The Fat Girl's Guide to Summer Fun
Posted by Toni in Fun Stuff,Getting Real,Plus-Size Fashion,Sports + Recreation
Try something that looks fun but makes you nervous. We dare you.
(image by Lori Greig)

This summer, I tried something that terrified me. And I loved it.

Something about surrendering my body to a dark, narrow tube, hurtling downward through twists and turns, only to be unceremoniously ejected and swiftly deposited into the chilly water below freaked me out. Go figure. "I'll stick to the slower slide, thankyouverymuch," became my mantra. But my desire for comfort made me uncomfortable; what was I modeling to my kids about trying new things, what would the 18-year-old me have done, and was I missing out on something I'd probably find thrilling? Knowing my battle with desire vs. hesitancy, my husband kept nudging me to try it, then the kids joined in ("If I can do it, you can, Mom!"). I climbed the two flights of stairs to the platform, waved to my family far below, then took a deep breath and pushed off into the darkness.

Was it scary? Yep. Was it worth it? Absolutely. I spent the rest of the afternoon hurrying up the stairs to hit that slide again and again. Nobody pointed and laughed at the big mama behaving like a kid; if anything, I think my joy was infectious. Maybe some other women watching were inspired. Or maybe nobody cared at all and my worries over what others might think were unfounded. (Nobody even noticed me surreptitiously correcting my massive, post-splashdown water wedgie.)

The comfort zone for us bigger girls (remaining indoors with the AC blasting, telling ourselves we can't do certain activities or wear certain things) can start out as a sacred space where firm boundaries are drawn. But as that zone expands, it can also become an overstuffed cushion ready to absorb our every excuse, the well-worn collection of stories we tell ourselves, like "fat girls can't ride a horse," stories that hold us back from really living our lives to the fullest. Think back to the last time you successfully pushed beyond your comfort zone (tango lessons? speed dating? aqua aerobics?) and came out the other side perfectly okay. Sure, there may have been missteps or embarrassing moments, but you lived to tell the tale, right? This guide to summer fun offers suggestions for getting out and trying something new, and we encourage you to come back and tell us how your new experiences went - stumbles, triumphs, wedgies, and all.

Hiking--which is essentially walking in a more rugged, natural setting--is a great activity because it can be as easy or as challenging as you decide to make it and it's a great beginner's adventure. Our two-part guide to hot weather hiking (Part 1 here and Part 2 here), plus our guide to hiking in challenging conditions like sand dunes or muddy areas are great starting points. I know heat and humidity, combined with the need to expose more skin, can feel like insurmountable hurdles here. Look for plus-sized workout wear, carry plenty of water, expect to sweat (it's okay; really!) and start small at first if you're nervous--many city parks offer plenty of green space for beginners to test their trail legs, and plenty of park and recreation districts offer guided hikes geared toward beginners.

Speaking of city parks, I've been taking advantage of our sizable park to ride my bike either early in the morning or after dinner, when the sunlight isn't as unforgiving (either way, I still wear sweatproof sunscreen). Our guide to cycling, mad love for cruiser bikes and tips on finding plus-size padded bike shorts are helpful starting points if you've been itching to travel on two wheels but not sure where to start. If you're worried about deflating the tires on your bike, we've tackled this issue, too (you won't).

If getting on the water is on your life list, our guides to kayaking, canoeing and surfing should prove tempting. Or maybe taking a cruise is more your speed; you can be as chill and comfortable as you wish, or you can embark on new adventures on board (rock climbing walls, dance lessons) or off (rainforest zipline tours, island exploration). Of course, if you've read the FGG About page, you know my suggestion will be to opt for at least one adventure. Perhaps being in the water is your goal but you've been avoiding swimsuit shopping; you'll want to consult our guide to figure-flattering swimwear and best places to find a plus-sized sarong to wrap around your suit, and we recently helped a reader with some ideas on attending a poolside bachelorette party in Vegas (we also have some insights into the daunting prospect of socializing in swimwear).

I know we cover a lot of active ground here at FGG, but I also understand that rest and relaxation are an integral part of enjoying the summer season. I suggest striking a balance between stepping outside of your usual routine and rewarding yourself for doing so. Perhaps a girlfriend getaway is in order (you are TOO worth it!), or it's time to finally find a hammock that feels comfy and supportive while you swing lazily reading some great fiction featuring plus-sized protagonists. Just remember: too much comfort can be as detrimental to mind, body, and spirit as too much stress. Use the rest of these summer days to push yourself a little bit and try something you think would be fun.

We've packed a ton of summer fun into this guide, but we're always eager to hear your suggestions for guides to activities you've been longing to try but aren't sure where to begin - share your "life list" ideas in comments.