There are few people--or at least very few women--who do not feel at least a little angsty and self-conscious about the whole swimsuit issue. Even supermodels often resort to photoshopping or bizarre diets to cope with unrealistic societal expectations of women's bodies. What about those who are overweight?
Yet swimming and other water activities are healthy, and it's hard to do them wearing street clothes. Contributor Jan Bono shares some recollections about swimwear and other challenges she faced on her journey to shed an insane amount of weight and embrace a healthier lifestyle --Crabby
Following a well-balanced food plan will eventually result in weight loss. But as everyone knows, at least intellectually, exercise is the key to burning maximum calories and taking the pounds off just a little bit faster.
Exercise and I were no strangers to each other. I had participated in a variety of organized sports throughout high school. And even after an absence of many years, my muscle memory was still intact.
I wrote “Get more exercise” on my list of New Year’s resolutions the first of every January. And every year I made a good stab at sticking to it by setting up a daily walking schedule. Some years I was still walking regularly into late February or the first few weeks of March.
Walking is relatively low-impact and takes no special equipment other than a good pair of tennis shoes. But walking has its drawbacks. When I walked along the road near my home, I took my life into my hands.
The shoulder of the road is far too narrow for anyone to walk safely. Teenagers in passing cars often threw things at me as I strode along. It was hurtful and humiliating. Pop cans, milkshakes, cigarette butts and apple cores were hurled in my direction. And I admit, at my size I made a pretty easy target.
Walking on the beach was difficult as well. The soft sand failed to support my girth and my knees were not sturdy enough to go very far. I could walk on the half-mile boardwalk, and I often did, but that meant I had to drive into town to get there. It wasn’t always convenient for me to drop everything to do that. I guess I just wasn’t willing to go to any lengths to get the exercise I knew I needed.
The swimming pool, however, was much closer to my home. They were open a couple evenings a week, and there was even a little old ladies’ water aerobics class available. It sounded like the answer to another of my prayers.
Only one thing held me back. I needed a swimsuit. A very large swimsuit. And there wasn’t anyplace nearby which sold swimsuits in the middle of the winter, much less very large swimsuits.
So I scoured the specialty catalogs and finally found a swimsuit I felt would cover enough of me so going to the pool wouldn’t cause me to suffer too much shame. I put a rush on the order and it arrived two days later. The day it came happened to be a day the evening exercise class met.
At 5:45 I pulled on my swimsuit and took a good look in the mirror. I turned this way and that. The suit was black and white, and while it covered what it needed to cover, it also accentuated the three or four rolls of fat cascading down my belly, back, and butt. I thought I looked like a giant Emperor penguin, or maybe Shamu the killer whale.
I wore my suit under my bathrobe for the drive to the pool so I wouldn’t have to change in front of anyone when I got there. I shucked out of my robe in the dressing room and descended the steps into the water quicker than I thought I could move. Once in the water, I maneuvered until I was about chin deep to do the exercises. I didn’t want anyone looking at me, or feeling sorry for me. I felt sorry enough for myself.
I must say I gave it my best shot. But there was no way on God’s green earth I could even pretend to be keeping up with the instructor. The little old ladies were stirring up a real froth and I was in constant danger of being swamped.
I tried doing the exercises at half speed, but that didn’t help much. I got totally out of breath and working up one heck of a sweat while standing in a swimming pool!
Discouraged but not defeated, I returned to the class a second time. And a third. And a fourth. And soon I became one of the die-hard few that never missed a session. I have no fathomable idea what got me to go back time after time, unless, once again, there was a Higher Power at work on my behalf. It must have been God who gave me the courage to continue—the courage to change the things I can, and the willingness to do so.
After several months, I had modified the exercises and did my own thing in the deep water by myself. I could still hear and enjoy the music, and I was still moving, and I knew moving, however minimal, had to be better than being at home sitting, or lying, on the couch.
After a little more than three months, a funny thing happened. I was doing a series of “push-ups” against the side of the pool when both my breasts suddenly popped out of my swimsuit. No one was exercising near me, so I just stopped and pushed them back inside the foam cups. A few minutes later they popped out a second time.
I laughed hysterically and swallowed a lot of pool water. I started choking and sputtering. The lifeguard walked rapidly around to my end of the pool.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” I told her truthfully. “I’m better than fine. I think, though, that it’s about time I got a new swimsuit.”
I didn’t bother to explain, and the next week I showed up in a hot fuchsia pink flowered and softly skirted number.
“You’ve lost weight,” the lifeguard immediately said.
“Yes I have,” I replied. “And I decided it was time to add a little color to my life. I don’t want to be mistaken for a celebrity killer whale any longer.”
“A celebrity killer whale?”
“That’s right,” I said, filling her in on the story. Then I pointed to first one breast and then the other.
“Meet ‘Free’ — and ‘Willy’.”
What about you all, how do you feel about swimsuits?