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  • Writer's pictureBecca Terkelsen


That phrase can strike fear in the hearts of the best of us.

I don't often talk of the things that make me vulnerable, but when it comes to the activity of shopping and trying on bathing suits, at least I know I'm not alone. I'm going to Mexico with my family the beginning of March (YAY!) and I need a couple (or four) swimsuits. Daily temps of 80 degrees+ means I will be spending lots of time in not much more than a suit and maybe a cover up.

trying on bathing suits
They look innocent enough...

Living on Cape Cod most of my life, you would think I would have mastered the art of swimsuit buying. Working in the fitness industry the majority of my adult life, you would think I’d have this activity down to some sort of art form. Since I work out every day, you might assume I am oh-so-confident and just go ahead and choose a teeny-tiny bikini and call it a day. You’d be dead wrong, on all counts.

Just like every single woman (and probably a whole lotta men) I know, this experience is one I would put up there with root canals and needles in my eye balls.

But why? Here’s what I know most people think when I admit to my loathing of the pursuit of the perfect swimsuit:

  • “What?! You have a perfect body!”

  • “Why, you must be so confident!”

  • “But, you workout all the time!”

  • “You have great skin tone, you look good in everything!”

And here’s my perception of reality:

  • “Ugh…my legs!”

  • “Yikes, my butt is definitely not as “high” or tight as last year.”

  • “Nice bruises.”

And SO MUCH MORE negative self-talk. I have to try hard to avoid the negative self-talk; it does me no good, I know this! And as much as the bathing suit shopping excursion pains me, I have to do it, unless I want to spend the beautiful, sunshiny days in yoga pants and tank tops.

muffin top
I only want to eat you. Not resemble you. ;-)

I have the kind of body that is strong and toned in places, and also curvy and soft in others. I have a long torso and shorter legs. I look best in two pieces (good abs) and smaller but full(ish) bottoms. I usually need a wider size on bottom than on top. This means that I can wear a medium top with a 34" or maybe 36" band, but the medium bottom will often be too narrow around my hips, which are wider than my torso. Also, this is where my curves are, so if it’s too tight it creates the ever loved (to eat), and at the same time loathed (to see), "muffin top".

So, I started by ordering a few suits online. I got a triangle bikini in a couple of sizes, a retro-style 2-piece and even a couple of 1-pieces. NOTHING worked. The triangle top is not enough support for my modest B cups because (overshare alert) my Bs used to be Cs that fed two babies 18 or so years ago. Also, I remembered I do not like having a tie around my neck; it is uncomfortable. The retro, high-waist bottom I thought fit well in my usual medium, but it had the affect of looking a little diaper like on my long torso. Neither I nor my hubby really went for that look. I also tried a one-piece in a medium size and it was a bit disastrous, causing a major case of camel toe on my long torso (sorry, you can't unsee that in your mind, but that's what happened!). The large avoided this situation, but it was swimming around my chest.

So, mail order = FAIL. Off to my local mix and match shop I went. I gathered ALL the cut options they had (there were about 8) for bottoms. I figured I could get one or two solid black bottoms and mix and match with a few colorful tops.

As soon as I tried on the first medium bottom, I could see this wasn’t going to go well.

I asked the lovely sales girl for a few options in a size large instead… then a few minutes later I asked for EXTRA large. Now, for those of you that don’t know me in person, let me disclose something uncomfortable. I weigh about 140-148 pounds, depending on the day/week/month. I wear a size 6 #cabi jean, sometimes a 4, which in the real world translates to an 8 at the most (it’s been a few years since I bought other brand jeans). What I'm trying to say, without sounding arrogant, is: I am not what anyone should consider an extra large size. Please hear me: I am not saying extra large is bad, or huge, or negative in any way. But if this shop and I both maxed out at the extra large bottom options, what does the woman who wears an average size, which I believe is now a 12, do?

I was not happy. Moreover, I was angry for women everywhere. I felt like I was a woman shopping in a shop for little girls, or dolls. I no longer felt cute or pretty or even wanted to put on a suit.

Here’s where I had to compartmentalize my feelings. I had to ignore the size labels and try and try and try until something looked and felt right. I let my hubby in to see a few of the options and let him help me decide between the ones I liked best. Not that I need his approval – but I needed someone in my corner and I wasn’t doing it for myself. I love that Nic will tell me I look sexy in a bathing suit; it helps and I needed ALL. THE. HELP. Thank god for him that day!

I ended up purchasing two bottoms (one large, one extra large), and two tops (both medium). In the end, I don’t mind that those aren’t my “normal” sizes, I can get over that. Eventually, I just stopped looking at the labels and just chose the ones I saw as the best fitting. What I did mind was that the sizes were SO different and fit my body differently. It didn't feel good to carry my usual size into the dressing room and have to ask for larger and then larger still pieces. I couldn’t even fit into the majority of their options for medium suits which means I couldn’t even try on the matching pieces; I had to go with mix and match styles.

The moral of the story is this. My tribe, I urge you to go in with a loose plan, and then throw it out the window. Grab a bunch of suits, (and maybe a shot of tequila) before you step into that dressing room and bring a good friend who will be honest but oh-so-kind. Come out of the horribly-lit cubicle when you put something on that covers everything you deem unmentionable and let your bestie help you to see your beautiful. That’s not a typo, I do mean YOUR (as in, it belongs to you alone) BEAUTIFUL.

Never let a size, a label, or a negative feeling define you.

You can do this. Because bottom line: You are beautiful and loved, and you will be lounging pool or oceanside at the other end of this shopping experience... and THAT will never be less than wonderful.


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