This is one of those posts that is a Danceswithfat tradition. Today I got my first e-mail from a reader who is worried about buying a swimsuit, so today I post this. Enjoy!
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.
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 a lot of the women I know, of any size, start to panic the first time they see swimsuits out on the floor of their favorite store; their pesky cheerfulness belying their seemingly actual purpose of prodding us into paying the diet industry for products that don’t work, and considering a move to Alaska.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently because I’m about to start doing a lot of outdoor swimming which isn’t something I’ve done a lot of in the past – I’m more of an ambient temperature controlled, swim in water in which no creature is a permanent resident kind of girl (I’m not high maintenance, I’m highly maintained.) But I have, in the past, strutted 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 heartbeat, 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 threw the towel behind her as she jumped into the water as fast as she could whilst grabbing a kickboard off the side. The move was impressive for it’s flexibility and quickness and I was admiring it when I saw saw 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. That is her right, I have no judgment about her choices. I am simply not willing to put up with, what to me seems to be a massive 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 are offended by my body, 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 the mere existence of people because of their body size. 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 because I’m fat I have some obligation to exercise (which is bullshit by the way) are subsequently offended by my body in a swimsuit. The message apparently being that they want me to exercise, but in my house with the shades drawn and under some kind of tarp. Screw that. Don’t like it? Take some advice from the band Chicago and Look away, baby. Look away.
5. It is maddening to me that the diet industry makes 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 flaming 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. There is no obligation to rock a bikini or a swimsuit of any kind in order to be body positive. 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 http://www.modestkini.com/. 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 that’s the best possible outcome since you don’t have to hear it!
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 bikini) the fear and insecurity because I’ve found that very often the pure joy lies just on the other side.
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