It’s the Swimsuit Post!

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! 

Pink Argyle Bikini
Fantastic art by 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.

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  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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22 thoughts on “It’s the Swimsuit Post!

  1. I’m in the process of shopping for a new swimsuit. I’ve joined a healthplex so I can use their warm water pool. Both my chiropractor and deep muscle massage therapist are two thumbs up about this decision, so now I need to find a suit that I like and feel comfortable in. Let the games begin. 🙂

  2. I had an epiphany about this last summer, thanks to my 10-year-old goddaughter. She wanted me to change and get on the waterslide at her birthday party, but I was reluctant to because there were so many people around.

    Later, she asked me why I felt that way, especially around such close friends. I had to stop and think before I answered — I realized, about an hour too late, that my actions and neuroses didn’t just affect me. They were setting an example for her, too, and at a pivotal age regarding body image at that.

    So I thought about it. And then I explained to her why I hadn’t wanted to put on a swimsuit. And then I admitted that I was wrong to think that way, and that I felt stupid having missed out on fun because of something so trivial.

    I can only hope that admitting my mistake made more of an impression than my refusal to get into a swimsuit did.

      1. Thanks, Helena! I sure hope so. Looking back, it’s kind of sad that I didn’t realize what I was doing to myself until I thought about how painful it would be if *she* started looking at herself the same way.

        I probably don’t need to worry about her too much in that area, though. If you get her started, she’ll be happy to give you a 10-15 minute dissertation on why it’s silly to think that food and exercise are the only factors in weight gain. And even better, she understands that because it’s occurred to her that she’s thin despite eating what she herself calls “a lot of junk”. 😀

  3. Oh, and Ragen — thanks very much for “a big flaming sack of not-my-problem.” I shall be stealing that and using it right away. 🙂

    1. I plan on getting to a point in my life where I remember BEFORE I leave the house that I’m prone to sunburn after less than 20 minutes outside. At my age, it’s not looking good, but I’m going to keep trying.

  4. Great post!

    As swimming is one of the forms of exercise that is really comfortable for me, I refuse to let any other people’s problems with seeing a 5’1″, 185 pound woman, get in the way.

    Yes, I have seen people laughing at me.

    No, I will not give up swimming.

    It’s their problem; not mine.

  5. Thank you for this. I wish I would have had this to read and absorb 15 years ago when I would starve myself for days and then get hammered before I’d go shopping for a suit. I hated myself and the whole process so much – I could have used some sense like this in my life. I know somebody who is strugglung will read this and they will benefit – they will remember fun and self love and learn a new way of doing things. Well done!

  6. The timing on this is so, so good. I JUST returned from a three-day break with my kids to a GIANT indoor water park. We’re talking water slides, ranging from “barely a splash” to “Jesus God, did I update my life insurance policy recently??” Everyone, everywhere, wearing swimsuits.

    Two years ago I could not have handled this. I would’ve sat, towel wrapped around my fat legs, and made excuses as to why I couldn’t swim with my kids, why I couldn’t go down the slides, etc. All because no one should have to see my flab. Oh no. Oh GOD no, NOT THE FLAB.

    Screw that now. I walked around the entire complex, jiggly thighs and all, with only one worry on my mind: DON’T SLIP (the floor was a little slidey). I went down every stinking water slide, some 5 or 6 times. It is true I moved a bit slower than others…except for the one slide that was so terrifying I was screaming profanity the entire way…*ahem*. And the only thing I worried about with my swim suit was if a boob would pop out, but thanks to good structural engineers at Land’s End, Lefty and Righty stayed put.

    No one said, Sorry ma’am…you’re too fat to ride this. No one came up to me and said, OMG, you are SO FAT, then ran away laughing. If they were thinking it, I heard none of it. The lifeguards, who ranged in size from very slender to very heavy, just guarded the pool and occasionally grinned at me, particularly when I fell off the inner tube at the end of one hair-raising ride and gurgled weakly, “Am I dead? I think I’m dead. I can’t move. This is death, right?”

    The thing is, though, when you’re in a situation like this, you tend to look around and compare yourself against everyone else (“She is SOOO thin…Oh, no WAY am I as fat as she is…!” etc.) without even realising you’re doing it. Or maybe some of you don’t…good on you…you’re further along than I am. When I caught myself doing it, I forced my brain to stop by saying, “You know what? Every second you do that, you’re taking time away from your kids. Seriously? This is how you want to spend your vacation??”

    I looked at a lot of bodies because I’m naturally a people-watcher. I saw so much variation and contrast that it all stopped meaning anything to me. I watched how people walked and moved. It was fascinating. The confidence and body build ran the gamut and had no unifying factors. I saw skinny people slinking around with lowered heads and fat people strutting around and taking no prisoners. I saw little kids having a blast and guys with beer guts splashing like otters. It was fantastic.

    And truth be told…I think out of the thousands of people I saw over the last three days, about 5 were what IMHO could be called “Hollywood beautiful”, meaning that they had what Hollywood, magazines, tv, etc. would deem perfect and acceptable. FIVE. Out of thousands.

    Yeah. Pretty sure I win.

    1. OMG it sounds like FUN!

      I’m pretty sure the lack of body ranges (or ages) in the media doesn’t help people to feel comfortable with how they look, let alone constantly being told ‘buy this thing and look the way you are supposed to!’

      I got over feeling weird in a swimsuit when I spent some time going to a water exercise class with some friends. Lots of variation, no need to feel out of place. I need to get back into that.

      1. I don’t know if Regan will allow the plug, but the place is called Great Wolf Lodge. It’s set up completely for families. Loads to do all the time, great activities, decent food…you will NOT be bored there. I especially enjoyed the Wave Pool…never went in one before. See if there’s one near you!

  7. I got over how I “look” in a swimsuit when I had to pay for swim lessons for my son. 30 minute sessions, with 6 kids per class meant my kid was getting a five minute lesson, even after eight weeks of lessons it didn’t equal out. So next session time I took the 45 dollars and bought me a suit and a package of swim tickets and got in the water with him. You know what I discovered? It was so much fun and felt so good I didn’t want to quit! And other people are so busy worrying about who is looking at them, they aren’t looking at you. Now I shop for swimsuits all the time – Ross Stores often have them year round – because I can’t stop swimming, and wear out two or three suits a year, and I have a style I like that I am comfortable moving in the water in, so I always have to have a new one waiting in reserve. There are so many styles out now and it’s sooo not about how you look and so much about feeling comfortable moving in the water. It’s not comfortable if your suit is too tight or sliding off you.

  8. Thank you for the link to that modestkini site. I like rocking my bikini at an indoor pool but I also burn really easily and a more full cover swimsuit for the beach would be great.

  9. I got over caring how I looked to other people when I used to frequent a clothing-optional pool. I realized that most people don’t look like fashion models, and that’s ok.

  10. Reblogged this on Sly Fawkes and commented:
    I work out in the therapy pool at my place of work, and at the times I go, there’s rarely anyone else around. I admit to being self-conscious about being seen in a swimsuit. However, I probably was even more self-conscious back when I was young, not fat, and tremendously distressed about having big thighs and not being pretty enough.
    The thing that tends to chap my hide with swimsuits is the fact that since I can’t afford to get a really nice one tailored to fit my exact measurements, I buy them off the rack at Wal Fart. I wear a 2x or 3x, and there is generally a good selection. However, lo and behold, many of them are made with so much Spandex that it feels like stuffing myself into Spanx, an item I abhor. While I want support so that stuff doesn’t wobble around while I’m working out (most specifically, my boobs) I don’t want to swim in a goddamn Spanx! As for Catalina swimwear’s claim of “Suddenly Slim,” don’t make me laugh. There isn’t enough Spandex in the world to make my nearly 300 pound body look slim, either suddenly or otherwise.
    What I want is swimwear that’s Suddenly Comfortable. Because when I’m swimming, that’s what I want to be: comfortable.

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