Article By: Rachel Ignomirello, MS, RDN, CSOWM, LDN
Rachel Ignomirello is a Bariatric Dietitian and Board-Certified Specialist in Obesity and Weight Management.
For most people, summertime means being outside and cooling off at a pool, beach, or lake. Wearing a swimsuit after bariatric surgery can be a big deal to many patients. Your new body is more visible than usual, which can be a test of self-confidence. At a recent bariatric support group, one of my patients (“J”) spoke about her experience with this. She had gastric bypass surgery last fall and agreed to share more with us about swimsuits and letting go of insecurities.
1) What were your experiences with swimsuits and water activities before bariatric surgery?
J: Shopping was NOT fun, especially for bathing suits! I would order 10 swimsuits from Amazon or “plus size” companies trying to find one that I liked, but I always had to settle on one that was “fine.” I hated every bathing suit! The summer before surgery, I actually wore a flowy bathing shirt and had to wear a sports bra under it because it had NO support. I paired it with a bathing skirt because I felt like I needed to hide my thighs and stomach. I only had the swimsuit in case I needed it, but I preferred to just be in my baggy clothes. We have a neighborhood pool that my kids wanted to go to ALL the time. While they enjoyed the pool, I would be in my clothes sitting at the table sweating. I would rather sit and sweat than be in a bathing suit.
The summer before surgery we went to a local water park twice. Both times, I used the excuse of “someone has to sit with our stuff” and sat in the shade reading a book the entire time. Not once did I get in the water. I looked up the water park weight limits, and some had a 250-275lb weight limit... I weighed around 260lb at that time. I would rather sit out than get to the top and be told I was “too heavy.” So instead of having fun with my two kiddos, I sat alone. I was also too worried about what others would think if they saw me in a bathing suit. I did not know a single person there, but I was too scared and embarrassed about what others might think.
2) How have those things changed since bariatric surgery?
J: I had gastric bypass in October. In December, I found a season pass deal for the same waterpark and was actually EXCITED to buy us all one for Christmas! I was determined to go and actually have fun with my kids this summer. So, I started my Amazon bathing suit shopping early and was THRILLED that I had to return all of the first order because they were TOO big and TOO frumpy! I ordered a few sizes down and tried them on for my family. That was so much fun to me; it was crazy! By June, I had lost 105 pounds. Yes, I still like some coverage for my saggy skin, but my new size LARGE swim dresses are super cute. What’s even better is that we have been to the water park TWICE already, and I have not felt uncomfortable or worried about what people might think at ALL! I think I look GREAT and feel great, too! I rode ALL the water slides with my kids and was not even close to worrying about the weight limits! The neighborhood pool has also been completely different this year. We often head over, and I walk right in with my bathing suit dress and feel super cute and comfortable. When I went for the first time, I saw some friends I hadn’t seen since last summer, and they were floored. I love reactions of people I haven’t seen since before surgery!
3) What do you look for in a swimsuit after losing weight?
J: I love being able to go try on bathing suits or cute coverups that are actually in the store and not have to only order online and then return those that don’t work. Shopping is FUN now, even for bathing suits! I love a swim dress! I feel super cute in them! My favorite is the kind with “boy shorts” underneath because they are a little more supportive of my loose stomach and thigh skin. I do like the dress to be tight, which is a new feeling for me since I used to want everything really loose and baggy. Now, I get to show off my new body a little but still be covered. I prefer wider shoulder straps (not the little spaghetti straps) since they seem to offer more support for “the girls.” Before surgery, all I wanted was black since it was supposed to be the “slimming” color. Now, I LOVE patterns and bright colors.
4) Tell me about your confidence now.
J: I am 100% more confident now in a swimsuit. The change that has happened in the last year is amazing! I do not feel like I have to hide my body any longer and am not worried about what others think. I have worked so hard to get where I am today, and I am so proud of myself! I can go and have fun with my kids instead of being the mom hiding under the umbrella or hiding under lots of clothes while at the pool or water park.
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