We’ve explored the lush forests of our pubes and stumbled over the rolling hills of our breasts. Now it’s time to tackle the space in between: our bellies (or stomachs, or tummies, or midriffs if you please. Guitar riffs? No, but maybe some other time).
Tummies are a touchy subject (seriously, don’t touch mine, I’m ticklish). Scrolling through the Instagram hashtag #fitspo, feels a bit like being Wile E. Coyote falling comically off of a cliff, bouncing from one slab of rock hard abs onto another, each more tanned and taut then the last.
Our core is the center of our being, so why do we obsess over making it small? If you want a big life filled with big dreams, it follows that a big belly holds the source of power you need to make it happen. Think of the Laughing Buddha, a beautiful symbol of tolerance and good fortune. Would this image be as powerful if he was rocking a six pack?
Not that I am completely comfortable with my own stomach. I still have days when I wake up and gaze upon my naked body with fresh eyes, thinking: Were the Minions modeled after one of my leaked nudes?
Unsure how to feel about my middle, I rounded up my coworkers to get all up in the guts (but not in the gross way).
Maria: I have always admired a good chubby tum, but in regards to my own chubby tum, I haven’t experienced the same kind of love. It’s been a tumultuous relationship with my tummy ever since high school when I first started to think about the way I looked and the way I ate, and started trying to achieve a certain weight because that’s the way I thought I should be. Even now, when my general philosophy is, it’s your body, do whatever, when it comes to how I look at myself in the mirror, there is still a struggle in terms of accepting and loving my tummy. This past year I recently gained some weight and I got my first tummy stretch marks, and that was a big thing for me this year, trying to accept that it is okay, and my tummy is still lovely.
I do still have weird issues with my tummy though, I don’t like when my partners touch my tummy.
Lauren: When I was in high school, I would only have sex with a t-shirt on. I didn’t like looking down at my stomach because I was always comparing myself to other people’s bodies.
Maria: People who aren’t even in the room.
Lauren: I was maybe 115 pounds soaking wet when I was in seventh grade, but I was like, other girls have nicer bodies than me. As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to cover my stomach up more so now, even to this day, I don’t wear anything form-fitting, everything is kind of loose. If I’m wearing underwear or a bathing suit, I always wear hi-waisted to kind of suck everything in. Even though there are times you feel really sexy in small underwear or bathing suits, at the end of the day there is nothing worse than wearing lo-rise underwear or bathing suits and lying in bed and it rolls down because your stomach is so prominent. It is something I still struggle with because it makes me sad to still be constantly comparing myself to other people even now, ten years later.
Maria: I feel like I’m withholding love from myself. Constantly putting love for my tummy on hold.
Leigha: Every year I think one day I’ll get to that level of tummy love, or like, I’ll get those abs. I got stretch marks in high school, and I remember feeling really ashamed and embarrassed. This year I gained more weight than I have in a long time, and the sex thing is real. You get a little more embarrassed to do things, even though you love the other person and they love you, you still feel embarrassed.
Kejal: I wonder why we can look at someone else and love their features, but we have such a hard time doing that for ourselves. I can look at someone and be like, she has a round tummy and looks fabulous, but then look at myself and think, I should be thinner. Why do we give that love to other people but not to ourselves?
Maria: My significant other and I have all these confidence talks and we always say to each other, “Listen, I know you aren’t feeling so hot about yourself right now, and you are never going to see yourself the way that I see you, and that sucks. Because in my eyes, you are perfect.” I think at this point, it feels like the anxiety is never going to go away. So the way I combat it is by saying, “Hey, it’s okay to not feel the best about yourself, know that other people think that you are already perfect the way you are.”
Kejal: There is no pleasing that negative voice. When I was 19, I had just gone through a break-up and I was working in Maine for the summer, and I wanted to get in the best shape of my life. That was my mission. I was rock climbing, swimming on my free periods, lifting weights, running. I was very conscious about what I ate too, so I was controlling my calories and working out like crazy, and at the end of the summer, I went back to school and everyone was like, “Holy shit, you look amazing!” But to me, it was never enough. I was like, I could do better, I want to do better. And now I look back at pictures and realize I was in great shape, but I didn’t think I was at the time.
Maria: It frustrates me to look at old pictures of myself and think, Wow, you were killing it. But I remember being in that photo and thinking the same negative way about myself.
Lauren: What point do you get to where you think, wow I really look beautiful, without having to have other people say it.
At this weight, if I have sex with someone, they say, “Wow you have such a beautiful body, you remind me of a renaissance woman.” I wonder, is that a compliment? Having that fleshy body? Those paintings are beautiful, but what is the line where someone is complimenting you or insulting you?
Kejal: It sounds to me that it was meant as a compliment. It’s interesting that you can look at those paintings and think, wow, they are so beautiful, but if you put your face on those beautiful paintings you are like, Ugh, get it together slob.
Natalie: Mainstream media fetishizes bodies that are on trend. Now the curvy body, like Kim Kardashian, is on trend, and she is beautiful. But when does the fetish stop and the celebration of the entire spectrum start?
When I was pregnant, I got the linea nigra, which is the dark line on the belly. That was one of the things after I had my daughter that never really went away. As a woman of color, having this dark line made me feel like I didn’t look feminine with my belly out or in a bikini. That is something I am much better at not caring about now. To me, it looked kind of like a manly happy trail or something, but it’s a totally natural thing that happens when you are growing a baby in your stomach.
Kejal: I definitely have a lot of love for my stomach after having a baby. I have a few stretch marks around my belly button, it’s like a little sun, almost.
Miranda: I’ve always felt like when I get pregnant is when I will become comfortable with my stomach. I don’t know if that’s true, and I’m sure everyone’s experience is very different, but I do feel like that’s when I’ll be like, okay, this is what it should be.
Natalie: I will say that I felt sexiest with a pregnant belly. I don’t know if it was the second trimester glow, but I was excited about a bigger belly.
Kejal: The middle stage where you clearly have a defined bump is so fun because it’s proof of what is happening in your body.
Kelsey: Weight is such a weird thing. When I was my most sick, in high school after I was diagnosed with staph infection, I lost 40 pounds. I was tiny. And it was the first time I had really been what society would think of as skinny, and everyone was constantly telling me how great I looked. I was like, “I almost died!”
I think that’s why I’m sensitive about weight. I don’t want to let society make me feel bad about being healthy. Because when I was sick everyone was telling me I looked amazing but I felt the worst I’ve ever felt in my entire life.
Lauren: Isn’t it interesting that we associate our stomachs immediately with weight? I appreciate and respect my mother so much, she was always very thin, and she never allowed a scale in her house. But when I would go to friends’ houses that had scales, that is when I would start comparing myself to others. When I could place numeric amount over how I felt about myself. Now I have trained myself not to get on a scale because that doesn’t quantify who I am as a human, and how comfortable I feel as a woman.
Maria: I haven’t looked at a scale in years. When I let go of the scale, my happiness level was astronomical. In high school, unfortunately I had a bathroom in my room, and it was bad news bears. I had my own scale, and I would just torture myself.
Kejal: When I started going to the gym in college, there was a scale there, and when you have that quantified for you it becomes so easy to be like, “What’s my weight today?” But when you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter.
So what did I learn from this chat on the vast space above our twats? Everyone deals with insecurities regarding our bodies, and it's way harder to see our own beauty in the way we see the beauty of others. If only we could siphon off a little bit of that love we have for others to fill our own cups with, perhaps we would all feel a little more full (of love, not burritos, though burritos are amazing as well).
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