Even if you’ve never struggled with an eating disorder, I guarantee you’ve had at least one negative experience while swimsuit shopping.
The dressing rooms are tiny. The curtains don’t close all the way. The plastic things on the bottoms feel disgusting. You want to come out to see yourself in the light, but like HELL NO are you walking out of that room onto the sales floor with your legs exposed, let alone your stomach.
If you’re someone who has struggled with an eating disorder, this exercise is even harder. Standing in a fitting room in a bathing suit presents you with a free opportunity to stare at yourself, which for someone in recovery, often means a free opportunity to dissect every part of yourself you hate.
Instead of seeing whether the bikini top’s cups fit, you stare at the fat overflowing under your armpits. Rather than focusing on whether the bottom offers enough coverage, you’re focused on how it would look if your ass was 30% smaller. The idea of the “perfect fit” doesn’t exist, because you’re the problem—not the suit.
I am not fully recovered and I do not like to go bathing suit shopping. Instead, I prefer a Gen-Z approach: order 2342 bathing suits online, try on in the comfort of my home, and return what doesn’t work. This tactic has been the only way I’ve conquered my swimsuit shopping fears over the past several years. And a week out from embarking on a birthday trip to Jamaica, I can confidently say, I have not one, not two, but FIVE swim brands that didn’t make me cry while trying on their suits.
Below, the five eating disorder-safe swim brands I’ll be taking on vacation.
I was introduced to this brand by the Net-a-Porter team a few summers ago, and before I fell in love with its bathing suits, I fell in love with its founders. Megan Balch and Jaimie Barker became BFFs after being seated next to each other in alphabetical order in a high school science class. Talk about fate. They took their love of dance (and leotards) to create stylish and functional swimwear that’s a favorite among fashion editors.
Balch and Barker take fit seriously and are committed to helping you find the “most well-fitting swim and resort wear you’ll ever own.” They even offer custom tailoring, exclusive colors, and one-of-a-kind swimsuits for people that have specific requests. Um, couture swim? YES, PLEASE.
I can’t quite explain how, but this bathing suit has lasted me both pre-, during, and post-treatment, and has been equally comfortable to wear on my body throughout the entire journey. Think of it as the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, but for swimsuits.
I’ll be honest. I’m wary of any bathing suit brand with an Instagram propagated predominantly by fashion bloggers. And that’s not against fashion bloggers. It’s simply to say it’s intimidating staring at a sea (pun, intended) of beautiful women with seemingly perfect bodies and tans all in the same suit. They all look the same size. They all have the same bones jutting out. They all look the same, which is to say, they don’t look at all like me.
But I’ll tell you this: Everyone I’ve ever seen tag an Onia bathing suit looks freaking hot.
For me, one of my most self-conscious areas post-treatment is my boobs. From losing weight, weight restoring, losing weight again, and again weight restoring, I liken my boobs to deflated water balloons. That’s for another story. But swimsuits tend to bring out the worst in them and my feelings about them.
Cynthia Rowley is a well-known badass woman. She’s an amazing designer, an incredible mom, and she freakin’ surfs. We hosted an event for The Chain at her Bleecker Street store and spoke alongside her daughter, fitness-guru Kit Keenan, about the power of movement—how powerful moving your body can be when you think about it not in the context of weight loss, but with regard to what it can help you gain: joy, confidence, and appreciation for new experiences. That’s what I love so much about Rowley's suits: whether it’s a rash guard or leopard-print bikini (how cute!), all of them are totally functional for real life.
There’s no perfect formula for making swimsuit shopping an enjoyable experience, but I have perfected the art of making it a little bit better. By finding brands that make me feel like me (instead of brands that teach me what to hide, tone, twist, etc.), I’m able to look at the experience as simply a means to an end. The end, in my case, being standup paddleboarding my face off in Montego Bay.
About The Chain
The Chain is a New York–based nonprofit that provides peer support for women working in the fashion and entertainment industries who are struggling with or recovering from an eating disorder.
The Chain was founded in December 2017 by Christina Grasso and Ruthie Friedlander, both in recovery from anorexia, after they encountered a need for a support network that addresses the challenges in eating disorder recovery unique to the fashion and entertainment industries.
The Chain aims to create a safe place for this population to share their experiences and gain insight through conversation, support, and community building. The Chain is peer-led and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in the place of advice of your physician or other medical professionals. You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first with any health-related questions. See our full health disclaimer here.