City Breaks, Featured

Fat in a Bikini: The South Beach Experiment

When I was in my mid-20s, I tried the South Beach Diet. It went poorly. Spaghetti is just…well, I require spaghetti. And even more sadly, all alcohol contains carbs. It was not the lifestyle for me.

When I was in my early-30s, I visited South Beach. And I was like damn, I’d totally give up spaghetti if I could eat raw fish all day and look like these women. Because I also really like raw fish. And, well, being super hot wouldn’t suck either.

Yes, I have long associated South Beach with the thin-life. To me, South Beach means: beautiful tan women with dental-floss-thin thong bikinis walking down the sidewalk. It sounds like a stereotype, but I assure you, it is not. Observe (you’ll have to zoom in; she’s standing on the corner).


Which is why, a couple of years and several more spaghetti-and-wine-induced pounds later, I found myself pondering the horror of exposing myself—my fat, pale self—to the bright sun of Miami’s South Beach. I feel that horror was a justifiable emotion.

As you likely know, I have visited South Beach before. Once as part of a whirlwind afternoon, pre-work. Once to attend the South Beach Wine and Food Festival (because, well, wine and food). And then again this past spring for a few hours post-cruise, during which I drank a birdbath sized margarita and laughed as my husband tried to not look at all of the college girls on spring break. But I’d never actually spent a beach day on South Beach.

Until this past September.

Due to a string of events that are both long and boring, I found myself with a long weekend to spend on South Beach. Like on the beach. Like an actual wake up, there’s the ocean, let’s have mimosas beach weekend. But I could not make it just a beach weekend. No, that would be totally unlike me. It had to also be an experiment. And so, I bring to you…

The Fat in a Bikini on South Beach Experiment 

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The following is a record of my thought process and planning as it pertains to my Fat In a Bikini on South Beach Experiment. Enjoy!

Why a Bikini?

Due to afore mentioned long, unimportant string of events that landed me in Miami for a weekend, I booked a beachfront hotel for myself, my husband and a colleague-friend. I chose The Savoy Hotel in south South Beach. The Savoy is one of the few hotels in the area that is actually on the beach (most are along Ocean Drive and thus not technically beach front, separated from the shoreline by Lummus Park as they are).  And while I researched the property, I read some reviews of the hotel that mentioned topless sun bathing.

And I was like topless sunbathing?

So I did some additional research and learned that ALL of South Beach—all of Miami Beach, in fact—is topless friendly. Meaning I could actually get a tan-line-free tan in late September. And, you know, bob freely in the ocean. Ahem.

Except that’s hard to do in a one piece bathing suit.  Which is all that I own because I am fat.

So then I Google image searched ‘topless in South Beach’ (of course I did). The result: hundreds of photos of beautiful, thin women in string thongs and nothing else. I was not surprised. Remember, in my mind, everyone there is beautiful. And I feel giant and frumpy and old and fat when I visit, but I love it anyway because the energy is fabulous and the water is blue and you don’t need a car to have a great time.  Also: palm trees.  And I was like well gee, I can’t wear a bikini there, and I sure as hell can’t go topless.

And then I stopped and wondered: why the hell not? 

Buying the Bikini

I began my search online, because it was mid September in the northeast and swimwear was becoming scarce.  That was quickly abandoned because I was leaving in less than a week at that point; there was no way that anything I might have ordered online would have arrive in time.  Also, man are bikinis expensive.

So I went to the mall. Now, I hate malls as a general rule. But I like Macy’s. And way up in the far corner of the third floor of a local Macy’s I found two racks of leftover swimwear surrounded by the new seasonal display of down jackets (shudder). All of the pieces, which were sold as separate tops and bottoms, were marked down to $9.99.  I found a few mismatched pairs in blue, pink, and black and tried them on. Of course, while I was doing so, I took photos. And I laughed. A lot. (No, I’m not posting the outtakes. This post is brave enough, thank you very much.)

The black bottom mostly fit, which made me happy.  This left me with two options—a tiny black top or a tankini black top. And while the tankini black top was more…ahem…supportive, I went with the tiny one.  Why? Because the tankini was tight. And constricting. And modest. Which would defeat the purpose of the entire experiment.

And anyway, I figured that if my boobs fell out, that would have to be fine, too. Because topless beach.


It is important to note that I was to be visiting the beach with a colleague-friend for part of my Miami weekend. I felt the need to warn her. Thus, I sent her the following Facebook message as I stood in line to purchase the bikini:

Me: So. I just bought a legitimate bikini. And I’m going to wear it in all of my fat glory. On South Beach where everyone is thin and beautiful. And then I’m going to take photos and write about it. And then people are going to see said photos. Yeah.

Her: OH. MY. GOD. I just laughed out loud. Loudly. At lunch. At a work lunch.

Her again: I may do the same. No pictures though!

Me, in my head: No pictures, eh? We shall see about that! Muahahahahaha!

I totally took pictures.


It scared me to only pack the bikini. I stood there, hesitating over my open suitcase, with my other full-coverage suit in my hand for far too long. Because to take only the bikini meant that I would have to wear only the bikini.

I took only the bikini.

How It Went


Photo credit (and credit for getting me to jump in a bikini): Kristin Hokanson

Days passed. I boarded flights, I drove places, I boarded more flights, I drove more places. I worked and I slept. And then, finally, my weekend in Miami arrived. Here’s what happened:

I woke up in the morning. I put on my bikini. I walked outside. I sat on a chair in the sun and read a book and sipped a rum drink. I occasionally went into the ocean. I chatted with my friend. I sipped more rum drinks.

And nothing bad happened*.

Processed with RookieIn fact, no one even noticed my doughy, pale stomach. No one pointed and screamed ‘eeeek! A MUFFIN TOP! Everybody out of the water!‘ And better, because I was in hyper-aware mode, I looked around and realized that there were people of all shapes and sizes around me, all in different types of revealing beach attire (one man was particularly note-worth, as he was originally wearing a speedo, but apparently that was just too restrictive so he took it off and draped its tiny cloth-ness over his man-ness and sprawled out in the sunshine, tan-line free. No, I did not take a photo. But yes, I considered it.)

And speaking of other people—I can assure you, if you are inspired by this post and want to bare your own belly on South Beach, you have nothing to worry about. Like Vegas, South Beach is a place where you can really let it all hang out. Just ask the woman we encountered walking down Collins Avenue wearing only a bikini and platform heels, designer bag hooked on her arm, carrying (I swear I am not making this up) a small grey kitten on her shoulders.

No one was ever going to bat an eye at my muffin top, I assure you.

So—what do you think of my experiment? Is it something you’d be willing to try? Share your stories in the comments below!

*When I say ‘nothing bad happened’ I am leaving out one semi-bad thing. Thus, my PSA. Ahem: If you are going to wear a bikini for the first time in more than a decade, please, for the love of god, wear very high SPF sunscreen and continue to reapply it. Even if it is overcast, even if you are sitting under an umbrella. Trust me.

Note: the impetus for this experiment came from a bikini body campaign created by one of my favorite bloggers, The Militant Baker. If you’ve never heard of her, I strongly recommend you CLICK HERE. She rocks. (And by ‘impetus’ I mean ‘she is why I was like WHY THE HELL NOT?’ And for that thought I shall be forever grateful.) 

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