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Love Letter to My Stomach
This piece originated from a writing prompt I came across in Melissa Febos’s excellent book, Girlhood.
I had tagged along on a business trip to Arkansas with my husband and was eating lunch alone when I read it. I am paraphrasing, but it was along the lines of:
“Write a love letter to the part or parts of your body you have the most fraught relationship with.”
It was exactly the poke I needed to finally, after more than 40 years, kick the loathing of my stomach to the curb. I have to say, writing this letter has worked wonders. I don’t hate on myself the way I used to, and if I do catch myself in a cycle of negative self-talk, I’m quicker to recognize and dismiss it. I’m gentler and softer in the way I speak to my body parts, and to my body as a whole, which, let’s face it, really is the goal.
Here is my open love letter to my stomach. I hope that through the sharing of it, some of you may try this prompt for yourselves and see what alchemy writing to your body can bring.
I’ve wished you away from that day at the Sears in Capilano Mall when I was 8 or 9 or 10 years old. I can’t remember exactly how old I was, but I was old enough to know how jeans were supposed to fit, and none of the jeans I tried looked right.
They were all too tight in the waist but baggy in the bum and the front creases where my skinny legs met my torso.
The saleswoman suggested I try on a pair from the chubby section. She may not have used that exact word, but I have a good memory for this kind of thing. I even remember what I was wearing that day so I am pretty certain she said chubby.
That day in the change room of the Sears in the sh*tty Capilano Mall was when I first began to hate you. It was the first time I compartmentalized my body. The first time I saw myself as parts rather than a whole. The beginning of feeling ashamed of you, my cute, soft belly.
That day in that Sears happened over 40 years ago, but it was the precursor to why I sit here today at the Laredo Grill in Eldorado Arkansas, and count out the number of flour tortillas my shrimp fajitas come with. There are four. I tell myself I can have two, no more—no matter how hungry I am, or how long it will be until my next meal.
And you, dear stomach, don’t deserve this negativity—this hate. You’re my Manipura chakra, the seat of my soul, my mediator between physical and spiritual.
You house my digestive fire and your gut reactions keep me out of harm’s way. You’ve gotten me through food poisonings and abdominal surgery and made it through two 10-day fasts and kept me going to the last day of river rafting in Nepal when we ran out of food on day seven. You expanded beautifully to grow and house my two precious girls and without too much trouble, shrank back to pre-pregnancy. Sure, your skin is a little looser, and there are some stretch marks now, but those are our victories.
Over the past four years, you participated with me in two bikini competitions. You released fat and gave me confidence in your tight animal-like state.
I honor you for being so patient, diplomatic, and cooperative. For allowing me to eat without complaint, for being a faithful traveling companion.
Dear belly, you are the sum of my decisions, the center of my being. You remain my faithful ally and I love and honour you in all your incarnations.
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