How do we feel about our bellies?

So, I was subbing for the wonderful Debbie Major, at a Hatha yoga class on a lovely Sunday morning. We were reflecting on balance, we stood strong in our warrior poses, we grew our branches in tree, then I made the mistake of saying, “Ok, how is everyone feeling about abs today?”

We all looked down, shook our heads, sighed, and I guided us into boat pose, which is about abs, as well as balance. But I had sucked the air out of the room.  Everyone in the class is an adult woman who has lived life, some of us have given birth, probably all of us are too sedentary for our own good, we all have tummies that are different sizes, but none of us seem happy with them.


I know, waist size correlates with health outcomes, particularly with heart disease. I also know that a strong abdomen correlates with a strong back, and trunk strength in general helps keep us mobile and healthy. Since I have regularly been doing yoga, my back hasn’t gone out with the frequency it used to, and when I do throw it out, I can usually “put it back in” (what is the opposite of throwing your back out, anyway?)

Muscle strength in general is associated with longer life, and with better quality of life- I know that, and I work out partly because of that.

My abs are pretty strong- Still, why do I hate the way my belly pooches out? It is a (forgive me) visceral reaction- when I see myself in the mirror, I suck in my gut. I do jumping jacks as a warm-up in Taekwondo, and I feel waves of self loathing when I see my gut jiggle as I jump. I keep thinking I have done a lot of work on myself, both physically and emotionally, then I see that awful pop-up ad for “one weird old trick of a flat belly.” And I wonder, what’s the trick? Bananas? Why would bananas do anything? Maybe I should try…


But I hate bananas.

Here is where I acknowledge that  longevity and vitality are only part of why I work out. Vanity is up there as a reason as well. I want to look good naked. Sorry, naked is when you’re ashamed. I want to look good  nude. I also want to wear cute flirty dresses without Spanx underneath (Don’t even get me started about Spanx.) My sense of aesthetics are informed by the culture around me, and the culture around me is yelling at me that I am fat  It is probably yelling the same thing at you. So how do we fix that? Can we fix that? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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