5.9 Editor's Pick
May 25, 2019

I am Not My Belly.


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Every morning when I wake up, the first thing I do is grip my belly.

I squeeze it with both hands as I lay there on my back. This habit is decidedly weird, and a tad obsessive.

When I get up, I look at my belly in the mirror and I shake my head in disgust. I check it out from the side, and from the front again, examining it this way and that—and then I turn on my heel, and walk away, annoyed by what I see.

Annoyed by what is still there, despite my best efforts. My stomach. My belly. My “pooch.” Out of sight for a moment, but never quite out of mind. Can you relate?

This excessive scrutiny is a self-esteem harming ritual, for sure.

No one else is allowed to touch it. Or see it. The requisite “silent agreement” for love-making of any kind is that my belly area is to be respectfully avoided at all costs. One trick I employ is to simply bend over, which keeps it nicely hidden from view.

I often wear a t-shirt, or use a pillow as a barrier of sorts to cover it up, and this is sad. It is not sexy at all.

Two C-sections, a 28-year battle with bulimia, a hysterectomy, the cycle of yo-yo dieting, stress, worry, and years of unhappiness have left their mark. Empty, then full, then empty again.

Protruding, even on its best day, my belly is an extra squishy band of fat that hangs like an apron, grotesquely. This is a yucky description, I know. I’m sorry if the ugliness of such a comment offends your sweet sensibilities, or creates visuals you can’t quite tap out of your brain, but it is my truth.

And you will see me in my outfits, in my cute, trendy black Spandex and maybe you will think, what is she even talking about? Maybe you might say, “Lady, please cut yourself some slack. You are 50 years old after all.”

A belly is a belly, but not all are created equal. Some are, in my opinion, beautifully concave, flat, hard, and fit. Some are what can only be magnificently described as “abs.” And some, like mine, are simply rolling hills of shame. They are arching waves of despair.

It is useless, this thing that hangs off my body. A clapping flap I’d like to chop right off, a thing I’d like to cleanly slice away with a filet knife.

It is pliable, so I pull it, push it, and pinch it. I tuck it. Again, and again, I compress it. And I yell expletives at it. Like a sponge, it takes all the verbal and physical abuse I give it. And it gets the punishing Spanx treatment for special occasions.

My belly has always had a lot to say about me. It is the epicenter, the focus of my body. It has wielded its power over me my whole life. “I’m too fat!” it yells. “I am gross, and don’t you ever forget it!” it cries. “I am ugly,” it weeps.

My poor belly is stuffed with rage.

My belly has never, ever been loved. The hatred is rather exhausting. It is life-sapping. When it rears its odious head, this internalized, hostile emotion defeats all my healthy efforts and any good feelings I have about my body, the ones I’ve worked diligently to achieve.

The hatred is hyper-critical and time-consuming. It inspires nothing.

Lately, I’ve been thinking: This “belly thing” I hold onto both figuratively and literally, is something I’d like to let go of—something I’d like to release from my physical and psychological clutches.

It’s a big, bad, self-loathing habit I’d like to break.

So today, I asked myself some questions:

What if I didn’t have to love it, or hate it?

What if I employed a third option, and simply became indifferent instead?

What if, through the power of mindful, positive thinking, I decided that my belly, this “thing” that plagues me, is not the heart and soul of who I am? And since it doesn’t define me, maybe it wouldn’t control my feelings one way or another.

What if I accepted its existence exactly the way I accept the existence of all the other body “things” I don’t pay much attention to, like my kidneys or my elbows?

Perhaps then, my belly would no longer act as a weapon, a cease-fire of sorts on its unrelenting war on my moods, happiness, and mental health.

This possibility has given me hope.

Instead of pining for an unattainable aspiration, I can try to remember to count my roses instead of my thorns. To see beauty in my whole self, belly and all, and bask in the glory of good health despite the one thing I can’t seem to change.

To feel sexy and peaceful, despite my human imperfections. To remember that perfection, in all realms, is a myth.

To “let go” of my belly, to let it be something I can’t change. My belly could be the one thing that no longer harms my well-being, because it no longer has my permission to do so.

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