Susan Weaver, 61, is president of the American Association for Nude Recreation. (Matt McClain/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

I’ve been a nudist for 25 years. This guy I was dating said, “Let’s go to the nude beach.” And I said, “Oh no, I can’t. I’m too heavy.” The irony is that I was ruining my health trying to stay a size 4 with bulimia. But like many women, I still saw myself as being heavy. We negotiated. I would go to the beach with him, but I would wear my bathing suit. He won’t coerce me; he wouldn’t tease me. But then I got out there, and it was so beautiful — the water, the wind, the sun, the air; the bathing suit just got in the way. So off it went. And so did my hang-up about people looking at me. It’s hard to describe now because I have a hard time remembering what that felt like — to not like and accept my own body.

I knew the instant I took off that bathing suit that being naked with the sun on every inch of me felt better than being skinny at any cost. The paradox is that in the nudist environment, it’s not what you look like, it’s who you are inside that matters.

I still remember telling one friend, “I don’t know if you’re going to want to hear this about me, but I’m a nudist.” She said, “So what?” And that’s when I got over it. It was a defining moment. My mother had a hard time accepting this. Her generation was all about Donna Reed and June Cleaver. But she said, “Susie, you’ve made very few poor choices in your life, so I’m just going to trust you.” That meant the world to me. I was working in federal government then, and it was just one of those interesting things your co-worker does on the weekend. “Oh, what did you do this weekend?” “We just went to Avalon Nudist Resort.” While I could talk a hind leg off a donkey about my excitement about it, the fact is I tried not to push it on people.

We shed our clothes, not our common sense. We wear sunscreen — I’ve probably got worse sunburns on the golf course than at a nudist resort. You don’t fry bacon in the nude. I don’t mow the lawn or run the weed whacker. And when it’s cold, we don’t crank up the heat just to justify being nude at home. And my partner and I also joke about remembering to put on our clothes before taking out the trash.

Our culture has put so much emphasis on conformity — looking, acting, dressing in a certain way. At a certain point in life, some of us start to question that unless I’m a size 4, I’m less desirable, less of a person. And at that point you just say, “No, I’m going to do what I want with my body and feel good about it.”

Weaver: “Being naked with the sun on every inch of me felt better than being skinny at any cost.” (Matt McClain/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)