Beyond the Beach: My unexpected swimsuit challenge in January

I know we’re not meant to measure, or keep note, but I am the largest I have ever been. I can feel it in my knees, and my too-tight clothes. I have seen it on the scales (before I quickly shoved them away and out of sight).

So, it even surprises me to say that I spent every single day in January, even the rainy ones, wearing a swimsuit. Even as I type this blog post from my kitchen table, as we’ve crept into February, I am still wearing a swimsuit underneath my dress.

I am always ready for the beach, it seems.

It wasn’t planned, but it became habit. Each day, instead of searching for a bra and underpants, I gravitated towards my swimsuits, and eventually ended up in the pool or beach.

I remember my first swim of the season, back in December, and it was just like every other summer. I emerge from the colder months, and I feel shame. Shame that this is my body, and she’s in a swimsuit for everyone to see. The first swim is always the hardest. I cover my body in a sarong, and the walk from the sand to the water is swift so not to shock anyone.

And then, with my first dip, it all washes away. I care not who sees me. I don’t care that I have jiggly thighs and a belly. I care that I am in the salt water, floating joyously, living my best summer life. Swimsuit me is born, again.

I didn’t plan to swim everyday. It kinda happened when Shane set himself a personal challenge to swim in the ocean every day this year. I just tagged along.

And then we took a life-changing last minute trip to Fiji, and it was truly swimsuit season.

One of the most asked questions I get from people, is how can you wear swimsuits in public as a plus size woman?

I used to care more, just like that first swim of the season where I want to cover up and I worry people can see me (but that feeling would sadly last all year long). I wouldn’t even go in the water, and then I eventually moved into wearing shorts in the water. And then my two girls grew, and I knew I had to do better, for them and for myself. I ditched the shorts and wore the swimsuit.

To be honest, I just switch off that part of my brain that cares.

This is my body right now. Yes, she’s big, but she is here. She has endured the hardest year of her life (and yes that triggered her trauma and she put on weight as a response), but she is here. I am here.

This is my body right now. I can feel shame and hide it. Or I can accept that this is what it is. I hope I’m healthier next year, but for now, this is it.

And not once have I ever heard anyone mock me or laugh, or make fun of my size. (To be honest, I’m too busy floating and having fun to notice 👀). And if they did, would that say more about me, or them? I have to show my kids acceptance and that all bodies are beautiful and beach-worthy, because the world needs more of it. Most of all, the world (my world) needs more family time in the ocean. It has literally healed us, in so many ways.

Even in Fiji, as we all took turns plunging into the Pacific Ocean (and by plunge, I mean I took the stairs ), we had a photographer in the crew that took photos of EVERYTHING so that families had photos for memories. Those photos were then displayed on repeat on the TV screens throughout the ship. I knew, as I was navigating the swim platform and the stairs, that I was being photographed (in the most joyous, accepting way), and part of me wanted to scream, “NOOOOOO!” I went with it.

And even when the photos appeared on the TV screens as all the guests sat around the lounge room, I really had to challenge myself to just accept it.

It’s just a body.

Then last week, back at home, we had dinner on the beach as the sun set. Our favourite beach is right next to a hill with a viewing platform, where people can sit and watch the beach, the swimmers, and the surfers. It was a stunning night, so people gathered on the platform looking down at us. “How does it feel to have an audience?” Shane asked, looking up.

I laughed.

I would have usually retreated, and hidden, but I stayed. I stayed right there on the sand, in just a swimsuit, for all to see. Because have you ever swum in the ocean at sunset? The way the light hits the water is magical, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

I never thought, that at my biggest, I would have worn swimwear every single day, but I wouldn’t change a thing. In fact, I think I’ve changed, and I quite like it.