A Fear of Swimwear

I always used to feel a looming fear when I realised that I needed new swimwear. As a slightly pudgy teenager, I'd hate going into shops and seeing every angle of how "bad" every swimming costume, bikini and tankini looked on me in those mirrors. I used to spend hours looking in shops, and in the end just mentally gave up and got one that fitted even though I hated how it looked.

I then dreaded my swimming lessons weekly because it felt like my body was on show to be judged and I was convinced I was too fat to wear swimwear. It was even worse when there were boys around - my teen brain convinced itself that at least most of the time my body was covered up and boys couldn't see how unattractive it really was. In a swimming costume, the illusion was shattered!

This, of course, is utter bollocks. Firstly, you can be any size or weight and still look fabulous in swimwear! It's such an obvious statement that it seems silly to even write it down! Bodies are all beautiful in their own ways and you can be stunningly attractive without having the shape of a shop mannequin. I've also since realised that if, on the off chance, someone *is* watching and judging your body, whatever you're wearing, then they aren't the kind of people you should care about anyway.

It's taken me many years, but I've finally started embracing the curves and soft squishy parts of my body (which make up most of it to be honest). Instead of worrying about whether people can see I'm a little bit fat, I know that they can (because that's what my body is) and I don't feel ashamed of it. I know that I'm living healthier than ever before, with my healthy vegan diet and lots of walks out and about on adventures. If I still have any podge on me, then I'm not going to fret about it or starve it off. I have a healthy lifestyle and, even more importantly, a healthy mind.

So instead of trying to cover up or create an "illusion" of how my body is, I have opted to find clothes that make me feel great (or clothes that keep me warm because I've been living in a van for six months and I've had to be practical, sigh). A couple of months ago in Spain, the weather started getting a lot sunnier and I decided that I needed a new swimming costume for the summer. My new swimming costume needed to make me feel pretty and happy, and I directed Ross to our nearest shopping centre to help me hunt for it.

It had been a while since I'd been shopping for swimwear and I started with H&M, which is notorious for clothes which are smaller than the label claims them to be. I must have spent about quarter of an hour jostling with those two stretchy demon bikinis and costumes, but I ended up bulging horribly out of them and threw them off.

My next stop was Mango and I must say that I was *almost* successful! I found a gorgeous polka dot swimming costume but the only thing putting me off was the big side slits that I could see my boobs easily falling out of while I swam. So that was a no... I also tried another one from Mango for a laugh, because it looked more like something from Ann Summers, which showed an awful lot of cleavage. Again, I wasn't confident that it would fare very well in actual water...

We hit a few more Spanish shops, which I can't really remember the names of, but I quickly realised that big boobs and big butts were not catered for with swimwear by high street brands. I then managed to find Oysho and tried on a black frilly number. It was perfect and that was that.

My new costume had a whole month of sitting forlornly in the back of one of my clothing nooks after I purchased it, as we didn't go back to any beaches, pools or lakes. It was only when we reached Rome and found some gorgeous lakes out in the surrounding countryside, that it was allowed to see sunlight once again!

I must admit that when we got to the lake and there appeared to be the entire population of a local village at the lakeside, I did balk a little. That voice that I'd been ignoring, came back and tried to tell me to stay sitting in my chair and to keep covered up. But I knew that wasn't going to happen. The lake was beautiful and so was I, and no one else seemed to give a hoot. There was even an older guy swimming completely nude in front of all the sunbathers!

After a couple of hours of swimming and sunbathing, I asked Ross to take some photos of me in my new costume. I posed and giggled and felt completely at home in that little lake and I adore the photos I have. A few years ago, I could not have seen myself having body confidence without losing a ton of weight first but I'm happier and healthier than ever before. It's sad how a little bit of lycra and my own body could make me feel so anxious.

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