by Alison Conway January 22, 2019

How a bikini changed my life.
Sounds cheesy, I know. But I’ll admit, it is the truth. You see, up until June 2017, I had been diligently protecting the world from my body ESPECIALLY in a swimsuit.
I had been overweight as a child and teen, despite staying active in sports all year round. Swimming, basketball, skiing, golf, cheerleading, cross country, track, weights, nerdy dance parties with my best friends; they all did a good job at keeping my body moving (even if I was lousy at most of them), but I consistently gained weight. Coupled with the fact that my two best friends were in perfect shape and looked gorgeous in a bikini, I made the decision that it was just better for me to settle for the ugly one-pieces and tankinis that were available to me.
However many pounds I had gained, I didn’t let it ever really get me down because I still felt beautiful (most of the time). I remember a friend telling me that she believed you could be beautiful at any size, and I was so comforted by that. I even believed it myself. And truly, I was happy, though incredibly unhealthy. Plus my husband told me that I was sexy, so there was no real desire to make any changes.
In March of 2012, I gave birth to our first daughter. Our history of a sedentary lifestyle and an unhealthy diet persisted and “losing the baby weight” was not a top priority. Christmas came and I saw an online clean-eating challenge that was hosted by a local trainer. I knew that the lifestyle that we were leading was not what I wanted for my daughter, so I signed up. Over the course of 6 years and two more baby girls, I had lost 50 pounds…but my body was ravaged. My unhealthy lifestyle had left me with stretch marks and saggy skin before pregnancy even touched my body, and the remnants felt like angry stabs anytime I allowed myself to look.
My hubs and I do our best to travel as often as we can with our daughters. One trip took us to visit my husband’s best friend and his family in Lake Chelan, Washington. Our two families were enjoying a lake day together and my friend Kristen and I were talking. Our conversation consisted of our jealousy over the women on the beach who didn’t give a fuck what anyone thought, and how they rocked their bikini of choice that day. I commented how never in my life had I ever worn a bikini and Kristen bolstered me up and told me that I had worked so hard that it was time to give it a try.
Later that summer, I ditched my tankinis and got a two-piece suit that still hid as much of my midsection as possible. I went back to the gym and started working out. Then I even started teaching bootcamp classes at the gym (crazy, huh?). Loving my body seemed like some sort of adventure mission, but I was determined to Indiana Jones that shit all the way to the treasure. It was January 11, 2018 when I looked at the Strange Bikinis website, daring to dream that someday I could not only wear a bikini, but LOVE MY BODY IN A SWIMSUIT. I was still skeptical, but then I saw that a high waist option was being released, and I was cautiously optimistic…I mean, could this actually happen for me?
Could I feel that I was rocking this suit, or would I do my very best to save the world from having to look at my saggy skin and unsightly cellulite? I went into the store the weekend that it opened to see if I could actually pull off a Strange Bikini…and I indeed walked out with one. I “saved” it for my 10-year anniversary honeymoon with my loving husband in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Once I put it on, I wore it repeatedly all. summer. long! I went back to the store so that I could grow my collection. I would even bring my kids, and once my middle daughter broke one of the racks in the store that my husband had to go back and fix. We were there quite frequently…like I now own 8-tops-&-8-bottoms frequently.
I spent more time outdoors this past summer than I had in as long as I could remember. I looked forward to taking my three babes up to the lake every week, and having them witness the most confident I had ever become with my body. I posted pictures of myself in a swimsuit and received messages from fellow moms and friends praising me for inspiring them to get down to Dickerson Rd. and get a Strange Bikini of their very own.
As I became more confident, I made the exciting decision to get a tummy tuck, and get rid of the saggy skin and stretch marks that plagued me and
made me feel as though all of my hard work would never fully be celebrated because of skin that I couldn’t fix with all the creams, oils, and wishes in the world. I am now 3 months post-surgery and I gotta tell ya: I have no regrets. The surgeon removed two pounds of skin. Just skin. Two pounds of it. They didn’t give me any liposuction (though part of me wouldn’t have been super duper sad if they had…). And now I LOVE MY BODY. I have accepted that my chest will never again fill a D cup, and that the cellulite on my thighs and I are friends. I am definitely not sporting a 6 pack, but my new belly button and I will be sporting a bikini, a Strange Bikini, at every single chance I get. I can’t wait for the new collection to drop like a newborn baby giraffe, and prove to the world that every body is a bikini body, even mine.
- Jenelle Stathes


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