course it’s your choice.  For my part,  I’m not willing to allow my options for fun, activity, movement etc. to be controlled by what other people might think or say.  If my own fears or insecurities are getting in the way I try to find a way over (modest swimsuit), under (cover up), or through (F this, I’m wearing a two-piece) the fear and insecurity because I’ve found that very often the pure joy lies just on the other side.

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49 thoughts on “How Not to Obsess About Looking Fat in a Swimsuit and F-ing Enjoy Yourself!

    1. Hey Golda, love you right back! I’m so glad that you liked it!!! Thanks for the inspiration.

  1. Love it! I swim all the time, as it’s my primary form of exercise. Some days I have a take-no-prisoners attitude about my size, and some days I have to do some mental gymnastics to feel ok about appearing in public in a swimsuit.

    Thanks for the post, and the excellent reminders — my body is my friend and other people’s opinions of me are none of my business. One of my favorite sayings lately is a very simple, “That’s not my problem.”

    1. Glad that you liked it! I think that I’ll be adopting “that’s not my problem” as one of my favorite phrases as well 🙂

  2. Wow – hose? That’s extreme! Great post! I’m heading to the beach next weekend and have every intention of wearing my tankini with pride! I have an awesome matching sarong that makes me feel sexy and feminine too 🙂

    1. Ooh tankini sounds awesome and I have sarong envy. I almost never have occasion to wear one and I agree that they make me feel really sexy and feminine!

  3. Just found your blog, and I LOVE it already! 🙂 I really love point #6–People can see me. That had me laughing out loud, because you are soooo right! Common sense, really, but I guess a lot of us have our minds so clouded with other people’s perceptions of us and worries about what other people might think that common sense sometimes flies out the window. Thanks for the reality check…you may have convinced me to actually start looking at swimsuits (for ME and not just for my kids) for the first time years! I haven’t worn a swimsuit since I was probably about 12 years old–now I’m 38. Maybe it’s about time to try again? 😉

    1. I’m glad that you like the post and it is Fan-freaking-tastic that you are thinking about looking for a swimsuit. I bet you’ll find one that is worthy of your awesomeness!

  4. Thank you for an eloquent, well-written post. I always say I will worry about things when they happen. I have little enough energy to waste worrying about stuff that more than likely, won’t ever happen.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment. I’m really glad that you liked the post and I like “I will worry about things when they happen” 🙂

  5. found you through a link from twitter, and just love this post! I’ve written (and illustrated) on the topic of the dreaded swimsuit “season” several times. you have a wonderful (and funny) attitude about something that bring out the fears in almost every woman I’ve ever know, no matter what her size!

    1. Holy crap I love your website! I just bought your book from Amazon and I can’t wait to get it. Thanks for doing amazing work 🙂

  6. I tend to be in the f-this, I’m wearing a 2 piece crowd. (ok, doesn’t seem to be much of a crowd sometimes, but anywhoo…) has a rather decent collection of plus size 2 piece and 1 piece swimwear. I have one of their bikinis, when I bought it, I was size 24… and I rocked it hard. Now, I’m closer to an 18, and I still rock it hard.

  7. I really, really needed to wear this. Yesterday evening I had a meltdown re: trying on swimsuits. The usual story – order 5 online, become aghast that you look nothing like the models after trying them on, settle for 1, become bitter at paying for shipping for returning the other 4, repeat 8 TIMES with varying degrees of success…ugh. No more of this! I’m going to wear what makes me happy.

    Thank you, I’m free!

    1. I’ve done the same thing with online shopping – maybe I’ll do a blog on the insanity that is shopping for plus sized clothes. I’m sure you’ll find a suit that makes you happy!!!!

      1. There is nothing more insulting than the plus sized clothing industry. I want quality AND style. If I have the means to pay for it, so why won’t they make them? Surely the buyers at Nordstroms must know that the sale racks are full of sizes 0 to 8. The larger sizes sell, so why not have more of them?

  8. OMZ! Thank you for this post and for being you and true to who you are! I try to preach and live this way, too…but the self-esteem/insecurities thing is at it’s highest when in swimwear. I have fun regardless, but sometimes it’s super tough. And thank you for making me laugh! The comment about being 2 shades wither translucent or lobster? Me in a nutshell!!! If you ever find a fab sunscreen that does work, you gotta let me know! =0)

    1. I’m so happy that you liked the post. Swimwear can definitely be a challenge. Good luck finding a swimsuit that deserves you! I’ll keep you posted on the sunscreen but I’ve gotta admit I’m not looking very hard 🙂

  9. Girl, that was a great read. Not only was it insightful, but it was funny and just really well-written. I commend you on putting into words the things women really need to hear! You keep on doing what you do!

  10. Got to this from Jezebel – great stuff, thank you!
    I wish this kind of support had been available to me when I was a self-despising teenager.

  11. I have never really had any issues with this (except for the two-piece thing, because I’m not THAT comfortable yet and). Maybe I’m lucky, because I love the water and being with the people I’m with far too much to even worry about what I look like, which is a pretty awesome feeling.

    But I have to say, a very close, thin-to-average-sized friend of mine saw some pictures of me, posted on facebook, at a friend’s party just chilling in a swimsuit … whether I was in the pool, down at the grill, whatever. It was cooler than wearing it under my clothes and I was having fun. Why not? But she commented to me that I was “so brave” for wearing a swimsuit in public, even out of the pool (and allowing all of fb to see it) like that. I know her well enough to know that she didn’t mean it as a slur on *my* size, but her own; she would never go out wearing a swimsuit, like I had done without giving it a second thought, even though I’m much larger than she is. It’s insanity, really.

    And because someone brought up the insanity that is trying on/shopping for plus-sized clothes, my biggest problem with swimsuits is that I have MAJOR issues with finding swimsuits that actually fit my chest. I am naturally well-endowed, and with my current swimsuit, I love the color and the fit everywhere except the boobs, which I have to cram in (and I do mean cram. I usually have to get the control type swimwear just to have enough support for the girls.) But if I went up a size, it wouldn’t fit my torso/hips. I just wish that with things like this there were options available for people who don’t fit the expected/normal proportion range, even for plus-size people. I’m here to tell you, large band size =/= large cup size, and large cup size =/= large band size. My sister has wide hips for the rest of her and has endless trouble with dresses, even though she’s average size. *sigh* *end rant*

    1. ARRRGH! W.I.R. I feel your pain! 😦

      I’m a 3x/4x bust/waist with 5x/6x hips. Basically, I’m an hourglass with more sand on the bottom. 😛 This means most shirts I buy suck (unless they are A-line which is a *ridiculously* hard style to find) because they are either too baggy up top or too tight and rolling up on the bottom. And obviously, 1-piece anything (swimsuit, dresses, etc.) is a nightmare.
      I found a lovely 1-piece swim ‘dress’ at Junonia that fits my hips and doesn’t give me a wedgie (crucial swimwear criteria), but I’m going to have to take it to a tailor and have it altered because the straps are falling off my shoulders and it doesn’t give my boobs the support they need.
      The fight to be fat and fashionable continues…

  12. Thank you for posting this. It is funny I am content with my body UNTIL swimsuit season, then I am just embarressed all the time. No more! My body has carried two children 41 weeks. Breastfed for almost 3 straight years and keeps me going. Screw society for telling me I need to be anorexic.

  13. Excellent article…it took me many moons to figure this life lesson out, myself. I’m SO glad I did because I’d still be hiding away from the pool covered in a big t-shirt and cutoffs.

    1. I’m so glad that you liked it! I check out your website and I love the Maya Angelou poem on the front page. I also love the name of your site. Having had to have innumerable pants hemmed, I’ve often thought that I could quickly open a clothing store called “Short Fat Girl”. I’m sorry about your bird… he’ll come around I’m sure!

  14. Just want to say, “Hell to the yeah!” I love your point #1–with society’s male-gaze centric POV, it’s horribly easy to forget the experience of being in the body, beyond the layers of self-judgement based on beliefs about appearance and other people’s judgments about appearance and the media’s portrayals and… and… until you gag. Thanks for pointing out that we live in our beautiful bodies, those terrible, wonderful animals that are our lives.

  15. Okay, I might be a little ranty in this post (not at you, danceswithfat, but at SWIMSUITS!)
    Womens’ swimsuits irk me to no end. They are in the same league as slinky nightclub dresses and jeans so tight that every bump on your ass is visible. Now, I like my body, I accept it. My husband will accuse me of low self esteem every time I am hesitant to put my body on complete display. But it’s not “low self esteem”! It’s DIGNITY!
    Think about this: Men get to wear nice boxy shorts as swimwear. The shorts do not hug their packages or butts. (Men who wear the “european” swimsuits get mocked here in the US, they are in the minority.) Men get to go to a pub in nice polos and slacks and not uncomfortable reveal-all dresses and heels. Granted, a woman doesn’t HAVE to wear this, but if she wants to be seen as “sexy” she will. Men’s pants are actually true to size and are loose fitting though the crotch and legs. Women’s pants are cut to hug every curve!

    I don’t think your average man would ever want to wear anything cut like women’s clothing. Can you imagine? tight shirts with plunging necklines, tight tight pants constricting their junk and swimwear that is little more than lingerie. My husband would feel ridiculous, but yet doesn’t see why I would feel the same way.

    i guess my point is this: I don’t like bearing my body for strangers. I’ve been thin and now I am fat and my feelings remain the same. Even your average one-piece just leaves nothing to the imagination! The modestkini was interesting. I liked the tanktop/capri kind. The full body kind just seemed like a little too much material.

    Anyway I am just ranting. It’s an old rant. 🙂 PS I am not knocking any woman, thin or fat, that likes revealing clothing. I just wish that there were more options in swimsuits like the modestkini that were actually mainstream, y’know?

    1. If you don’t want to bear your body for strangers, then don’t do it. It’s your choice. Your body is your property, nobody else’s, and nobody is entitled to see it except you and who you choose. Never feel like you’re obliged to sacrifice your modesty.

  16. This was great to read! Agree with all your points and especially what you say in #5, it’s something that bothers me, too.
    Why do they imply that we have to alter our bodies just to wear a swimsuit?
    I just wanna swim, you know? thank you… 😀

  17. Um, I’m pretty sure I want you to be my new best friend (don’t tell my other BFFs that)!

    Great post. Great insight. Great advice. I love it!

  18. P.S. I just realized this is from last year, but a friend of mine found it and linked to it on her FB page. I’m off to check out the rest of your blog!

  19. The women in this pic are actually heavily involved in the BBW community in New England and are very well known! The woman in the black used to (and might still, but I live in Seattle now) run plus size dances called Heavenly Bodies, and she’s been a proponent of Fat Acceptance for years! They have always been SUCH an inspiration!

  20. Thank you for this. All of it. I just started taking my 8 month old son to parent and me swim classes (and most of the other parents are attractive dads!) and even though I had bought a ridiculously fabulous 1 piece that I fell in love with, I had a really hard time taking my cover up off at our first lesson. You’re so right though, people see me everyday and I look the same whether I’m in jeans or a dress or a hot pink candy striped swim suit, they know how big I am, there is nothing that can hide that. I need to be confident for my son, and focus on his needs, in this case water safety, rather than worry about what other people think. Thank you for the GREAT reminder!!! ❤

  21. Love it! Any chance you know when and where the picture was taken? The blonde in the green bikini looks like someone I knew. But she passed many years ago. Any good tips on where to find reasonably price bikinis for us lovely ladies reading this?

  22. I’m 5’7, 130lbs. I’m thin looking with DD boobs….and I have SEVERE bathing suit anxiety. I’m the one person in the group who doesn’t go in the pool. I sit out and wear my coverup all day. I can’t shake this anxiety that everyone is looking at me. I have always been this way…I have always avoided being the center of attention (I cried at my 5th birthday because I didn’t like kids singing the happy birthday song to me). I never like feeling like people are looking at me and judging me in any way, shape or form. So when Summer comes around and suddenly everyone wants to go to the pool or the lake, I start feeling nervous. What do I do? I’m 39 years old and still feel like I need to hide under fabric. My two kids don’t even bother asking me to get in the pool and play with them anymore. I have sort of a reputation now as the one person who doesn’t get wet. My friends are now noticing. I’ve had the question thrown at me, “why do put a suit on if you never go in the water?”


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