Summer heatwaves cause even more problems for plus sized women

For three seasons of the year I am unapologetically me.

I’m fat and I know it. I try to embrace it as much as my patriarchy-poisoned mind will allow me.

I exercise because I want to, not to lose weight, and I cherish my body. 

I urge all women – and men – to love themselves, bingos, booty and all.

But as a big girl, I often hate summer. 

Flashing the flesh, getting my arms out, and worrying about if my thighs will bleed from the dreaded chub rub. 

I’m getting a cold sweat just *thinking* about having to wrestle with that tummy control swimsuit. 

And don’t get me started on sitting in deckchairs.

For me, summer is more than sunsets in pub gardens, or long days in the park fuelled by corner shop booze in blue plastic bags – it’s the time of year where I actively despise my body.

I feel like the worst, most hypocritical feminist ever. And I can’t help it.

First, let me get this straight. I reject any idea that there is such a thing as an ideal ‘bikini body’ – just what generations of men have assigned as the most preferable, most attractive way for women to exist. 

But when it’s ice cream weather, my body positivity goes out of the window faster than the flies come in. When I shed the layers of clothing, I replace them with layers of fear. 

I think of those snaking stretch marks on my stomach in a bikini. The sag in my breasts spilling out over a strapless bra. The pocked cellulite on my thighs showing stubbornly through my shorts. The wobble in my arms when I walk. 

This temple I worshipped in winter becomes the most terrifying place on earth.

It’s not hard to work out why – women my size have been taught to hate our bodies since birth. If you don’t fit in with the type of women men want to shag, you’re cast aside. 

Taught to hide every sliver of flesh that could be seen as offensive, told to lose weight, or get lost – meaning we see precious little representation in media and culture.

Because of this, I haven’t worn a vest since I was a toddler, and only recently started wearing shorts in my late twenties. 

And unless you’re deemed overweight, or have low self-esteem, you will never know the pain of wearing thick black tights in summer.

You see similar signs of this everywhere – the impact of decades of rhetoric that we have to be a certain size to enjoy summer in its full form. 

It’s a pain I bear mostly in secret, too ashamed to confess to letting my sex down by admitting that I punish myself at this time of year for my size

The man with his T-shirt on in the swimming pool.

The people in long-sleeves, the women in leggings under dresses. 

The cardigans, the jeans. 

We put our actual health in danger, risk heatstroke and dehydration – especially in a heatwave – and for what? 

Because we’ve been conditioned to hate our body. Advised to hide it.

I celebrate every single body – especially women’s. I love the strength, softness and even scars, but I can’t apply that feeling to my own body in summer.

I hate that this is the only time of year where I consider losing weight, or – even more drastically – liposuction. 

How can I champion women and campaign for equality of sexes when I can’t bear to be a fat woman right now? 

It makes me feel like a fraud, a hypocrite. 

With every ice cream or pint in the sun I enjoy I tell myself that I’m the biggest in my friendship group. 

Picturing myself next to my friends with my hair stuck to my face, and midi dress clinging to my under-boob sweat. 

The same fingers I usually stick up to the man are now frantically tugging my dress down, subtly wiping the sweat from behind my knees.

It’s a pain I bear mostly in secret, too ashamed to confess to letting my sex down by admitting that I punish myself at this time of year for my size. 

I feel a pressure to look a certain way for society, and to act a certain way for my gender. I’m sure I’m not alone.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. 

This year, for the first time ever, I’ve actually bought a top that shows off my upper arms. It sounds ridiculous but for me, this is a huge move.

Today might be a good day, while tomorrow might see me tracing my lightning bolt stretch marks with brimming eyes in the mirror – but that’s okay. It’s a baby step in the direction of rejecting years of prejudice imposed on me from both men and women because of my size. 

The perfect body has been prescribed for generations, but it’s up to all of us to change the narrative. 

We can start by celebrating the small wins, like other women feeling confident, defying norms set for us by strangers before we were even born.

We can wear the damn cycling shorts, get our arms and belly out in a bikini to set a precedent to those who need to see our potential as women to flourish. 

To lead by example, not by someone else’s twisted ideals.

Not every day is going to be a good day, and not everyone is going to like it, but you owe it to yourself to live by your own rules.

You never know who might need to see you living your own, unapologetic self to finally break free of their own shackles.

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