The Fat Girl's Guide to Choosing a Comfortable Bathtub
Posted by Angela in Fun Stuff,Health + Beauty
A "just our size" bathtub is a worthy indulgence (image by LonnaS)

A few weeks ago, some friends were in town for a convention and I crashed (with blessings) their comped room at the Westin for a weekend staycation in downtown Chicago. The Westin prides itself on its "Heavenly" experiences; the bed and the shower are plush with luxury accessories to make your stay as relaxing as possible and (my theory) to make your own digs back home feel completely inadequate when you inevitably return to them. For the shower, that means opulent dual shower heads and skin-perfect water pressure, but also fat-girl-friendly features like the arced curtain rod and spacious tub.

I think it was my third heavenly shower of the weekend that sold me on the idea of one day creating a bathtub situation that felt like it really fit me, rather than having to squish into a tub for bubble baths or just accept that shower curtains will be permanently glued to my hips. Unfortunately, Im a (broke) renter with no divine bathing experience in my near future. But for our readers with the space and means to create their ideal bathing experience (or to seek it out in their next rental), well share some of the best bathtub options for overweight women.

First, the function . . .

Before heaving stacks of cash into the first tub that gives you bubble bath envy, consider your specific needs. Are you an up-to-the-chin submersion soaker? Do you seek whirlpool jets for pampering and/or therapeutic reasons? Maybe bathing a deux with your partner (or future partner) is a must and youd like a tub that comfortably accommodates both of you. Or, if the dream bathtub is also to be used by the whole family, you may need something thats practical for children but also able to transform into a retreat for Mom when she (finally) gets a few moments to herself.

As plus-sized women living in a world that often seems designed to fit the slender, we grow accustomed to squeezing in where we might not fit and to settling for accommodations that are manageable, rather than ideal. Most of the time, we find ourselves satisfied just making do without standing out. Your bathroom can be a wonderful opportunity to create a space that fits you, rather than the other way around so spend some time considering what your needs truly are and then begin researching the possibilities.

. . . Then the form

This is the fun part. Although standard rectangular bathtubs measure 60" long and 30" wide (most North American tubs default to depths of 14" to 16", while European tubs average 18"), the options for what size and shape you actually choose are limited only by your space constraints and your wallet. If you stick with a standard rectangle, tall women will likely covet the extra length provided by a 72" tub and a higher depth in order to submerge more of themselves, while almost all plus-sized bathers would jump at the chance for hip room beyond those 30". If space is tight in your bathroom, you could opt for the slightly roomier 36" width; if not, go for a luxurious 42".

For those with more space to play with, consider an oval whirlpool tub, a freestanding soaking tub, or even a two-seater. Models designed to fit into the corner of your bathroom are always more spacious width-wise, though you may lose some of the length. Similarly, many of the freestanding options that provide a deeper soak (24" and up, compared to maybe a 20" depth allowed by a whirlpool) don't provide the extra width you get in a whirlpool or corner unit -- models wider than 31" are much more rare. If you carry much of your weight in your hips, butt and thighs, you'll want to look toward tubs that don't narrow at the ends or even those with an hourglass shape.

Be realistic when you're choosing a tub depth and consider the height of the walls you'll need to step over. No matter how much I may covet a chin-deep soak (champagne massage? Yes, please!), the idea of my short legs clambering over these walls with any regularity is a recipe for disaster. Before you commit to a purchase, walk a showroom and actually get in the tubs to try them out - discovering your dream tub doesn't fit your bod is preferable in the showroom than your remodeled bathroom. Slouch, twist, turn and figure out how much space you have and whether the fit is right for you.

Tubs for every need

Heavier women with considerable mobility challenges (either sitting down fully in a bathtub or climbing over a bathtub wall) can still enjoy the therapeutic benefits of a relaxing tub bath by opting for a walk-in bathtub. These units feature a swinging door (specially constructed and sealed not to leak) that allows you to walk right into the bath, rather than climbing over a wall. Once inside, you settle in on a bathing seat that runs the width of the tub; the higher tub walls allow deep soaking even from this seated position. Some models include massage jets and hand-held shower heads, as well. Walk-ins are more expensive but potentially worth the investment if you've given up on baths for mobility reasons. Just be choosy and definitely road-test the model before you buy it -- walk-in tubs tend to run much narrower than standard bathtubs, and an "extra-wide" model comes in at about 32" wide.

Accessorize for comfort and safety

Depending on the bathtub configuration you've chosen -- and an honest assessment of your agility and stability entering and exiting the tub -- you may opt for some additional safety accessories to complete the bath. Although many of us think of grab bars as the domain of the elderly or the disabled, the truth is they can provide a safe and stable means for larger persons (or those with a limited range of motion) climb into/out of the bathtub. Think about it: standing up from a seated-flat position is challenging without something to grab as leverage. Isn't it easier when a friend extends a hand to help you up? Think of the grab bars as the helping hand to hold while you step over the side of the tub (vertical bars) and lower yourself into or raise yourself out of the bath (fully horizontal bars work best here). Be sure to select bars sturdy enough to support your weight. And don't opt for diagonal bars; although popular, they don't provide the same stability and your hand(s) could easily slide down and throw you off balance.

As noted earlier, many models (especially walk-in tubs or those designed for special needs) will have a textured floor for increased traction and stability. If your preferred model doesn't come with this feature as standard, consider an anti-slip treatment or install a safety gripping device so you don't lose your balance climbing in or out, while contorting to shave your legs, or while showering.

Finally, for an affordable addition that will feel luxurious even if you've opted for a standard rectangular tub, consider a curved curtain rod like those now found in many hotels. They open the feel of your shower considerably and are easy to install. (Note: check to see if you'll require a longer/wider curtain to accommodate the different dimensions.)

Whether your ideal bath/shower design lends it self to candlelit soaks or being filled to the hilt with rubber duckies, the returns on investing in a full-figured tub will pay off for years to come. With the busy lives we all lead, "me time" can be hard to come by -- so make yours comfy while you make it count.

Got an over-sized or customized bathtub configuration in your home? Tell us which features you'd call "must-haves" or which ones you'd just love to try.