I recently went from a size 22W bathing suit to a size 12 in minutes.
No joke, I really did — in minutes.
Want to know my secret? Of course you do.
Most of us are looking for an instant fix to make us thinner, prettier, younger, and sexier than we see ourselves. I try to at least fake a positive body image for the sake of my teenage daughter. I’ve been in the “fake it ‘til you make it” camp myself for years. And to be honest, I actually really feel it most of the time. I generally feel pretty hot and have no trouble shaking my booty when Taylor Swift comes on in the grocery store.
Yes, I’ll admit that I need to work harder on being healthier. Lately I’ve been slacking when it comes eating nutritious foods, exercising, and getting enough sleep. Because of this, I’m not feeling my best and I don’t think I’m looking my best.
But that’s because of my habits, not the number on the scale or the size of my jeans. (Okay, leggings.) Or in this case of this story, bathing suit.
Still, my confidence gets rocked sometimes.
Enter the size 12 bathing suit …
Earlier this year, I took my daughter on a cruise for her 16th birthday; just the two of us.
She was so excited when I booked an excursion to go to Stingray City in Grand Cayman — stingrays are her favorite animal. She’s studied them during marine science summer camps, fed them, pet them, and even cleaned their enclosure. Swimming with them in their natural habitat was a huge deal — like Best Mom Ever huge.
So we were having a blast on the cruise ship — drinking slushies out of fresh pineapples and watching men dance around with bras on their heads (ya know — typical mother-daughter bonding stuff) when my girl noticed the message light was blinking on our cabin phone.
And then I saw her face fall as she listened to the message: Bad weather was expected the next day. All excursions in Grand Cayman were cancelled. We were still stopping as planned so people could get off to shop and explore by land, but there would be no swimming with stingrays.
She was bummed, but we decided we’d get off the ship anyway and take a taxi to Hell. She thought it would be awesome to Snapchat from Hell on her 16th birthday.
We waited in a huge line to get off the ship onto a smaller boat to take us to port in Grand Cayman, and just as we were about to ask someone where to grab a taxi to Hell, a woman approached us to ask if we’d like to purchase a ticket to Stingray City.
“But they told us on the boat Stingray City wasn’t an option today?” I said.
“Because of the wind, the cruise ships aren’t allowed to sell excursions,” she told me, “but you can still go with us.”
With that, my daughter’s eyes got huge and hopeful like the time someone handed her a stray kitten, I could tell was covered in fleas and filled with worms.
I couldn’t say no to the kitten (and am still smitten with that monster years later, even though he’s a total jerk) and I couldn’t say no to the stingrays.
It was her birthday, after all, and it was my chance to reach Best Mom Ever status once again. But there was one small problem: The matter of the bathing suits.
I explained to the salesperson that we didn’t bring our bathing suits or anything since the voice on the ship’s intercom system said all water activities were cancelled. She said we wouldn’t have time to go back to the ship, then directed us to a nearby shop and said they’d have everything we’d need.
The woman at the shop was incredibly nice and helpful. We needed bathing suits, flip flops, towels, and sunscreen I told her. She took us around the hut and showed us the options. My daughter found an adorable high-waisted bikini — and I let her get a cute cover up to go over it.
But when it was time for me to pick a swimsuit, the proprietor held out two choices: Blue floral and leopard print. Both one-pieces.
Both looked extremely small, but she assured me they would fit.
She promised. Literally.
“I promise they will fit,” she said.
So I trusted her; I went with the blue because it was the bigger of the two, and I paid a not-so-small fortune for our items.
But my girl was going to swim with the stingrays. So it was okay.
Until I was in a public bathroom stall in a foreign country trying to squeeze into a bathing suit that was way too small.
And then I looked at the tag inside. (No, I didn’t do this before purchasing. The nice lady PROMISED it would fit! She seemed so sure I took her word!)
I was trying to fit my size 22 body into a size 12 bathing suit. And it wasn’t working.
I pulled and twisted and sucked and jiggled.
I couldn’t get it over my butt.
And there went my confidence, right down that Caribbean public toilet.
I was filled with shame. My daughter was going to miss out on an amazing experience because I was too fat.
Nope, I wasn’t going to let that happen.
I tried to stay lighthearted and upbeat as I called out from the stall, “Hey Baby, this suit isn’t going to work, so I’ll just stay on the boat and watch you swim with the rays.”
“But I want you to do it with me, Momma,” she told me. “It will fit. The lady said it would. Let me in. I’ll help you.”
I unlatched the door and in she came, accidentally exposing my naked boobs and stomach rolls to half a dozen ladies at the sinks.
We started making progress with all four of our hands yanking on the suit together. Centimeter by centimeter, we pulled it up. I couldn’t keep the tears from rolling down my face because it felt like my skin was being scraped off. We were both sweating and breathing hard from the intense cardio workout of squeezing me into this $50 suit.
But I got into it.
It hurt to move or breathe, but I had a bathing suit on. A size 12 bathing suit.
I went from a size 22 to a size 12 in less than 10 minutes — BOOM.
Off we went to swim with the stingrays. And it was magical.
Seeing my 16-year-old who is growing up way too fast with a look of joy and wonder on her face like a toddler was worth it the pain and discomfort.
But then we got back to our cabin and I had to take it off.
Getting out of it was even worse than putting it on because my body had legit marks and bruises from wearing it all day. I cried as I tried to get out of it myself. I couldn’t get the waistband to budge. I asked my daughter to find the nail scissors from my cosmetics bag in the bathroom. I told her to CUT ME OUT. But the scissors were from the dollar store and unable to do the job.
So I had to put on my figurative big girl panties and get out of the suit the same way I got into it — with my daughter’s help and a whole lot of force. She pulled with all of her might and freed me quicker than I expected.
I took a hot shower and then we laughed about the crazy pickles we get into.
We didn’t make it to Hell, but my little girl got to swim with the stingrays on her birthday and has a new story to process with her therapist one day.
And I actually looked really hot in that bathing suit and had my girl take a picture of me on the balcony.
I was thrilled to put my size 22W bikini on and rock it at the pool onboard the next day, though. Confidence back.