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How to Have a “Hot Girl Summer” in a Plus-Sized Body

Hot girl summer is right around the corner, and I hope I’m not alone in wanting to show off my new swimsuits while lounging by the pool or relaxing on the beach. However, it took me so long to get to this point of confidence; from my crippling feelings of body dysmorphia and disordered eating to social media and the general sentiment regarding bigger bodies. The struggle is real.

For the longest time, I would only wear one-piece swimsuits that basically looked like dresses. I did not want any loose tops to float up in the water and expose my midriff. I was nervous how my thighs would look without a skirt to cover the biggest part of them. I was afraid of being sexualized––by parents of young children and older men––for my developing body.

I am finally confident enough to say that in the past month, I have bought 2 different two-piece swimsuits and LOVE the way my body looks in them. I love the way I look in the mirror. I am ready to have my ‘hot girl summer.’

Why does this matter? Who cares what a young girl thinks about her own body?

Society has placed a value on our bodies whether we like it or not, and body neutrality is the goal here. The body positivity movement has been appropriated by skinny influencers, and it’s lost sight of its whole purpose. American singer Lizzo has spoken about this herself, saying that the movement has been "co-opted by all bodies," and has become a trend of "celebrating medium and small girls and people who occasionally get rolls." A popular trend known as ‘body checking’ involves a skinny or straight-sized person calling themselves fat so that commenters can disagree with them and call them beautiful. This is essentially a desperate reach for security in a society already accepting of straight-sized body types.

The language we use is important, because while everybody has the right to positivity, the body positive (bopo) movement has continually ignored the real issues of its fat bodies that it was made to advocate for in the first place. This goes along with the fact that the word ‘fat’ has a negative connotation when it should be a neutral term and adjective meant for describing someone.

The stigma is clear on social media––straight-sized and skinny influencers are called hot and praised for ‘eating challenges’ while a fat person doing the same trend is harassed and even sent death threats. Those who criticize a fat person for even existing in a ‘healthy’ capacity often disguises their malevolence by saying they ‘care; about the person’s health. These critics are not doctors, nor do they know the health history of a particular person, thus their “advice” can be significantly harmful (i.e. telling the person to starve themselves and overexercise). 

Heart attacks and diabetes are trivialized and often used to contribute to stereotypes and stigma surrounding fat people. It honestly reminds me of the popular anti-vax line of reasoning that vaccines cause autism. They don’t, but even if they did, what’s so wrong with autism that you’d rather have a dead child than an autistic one? Same line of reasoning here. Diabetes and heart attacks have much more complex causes, but even if a person did have diabetes or suffered from a heart attack, what’s so wrong with that?

To get even more personal, I lost over 15 pounds when I had COVID, and subsequent long-haul symptoms have made me not only too fatigued to do much physical activity, but also made me lose my appetite and my hair. I thought I finally found a solution to my problems when I saw a cardiologist, who proceeded to tell me that he believed my story, because I was one of many. However, the doctor then proceeded to harangue and body-shame me for the next ten minutes of my appointment. He didn’t want me to lose a specific amount of weight (despite the significant loss I had already incurred), he just wanted me to ‘get skinny in six months.’ His only concern was my BMI, because my tests from the hospital were normal, and so obviously he did not connect any dots that said maybe my weight wasn’t the issue.

I left feeling discouraged and wanting to spiral into a destructive period of disordered eating. But I knew better, and have already been working with my general doctor to lose weight gradually and in a healthy way.

On top of all of this, there is very real discrimination that fat people face––in healthcare, the workplace, and daily life. Fat people are paid marginally less compared to their straight-sized/skinny coworkers. Fat people are regularly ignored by their doctors (myself included), and harangued into losing weight despite weight not having anything to do with many of the issues they seek help and treatment for. On top of that is an emphasis on body mass index (BMI), which has repeatedly been denounced for being inaccurate and outdated.

While significant societal overhauls are needed for change, it starts with acceptance and normalization. Normalize seeing fat bodies in advertisements, on TV, on social media, etc. Normalize plus-size clothing options alongside straight-sizes and not just as added perks. 

To my fellow not straight-sized people: wear the two piece bathing suit. Please. Love your body for what it does for you every day instead of how it looks. I know it’s hard, but I promise getting to this point of peace with yourself is worth it. Never stop advocating for your right to take up space and live in this world. Never stop believing that you are worth everything you want in life.

Sarah Taphom

Oglethorpe '22

Communications Major | Women's and Gender Studies Minor HC @ Oglethorpe Marketing and Recruitment Director | Twitter Admin
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