learning to love your belly stomach

For eons, my body image hang-ups have centered on my little belly-pooch. Why is it there? Why won’t it flatten? Will doing the “wrong” kind of sit-ups really make it MORE prominent? Were low-rise pants designed specifically to create a small, uncomfortable shelf for it? Do other women have similar bellies and just disguise them more effectively? Why, oh why, will I never look like Blake Lively in a Herve Leger bandage dress?

I fretted and stewed, moaned and groaned, cursed my lot and tried my damndest to change it. And yet, through weight fluctuations of more than 50 pounds, my tum has remained. I’ve been a size 6 and a size 16 and everything in between. The tum abides.

And I can say with confidence that focusing some intentional love and affection toward the body part I hated most was KEY to moving myself further down the path toward self-love and acceptance. It wasn’t until I forced myself to celebrate what I’d spent so long loathing that I felt capable of continuing my own body image journey. Writing posts about minimizing my pooch, and very intentionally including some tips for clothes to enjoy when minimization is NOT a priority, was therapeutic in ways I can barely express. I don’t gravitate naturally toward tum-highlighting styles, but incorporating them intentionally (if sporadically) has proven both rewarding and fun. I feel more in-touch with my physical self, more alive, more grounded now that I have taken this step toward accepting my body’s organic form. And although I still experience the occasional burst of frustration at it, and although I certainly dress to conceal it more often than not, I now feel almost protective of my little belly-pooch. It’s got staying power. It defines me. It’s a very natural part of me, and attempting to eradicate it is both futile and foolish. It is mine.

I will admit that making peace with my tum has caused me to redirect my personal body scrutiny elsewhere: I fret about my upper arms more than I’d like to admit, and still struggle to give them the same loving grace as my belly. But every summer when the temps rise and I let the panicky exposed-arm thoughts creep in, I am better able to push them out again. I may still be working to love my arms, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to suffer through a hot, humid Minnesota summer in long sleeves in an attempt to disguise them. And I know that’s because I spent some serious time and energy breaking down my hatred for my tum. It’s not a done deal, but I’ll muster up some arm-love one of these summers.

Forcing yourself to love what you hate most about your body is a tricky task, and may not work for every woman. But my personal experience has led me to believe that many of us focus a good 85% of our self-loathing on one specific body part. Dedicating some energy to creating a better relationship with that body part may not be a cure-all, but it certainly can’t hurt. And that kind of intentionality makes room for untold personal growth.

Do you have one body part that bears the brunt of your frustration? What makes you hate it so much? Do you think forcing yourself to reevaluate its worth and importance to defining you could help you heal that rift?

Image is Venus of Urbino by Titian. Give me some flowers and a blonde wig, and this is me, people.

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