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Learning to love my non-bikini body

Why buy — or wear — an itsy bitsy bathing suit if you’re not going to have any fun getting into it?

Woman in Bikini Looking at MirrorI flipped through the racks of swimsuits, my fingers sliding past the size zeros. After not exercising all year, I’d put on nearly 15 pounds since last swimsuit season. Now I was an 8, just a few Krispy Kremes away from double digits. Finding my new size felt like a trip down Obesity Lane: After zero, there was size 2, which I wore in college when I was a bike-riding vegetarian; 4, my size in grad school, despite all those appetizer samplers at Eat N’ Park; and just a year later, an 8. Trying to squeeze into anything smaller might well violate several states’ obscenity laws. Time to supersize my swimwear. Then I saw it: a Kenneth Cole gray-and-black python-print bikini. The sexy suit to end all sexy suits. It broadcast the kind of confidence I used to have, the thing you’d wear for a romp in the surf, à la From Here to Eternity.I found one in my size and headed to the dressing room. I stripped down without looking in the mirror. Then I pulled the suit bottom up over my underwear, latched the plastic bra hook in back, and tied the strings tight behind my neck, lifting each breast into place, a little extra up top being the only bonus of my weight gain. Then I looked at myself.Now, at the tail end of winter, I was pale beyond white — almost a translucent blue. I hadn’t waxed, and the brutal fluorescent lights revealed lumps and hairs and veins and bulges. I looked like a python, all right — a python that had just swallowed an entire family of rabbits.So, then, why did I plunk down $86 on the bikini? Staring at myself, I decided that it would be my motivation, chanting the “If you buy it, you will diet” mantra of so many dumbly optimistic women before me. I had to be on the beach in three months, and this suit, if anything, would remind me how I wanted to look. With it strung across the top of my mirror, I hit the gym after work nearly every day and sulked over salads in the cafeteria while my officemates gorged themselves on sandwiches and barbecue Kettle Chips and cupcakes. When I went on an ice-skating date in the park, I mumbled something about not wanting to waste 200 calories on the hot chocolate my companion offered. I may be rigid, dull, and controlling company, I reasoned, but I’d look good in my underwear. Not that we ever got that far.Those three months of deprivation dragged on, every day making me a little thinner, a little firmer, and a lot whinier. Then I debuted the suit.Lying on a Long Beach Island novelty towel in my python-print bikini, I sipped water while my friends passed beers from a cooler and pulled slices from a pizza box in the center of our blanket. I wanted a piece more than anything in the world, but even on this proof-of-heaven blue-sky day, I was too stuck inside my own head to have any fun. On the trip home, I seethed about the stupid swimsuit that had whipped me into such a vain panic, ultimately ruining a shopping trip, a date, countless lunches, and the vacation I’d looked forward to all winter. That’s when I had my forehead-smacking moment: Basically, I’d sold out who I was to look like someone I wasn’t.Recently I found myself digging through my underwear drawer when I spotted the bikini that gave me so much angst. With another swimsuit season upon us, would I wear it again? Sure, extra pounds and all. But, more important, would I go back to being the girl who orders soft-serve ice cream and fries on the boardwalk, who plays Frisbee without needing to first check for a stomach roll or reach for a cover-up? Yes.

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Reprinted with Permission of Hearst Communications, Inc. Originally Published: Learning to Love My Non-Bikini Body

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