Before I even knew what a visible belly outline was, I knew I was "supposed" to cover it up. No matter how I dressed, I've pretty much had a visible belly outline (VBO) ever since I was a teenager, and as I grew into adulthood and now motherhood, it's only gotten bigger and more noticeable. It's pretty uncomfortable trying to hide it with baggy clothes, my handbag, or the way I sit. And to be honest, I've learned that "covering up" the way my body looks is totally unnecessary, too. When I awkwardly try to cover it up, I ended up looking more uncomfortable than when I just stop worrying about it entirely.
In the last year, and definitely because of getting pregnant, I've not only come to terms with my VBO, but I've come to a place where I love my body fat. Not that I don't still struggle with the temptation to crop it out of a photo every now and then, but looking in the mirror and not feeling ashamed of it is something I'm proud to say I've accomplished. There are many reasons I love my belly and why I'm not afraid for it to show. To me, it's a symbol of my freedom from the nonstop societal pressure we place on people to be thin. Being naturally thin and even making the choice to lose weight to be whatever size you want to be is totally OK, but it's also just fine if I want to stay the way I am. And as a matter of fact, I do.
My visible belly overhang reminds me of being pregnant, which so far has been one of my favorite times in my life, despite the discomforts I dealt with toward the end. My belly is where my baby grew and developed for 40 weeks, and in my opinion, to be ashamed of it or dislike it is like saying to my daughter, "you shouldn't have been there," or "it's your fault I'm not happy with the way I look." Shaming my child for my body isn't something I feel like I'd ever do, so I'm not ever going to shame myself for it, either. Right after giving birth to my daughter, and without even trying, I lost the weight I'd gained (plus a bit more) from my pregnancy. The pictures I posted online of me and my new baby got lots of comments about how "good" I looked. Several people told me it was probably the breastfeeding that took off the weight so quickly. I was even told by one friend that as long as I breastfed, I'd "keep the weight off." I think I've actually put on some weight again, and I have no idea if people have noticed that or not, but I don't care. I post those photos to show just how ridiculously happy I am to be her mom, not because I'm eager for their approval on what my body looks like.
Boobs, butt, and thighs aren't always the only place on a woman's body that are round. I know it's not widely thought of in the media to be attractive, but my belly is one of the places my partner constantly compliments me on.
Plus, the way I see it, baby bumps shouldn't have a monopoly on cuteness. I can't count the times I've heard people gush over a pregnant woman's baby bump or read online compliments on how cute a tummy looks. Even though I received many lovely comments about how adorable I looked while expecting, now that I've given birth, no one — apart from my husband — is complimenting me on how "cute" my stomach is. If we're only complimenting women on their bellies when a baby is inside of it, we're not really complimenting women after all. Which brings me to my next thought. If we can adore baby fat and chubby little bellies on children, why can't I appreciate my own portly tummy for the very same reason? I'm not saying I need (or want) people to poke or pinch my belly like they might a child, but I am saying I don't see it as wrong or ugly to have a chubby belly as an adult.
It's also one of my favorite curves on my body. Boobs, butt, and thighs aren't always the only place on a woman's body that are round. I know it's not widely thought of in the media to be attractive, but my belly is one of the places my partner constantly compliments me on. The truth of the matter is that fat is often soft and comfortable, and it's not hard to see why that might be attractive to my husband.
My daughter is going to learn how to treat her body by watching the way I treat my own. One of my deepest desires for her is to never doubt her worth as a human being based on the way she looks.
It definitely hasn't been easy learning to love my VBO in a culture where I'm constantly bombarded with rhetoric telling me to "slim down and tone up" or to "lose the belly fat now!" It's all too common to think of my VBO as something that needs to be fixed or hidden, but I'm currently living life without any care of what other people might think of me and my body. Yes, it's a part of me, but no, I don't need my belly to be different to love it just the way it is.
Unless things radically change in the next 10-15 years, she's going to be living in a world where femininity is often defined using words like "petite," "small," and "dainty." It's my responsibility and honor to teach her that bigger doesn't mean less worthy or less pleasing.
My daughter is going to learn how to treat her body by watching the way I treat my own. One of my deepest desires for her is to never doubt her worth as a human being based on the way she looks. As I teach her about her eyes and ears, nose and mouth, fingers and toes, belly and thighs, and all of the other precious body parts she has, I want her to know that she can value them because they are a part of her, they are useful, and they can do amazing things — not solely because they look nice. She will most certainly hear the words that she is pretty — she already does — but I make it a point to tell her that she is strong, clever, kind, patient, and precious no matter how her body grows and changes.
Right now she's in the 90 percentile of babies her age, and though I don't know how that will change as she grows, it's very likely that she'll be bigger than many girls her age. She has larger feet than other baby girls we meet. And unless things radically change in the next 10-15 years, she's going to be living in a world where femininity is often defined using words like "petite," "small," and "dainty." It's my responsibility and honor to teach her that bigger doesn't mean less worthy or less pleasing. I can teach her that, because I understand it for myself. My belly is worthy. My belly is pleasing.