“Mom, can we go to the water park for my birthday now that Covid is better?”
I wasn’t surprised by the question. She’d only been asking once a week for the past year, but I was shocked at how quickly my mind calculated how much weight I could lose by then.
Over the past year, I’ve made peace and progress with my body, or at least, I thought I had. Yet, the moment I was confronted by the possibility of having to get my post-pandemic body into a pre-pandemic swimsuit, I panicked. The summer of 2020 was a blur. While my daughters and I played outside, hiked, and planted in the garden, I distinctly remember rejoicing that I never ended up having to put on a bathing suit. Ah, the bliss of full-coverage clothing.
Over the past year, we’ve been focused on just getting through our day-to-day. I don’t know about you, but for once in many, many years, I just didn’t have the energy to chastise myself for eating the cupcake or for having cereal for dinner. Honestly, getting a jog in before work was the least of my concerns. We didn’t have only the wintertime to build our summer bodies (whatever that means) — we had more than an entire year.
And guess what? I didn’t work one ounce towards changing my body in preparation for warmer weather. Instead, the priority was clear and simple — keep the small people well and thriving and get through each workday without absolutely losing my mind. At the moment, that was all that mattered.
I tried to remember this while digging through my summer clothes for the bathing suits that had long since been buried. See, I’m the woman who holds on to clothes that are sized too small because I’m convinced I’ll eventually fit into them. Yes, even the red string bikini I bought from Victoria’s Secret in 2008 that I’ve never actually worn.
Along with that, I also recovered another bikini, 2 one-piece plunging numbers, and a tankini with a skirted bottom. Feelings of anxiety, embarrassment, and shame flooded through me. This wasn’t how I was supposed to feel.
Holding on to these bathing suits was supposed to motivate me, but instead, all I did was cry. All it did was remind me of a time when I was smaller, a time when I abused my body and didn’t take good care of it. For a brief moment, I wondered, was it really that bad previously? Did I suffer as much as I thought I did? After all, pain is beauty, right? Wrong. Just because we’ve always been told this, doesn’t mean it’s ever been true.
After wallowing for a few minutes, I decided to not punish myself more by trying them on when I knew they wouldn’t fit. I mean, sure, I probably could have stuffed myself into them like a sausage, but what would that really accomplish?
Choosing to prioritize my mental health and being kind to my body still feels unnatural sometimes. Consciously making choices like this is a huge part of my body-acceptance lifestyle.
After tossing those bathing suits in a bag for donation, I jumped on Target’s website to begin searching for a replacement. The difference between this time and every other time was focusing on buying something for my body as it was in the present moment.
How would I feel wearing it? Would I be able to do everything I wanted to do in it? What would my focus be when I wore it? Would I constantly be trying to cover up the parts of me that have gotten softer, curvier, and wider over the past year? Or would I finally be able to be present and focus on the incredible memories I create with my daughters?
Answering these questions before worrying about what someone else might think guided my decision. I guess I’ve come farther along with my body acceptance than my initial reaction gave me credit for.
So why am I sharing this with you? Summer is upon us, and for the first time since 2019, we have a chance to enjoy it — enjoy it more with things getting back to normal. But hear me now, and hear me loud and clear: just because things are heading back to normal doesn’t mean we should bring the anxiety, embarrassment, and shame forward with us.
If this past year has taught us anything, it’s that life is short and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Don’t put off spending time with the people who matter to you until you lose those 10, 25, or last 100 pounds. Worry less about what you look like in your bathing suit, and focus more on how you feel.
Will I lose weight before celebrating my daughter’s 9th birthday? Maybe, maybe not.
But do you know what I will do? I will go for that strapless top and the high-waisted bottoms because I want a fantastic tan.
I’m going to buy the suit I want because I love the colors, not to guilt myself into slimming down to fit into it.
I might not be as ready as I hoped to be for a post-pandemic swimsuit season, but what I know for sure is I am ready to enjoy my summer regardless. And I want you to be too.