Outfit post: My stomach, myself

I was in the fourth grade when I first began hating my stomach.

It all started during a brief foray into the world of ballet. I was ten, just on the cusp of puberty, and approximately as graceful as a toddler. It didn't take long for me to notice how unlike my body was to my classmates, the winsome, delicate creatures who shared the floor. These other girls were whisper-thin visions of grace. They glided. They floated. They were long-limbs and knock-knees and bony elbows and protruding hipbones, pre-adolescent teacher's pets in pastel pink leotards. I wore florescent fuchsia and always had holes in my tights. And, even worse, I had a stomach. A stomach that jutted forward, straining the seams of my leotard. A stomach that tattled on my penchant for soft-serve ice cream cones. A stomach that stared back at me from the dance class mirrors defiantly, taunting me, comparing my tubby body to that of the lean girls around me.

I hated my stomach. I hated it for existing. I hated the fact that I couldn't suck it in. I hated that I couldn't wear crop tops. From then on, my stomach became the source of all my body hatred. This thing, this foreign sycophant-like thing, attached to my body, this thing I could not get rid of despite countless sit-ups. This stomach.

Over the years, as I plowed through puberty and adolescence and womanhood and post-pregnancy, my stomach became the first thing I'd check in the morning, and the last at night. The condition of my stomach defined my mood. If it was flat, I felt elated, confident. If it bulged, I felt defeated. During my darkest days of anorexia, I would lie in bed at night, hands rubbing my hipbones. They jutted forward emphatically, visible underneath my clothes, like two sharp handles. I was proud of those bones. But even then, malnourished and dehydrated and emaciated, my stomach seemed too big. I'd go through boxes of laxatives and diuretics to shrink it, eat minuscule amounts of food to eradicate it, and make it flatter and flatter. It still wasn't enough.

In the last two years, I have gained 30 pounds. This weight gain was necessary to restore my body back to health and reverse the heart damage twenty years of starvation caused. If I was going to live, I needed to gain the weight. And because I made the conscious decision to live, I gained. And, predictably, much of the weight traveled directly to my stomach

Here's the thing I've learned during the course of my recovery: Hating my stomach all those years didn't change a damm thing. I am not destined to have a perfectly flat stomach. I am never going to be one of those long-limb, lean creatures I see in pilates class, striding confidently in their booty shorts and sports bras. If I was going to recover, I had to let myself just be. I needed to accept my body just as it was.

Therapists call this the paradoxical theory of change. According to the Gestalt Therapy Page, “the premise is that one must stand in one place in order to have firm footing to move, and…it is difficult or impossible to move without that footing.”

In a lot of ways it makes perfect sense; when I hated my body so much that all I did was focus on changing it, it led me to beat myself up in ways that destroyed the intended effect. But when I started accepting my body as is, it allowed me to show my entire self – including my stomach – kindness and love. Which led to greater self-care.

If you had told me five years ago that I couldn’t change a thing until I fully accepted where I already was, I would have tried to get you some psychiatric help. But today I know better. I know that in my life, change doesn’t come from a place of self-hatred, but rather from a place of self-acceptance.


Rodarte for Target lace dress; Forever 21 lace crop top; Lucky Brand wedges; thrifted vintage bag; Charming Charlie bracelets; Michael Kors rose gold watch




21 comments:

  1. I loved this post so much. You are such a wonderful writer and I appreciate the honesty in your writing. Plus: Great style and I love your hair, etc etc!!

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  2. What is it about ballet class and body image? I took ballet in first grade (first grade!) and learned to hate my butt. I spent the next 18 years hating it. I tried to starve it off, but no matter how thin I became that ski sloped, apple-bottomed ass I have, stayed put. It remained the same shape, proportional to the body size I was. I hated it. Then I met the man who was to become my perfect husband. He bowed down and worsheped at the altar of my curvaceous hind quarters. I began to see just how awesome it is. Now I am heavier thanks to a failed pregnancy, a successful pregnancy and many failed attempts to lose the weight of both. I still have that round ass. He still loves it. I look at women who have concave back sides and feel blessd in my good fortunes. No matter how large it is, I will never have to struggle to fill in my jeans. And, my husband will always find me sexy. That ballet teacher can suck it!!

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  3. We are always harder on ourselves than on others. To me you have a perfect figure. You look good in every thing you wear. You should be proud of yourself for recovering, so many do not. I cannot imagine how hard it has been for you and I admire you for your strength.
    I know what you mean about the long lean bodies. I see that in my yoga class. I am the fattest person in the class and it does take courage to go to class knowing that others are probably judging me, not knowing my own history. However, I have to do what is good for me. Thank you for sharing your struggles and inspiring others.

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  4. Oh my... tears in my eyes. Since 4th grade I'd focused so much energy on hating my stomach, too, and honestly I've never heard someone else's story about it. Your post brings back moments of extreme insecurity, surrounding my girls in leotards in my dance class wondering how they got the bodies they had. Wondering why when I turned to the side I had a bubble butt and a matching bubble created by my lower tummy. Lucky for me my body insecurities did not turn into full fledged eating disorders or over exercising or anything... but did affect my self esteem and confidence for a very long time. Only in recent years have I begun to accept my body as it is right now, and celebrate what I love about it instead of hiding what I don't. It's still a struggle in the mirror everyday after a shower, analyzing my lower belly, trying to make myself believe it is beautiful.

    Thanks for this post :) You are beautiful, inside and out!

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  5. My sister is suffering from a terrible hybrid of anorexia and body dysmorphic disorder. I'm showing her your blog and this post today. Thank you for sharing your story, and being strong enough to do so [publicly] on the internet.

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  6. Your body is beautiful and your story is beautiful/painful too. Thank you for sharing.

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  7. Thank you for posting something that moved me to tears! This hit so close to home for me. I always love your posts, as a girl who has always struggled with body image, even now. Thank you for choosing to be a writer!

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  8. Thank you Thank you! I really, really needed this today. I have also always hated my stomach and just wish it would change. Just today someone at work asked me if I was pregnant (I'm not). I needed a reminder to like myself, just the way I am :)

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  9. PS. You look gorgeous in the photos!

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  10. Here via Already Pretty, and I aim to stick around. My stomach is also my object of self-hatred. I know my self-image is warped in this area, but it's so difficult to see things differently.

    What I get from this post is to stop trying to see things differently (because doing so just entrenches me and my footing in the bog of tummy hatred), and instead see things how they are and embrace them. There's nothing wrong with my stomach. It's guilty of nothing but looking different than Gisele's.

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  11. What a pretty dress. I would never have guessed that had this love/hate relationship with your stomache. You are one of the bloggers who occasionally gives us a glimpse of your mid section.

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  12. Such a wonderful post! I too struggled with anorexia & bulimia for 10 years and it took a lot to reach the acceptance I now feel for my body. All my girlfriends who are doing Weight Watchers don't understand why I can't diet with them - because any kind of diet would inevitably lead me to relapse. Doesn't it feel so good to be in a place now where you aren't counting calories in your head throughout the day and obsessing over food? I'm thankful to be FREE & glad to hear that you are too! :)

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  13. very well-said post! you are beautiful and i love reading your honest words. keep it up!

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  14. You've described my relationship with my stomach very well!

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  15. You are such a good writer! I promise I will buy your book when it comes out. Unless all the bookstores close. I will order it online!

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  16. Only in the past few months have I dared to wear belts to define my waistline and tuck in tops to skirts, all intentionally drawing attention to my stomach. I've always felt like a freak because without the "right" clothes--a slimming top and a padded bra--the curve of my stomach is larger than the curve of my (very small) breasts.

    But in the end, what matters most is accepting my body for what it is, even if it doesn't fit either media "skinniness" or celebratory "curviness."

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  17. You are brave for writing about this. I started hating my stomach around the same age (maybe even before?). I've pretty much accepted that I will never be one of those flat-stomached people, still working on the being ok with it part.

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  18. I have that dress! I never would have thought to wear it like you did but I love it! I think the stomach is a "problem area" for most women. In reality, it is HARD to get abs because it requires certain exercises and eating certain foods. Plus who doesn't get a roll when they sit down? haha You look great so I'm glad you can love your body now :)

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  19. What a beautiful post. And I love your outfit. The mixed lace is so lovely. -Laura

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  20. Thank you so much for this post. I have tried to reduce my feelings towards my self-image for years but never so accurately as you did above. You have helped me understand that I need to accept myself to be able to move on. You have a wonderful body and an electric smile.

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