Let’s talk about bellies. I know about a zillion women, and I’d say I know maybe three who love the way their tummies look. It’s no secret that the American cultural beauty ideal is a flat stomach. Anyone who has ever struggled their sweaty body back into shapewear after a pee break in a public ladies’ room can attest to that.
But most of us just don’t look like the cultural ideal, and we never will. That’s just not how a lot of bodies are made. Our abdomens hold lots of important stuff, and many bodies show evidence of that by being at least slightly convex.
Next time you’re tempted to start hating on the totally fine, totally adorable belly nature gave you, try to keep some of this in mind:
It’s not always a weight thing.
Some bodies, like mine, hold a pretty big amount of their body fat right in the front, but even people with very little fat can have a round or soft belly.
Everyone has some body fat, and you can’t choose where it accumulates. Sometimes, something internal — like endometrisis, IBS and many others — make a fat-free stomach take on a domed appearance. It doesn’t really matter why your stomach isn’t flat, because a flat stomach might be in fashion, but that doesn’t mean it’s actually “better” than a soft belly.
It’s not always a “mom thing.”
It’s common to call a soft lower tummy a “mom pouch,” but you don’t have to be a mom to end up with a soft belly. Weight gain, hormonal changes and abdominal surgery can change any body, baby or not. Your formerly flat tummy can become a soft, round belly for lots of reasons. You don’t have to use motherhood to “excuse” your belly, and you don’t have be embarrassed if pregnancy isn’t to blame for your round tummy.
Long before I was a mom, I had a chunky tummy. I don’t have a round juicy butt or very large breasts. I don’t have that hourglass shape that allows some fat people to find acceptance as “curvy.” I have a prominent tummy and a flat rear end. It used to fill me with body shame and anguish, but I’ve moved past it. If I want to have experiences, I have to have them in this body. It’s the only one I’ve got, so me and my belly make the most of every day — beauty standards be damned.
Round, soft bellies might not always be in style, but they’re normal, natural, and you know what? They’re totally FINE.
If you’re self-conscious about your belly, that’s normal.
It’s hard, y’all. I have chosen self-love, but I’m just a fat woman with a beautiful life trying hard every day to remember that there is no right or wrong way to have a body. I am not blind to the frequent criticism of chunky tummies or immune to the million ads for potions, contraptions and procedures designed to flatten round bellies. We are programmed to hate our tummies by a culture that profits — literally — from our self-consciousness.
Literally nobody is immune to flat belly pressure.
One day last week on my daily cruise through Instagram, I came across a photo of a gorgeous model named Chelsea Miller wearing a long, flowing deep orange dress. Most of her comments were positive (Duh. She’s literally model beautiful!) but one guy just had to chime in with, “You are pregnant?”
Miller’s response was simply, “Nope, that’s just my body,” which was literally perfect. I love seeing people normalize every body shape!
But I was astounded that she had to defend anything about her body’s shape or size at all. Ever.
This woman is a curvy specimen of human perfection. The kind of flawless most human beings will never be. At a size 12/14, she is considered a plus-size model, but her body represents the size of the average American woman. Even in all her beauty, she is not safe from ridiculous questions simply because her stomach is not literally as flat a board.
No matter what your body looks like, it’s rude for someone to ask if you’re pregnant.
While we are talking about bellies, let’s review this important life lesson: Asking if someone is pregnant based solely on their body shape is outrageously inappropriate. Seriously, how many times does this need to be said?
Stop asking people if they are pregnant.
Did you get that?
Stop. Asking. People. If. They. Are. Pregnant.
Unless your champagne-loving BFF who has been trying for six months declines a mimosa at brunch with a twinkle in her eye a smirk on her face, just don’t ask.
Not on Instagram. Not in real life. Never.
And if someone asks you, there’s no reason to be embarrassed. Set that shit straight, then pity them for being so clueless.
It’s okay if you can’t quite come around to loving your belly.
I certainly hope everyone can get there eventually, but to be honest, as much as I have retrained my mind to accept my fat bod, I am not a big fan of my belly. You won’t see me writing an ode to it on IG or prancing around with it on display. I accept it. I love the fact that my babies grew in it, and I don’t let it hold me back. My belly has been through it. It’s unlikely that anyone — even me — would choose mine if we all got to pick from the belly catalogue. But that’s not how it works. Fate hands you a body, and sometimes, it isn’t the one Instagram and magazines and runways say you should have. That doesn’t mean it’s not completely good and right and acceptable exactly as it is.
Bellies come in so many shapes and sizes. Yours might be flat and toned, slightly soft, big and round, or hanging down. It might be marked by scars or stretch marks. You could have a few hairs. Maybe, like me, you have scars, stretch marks, a few rogue hairs and your body decided to throw in some psoriasis like tummy confetti.
Your belly — no matter what it looks like — is totally okay. It’s part of you, and you are just right.