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Further thoughts on Body Image

Time once again to chronicle my life as the “fat girl” – ugh, that really sounds horrible – learning to change that into “the girl who has had issues with obesity”.

Excuse me while I seem to veer a bit.

I grew up near the water. Practically in the water.  The beginning of summer for me was marked by the first time I could jump in the river.  Just a mile (give or take a bit – me and spatial relations don’t gel) down the road in either direction would lead us to a variety of favorite swimming holes. Creeks were within walking distance. As I grew a little older, summer meant camping by the river, pool parties and canoe trips.  A little older still and there were trips to the beach. I have always loved being near the water. Unfortunately, from adolescence onward, this love was marred with threads of unpleasant emotions that all arose in regards to the shame, fear, disgust, self-derision etc that  I would feel upon donning a bathing suit.  As I have grown (not in age but in size) the negative feelings largely outweighed the positive and such waterly excursions were for the most part avoided.

This past Sunday I had a twinge of feeling what it must be like to feel comfortable in a skin tight swatch of clothing that exposed me to the world. Hubby and I were staying in a hotel, and the vacant whirlpool called to my stuffy head with promised of relief through heat and steam. I had packed a bathing suit for “just in cases” and so donned said stretchy skin-tight swatch whilst searching for the largest towel possible to cover as much as possible. This has been my routine for years. Cover as much as possible until the last second, then dash into the water hoping it would cover me once again.  So then my husband came up and viewed me in my suit and said: “you look pretty good”…..*gasp*. Never, never in my life do I recall hearing those words and relating them to myself in a swimsuit. Now mind you, I have lost a good little bit of weight, but I am still a very healthy size 18. I must admit, I thought he was patronizing me, but he insisted otherwise.  I turned around to look in the full-sized mirror and saw myself with different eyes for a few minutes. My training for a 5k is paying off in more ways than one. The lumpy bumples of cellulite were not prominent. My legs looked smooth. My ass is firmer. And the suit scrunched up all my belly-fat to look kind of okay. I didn’t look as horrible as I usually feared!

Now, I am aware that a great deal of this has to do with perception. If my husband had not said those words to me, I would have shamefully hidden myself under layers and done my usual ‘strip and run’ for the water. The important thing is that I felt very very different. A little more confident,  quite a bit less ashamed. And for a little while, I felt pretty comfortable in my own skin – and in a bathing suit no less! What are these little swatches of spandex that have previously struck me with such terror and caused such anguish! Nothing so terrifying at all! Perhaps someday in the future we can even be friends. And maybe one day my summers will once again be filled with water.


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