Confession: My stomach is my least favorite part of my body. When I was in high school, I had a taut, toned belly that my angst-ridden adolescent self couldn't appreciate. But by the time I realized how rockin' my body really was, it was too late: Years had passed, and eating disorders had given way to lax college eating and weight gain.
Much of the weight settled on my stomach, and, as a woman with fair skin, every bump, ripple and dimple was more visible.
A total of 50 pounds fell away in three phases: the bulk of it during my year in Korea, another 10 pounds when I started working at SparkPeople, and the final 15 since I underwent some major life changes late last year. (If my math seems fuzzy, it's because I gained and lost 10 pounds a few times!)
Everyone loses weight at different rates and in different places. For me, the upper body is the first area to see results, especially my breasts (TMI, but ladies, you know what I mean!). My arms and legs see changes next, followed by my hips and rear end. But the belly--that one's the last to go. It's so hard for me to see results there.
Thanks to years of yoga, I have strong abs... but they're still buried under some softness. (I don't use the "F" word.) I have no trouble baring my arms in tank tops or wearing open-backed tops, and I even overcame my aversion to wearing shorts. But I don't wear bikinis, and I feel self-conscious baring my belly. I pause during yoga practice if my tummy hangs out, and I often tuck in my shirt to avoid anyone seeing it.
A couple of weeks ago, I turned 30, and I celebrated with a yoga retreat in Honduras. With temperatures topping 90 degrees most days, I wore as little as possible to stay cool.
On my birthday, we took a 3-hour hike. About an hour into the hike, my clothes were drenched with sweat. I shed my button-down shirt and wore only my sports bra and hiking pants. I was nervous at first.
Were the other people on the hike staring at my belly, with its soft whiteness? Were they wishing I would cover up? Did they think I didn't have the body to bare my belly? After about five minutes, surrounded by the beauty of the Central American jungle, I stop caring. This is MY body, and I'm going to love it, flaws and all.
That day, I hiked three hours, climbed over boulders, did yoga on some rocks, and frolicked with the light heart and playful spirit of a child. I was the sole member of my hiking party to stand under a waterfall--our ultimate destination on the hike. I stood there, arms overhead, and let the water wash over me. I yelled: "I'm 30! Happy Birthday!" And I said a silent apology to my body.
Another woman on the trip captured a photo of me at that moment. It's not the most flattering angle--my hips are turned, my belly creased, my abs not sucked in--but the look on my face is priceless. It's now my favorite photo from the trip.
Women have curves, and I love mine. We have cellulite. Most of us don't have six packs.
I eat a super clean, plant-based diet. I run regularly. I practice yoga daily. This body is the healthiest it's ever been, inside and out. It's a body I worked very hard to achieve. It's a body that has been abused, loathed, and mistreated. And now it's a body that is loved. It's a body that is moved. It's a body that has infinite potential.
This body, "belly" and all, has run two half marathons, carried me through thousands of yoga practices, and supports me through each and every day. This body skinny dipped and stood naked under another waterfall on that trip. And I felt great! This body is beautiful.
This summer, I will be more confident in my body. I will not freak out if my stomach hangs out during yoga. (I already bought a pair of short yoga shorts, and I love them!) I will run in a sports bra and shorts on hot days.
I'm done bad mouthing my body and my belly. No more thinking of any body part as flawed. It isn't good or bad. It just is.
Love your body, and it will love you in return.
Do you have a body part you're afraid to bare? Do you feel comfortable in your own skin?
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