A pep talk for those of us who hate shopping for swimwear

For one, stop comparing yourself to 95-pound, 6-foot-tall, 19-year-old Sports Illustrated models.

Last weekend, I popped into a nearby department store to pick up some slacks. As I walked through the entrance near women’s clothing, I was accosted by teeny-tiny pieces of fabric dangling innocently on hangers: Row upon row of gaudy colors, polka dots, fringe, mesh, strapless, buttless — each piece smaller than the next.

Good God in heaven, is the dreaded swimsuit season upon us already?

Ladies, you know what I’m talking about. The very thought of wearing a bathing suit brings on a wave of nausea and intense anxiety.

An abundance of pale, loose flesh exposed and so little material to work with. And so many seemingly critical eyes upon us that we cower under a towel by the pool, afraid to get out of our lawn chair. Why, it’s enough to make you wear ski pants and a puffer jacket to the beach.

You need not do anything so drastic. I’ve never been a huge fan of swanning about publicly in a swimsuit, but I’ve made peace with it. Here’s how you can do the same:

For starters, stop comparing yourself to 95-pound, 6-foot-tall, 19-year-old Sports Illustrated models. Let’s face it: None of our bodies will ever look like those emaciated freaks of nature — and remember, their pictures have been photoshopped to oblivion. Embrace and work with the body you have.

Next, realize that just because you don’t think you look good in a swimsuit doesn’t mean you don’t. Ladies, we are dreadfully hard on ourselves and see flaws in our bodies that nobody else notices. It took a long time for my man to convince me that I look all right in a two-piece.

He doesn’t see a pooch of flesh pushing out over my bikini bottom like I do, or notice the elastic bands around the legs make my hips bulge. And no one else notices, either, so quit picking on yourselves. Ask your partner or loved one for honest, unclouded feedback on various suits you try on. (Men: Answer wisely and carefully.)

A little trickery helps quell the mind. Get a spray-on tan or use a sunless bronzing cream the day before maillot shopping and again on the day you hit the beach. You’ll miraculously look five pounds lighter; it’s the darnedest thing. I go a step further and wear heels when trying on suits. Otherwise, I spend the whole time grumbling about how short my legs look when wearing a bikini and flip flops. The hell of being 5-foot-3.

Pick something you feel comfortable in — or how about the least uncomfortable in? Your man likely means well as he tosses slingshot monokinis (Google it — and I’ll pay you $1,000 if you wear one in public) and tongas over your dressing room door, but wear what makes you feel confident and comfortable.

If you don’t like your derriere, don a skirted bottom or swimsuit shorts. If you’re self-conscious about your tummy, wear a tankini. If “the girls” need a lift, skip the strapless bandeau and wear a suit with supportive straps and a shelf bra. And if your guy won’t stop with the G-string bikinis, throw a man-thong his way and demand he try it on. That ought to do it.

Speaking of men, you could follow in many of their footsteps and say, “To hell with how I do or don’t look in a suit.” When I went on a cruise last year, the ship was teeming with large-bellied men strutting their bare guts in tiny Speedos. I didn’t find the look particularly flattering, but I sure did admire their chutzpah. We women need to indoctrinate more of men’s mindset into our brains.

And finally, fight the flab with weightlifting. Male or female, I don’t care what size or age, strength-training will help tighten and lift those body parts that cause us angst. I recommend building muscle at least three days a week. Focus on compound lifts to build mass (exercises that use multiple muscle groups at once: squats, deadlifts, chest presses) and throw in isolation lifts for shaping (bicep curls, tricep extensions, hamstring curls).

Now cram your glutes into the bathing suit of choice and wear it with pride. It is your self-confidence that makes you look fabulous, not the swimwear.

Catherine Bongiorno is a personal trainer, nutritional therapist and owner of Lift To Lose Fitness & Nutrition. Email her at info@lifttolose.com or visit www.lifttolose.com for more information.

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