To the Girl in the Fitting Room Crying as She Tries on Bikinis
You walked in to the fitting room right after I did,
fistfuls of the newest bikinis this store had to offer. Emanating the essence of summer vacation and sunshine, you chose the fitting room next to mine.
A minute later, I hear you cry.
I hear the plastic hangers and bathing suits crash to the floor.
More tears, more sniffles.
More deep breaths.
I leave the dressing room with my new jeans in the next size up, and continue perusing the aisles. You walk out shortly after, face red, hands empty.
Hooooneeyyyy do I know.
I lasted the whole winter in jeans that I couldn’t even sit down in, refusing to go up into a size I deemed “unacceptable”. The next size up was my “fat” size, the size I wore the last time I really felt like shit about myself and my body.
Every year is the same.
January rolls around and everyone pulls on their leggings and laces up those running shoes they bought themselves for Christmas. They promise themselves that this is the year, this is the year I’ll lose the weight!
And then it’s February, and you start slacking. Then March rolls around and you tell yourself OK it’s go time. Get serious. Then it’s April 1st and you start thinking shit shit shit, and pray that you can drop those 20 pounds with a juice cleanse (news flash: you can’t).
Then now here we are, being catapulted towards the season of crop tops and daisy dukes, reluctant to pack away our sweaters.
When it comes to summertime and the inevitable lessening of clothing it promises, I’m kinda iffy. I’m in a weird place with my body right now, just as you are, girl in the fitting room.
Right now, I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been. My always-slim waist is no longer as slim as I like it to be, and I’m not a huge fan of sleeveless tops anymore. I have to strategically wear pants and tops that are most flattering, not just what I want to wear. And my legs… don’t even get me started.
But here’s the thing. Although I’m at my heaviest, I’m not necessarily my unhappiest. I was significantly less happy with myself and my body back when I was my thinnest. I was obsessed. And I was building my life around my meals, smacking myself on the back of the hand for having a rice cake as a snack.
My body image is the last thing on my mind. I don’t know if it’s because I’m so busy that I really just don’t have time to stress about the extra few inches around my hips, or if I just don’t care enough to change anything, but I don’t stress about it anymore. I get to the gym when I can, am mindful of what I’m putting in my body, and just focus on taking care of myself, rather than becoming the smallest version of myself.
And let me tell you, it’s quite liberating. Letting go of the stress and obsession with becoming smaller, leaner, fitter, curvier, whatever you want, frees up that time and energy to actually live your life. As long as your body is well and you stay active, you’re doing enough to stay healthy.
We all have these role models, aspirations, and #goals. Would I love to have a 25″ waist again and fit into a size 4? Sure. It would be wonderful to feel confident in a pair of shorts and not worry about my cellulite showing.
But do I love myself in all of my size 8 glory right now?
Yes. I. Do.
I am no different a person as a size 8 or as a size 2. My personality hasn’t shrunk. My goals haven’t disappeared. I am not a worse friend, lazier partner, or less ambitious human. I still am who I am. Our bodies are not our identities.
Our bodies are powerful.
Strong. Resilient. Unbelievable, really. We learn all this stuff in biology about cells and systems and muscles and nerves. We read it and study it to regurgitate it back onto your exam paper and let it go. But guys. Our bodies are absolutely nuts. Realize how many muscles you’re using right now to keep your foot tapping under your desk. Or to scroll through your Instagram feed when you first wake up. Think about all the stuff your body does on autopilot just to keep you living.
Our bodies were made for this.
Our bodies were not made to show off bikinis.
Bodies are temples and vessels, their sole purpose to sustain life. Our life.
We put so much stress on what our bodies look like, when we should really be focusing on how we treat them, and how they treat us in return. My body now is healthy. It gets fueled, utilized, and is running in tip-top shape. When I was fitting into those smaller sizes I idolized so much, I was starving myself. Depriving my body of food and over-exerting myself became my hobbies. Plus, I was skinny, yes, but I didn’t even look good. I started to look sickly. I look back on certain pictures of myself and cringe because I know how horribly I was treating my body in this obsession to be beautiful.
I’ll say it again for the people in back: Your Body Is Not Your Identity.
As you’re picking out your suit-of-the-season, crash-dieting until the second week of May, and filling your feeds with fitspo and body goals, remember that your body now is the only one you’ve got. If you abuse it, it will abuse you. If you nourish it, it will nourish you.
You need to size up this year. So what. Size up. I promise it is not the end of the world. You’re going to feel better in clothes that fit you, anyway. Squeezing into your old shorts is just uncomfortable, and a constant reminder that you’re not that little anymore. Sliding on a pair in your size is just that. They’re just shorts. There’s no subliminal punch in the gut, no sucking in necessary.
Don’t spend this summer and all of the summers to follow stressing about the teeny tiny number on the teeny tiny tag in the back of your teeny tiny bikini. Just live your life and be grateful for the body you’re in. Treat it with respect. You deserve that.