Turning the horror of swimwear shopping into a positive experience

For many of us, the experience of shopping for a swimsuit sits on a scale that ranges from unpleasant to mortifying.

And yet should we want to participate in normal summer activities, we have little choice but to cram ourselves into a poorly-lit change room with a pile of swimmers, praying not only that one works but also lasts so we don’t need to go through this again for another 10 years. (Wishful thinking, yes.)

For many of us, the experience of shopping for a swimsuit sits on a scale that ranges from unpleasant to mortifying.Credit:iStock

Louise Adams, a clinical psychologist and founder of body positivity course Untrapped, says many of her clients have spent years avoiding the beach or swimwear shopping, and she blames unrealistic body ideals placed on women.

“I hear countless stories of the enormous anxiety women feel when faced with this type of shopping,” she says.

“Many women I see just don’t go shopping for bathers, and don’t go swimming, full stop. It’s incredibly sad … People are so convinced their bodies don’t belong that they hide themselves away.”

Ms Adams acknowledges swimwear shopping can be “incredibly triggering”, but stresses there are ways you can take control of the situation to make it a far less miserable experience – and perhaps even a positive one.

Recognise that the problem is our culture, not your body

“Reject the idea that only a certain type of body belongs in bathers, and make a commitment to reconnect to yours by going swimming,” Ms Adams says. “Remember that women are taught to dislike their appearance – we are not born that way.”

To tackle this, it can help to write or reflect on the negative messages you’ve absorbed about your body and how these have become your inner voice.

Then, think about what you’d say if it were your best friend making such comments about her body.

“Practice being kind, supportive and caring towards yourself.”

Get in the right mindset

Ms Adams recommends getting body positive music in your ears, such as the tunes of musicians Lizzo or Meghan Trainor.

It can also help to look at body positive images on social media. Ms Adams advises searching particularly for women with bodies that look like yours and who are championing self-appreciation and being seen.

The hashtags #bodypositivity and #bodydiversity can be a good place to start.

Give yourself mini pep talks

Backing yourself by talking to yourself positively can make a big difference. Here are some of Ms Adams' favourite phrases:

  • "No piece of swimwear can define me."
  • "I am reclaiming my right to feel comfortable in this body."
  • "You are so fabulous." (Say this every time you try something on, Ms Adams says, no matter the result.)
  • "All bodies belong/change, including mine."
  • "Swimmers are for swimming – can I swim in this?"
  • "I am not alone."

Detoxify your social media

Scrap from your Instagram feed all accounts that glorify the thin or #fitspo body ideals.

“Constant exposure to these just makes us feel ‘othered’ an inadequate, and will not help support body acceptance,” Ms Adams says.

Do your research

“Know which shops stock your size and don’t bother taking your precious dollars to businesses which don’t include all bodies,” Ms Adams says.

Some brands don’t stock above a size 14 or 16, she says, which only aggravates the experience.

“Consumers can send a powerful message by supporting diverse stores and not spending at exclusionary places.”

Pick a good side-kick

Don’t go shopping with anyone who makes you feel worse about your body, Ms Adams says.

“If you go with someone, make sure this person is supportive and kind.”

Go digital

There is a huge amount of body diverse swimwear available online. And, in another plus, you then get to try on your purchases from the comfort of your bedroom.

“Being able to try bathers on in the privacy of your own home can be much more enjoyable than feeling exposed and vulnerable in a horrible fitting room,” Ms Adams says.

She recommends looking at retailers such as Sirens Swimwear, Lilly & Lime, Cupshe and Swimsuits For All.

Keeping trying until you find a pair that really ‘gets’ your body

“If a pair of swimmers don't fit or you don't like how they sit on your body, thank them for applying for the position of being your bathers, but reject them,” Ms Adams says.

“These ones just didn't make the cut, and that is 100 per cent okay, and not a statement about you.”

Just move on and try another pair. You’ll find the right one.

Practice makes perfect

Once you buy your swimsuit, Ms Adams says it helps to first wear them around the house until you feel comfortable.

“Then, take yourself to the beach and have an amazing time.”

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