Until I had kids, my weight was probably the furthest thing from my mind. Unless, we’re talking about wanting to gain weight. I was embarrassed when people would ask me if I ate. I did. I ate a lot of really crappy food, sometimes in front of them just to prove that that’s just the way my body was.
I was often teased for being too skinny. It was normal for people to whisper assumptive eating disorder rumors as I walked by. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. Thanks to my mom’s genes, the bad eating habits she taught me simply never caught up with me.
Until I was 23 and pregnant for the first time, I never weighed over 104lbs. My diet was horrible: sweets, pasta, bread, and I hated vegetables or basically anything with nutritional value.
I never had to ask if something made me look fat. The question never even entered my mind. I could walk into any store and pretty much anything off of the rack would fit me and fit me correctly, assuming the smallest size was available.
I remember going out with friends and the torment and anguish that came over them while trying to find something to wear. ”Which one makes me look skinnier?”, they’d ask. I wasn’t sparing their feelings when I told them that they all looked good. I ,truly, couldn’t tell a difference. I always thought they looked the same, and great! I never had to look in the mirror with a discerning, critical eye and could not comprehend why they felt the need to.
Putting on a swimsuit, I learned, was basically considered a form of medieval torture. We had a pool and my friends would wear t-shirts and shorts over their suits, scrambling to disrobe only until the second they were about to get in the water. Some friends would opt out of coming to my house at all when it became known that we would be swimming.
As for me, swimsuits never caused me any anxiety. My biggest concern was if someone else would have the same suit as me or if I remembered to shave my legs. During the summers, I lived in my suits. I was actually comfortable in them. I even went to a tattoo parlor directly after swimming to get my first tattoo on my hip while wearing one. I’d wear them all day: skimpy, revealing, and not think twice.
Oh, how times have changed.
How ever lucky I was to have a fast metabolism from my mom’s side, it seemed the genetic pool on my dad’s side wasn’t quite as forgiving and kicked in once your uterus housed a fetus. I’d seen it happen to my aunts. They went from being relatively thin to carrying weight in totally different ways. Their bodies completely changed forever. Suddenly they had boobs and hips that weren’t they before.
And I would be fortunate enough to join their club.
Five kids and an **ahem**unspecified number **ahem** of lbs later and I am still adjusting to my “new” body, my ever changing shape and my curves. Trying to find the right fit for me. I finally get it.
I finally understand the apprehension and anxiety of dressing a real woman’s body, one that doesn’t fit the mold of a mannequin. Wanting to go back in time and apologetically hug each one of my friends that had to struggle with this all along and reiterate with more passion how great they look. Reassure them that they’re being too hard on themselves.
I get the distress that they felt and how disparaging they were on themselves for not fitting an expected image. I get it all now. And with regular clothes, it’s bad enough, but swimsuits- you take away the security of the coverage of fabric and the inability to wear Spanx and you’re looking at a red level alert, fetal position, rocking on the floor of a fitting room breakdown while cursing bulges and cellulite.
And it’s not OK.
Last year, I displayed a picture of me in my swimsuit for all of the Internet to see. It was hard, I’m not gonna lie. Boasting “swimsuit confidence” when I was painfully uncomfortable exposing myself and didn’t particularly like the way I looked, felt rather hypocritical.
I avoided situations where I had to wear a suit. I made excuses. I missed out on things all because of an expectation that I had. A need to look a certain way, to look like I used to.
Then I remembered all of my friends. My friends that looked normal and healthy, but were self conscious since they didn’t look the way a magazine told them they should. I wondered if they would have done anything differently if they felt better about the way they looked, in a suit, and otherwise. If different sizes and shapes were more acceptable, would they have been so hard on themselves?
I have three daughters and I want them to live life to the fullest whether they are a size 2, 12, or 20. I want them to love themselves no matter their size. I don’t ever want them to shed tears in a fitting room. If they see me holding back on living since I’m a different size than I was 17 years ago, I’ve sent the wrong message.