SparkPeople Blogs  •  abs  •  motivation

Tummy Troubles: How I Learned to Embrace My 'Flaws'

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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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RAPUNZEL53 1/23/2021
Great Report
PLCHAPPELL 8/11/2020
I focus on health as I will never be the skinny mini. Report
MILPAM3 7/18/2020
I was waiting in line for a woman at the lingerie store. She wore low-slung pants, a crop top and had a navel ring. She also had a muffin top. The extra large muffin. I wish she would not have decided I needed to see that. Report
USMAWIFE 7/4/2020
thank you Report
MUSICNUT 5/29/2020
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
nothing bothers me more than my hubby seeing me naked. you can not hide from the bitter truth. I have a fat body . right now a very sore body. since I have fallen. laid on the floor and now I vow to lose this weight or else.

I have reached the age where I will never bare certain body parts outside of my own home. And, maybe I should not feel this way but it is no longer important to me. I do the best I can do to stay in shape and dress to cover my flaws. That's about all I can do and it's okay. I'm very grateful to wake up every morning and feel good. PTL. Report
Interesting article & I appreciate the author's self acceptance journal but laughed about her turning 30. Self esteem comes to many by then. As many have commented, being older our perspective is different. When I was young I thought my nose was huge, it wasn't. When I was thin I thought my thighs were big, they weren't. Now at 65 I still see flaws; skin starting to show discoloration from those years in the sun, sagging breasts which were large to start with so headed south early, being short-waisted so a bikini never flattered me, following knee replacement surgery one is wider than the other, & upper arms that are not yet toned & w/ my back issues, may never be. I'm developing jowls & a saggy neck, my fine stick straight hair is turning grey & getting wiry but not in a helpful way.
I don't show off my body but I do wear what I want. Shorts when it's hot out but not too short, a one piece swimsuit that looks decent & is practical for diving & swimming, sleeveless shirts & tank tops w/ a jacket until I get overheated then it's coming off. I use sunless tanners mostly on my legs during summer but not so much in winter. Thinking of cutting my hair short not because that would be more flattering but just cuz it's easier to care for. My husband loves me anyway & he isn't vain at all so that gives me another viewpoint.
There's a line between caring about one's appearance & being neurotic about how we look. Tribal people who alter themselves w/ head binding; neck rings, plates in their lips or heavy pieces in their ears to stretch their anatomy; or excessive & ritualistic tattooing are both cultural art & a means of inclusion within that society. We put great value on our independence so we should embrace our individuality. 🐨 Flaunt it if you got it still holds true even if what you got isn't quite what you wanted or worked to obtain. Report
I am hoping one day to actually enjoy baring any part of my body. I am the only person I know that wears long pants year round and unless it is over 30 C I rarely wear short sleeves (I own maybe 3 tank tops and only the hubby sees me in those). I have been on SP for 10 years now and while I am at a weight I can accept (if not exactly where I want to be), I still won't show skin. It is a very rare instance if I wear a skirt or shorts (not a fan of my thighs or belly). I am debating if it is negative self-image or just that I was raised in an extremely modest family where running from bathroom to bedroom in a towel was considered a bad thing. This is a great reminder that we only have 1 body and we should embrace and love it. Report
This was just the perfect thing for me to read today. Report
Good for you Stepfanie! You are doing great and love the improvement in your attitude about your body. Report
Thanks Report
The variety of responses is interesting Report
My stomach has been OK (right now, it's only so-so, but I do still have another 20 lbs. to lose, so I'm hopeful I'll see improvement.) No -- my trouble area has always been my legs, even in college, when I was whippet-thin and ran 5 miles/day. In my case, it's genetic. My parents both have big legs despite being normal-weight and fit. All three of their daughters inherited doughy, flabby, trunk-like legs with thick thighs, wide calves, and a propensity to resist toning. Given the choice, I'd MUCH rather have a belly; it's SO much harder to cover up or disguise fat legs! Not to mention how difficult it is to find ordinary jeans and trousers, let alone riding breeches and tall boots (I always need to get mine customized.) I'm not about to embrace them either; to me, that sounds too much like making excuses. Although I do realize I'll never have legs like Tina Turner's, I'll consult a fitness trainer on how to tone them as best I can once I've reached my target weight. Report
thank you so much for posting this blog. I can relate very easily to what you are saying. My stomach has always been my trouble spot, and no matter how fit/ thin I may be, looking in the mirror it never seemed to be good enough. In the past year I gained 20lbs, lost 15, and have now gained 10 back, but mostly in muscle. For a while, I was really upset with the number on the scale and the extra "softness" I see in the mirror, but then something happened a couple months ago. I told myself to embrace my body, and that no matter how many crunches I do, how many miles I run, my body/genetic makeup is just not designed for rock-hard abs. I am 24 and my body will likely never be the same weight as it was when I was 19 or 20, but I should be grateful for all the other aspects of it that my hard work has given me. I am healthy, fit, and have the ability to run, walk, hike, etc. I am leaving to go backpacking across South America in a month, and I am mentally preparing to see my body change again as my diet and lifestyle changes during these upcoming months. But mostly, I am telling myself to mentally prepare for all the amazing adventures my body will be able to take me through, no matter what size or flaws it may have.
Thank you again for this inspiring post! Report
yes I hear you my (50yr) body is not too bad except for my belly which hangs over a bit, it does have something to do with the two ceasarean sections i had I too have strong abbs but they are hidden under the fat. Good on you Report
my stomach was once my favorite body part and now, well....
i spent hours and hours researching plastic surgery -- post bariatric-- NOT that i'm doing it, i just know my body will look post bariatric if i reach my goal in a year- and dang, i don't now how to visual what i want to look like. I don't want to look saggy, but i cannot carry this extra person's worth of weight around because

i want to be able to hike again! Or at least wander where I want.

Thanks for the inspiration and sharing your birthday love story,
dDawn Report
I'm so glad to read this. I'm sick of Hollywood and the Ad Men (Mad Men) deciding who is beautiful and what is beautiful. Our bodies are all amazing. We who can walk are particularly blessed. Any man who would reject a woman because her body is real and not made of plastic or sucked and shaped to look like a Barbie Doll is a sick jerk. Yahoo for celebrating the wonders of our life. Report
Steph, you and your belly are priceless!! Thanks for reminding us that we should love all parts of us!! Report
This is a great article and just not for women i haven't taken my shirt of in puplic for years. Report
This is such an inspiring post! I lose weight in a really similar pattern and even though I have strong abs, they're covered by my belly, which I've always been self-conscious about. I really love your outlook and I'm trying to gradually accept my stomach too. Report
Mine too is my stomach. Sad thing is I'm ok with the cushion on it, and the stretch marks on it. I'm not ok with the extra skin. The kind that hangs when I am do push-ups. Its just plain... yucky. Report
I'm another one with very white skin, and a soft belly. I too, have learned to first accept, and then love my body, and just be me. My time came when I turned 40. I realized I was in great shape. I wasn't "perfect" like I wanted to be, but I was real good. And who I was, what I was like as a person, was more important than what I looked like. I can still work towards that perfect idea of myself, but I can be great now and happy with myself now. Letting others see my personality is more important than being concerned with letting others see my belly. Report
I'm still trying to get the confidence to wear clothes that fit. I tend to wear baggy clothes to "hide" in. Report
I have been trying to get a six-pack for months. First I was told that when I dropped the weight it would come. Next it was my body fat percentage that needed to be lowered. Well I have gone from 220 to 195.5 and my body fat is now 11 percent . Still I don't have the six-pack or even 1/2 a pack for my stomach. Still I am happy with my accomplishment although I don't show it. Report
I have a huge scar across my belly button, so I haven't worn a bikini since I was really young. I always hide that, because I don't want to talk about how it got there. Report
Boy, can I relate to the stomach hanging out of my pants thing. My stomach's always been a trouble area. Now, after losing over 100 pounds, I have a lot of excess skin in addition to the flab. I can't imagine ever willingly showing my gut in public. I think I'd have to be on the verge of heat stroke and be strictly in the company of the blind. Report
Thanks for this blog! It really spoke to me because I too am most uncomfortable with my belly and am as fair skinned as they come. Over a years time I have lost a lot of weight and have gotten in better shape than I thought possible, but I cannot get rid of this belly and it has been annoying me! I now feel much better and more grateful for my wonderful body that takes me through every exercise and adventure I embark on. Report
Thanks for your story. It really hit home and I too have a belly and wish that it was a lot flatter and more toned. I always try to hide my belly.. Your story gave me motivation to love my body flaws and all. From this moment I have decided to love every part of my body and to worship it more. Report
Reading how you feel about your body and how/where you lose weight hit close to home with me. It's as if I was reading my own words. I'm far from the end of my weightloss journey but when I reach it, I hope to have the confidence and the outlook you do. You're definitely inspiring! Report
I have spent my entire life picking at my stomach. I have never felt it to be "perfect" enough for me. This is really inspiring. I hope one day I have enough confidence to feel this way about myself. Report
I dont like my belly, you are right about how you lost your weight.. I am starting to notice my legs a little slimmer and my arms a little more toned, but my belly is staying chubby.. Its my least favorite part of my body, yes i need to be happy with myself the way i am, i just want to improve myself! thank you for the article, and giving us all a chance to share our stories also! Report
I'm 25 and don't show my stomach, it's also where I gain the most weight and it's the last to go down and tone. I also have stretch marks from my rapid weight gain back in college. Report
It was really inspiring to read this--to hear the fine line between the confidence of words and the confidence behind the words. As a fellow former body-abuser, and one who is working to let my body look how it wants as I embrace the truly fit and healthy person underneath, it is wonderful to read of the moments of clarity--what it means to live and be healthy. Thanks for sharing about your trip and your conquest of baring your belly :) Report
I'm 36 and can totally relate. I have struggled with the same vanity 15 lbs for the last 7 years. Seems like the minute I hit 30, everything I ate started to stick. I have not worn shorts in a long time because the back of my thighs are "not acceptable for view" in my opinion. My boyfreind is 9 years younger than me and is constantly begging me to expose myself (not like that...hahahaha), but he wants me to wear the shorter shorts - normally I'm in capris in the summer...This post has inspired me to let it let it all go...Focus on the positive - health, wellness, and living a happy life...Thanks for this freedom! Report
I totally know what you mean when you say that fat comes from thighs and the stomach last in most people - I have lost 50 lbs and although my top half seems alright, I always wish the lower part of my body is as toned. I have a very defined waist but a stomach which sticks out! I'm hoping that my stomach will decrease as I lose the final 15lbs but I will have to accept that my tummy will not look like the people on ads or celebrities but it will the best I will ever have. I haven't tried yoga but have found strength training (particularly Chalean's Extreme) very helpful in getting some muscle definition. Report
Stephanie, I started to cry when I read this post. I have spent so much of the last few years hating my body. This body of mine carried my two beautiful girls through the first nine months of their lives and maybe I should be loving it instead of cussing it, flaws and all. Thanks for really changing my outlook! Report
This was a great blog. I have a terrible time accepting my body. I have lost close to 100 pounds and just said to my friends, that I think I looked better heavier because of the "softness" in my thighs, my drooping boobs, and muffin top. Being 54 and finally down to a size 10 -12. I am having a real problem loving my body. I have this stupid image that I should look like the 20 somethings that were on Miss USA pageant and I will not be happy until then.

Good for you. I hope I come to that acceptance soon. Report
Another good post about learning to accept our bodies. I'd love flat abs, too. I guess, who wouldn't? I lost weight mostly off the top half of my body which was already small, but I did lose from the thigh, butt and hip, too. I don't mind too much the wrinkles on my tummy. I"m still working on my core and tummy exercises to see if over time that will tighten up. But if not, oh well. I look much better with clothes on than I used to and not too many people need to see me without. Report
I loved your blog! As a 40+ mother of four (I had them in barely 5 years.) I feel what you are saying. However, I've come to terms with my body after losing almost 35lbs and losing more than my goal weight. My "worst" part is my thighs. They've always been bigger than I'd like. I also have the "bird arms" with the wave/flapping that continues when my hand has stopped.

I've learned to like what I have. My stomach looks pretty good for my age and for having as many children as I did. I took the plunge and not only bought, but wore a bikini this year. My oldest is 16 and said I looked good and for that I was immensely proud. Besides with a bikini on, my best tattoos show.

So everyone be proud of what you have. There are many people out there that would love to be like you and wish they were for many reasons. Flaunt it if you have it!! Report
You've learned early in your life that to be happy you need to appreciate and care for your body. I love your line about saying a silent apology to your body while celebrating your birthday under the waterfall-I can't think of a more fitting way to positively head into your 30's. I don't know a woman who doesn't have an issue with some area of their body, but when those supposed flaws stop you from living life to the fullest it's time to do as you did and embrace your fears and throw your shirt to the wind!
Great blog and wonderful message. Report
I didn't feel comfortable exposing my belly even when I was 20 y/o and weighed 128 pounds. I wish I could overcome this, but I don't see that happening anytime soon:( Report
Thanks for the blog! I really want to wear a bikini, but I HATE my tummy. Maybe it's time to just love it and me for what it is a body of a 34 year old and mother of 2:) Report
I too can relate! I am 46 yrs old and will not wear a bikini at my own pool unless no one else is home! I must say...a tanned belly does look better! Report
I read this today and it really helped me offer some love to my own body, sometimes I push it so hard and expect so much because I want to look a particular way. I forget that my body is fine the way it is, and that being an ideal is impossible. The more I say it, the more I think I will come to understand it. Thank you for this beautiful post, it made me smile. Report
THANK YOU!!! I can relate! It helped reading this... things were already starting to click... this has helped more. I'll still probably beat myself up now and then, but have been more conscious of doing it in the last month, and stopping the negative self-talk... this made me realize I need to pay more attention to all the good I have, and my belly (as it is) can do and has done! :) Report
I had twins. My stomach and abdomen will never be the same, but that sacrifice provides the most happiness I've ever had in my life - my children. When I get back to a normal BMI, I plan on having a tummy tuck to get rid if my extra skin. Why not? My husband thinks I'm sexy no matter what, but it bothers me to have the apron of skin hanging over my underwear. Sounds vain, I know... But it is for me. Report
I agree w/ firestarinfini: Is it really necessary to keep bashing thin/small-hipped/small-breasted women? Because the whole "Real women have curves" thing does just that. I am a soft-butch, and couldn't care less about having a womanly body; I love my slender, strong physique. But there are women out there getting breast implants because of this sort of negative language. I'm glad the author loves her body, but she should realize that every person has a different body type, and ALL are wondrous. Report
Ladies, it makes me so angry to see that so many of you have had experiences in life that have hurt you and distorted your body image.

Maybe I'm weird, or maybe it's just because I'm a guy, but there are really very few women I would, or could, judge because of their physical dimensions. I'm not perfect and never have been - who am I to demand that a woman I'm with look like some Photo-shopped, 22 year old who exists on bib lettuce and carrot peelings.

The BMI suggests that for my height (5'8") I should weight 156 pounds. With a 44" chest, I'd have to be emaciated. My measurements are 44-40-36. My tailor says it would be easier to dress a fireplug than me.

However, my endocrinologist tells me to NOT get below 175#, regardless of what I do.

Each person is different, but what is really the sexiest part of any woman is her brain. That's where all the emotions lie - loving, caring, thoughtful, comforting, goofiness (yes, I consider goofiness to be an emotion), etc.

Remember, that those who care don't mind, and those who mind don't care (or matter). Report
I am at the beginning of my weight loss journey (once again). My abdomen is carrying almost all of my 40 extra pounds. I really am concerned that the ab fat will not go away. Reading your blog today gave me a better perspective. Thank you! Report