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Everywhere you look in January, people are working on self improvement. Strangers preach the gospel of Drynuary, meeting the love of your life, finally saving some money — but one of the loudest messages is definitely: LOSE WEIGHT. Don’t believe me? Just check out the gym the first month of the year; it will, rest assured, be comically packed to the gills. The idea is to spend all winter working on your summer body. Our obsession with beach bodies is so maddening because, hello, if you have a body, you definitely have a beach body.
Like most women, my relationship to my own beach body — my own body — has ebbed and flowed. I was a very adorable and happy, chunky African child. My weight fluctuated but I never lost my confidence, even during those supposedly cruel high school years. I played sports, dated healthily, and, more importantly to me, crushed all of my enemies academically, so even though many people along the way said unkind things to me, I simply didn’t care.
Going swimming was always a top three activity for me: at the beach, at the pool, in a swimming hole, you name it — doesn’t matter, ‘cause ya girl loves that H2O! It wasn’t until college, when I moved to the States, that I experienced the humiliation of not finding a swimsuit that fit properly at some big-name store. There were soooooo many suits, how could none of them fit a size 16? Combine that with the rise of gossip blogs and their onslaught of paparazzi pictures and obsessive weight tracking of Nicole Richie/Lindsay Lohan/whoever else was famous at the time. Before long, I was taping pictures of the Olsen twins (still my fave celebs!) in my pantry as a reminder not to eat anything. The suggestive power of media, y’all. The worst.
Then my world was shattered when my mother died. I turned into a workout fiend because hashtag in denial and hashtag control issues. That summer, I lost 80 pounds! I was big, but I did not have 80 pounds to lose. I was devastated and going through intense grief, but everyone told me how good I looked. The more people complimented me, the angrier I got, because I certainly wasn’t losing weight for their approval. I was losing weight because I was in pain. Oh also, those 80 pounds? I gained them all back. Probably more, actually, but I don’t own a scale anymore, so I couldn’t tell you.
And then a few years ago, I finally built up the resolve to buy my first bikini. Well, I guess when you’re fat, they call it a fatkini. I felt bolstered by gorgeous pictures of women like Gabi Gregg and Nicolette Mason and was ready to take the plunge. I did not, however, feel brave enough to go inside an actual store to do it. Lucky for me, it turned out that the best kind of shopping for fat girls was online shopping. I’ve ordered a dozen swimsuits from different sites and never looked back. You get to have your very own romcom trying-on-clothes montage at home!
My favorite places to buy from are Malia Mills (bra-sized! She’s a genius, so she can take all my money), Swimsuits for All (great variety, and the designer collabs with the likes of Gabi Gregg and Ashley Graham are so good), Lane Bryant (this is not your mama’s Lane Bryant — the selection gets edgier and chicer every year), and ASOS Curve (always on point). Honorary mention: While it’s currently sold out, my favorite swimsuit ever is from LLULO, a small but mighty African brand. Keep an eye on them in the warmer months when they restock, and don’t be afraid if the number on the tag is smaller than what you think you wear. Swimsuit material is stretchy!
To bring this back to resolutions, mine is very simple: new year, same ol’ me. That means not hoarding clothes for when I am X size, only keeping clothes in my closet that fit, not delaying buying something fly because I’d look better in a smaller size, and, yes, buying the swimsuit that makes me feel my best. Guess it’s true what they say about getting older: You give less f!cks. And I really look forward to starting the year with a new suit.
This lil’ catcus number is the current 2017 winner. There’s a direct flight from JFK to Palm Springs, so if you’re an obsessive flight planner like me and you need sun during what will surely be a bleak winter, you can live your best desert dreams by copping a flight for under $350. What a steal. See you at the pool.