Pool float

A Body Positivity Story in Two Pieces: An Update…and a Strategy.

You might remember that I suddenly “lost my mind” last July and started wearing bikinis (the bottoms having fuller coverage because, ahem.) rather than my normal tankinis to the neighborhood pool after not having worn bikinis since I was about six years old. If you don’t remember, let’s get you caught up. Click here, and then come back. I’ll wait.

After I jumped in with both feet, so to speak, I wore the bikini tops a lot for the rest of the summer. I got used to how it felt to have less of my body covered in front of other swimmers and was very proud of myself.

Still, I am like most people: a work in progress. When Jim and I traveled to Hawaii for my 50th birthday, I took a couple of steps backwards while we were packing, thinking that perhaps I didn’t feel “ready” to wear bikini tops on the beaches of Maui. After mulling it over, I realized that I was going to be around total strangers who didn’t give a flying flip about what anyone else was wearing (who I’d never see again, by the way), and why shouldn’t I wear what I wanted to wear? I decided that a Hawaiian vacation in honor of my 50th birthday might actually be the very best situation in which to wear a bikini, so I did. Nobody said anything. (Of course they didn’t!)

Melisa Kaanapali Beach
You didn’t really think I was going to post a full picture, did you?
Trust me: I’m wearing the bikini top from my original post.

Actually, the past six months have seen some great steps forward for curvy women in America; here are three of them in no particular order:

  1. “Shrill,” starring Aidy Bryant and based on Lindy West’s memoir, Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, started streaming on Hulu and was an instant hit. Bryant plays Annie, a curvy girl who is trying to change everything about her life except her weight. Her goal is to live unapologetically and to truly understand that she is as good as anyone else. Episode 4 was written by the incredibly talented Samantha Irby (bitches gotta eat, Meaty…) and includes a pool party scene that went straight to my heart, showing Annie’s evolution from being completely dressed and nervous with no plans to get into the pool to (spoiler alert) her finally stripping down to a bathing suit and swimming joyfully, with no regard to what anyone might be thinking about her. Definitely watch if you haven’t yet: it’s a masterpiece.
  2. Victoria’s Secret recently decided they would no longer air their annual fashion show on network television. The company is saying that they are “taking a fresh look at every aspect of our business.” My theory is that they finally decided to regroup and look into offering plus-sized clothing since the average size of American women is now a 16-18. Nobody who wears that size can shop for clothing at VS.
  3. Lizzo arrived on the music scene. Actually, let me correct that: Lizzo finally blew up after years of hard work with “Juice.” Lizzo, a curvy girl, sings about body positivity and self love. She only uses plus-size backup dancers. Along with so many people I know, I AM HERE FOR IT. I can’t stop watching her. I can’t stop listening to her. She, along with what she represents, is wonderful. Ask my friend Casey, who saw her in concert last night:
Casey Lizzo

Anyway, back to me. Pool season started here in Knoxville a couple of weeks ago, and I’m happy to report that I didn’t take any mental steps backward after our Hawaii trip, even though the heavy travel schedule Jim and I have had over the past few months–along with my hatred for working out on the road and lots of dining out–has caused me to gain a few pounds back. On Monday I wore my bikini anyway and had a poolside conversation with a neighbor while standing right in front of her: she didn’t say a word. (Of course she didn’t!)

What I’m saying is, it’s a process. My main goal is to be healthy and fit. I want to feel good about the body I have at any given moment, and I usually do. I want to be comfortable in my own skin, and I usually am.

Do I feel one hundred percent comfortable in a bikini? When I’m alone at the pool: YES. When I’m with my husband: YES. When I’m with people I know: I’m anywhere on the comfort scale from 6 to 8, but I’m working on it. When I’m feeling insecure I start thinking about positive self talk in order to push out the negative. I remind myself that a few of my friends have told me they admire my confidence in general and I try to apply it to the bikini situation. I remind myself that at the end of the day, odds are likely that nobody is going to say anything because of course they aren’t. And if they do, THEY are the ignorant, rude jerks. I’m just fine.

In fact, the two most memorable times negative comments were made to me about my size were when I was completely clothed, not in a bathing suit or anywhere near a pool, and not expecting it in the least. Both comments were made by men, and one of them was even a celebrity I met at a blog event a decade ago. (And no, I’m not typing his name here.)

Anyway, I encourage all of my fellow curvies out there to seize the day, whether you want to wear a bikini in public or there’s some other act that you can’t imagine yourself doing because of your size. Here are a few tips:

  1. Push out that negative self talk. I KNOW IT’S HARD. It takes practice. If you’re not good at it immediately, don’t be surprised. Keep trying.
  2. Just do it. You only live one life (YOLO! Wait, are the kids still saying that?) and regrets completely suck. Stepping out of your comfort zone is so much better once you actually do it, even if it’s just a teeny tiny baby step and then you retreat, only to try again tomorrow.
  3. Start small. Speaking of baby steps…you don’t have to go from never wearing a bathing suit to wearing a bikini, or whatever is the equivalent in your own desired challenge. Conquering small goals allows you to build up your confidence. I always encourage my friends by saying that baby steps still move us forward. What’s bad is staying stuck in one place.
  4. Find a partner. If you don’t think you can do it alone and/or you thrive on external encouragement, find someone who will either do whatever that challenge is with you or just be there for accountability.

Ready? GO! If you want to share your success, I’d love to hear about it!


  • Kari

    This is SO hard. I need to be better with the negative self talk. I’ve put on weight since starting menopause and I beat myself up daily about it.

    I’m on vacation this week and just wearing a one piece suit has me at times feeling very self conscious.

    I hope someday I will wear a bikini top to the pool.

    • MelisaLW

      If you want to, you will! I’m available for pep talks. 🙂
      And yeah, stop beating yourself up and make a plan if that sounds good to you!

  • Angela

    Thank you for writing this. We had a rough year (yes, I still think in academic years), and I stress ate around 20 pounds into my body. I want to work them off without “punishing” myself by hiding away from summer. Work in progress, indeed.

    • MelisaLW

      Stress eating sucks. Related: I always hear people say how sick or stressed they were that they couldn’t even eat and I’m all “WHY CAN’T I BE LIKE THAT???” (of course, both ways are bad for our bodies LOL)

      And yes, please don’t hide. You only get one summer of 2019! xoxo