When my biomedical sciences graduate program first announced that this year’s retreat would be at a resort that included a water zone called Splashtopia, complete with a lazy river and water slides, I was thrilled. I love going to water parks every year but between going to program during the week and working in lab on weekends this summer, I missed out on going to one this year. Even when I packed my swim suit, I had happy thoughts of lounging for hours on the lazy river.
Then, when it came time to put on my bathing suit this afternoon, I nearly had a panic attack. Today is the first day that I have put on a bathing suit since reaching my fully restored weight…and it was difficult! In the last couple of weeks, I have finally started learning to embrace my new curves (when I can dress them up in flattering clothing), but there in my bathing suit, all of the “flaws” in my new body were staring right at me. I say flaws in quotation marks because I am still not sure how much of those so-called flawed features are objectively flawed or labeled as flaws by the remnants of my eating disorder thoughts. I was scared that my classmates would think I had ballooned, afraid that dots of cellulite on my legs would be highlighted in the sunshine, worried that people would think I should not have had dessert with my lunch. But, why would they care? I’m a scientist, not a model.
And yet, I did not want to go to the pool after all. I considered denying my inner child the fun that the water slides and lazy river were sure to bring because my grown-up, womanly body has some wear and tear. Then, I said to heck with it! I played in the pool after all. Granted, I still sometimes found myself defaulting on sucking in my stomach when I walked to the pool or water slides, but I went and I played. I was so relaxed on the lazy river, I nearly fell asleep, floating and meditating. And, sliding down the water slides reminded me of hours and days of childhood fun that I have had at water parks. The water did not care about my body; it still welcomed me and offered plenty of fun, relaxing time.