As I have shared in previous blogs, I was still in the throes of bulimia during my college years and it wasn't until the birth of my first child more than twenty years ago that I finally decided that I was slowly killing myself and that I needed help. So the photo you see to the left is not necessarily a picture of a healthy me.
The first time I remember dreading our trips to the beach was around the time I had my bulimia under control, had thrown out my scale to keep myself from being controlled by it again , and I was heavier than I had ever been. I know this is scary, but in the picture to the left I actually thought I was fat, so when I actually put on some truly unhealthy pounds, I was completely uncomfortable in my skin--literally. I have not owned a bikini since college, and I went to great lengths to keep my body covered up at all times, even when I was in the hot sun at the beach. I would park myself on my beach chair, keep my shorts and shirt on over my swimsuit, and not move until it was time to head home. Over the years, I told myself that I hated the beach because of the sand, but in truth it had nothing to do with the sand and everything to do with the fact that I hated the way I looked. If I could avoid the beach, I could avoid wearing a swimsuit in public.
When you weigh over two hundred pounds, it is difficult to find a suit that fits you, and often times when you do find one it is made of some hideous fabric that practically screams out that it was purchased in the plus-sized section. And even if by some miracle you are able to find a cute suit it can rarely hide the stomach rolls or the cottage cheese thighs, which is why even in 90 degree weather there I would sit completely covered up and never venturing anywhere near the water. In a previous blog I described how I avoided being in any family photos and in the process left very few permanent memories for my children of me. As I was sitting on the beach last week I realized I had done the same for my kids memories of the beach. While my husband would play paddleball with the kids, go body surfing and boogie boarding, creating fond memories for my children, what they will remember of me is mom sitting on a beach chair reading a book all by herself.
So while I still have those parts of my body that could be firmer, I need to realize that no one is staring at me. Why is it that I feel that everyone is so hyper-focused on me and my perceived flaws? In reality, most people are too busy worrying about themselves to spend more than a few seconds looking at anyone else. This is exactly the realization I came to on Monday, so I got up wearing just my swimsuit, walked out to the water, and took my very first ocean swim in years. It felt great and made me realize how silly I had been for so many years.
It is not too late for me to add some beach memories for my children, and while I am at it I will take a few photos that include me so they can remember that mom did more than sit on her beach chair and look at the surface of the ocean--she had a great time enjoying everything a day at the beach can offer.
“There's nothing wrong with enjoying looking at the surface of the ocean itself, except that when you finally see what goes on underwater,you realize that you've been missing the whole point of the ocean. Staying on the surface all the time is like going to the circus and staring at the outside of the tent.” ― Dave Barry