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Sized Up

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.

I'd even eat birthday cake in a skimpy bikini- no shame, I tell ya! Rockin' 1989 style with a boom box, big hair and a tan.

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.

This week is swimsuit confidence week.  Lands’ End,  SELF Magazine, and Curvy Girl Guide  want to continue sending the right message.




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11 comments to Sized Up

  • Sonja von Franck

    Great post! Great picture! You look like a pinup - happy and full of life. Way to be a great example to your girls!

  • The Mom Jen

    Gorgeous! I’ve got mine posted too!

  • Jenn in Tenn

    You look great Tena!! So what if we’re a little thicker than we were in high school!? I may sometimes want my body back but the life I’ve lived in between makes me understand why we’re here to begin with. I struggle every day with how I look and my weight, but on the whole, I have decided, “this is me or leave me.” I applaud you deciding to be a better role model for your girls…you will all benefit for it. ((HUGS))

  • Bar

    I think you look beautiful!

  • Barb

    Geez I can’t type… again.. you look GREAT!!

  • Nikki

    I love the swimsuit! You look incredible! I love your smile and the happiness that radiates from it! Gorgeous!

  • Nicki

    I was always the “fat friend” of the group so I totally get what those kids were going through! My skinny friends would expect me to dress like them and they didn’t understand that THESE FUC*ING PANTS ARE NOT MADE FOR FAT PEOPLE! Anyway…enough about my childhood scars. Let’s talk about this picture here, shall we?

    Holy shit! Tena, I know after reading this post that you will believe me when I say that I think you look stunning!!! And if you don’t believe me, I will elaborate…

    Head: Gorgeous hip hairdo, stunning smile with pearly whites, rosy cheeks…and you look happy!!! Your skin is the perfect color (mine is pasty white).

    Neck: Sexy neck all showing for hubs to kiss cuz hair isn’t hiding it. Collar bone visible (turns men on. At least it turns my husband on. Well, MY collarbone turns my husband on. Don’t get any ideas and go flashing your collar bone at my husband cuz I will cut you).

    Boobs: Well, if I WERE a boob girl, I would say that yours are hot!

    Arms: Defined deltoids!

    Waist/hip/boob ratio: Totally proportionate! Hourglass shape!!

    Legs: I said it before, your legs are smoking!

    Right now, you are probably creeped out by the fact that I just totally checked you out from head-to-toe (I promise, I am not gay so you are safe) but I don’t care. You are so gorgeous and that bathing suit? Yes, it is very pretty but your body deserves the credit, not the suit!!

  • Mommabird2345

    What a great post. I think you look AMAZING!!

  • The Weight of the Nation | Curvy Girl Guide

    [...] not at my ideal weight, but I also have a hard time believing that I am just a few points away from being obese. BMI doesn’t differentiate between weight from fat and weight from muscle and other lean body [...]


    Dude, I’d be happy if I looked like you in a swimsuit. Curvy, in all the right places. HAWT MAMA!

  • Manic Mom

    You LOOK Great!!!

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