“…a selfie, my first one in a bikini :)”
I take up space. A lot of space. This is something that I have always known.
A few summers ago, I was traveling to a family reunion on a small charter plane from one of the main islands in the Bahamas to a smaller one. I was seated in an exit row and my seatbelt did not fit. I mustered up the courage to ask for an extender and much to my embarrassment, I was told I would have to change seats because of the accommodation. I felt so many eyes on me. I was already experiencing a difficult time with a transition from college to the real world, my eating was horrible, and I was the heaviest I had been. Now, I felt as if everyone was looking at the fat girl who couldn’t fit in an airplane seat safely.
Something else that I know, is that I spent way too many summers hiding my body behind t-shirts and shorts at the beach and pool. Or just not going anywhere that I was expected to wear a swimsuit all together. 29 summers I spent hiding from the sun because I was embarrassed of my soft tummy, my thighs, my somewhat flabby arms, and had convinced myself that people were looking at me and mentally tearing me apart just as I was tearing myself apart. I never wanted my photo taken, especially not in a swimsuit, but definitely not a full body photo.
A few years later, I made a bucket list of the things that I wanted to accomplish before I turned 30. Wearing a swimsuit was one of them. When I turned 30 years old, I spent my birthday in Los Cabos, Mexico. That was the first time I had ever donned a bikini and oh my gosh did it feel amazing to feel sun on my stomach! Not only that, my 5’9 265lb (at the time) body was far more well received in a foreign country that it has ever been in domestically. I believe I found freedom in that moment. Not because I worked out so hard, because I was nowhere near where I thought I would be at that time, but because I made the statement that “This is me and this is what you’re going to get!” when I put on that red bikini. At that moment, I knew I could never go back to wearing one piece swimsuits (although I have a very sexy one).
Being plus-sized, especially in America, we are hard on ourselves. Nowadays, we see so many manufactured bodies that have perfect breasts, small waists, and perfect butts. Sometimes their thighs match their ass, most of the time they don’t. We don’t even know what a regular woman’s body looks like unaltered and all the sudden these bodies are #bodygoals. Even within the plus sized community, there is a preferred shape which is typically a larger hourglass and sometimes a pear. It can be difficult to appreciate your body next to someone who is still considered plus sized but has a perfectly flat stomach and hips to match. It naturally makes us doubt ourselves. Instead of praising these bodies that have survived binge eating, questioning if we’re deserving of relationships usually because of our weight (this definitely comes into play when your significant other is slimmer than you), criticism from ourselves and others, fad diets, sexual abuse, drugs/alcohol, carrying children, losing children, treating our bodies carelessly, caring for loved ones and sometimes losing ourselves in the process, we pick out our imperfections in comparison to others.
I promised myself that I would be gentle with myself. After all, this body is mine and has gotten me through much. Yes, I work out a lot but I also struggle with eating. I have managed to put on, lose, put on, and lose again yet I still love myself. Yep, fupa, chafing thighs, asymmetrical breasts and all. I cringe at the thought that I used to say, “Just because they make it in your size doesn’t mean you need to wear it” because now I want women to love who they are and how they were made. I want them to experience the joy of taking up space and being unapologetic for it if it makes someone else uncomfortable. I love seeing women own who they are despite internet comments telling them that they should be ashamed of their bodies …. Sis you have NOTHING to be ashamed of. Go ahead and let that sun hit your belly!
My advice to your readers’ is don’t throw out the “that’s great she feels so confident but the weight isn’t healthy” because you’re (most likely) not a doctor. I have been various weights from 200-364lbs and even at my heaviest, my stats were normal. Also, don’t assume you know someone’s story. Just because someone is still on the larger side does not mean that they weren’t even larger before you met them. Even if they aren’t trying to lose weight, just let them be. Everyone deserves happiness and just because you may be uncomfortable, that doesn’t mean you need to try and make us feel uncomfortable for doing something you’re not brave enough to do as well.
Currently, my favorite summer time jam is “Nice for What?” because I (and you reading this) don’t owe anyone a reason for why you feel so damn good in the skin you’re in. Keep showing off!