The other week on Facebook, Prevention magazine asked its readers to report why they love their bellies. I did a double take. “Love” their bellies? It’s a bit of a radical concept for the magazine, since I know “Flatten Your Belly” is often our highest-responding cover line. Flatten doesn’t imply love to me. But then I smiled—for two reasons. First, because it signals a change in the magazine that I think is truly positive. And second, because I do love my fat little Buddha belly!
Why? Well, my belly has been quite useful. It’s stretched radically for three kids in three different decades (’80s, ’90s, and 2000s). Two of those kids came out through a slice on my lower belly, leaving a scar that, if I were feeling creative and drew a face on my belly, could look like a little smile. I’m grateful to my belly for that.
Second, and this is a complicated one, my belly is the home to seven little fibroids. How do I know I have seven? Because when I had my third child at age 44, I was considered so high risk they measured them every single month to make sure they weren’t growing. I should probably name them, my little dwarfs. For those of you who have fibroids, you know they aren’t much fun. They cause two days a month of fairly excruciating misery. I sometimes do the math: That’s 24 days a year of misery. And at least 600 days of my life spent in the kind of pain and suffering a man will never know. And yes, I work through it.
Still, while I may curse those little beasts, I’ve decided to keep them and love them anyway. Because even though they add heft to my belly that no amount of Pilates or yoga or running can flatten, they have taught me quite a few things about myself, and are a constant reminder that I have to take care of myself and be strong, even through the pain.
I’ve thought about having a hysterectomy, but what if I lose the other things I love about my belly? That’s the third thing, which can be roughly described as my gut, my source of creativity and desire. Sometimes I feel like what magic powers I may have live in that little room with those troublesome dwarfs. What if they are there for a reason? It took me this long (50 years!) to learn to trust my gut. I’m not screwing it up now.
And so, I have learned to love my belly, voluptuous and lush as it is. My kids have called it a perfect pillow and yes, it is warm and welcoming and makes a good island for misfit toys while in the bath. And I’ve learned to think of my belly as sexy in a painterly sort of way rather than an athletic sort of way, which suits my personality better anyway.
It’s a strong belly, too. I know there is a six-pack in there somewhere! I’ve tried giving up gluten, but it didn’t make much difference. So these days I focus on exercising as much as I can (which is a challenge with my schedule). Would I like to be thinner? Yes, of course. But I eat very healthfully already. And exercising isn’t an “exercise” in trying to flatten anything—it’s an exercise in trying to keep my whole body healthy and alive and loving my whole body and self—including my belly—no matter what.