I have two distinct vacation memories forever ingrained in my brain, and both are linked to wearing a bikini. It was 2003 when I decided to wear my first bikini. I was in my early 20s, and my relationship with my body was absolutely dire, to say the least. My confidence was subzero, I was incredibly insecure about my U.S. size 22 body, and I was undertaking at least four different diets at the same time in a bid to shrink as much as possible.
Over the course of four months, I’d lost a huge amount of weight in order to reach my target goal. My tummy was flat-ish, but that was good enough for me! I purchased a frilly pink bikini from Primark and hit the beaches of Barcelona as a new woman—or so I thought.
I hit the beach feeling incredibly apprehensive about what people would think. Would I be flirted with? Would people notice my body and say kind things? All I knew was that instead of feeling super confident and amazing, I felt terrible, awkward, and even more insecure about my body.
Cut to 2019. I’m multiple pounds heavier, but with a completely new frame of mind. I had come to a place of loving my body in the state it was in. I was comfortable with not needing external validation in order to feel secure and attractive in my skin. I learned to love my belly, my cellulite, my stretchmarks, and my rolls, and so for the second time, I strutted onto Rodney Bay beach in Saint Lucia with my glittery black and pink bikini and felt absolutely incredible, even taking several photos to boot.
Two similar events, two contrasting states of mind. How was I able to turn my mindset around? Well, first and foremost it’s important to acknowledge that when it comes to the subject of learning how to love and accept your body as is, it’s an ongoing journey that will last a lifetime. This means that you have to be willing to accept that you will have good days and bad days and to try and not let the bad days deter you from derailing that journey.
One of the main challenges of plus-size travel and feeling confident abroad is the unfamiliarity of it all. When you’re in a country you’ve lived in and know very well, you know how to navigate certain areas, the weather, the people and their reactions, and you’re able to dress and act accordingly. When visiting foreign places, that comfort is taken away. Not only are you dealing with a different society and their views/beliefs when it comes to bigger bodies, but you’re also in a place out of your comfort zone, trying to navigate prospective language barriers, rules and regulations, weather, and that country’s way of life.
It’s a lot to have to think about on top of trying to feel as comfortable and as confident as possible. But fear not: it absolutely can be done! Let’s get into some of my top tips for improving your body confidence while on vacation, alongside some of my favorite swimwear pieces that offer great style as well as comfort.
Follow Accounts That Bring You Joy
We’ve all been the victim of diving into a wormhole of vacation-style Instagram posts uploaded by our favorite content creators and models. Even people who may feel more secure in their bodies can become slightly disheartened or shy if they are constantly being bombarded with near-perfect images of people in bikinis.
In the run-up to your vacation, start following brands and individuals with similar body shapes to your own, in a bid to normalize the types of images and bodies you see when you log into your social media accounts. The more you are bombarded with images of confident women who look like YOU, the more normalized your body shape will become to you.
Travel With People Who Make You Feel Good
Trust me, I get it. There’s nothing worse than traveling with a group of people and being the “big” one in the group. It can feel alienating if your confidence isn’t where it needs to be at that point in time, but it can feel worse if you are with people who may constantly use fatphobic language in your presence. You know the phrases: “I feel so FAT today,” “Gosh, I’ve eaten way too much, I feel like a monster,” and “I’m literally going to work out every day after this holiday.” No one needs all of that when trying to relax. Choose body-positive vacation buddies who can champion and uplift you.
Forget About Needing a “Bikini Body”
The bikini body is a myth, guys. There is no such thing as having a specific body in order to wear a swimsuit. The concept of the Bikini Body was something created within the fitness industry to pressure people (specifically women) into undertaking gym memberships to prep them for summer. In general, a lot of campaigns and slogans aimed toward women are created to give us something to feel self-conscious about, in a bid to spend money to fix an aspect of ourselves that never needed to be fixed in the first place. If you have a body, you have a bikini body.
Remember That You Paid for Your Vacation
You did not pay hundreds—if not thousands—of dollars to be sad on vacation and to stay indoors. For as much as you paid to get away, it’s important to spend every minute of that vacation living your best life and reaping as much fun as you can.
Pamper Your Body
One thing that always makes me feel amazing the day before I jet off is to indulge in a bit of self-care at home and pamper my body. This includes exfoliation, a gel manicure and pedicure, and packing my favorite body moisturizers and oils. Treating your body to things that not only make it more relaxed and fresh can do wonders for your confidence when you finally hit the beach.
Choose the Right Swimwear
When it comes to choosing swimwear, remember that your body = your rules. Do not think you have to wear a specific kind of bathing suit because it’s what everyone else is doing. Try on a variety of bathing suits, and choose the ones that make you feel amazing. There are a plethora of different cuts and styles on the market that suit all body shapes, as well as body concerns. When in doubt, here are a few swimsuits I highly recommend: