Summers used to depress me.
I grew up in the Southern California desert, and months would be spent hiding inside the air conditioned spaces, avoiding the 100+ degree heat. My parents, being both masochistic and sadistic, would take us on summer vacations to equally miserably hot locations like Arizona and New Mexico. Occasionally, we'd venture to San Diego to relieve ourselves from the heat, but even then the sun would radiate off the ocean, burning me to a crisp.
The worst part of summer wasn't the heat though, it was the clothes required to survive it, clothes I was always told did not look good on my fat body.
While my sister strutted around in her bikini and cut off shorts, I hid inside the house wearing an oversized shirt and boys jeans. Shorts were out of the question, as they always ended puckered in an upside down V, apparently eaten by my crotch, and a bikini wasn't even a mentioned option for a fat girl like me back then.
While other girls wore sundresses with glee, I constantly worried about "chub rub", or the painful chafing that's caused by one sweaty thigh mushing up against another while you walk.
These aren't just fat girl problems, they're problems that many women dread every year as the days longer and hotter. But good news! They're problems that are easily solved with a bit of patience and a dash of confidence. One of the most important things I did to stop hating summer (and more importantly myself), was to deal with some basic heat-related fashion issues so I could focus less on how I looked and more on how I felt.
Here are some tips for dealing with heat-related fashion issues:
Trust your body is worthy of acceptance.
This is the first and hardest step to having fun in the sun. We are all told from a very young age that bodies need to be covered up, most especially fat ones - which, let's face it, our society says all bodies are fat.
So then, how are we supposed to wear things like sundresses, shorts, or bathing suits if we're told we need to cover ourselves? The answer is simple to think, yet difficult to do: embrace the fact that all bodies are worthy of love, acceptance, and respect.
No body is shameful. No body is better than another. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is selling something.
Stop buying it.
Easier said than done, right? Here are some quick tips for doing so:
- Take "healthy" out of your vocabulary for a week and replace it with "thriving." Notice how it feels to stop trying to attain the subjective health standards of others and instead focus on doing what makes you thrive.
- Look yourself in the eye in the mirror and say: "I am worthy of love, respect, and acceptance as I am right now, right here, no exceptions." Repeat as necessary.
- Constantly ask yourself why you think the way you do about your body. Recognize how much of those thoughts are your own and how many of them were put there by others.
- Connect with other people striving to embrace all bodies as beautiful. A good place to start are the hashtags #BawdyLove and #EffYourBeautyStandards on Instagram. Seeing images of people of all shapes and sizes loving their bodies is a powerful step in accepting your own body's shape and size..
Sport a bathing suit with confidence.
"Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body." That's one of my favorite sayings ever, the mantra I use to help me sport a bikini with confidence.
Here are some basic tips for feeling more comfortable and confident in a bathing suit:
- Recognize that posture is power. Hold your head up high and be proud of yourself and your body.
- Wear a fancy sun hat, the larger the better. It's hard for people to focus on your body when you have something large and distracting on your head. Sometimes all you need is to feel like others aren't staring at you to realize that you're worthy of being seen.
- Hang out with other people of all body types in bathing suits. Groups have power, and I know I feel a heckuva lot better in a bikini when I'm out with a gaggle of supportive friends versus battling societal stigma on my own.
- Shop around. Don't settle for the first set of bathing suits you find. The top of my favorite suit is from Forever 21+ and the bottom is from Torrid. I went four times before I found one that worked for me. I know it's tedious, but it's worth it to feel amazing when you put it on.
And don't forget your sunscreen! Your newly exposed skin will be susceptible to burns, and no one feels sexy when they're painfully burnt.
Combat "chub rub".
The number one way to prevent chafing is to prevent sweat from forming. Their are two best ways to do this: wear a barrier or apply a barrier.
If you would rather apply a barrier, the best I've found are spandex yoga shorts. They're thin, they're made to breathe, and they stick to you so they don't bulge or budge. If your outfit allows for it, leggings are also a great bet. I'd avoid tights, though. Their thin material doesn't absorb sweat and can cause worse chafing.
If you want to apply a barrier, think about what we use to prevent diaper rash (a.k.a. chafing) in babies. Powders, jellies, stick gels, the such. If you're ok with talcum powder, I suggest finding one that also has calamine lotion in it, as I've found that helps soothe my chafed skin.
If you apply a barrier, be sure to bring it with you so you can keep applying it throughout the day.
Added bonus tip: My friend Jenn suggests rubbing your inner thighs with a towel occasionally, as chub rub can be exacerbated by the salt deposits that naturally happen on your skin when you sweat. I tried this and it really helps!
Looking for some more tips for combatting cub rub? Check out the comments on my original post about cub rub. I've gotten lots of great suggestions from readers!
Stop shorts from riding up your crotch.
The answer to this problem is two-fold. First, you've got to pick the right length of short.
For my body, there are only two options: either go full booty short, so it's already in your crotch and has no where to go farther up, or choose shorts that are long enough that they're closer to your knees and out of the most friction-filled part of your thighs. If you can't find the right length in the style you want, take it to a seamstress to hem, or learn to sew and do it yourself!
Second, choosing shorts in the right fabric for you is essential. For some, loose cloth shorts are less likely to ride up their thighs as they walk. For others, like me, I need shorts with spandex in them, as anything loose immediately rides up. For others, thick jean fabric is the best option.
Other options include: owning your body and not caring if your shorts ride, wearing tights or leggings under them, and cuffing them so the material is thicker at the bottom and less likely to ride up.
It's all about trying on many pairs and walking around the store in them. I know shopping can be torturous and triggering of past body-shaming for people, but grab a best friend who will boost you up.
Rock the crop top.
Recently, Oprah Magazine said you could wear a crop top "if (and only if) you have a flat stomach." Many people of all shapes and sizes proved the magazine wrong by posting photos of themselves "rockin' the crop" on Instagram.
But while it's inspirational to see so many different bodies embracing this fashion trend, sometimes you need a bit more of a pep talk to do it yourself. That's why I created this YouTube video just for encouraging people to rock the crop. Check it out if you need a little inspiration to throw on your short shirt and run into the sun.
Find the right active summer clothes.
The REI commercials never show someone like me conquering a mountain, and they never stocked their speciality outdoor activity clothes in my size. It took me a long time to find clothes that were comfortable and supportive enough for summer activities.
I wrote a whole piece for Huffington Post on how to enjoy hiking at any size, which includes loads of options for active summer clothes. Head on over there and check it out.