Let’s Talk About Our Bellies

Let’s talk about bellies.

Specifically, our lady’s bellies. Now, I’m not trying to put guys out, nor their bellies; but I am a lady, and I can only speak and write about my own belly and therefore, my generalized assumptions of other ladies’ bellies. But should you – a dude – find yourself inspired by these words, please share them far and wide with your dude-bellied friends.

As I stuff my face with an office danish I nonchalantly just stole, I am reminded that summer is almost here, and so is our ridiculous obsession with the long-sought-after “summer body.” The problem here is that once summer arrives and we’re confronted with bikini weather, we’ll haul ass back to the gym to start furiously working on looking presentable.

Repeat after me: “Summer is coming. I have a body. Therefore, I WILL have a summer body.”

All of this obsessing has got to stop, but before I tell you why (like you don’t know), I am going to empathize. One summer a million years ago, I went back to the motherland for a couple of months to see family, sneak some booze, party it up with my girlfriends like only a few 16-year-old’s can do…you know, regular summer stuff. This happened to be the one and pretty much only summer where I really expanded. Growing up, I was a skinny girl. I didn’t know to be proud of it, because I had never battled weight problems, so the idea of being skinny and gloating about it never really crossed my mind. When I started to develop, I started noticing that getting boobs wasn’t going to come without a disclaimer, and before I knew it, that damn muffin top started to rise like yeast. Along with it came other weight gain in uncomfortable areas, and I think that was the first time I discovered how God-forsaken chaffing was. So, when it was time to vacation like a boss and squeeze myself into a bikini, I hit that proverbial, teenage wall – nothing fit and I look like that can of biscuits when you pop the lids on either side. What I didn’t know was that I was still growing and developing, and although I ate like a raccoon, I was simply at that stage of girl-hood where I had to sit with my awkwardness for a little while longer.

My mom was always skinny, as well. She grew up eating like a linebacker, never gaining a single pound. Contrary to me, she owned every piece of that spotlight, and she made sure you knew it. My mom is, by nature and her own choosing, a brutally honest and loud little beast. She has never cared whether her words will lift you up or bury you, and that’s something for which I’ve both admired and resented her. That summer of bikini-not, she made sure I knew where extra parts of me were growing, whether I wanted to hear it or not (I didn’t). Regardless, I began to look at my body as something apart from who I thought I was, like some alien life that took a different route somewhere and started to grow all wrong. I didn’t know anything about eating healthy or God forbid, moving my body and sweating out the crap I ate. All I knew was that I was somehow fat, and that fat needed to go. Immediately.

I dieted. I failed. Oh God, I failed so many times. I hated the way jeans made my belly puff out in the front. I hated how every shirt I used to wear back when I was skinny was now a dooming reminder of a body I used to have. I hated how I bought and picked my outfits based on how much coverage there was to hide my problem areas. And I absolutely hated how I subconsciously hid my belly in pictures when I was at the beach or anywhere where my belly was exposed. I remember pictures of me with my hand on my belly, trying to stand taller in hopes that this will make me look skinnier. And that summer was the breaking point – I came home to my mom’s honest demand – lose weight. It was like a punch in the throat.

Nowhere in my teenagehood did I understand what it meant to be healthy. I never looked at my body as my own, as a living, breathing part of me that only thrived when all parts of me were on track – mind, spirit, soul. The words with which I described my body were mean and cruel and rarely ever honest, but I never stopped myself from saying those things. And so my body took the hits. I remember my lowest point, sitting on the toilet in my bathroom, pinching my belly in my hands and physically yelling at the fat to go away.

If only I knew then what I know now, right? But life doesn’t work that way, and nowhere in our span of time and Universe does a life of a teenage girl work that way. Now, I’m not here to write you a happy ending, where I got some sense and started eating right and doing yoga and losing weight and loving my mom’s brutal and loud honesty. In fact, the reason why I wanted to write this (for so long, by the way) is because everything I later learned as an adult and a yogi has led me to the point of returning to my younger self to tell her (and you!) that:

Our bellies are sacred. They are the seat of our power, our love, our connection to ourselves, each other, our world, and our purpose. They are not meant to be cut down, chiseled into, or shrunken in order to fit jeans, stereotypes, or fear-based expectations. Allow them to grow with nourishment, rise and fall freely with breath, and give life to children, ideas, and even your damn self.

When I went through my yoga teacher training, I was constantly reminded that my belly was where God lived. And because I believed that God existed, I believed She was very much like me – at heart, still some teenage girl with her belly in her hands, trying to grow into her awkward body so that she could finally believe in her wild, overwhelming spirit. And little by little, I stopped pausing in mirrors on the way to try on a bikini, hoping that if I walked a little straighter, my belly would not show. I cut that shit out. I didn’t have time for it. What I had time for were ideas. What I had time for hid in lunchtime sessions of writing and booking trips to Nepal and Mexico and opening my heart so wide to my everything so that I could finally start that book I’ve been meaning to write. I believe in all of these things, because I can feel them, one by one, in my belly – that same belly that puffs out when I eat a danish I stole; that same belly that knows things my mind simply cannot. I trust that belly now more than ever before, because it’s where the seat of my power is, where I can surrender to a knowing that is far greater than any logical knowledge I could learn from a book. It’s the place where I connect my ground with my spirit, two fingers above my bellybutton that I pierced back in high school. I never want to lose or pinch or yell at that sacred space again.

Our bellies give life, whether that’s in the shape of our stories on paper or our children in cribs. Don’t hide it under a tunic or under a sheltering hand. It’s something to behold, something to honor and celebrate. It’s unique to us, and us alone. It shouldn’t be stereotyped or insulted or manipulated to look like someone else’s. Why wish to have anyone else’s power when you can have your very own?

Take care of it. Take care of yourself by acknowledging that you are strong, capable, healthy, flawed, and a standing representation that you will never back away from your own potential. Your duty to yourself is not to explain or justify your body – not even to yourself. And I could say something cliche like – you are perfect just the way you are – but that’s a lie. You’re not perfect. You’re a mess, nine times out of ten, who is trying to keep it all together without overdoing it on wine on a Tuesday morning; but you’re also a badass, divine creation in a meatsuit of a body, destined for much bigger things. Never let a day go by without reminding yourself of this one, true fact.

 

xoxo

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32 Replies to “Let’s Talk About Our Bellies”

  1. Fantastic read definitely just what I needed to hear right now as I stuff my face with a doughnut and cup of coffee thinking…I really need to diet and get rid of this weight. The problem is I just love food too much haha! Xo

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “Badass in a meat suit.” Hell yeah. Thank you. Thank you for this inspiring post. I hate my body, because of a chronic pain condition that has taken it over. The lack of exercise I am capable of and the medications that put extra lbs. on me. I too have a mother that says lose weight and oh, god, you are not going to put on a bathing suit… I am capable of so much more. I am above all this self-hatred. I’m done seeing myself as a body and I will remember that it is my soul that shines. My stomach that bears my gut feeling is what I rely on. I need to share this. Thank you for these amazing words and spectacular message!~Kim

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Kim! Thank you! Your words gave me goosebumps. Thank you for speaking your truth, no matter how hard it may be sometimes. Shine that soul bright, sister!!

      Like

    2. I empathize, I also have chronic pain that makes life a challenge. I’m sorry you have pain and a judgemental mother (mine is too). May you have fewer bad pain days and continue to shine!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I cannot tell you how desperately I needed to read this today. I recently hit menopause and my body has gone beyond my control. Ironically I’m a bellydancer and showing my belly is kind of a regular deal in my life, but that has only made me all the more painfully aware how much my body has changed and that not only my jeans but my costumes promote muffin top like they never have before. though this is a dance form that generally is very open and accepting of all sizes and shapes, it doesn’t mean every individual dancer is entirely comfortable in her body. Thank you so much for this!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank YOU for reading, Stazia (beautiful name!). Our body will change, undoubtedly. It will shift and ebb and flow, and it’s so easy to get side-swiped by it all and let it make you feel less than you are. But don’t let it! Own every inch of yourself, as you grow and progress through life. I find bellydancing to be a beautiful expression of what true womanhood, vulnerability, and sexiness really are!

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  4. Reblogged this on Bipolar Barb and commented:
    I came across this post just now and thought I’d reblog it because it’s apropos of my own, earlier post. Plus I bought 2 pairs of jeans today because of all the medication weight. 😔

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing, Barb! It’s a pleasure to connect. I’m sorry to see you struggle – but whenever I’ve found myself in similar situations and went shopping, I did this – catch yourself when you begin that evil comparison between what size you used to be and what size in jeans you are now. And then instead of feeling sad that you’re changing, begin to love the new parts of yourself that you’re now coming to meet 🙂 And dress those parts the hell up! ❤ You got this. Being fabulous and divine does not diminish with weight gain, girlfriend. Sending you love!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Ever since I hit my fifties, my belly has seemed to expand no matter what I do to try to prevent it. As a result, I often feel embarrassed about it but your post has made me look on this in a better light. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That is music to my soul! Thank you for reading! I’ve been on the end of trying to stuff my belly in, but I’ve learned that life is too short to be less than all that I am. That’s true for you, too! Sending you love!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Powerful words, and expressed with such kindness 😍 It’s an almost daily battle to accept what we see in the mirror. I have grown so much physically in the last year (thanks, medication and exhaustion!) but I have also grown mentally, grown in character. Maybe my belly is just expanding to make room for all the other exciting ways I can grow?!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, absolutely! Our mind is the biggest challenge of all. And it’s where we often DON’T turn to when things go bad. But it’s also the place – if we give it enough attention and healing – can drastically change how we view our physical body. Happy for your growth! Own it, babe! Thank you for reading!

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  7. Thanks for the great read. I try not to be hard on myself about my weight. I want to be healthy, not skinny. Learning to love oneself is difficult but you are right….we are badass.

    Liked by 1 person

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