Why Do We Hate Our Stomachs So Much?

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Time and time again when I ask clients about what they’d like to highlight and camouflage on their body stomachs come up as a place that they dislike and want to make disappear.  Most of the time these are normal stomachs.   I see a lot of stomachs in my job as an image consultant and personal stylist and I can tell you that women’s stomachs are supposed to curve outwards, that’s completely normal, we have extra internal organs than men do (think about it) that fill out extra space down there.

Before anyone attacks me for encouraging dangerous adipose tissue that is harmful to health, I want you to know that these stomachs that are so disliked are on healthy weight women.  Yet so many women seem to think that even the slightest curve of their stomach is distasteful and that it makes them unattractive.

Only the other day I was shopping with a gorgeous client, who was worried that a dress she was trying on made her stomach look fat.  To me she looked sexy and womanly, and very attractive in the dress.

Why is it that a stomach that looks something like the one above (without the airbrushing) is considered to be so hideous and disfiguring?  And that stomach doesn’t look like it’s been through a pregnancy or two either (which most of us know tends to stretch our skin out and it rarely returns to a taut state).  Whether you look like the picture above or have a more pronounced curve like the majority of women, they are still normal, natural and right.

It’s time that we shifted our thinking and started to love our stomach rather than hate it.  Appreciate that it’s a part of us and what makes us uniquely us and that the curves women have naturally make us feminine, attractive and sexy.   We need to remember that most images we see in the media are all digitally manipulated, hair, cellulite and wrinkles removed along with moles and any sort of blemish.  These images are not real.  As a model friend of mine once said when I asked her if I’d seen photos of her anywhere “You wouldn’t recognize me, I don’t recognize me in photos with the amount they manipulate them”.

Given that even the genetically blessed are altered by digital means to ‘perfection’ for public consumption, please, give yourself a break and accept that you are normal as is your body.  We come in all shapes and sizes and that makes us interesting and beautiful, not hideous or disfigured.

I’d bet too, when you talk to people you’re looking at their face, not their stomach (bottom, thighs, hips etc.) and they are doing the same to you.   You’re not obsessed with those parts of their body, so why should they be obsessed about yours?  We want to look at eyes and faces, they are the communication center of our being.

Absolutely if it makes you feel better learn to dress your body in the most flattering way (and there is lots on this blog to help you do that), and create a flattering focal point while you’re at it.  But get your body image into perspective rather than imagining parts of your body are much bigger, more noticeable or even unattractive than they really are.

It’s time to remind yourself that you are beautiful just the way you are, no matter what your size or shape.  Stand naked in front of a mirror and say out loud to yourself that you are beautiful.  Do this every day as you get in or out of the shower, it’s really good for your mental health.

Comments

  1. Lena Merrin says:

    I can't agree more. Stomach is seen by many women as their "flaw". I think the fact that a few models flaunted their abs weeks after giving birth did not help it either. It has planted a thought in our minds that it can and must be done. The truth is in most cases it can not be done, our bodies are so different. Embrace your bellies, love them and they will love you back

  2. Anonymous says:

    So, only women with "normal" stomachs, and certainly not those clinically obese women, are okay to love their stomachs? Cool.

  3. a little sewing says:

    You are absolutely right about this tendency. I wonder sometimes if there is some subliminal sense that my stomach is where I am vulnerable. My stomache is a well exercised area and my weight feels appropriate, yet I still feel … protective about my stomache.
    Interesting to ponder.

  4. It's an ageing thing. Younger women are more likely to have flatter, firmer stomachs, and the softening is another reminder of the passage of time and our mortality.

    Then, on top of that, we have all the additional societal crap of women currently being expected to be very slender for reasons of conspicous leisure, control, etc. Poorer women in the West are more likely to be "fatter", due to the food they have available, the time the (don't) have to prepare it and the time they (don't) have to exercise.

    And don't forget, people, that your stomach always looks bigger to you than to other people, due to the angle that you usually observe it from.

    Also, as a client of Imogen's, she helped me out a lot by pointing out that I was elliptical in cross-section, and much thinner from the side than I am from the front. That one comment really helped a lot.

  5. Great post! When you think about it, a woman with a perfectly flat stomach looks…odd. A bit of curve to the tummy looks…right. Imagine Marilyn Monroe with a perfectly flat stomach, somehow it's all wrong and not as attractive.

  6. Patti @ NotDeadYet Style says:

    Great column, thank you! It's part of the whole body-hatred issue so many women struggle with. I love your point about all the wonderful extra organs we have to carry around! Let's be more proud of our stomachs.

  7. Jacqueline says:

    Bravo! This is all so true, and I thank you for the excellent reminder. I too obsess over my stomach, and sometimes I have to remind myself that my body managed to house and nourish two wonderful and healthy babies, as it was designed to do. And even if it hadn't, I agree that I should love it anyways because it is part of me. But you are right — women are very protective over their stomach, and it is truly a vulnerable area.

  8. "It's an ageing thing." Ack! Tell this to my 13 year old twig self with a belly. Aging doesn't help, but anatomy plays an even bigger role! I'm short waisted, and my guts had no where else to go but out! Even when I was an athletic little size 0 tween.

    I always joke that I'm sexier naked, because my belly makes sense in the context of naked me, without making me look heavy, but it tends to help mask my tiny waist when clothed! Learning to dress to flatter my figure has really helped, but I agree, this completely irrational obsession with flat stomachs is harmful, our stomachs are simply one of our curves that make us beautiful! It's as arbitrary as the perfect sized breasts, but somehow people are tricked into believing it's attainable with "work", even if, for their body shape, it isn't.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Long time reader, never posted before, but this post did ressonate… a lot.

    After two babies and one year my second son was born… i still hate my stomach and reading your post makes me want to cry.

    I have had to c-sections and as I could not have my babies the normal way, I want my body as it was pre-pregnancy. If nothing could be natural in my childbearing experience, I do not want anyone to tell me to embrace "normal" body change.

    It may not make sense to others, but it's the trade I have made for myself… trading an impossible (natural childbirth, maybe idealised) for another impossible (flat stomach)…a trade to never stop hating my body, I know in my more lucid moments… I have never had any body image issue prior to my first (very bad) c-section experience, but now I understand how people can agonize over their bodies so much.

    I made a new years resolution not to complain about my belly. Only allowed to complain when I shop for clothes (I need an exception allowed if I am to keep the resolution). I have only shop for clothes twice, btw. This no complaining resolution has helped a lot.

    Slowly, I have been able to exercise without obssessing over the results (no measuring tape allowed, either). What helps the most is not to look at myself in the mirror too much, and whenever I look in the mirror, look at the whole of me, so not split into parts.

    I know I will probably be flamed for my comment. I am writing without editing, but this is what I feel after reading this piece twice…

    PS: I might print the picture in the post, and compare against a picture of my belly… the better part of me tells me my stomach is actually not very different from the one in the picture…

  10. I consider my tummy my big flaw, too, and try to realize it is just a part of my anatomy that I don't have much control over. I read over your body shape descriptions and I am an H. Your explanation of the space between the rib cage and pelvic bone was a big "ah-ha" for me. When I sit all scrunched up in a chair reading a book at home, those bones touch. Ugh. So…yeah. I don't have much of a waist and I gained 40 lbs with each of my kids. I have lovely excess skin and stretchmarks from that.

    I'm trying to love my body more, as is. However, I will at least try to be healthier and exercise to keep it in check. I highly doubt I will ever have a flat stomach, so I just live with what I've got.

  11. Thank you for this post, Imogen; this really hit a nerve with me because my tummy is something I'm constantly trying to conceal, even though rationally I know that by most people's standards I'm thin and have an enviable figure. And geez, I'm even a scientist and I never stopped to think about the fact that women have extra organs in there! We all need to give ourselves a break.

    Also, to this commenter:

    "So, only women with "normal" stomachs, and certainly not those clinically obese women, are okay to love their stomachs? Cool."

    This is utter BS; do you even READ Imogen's blog? It would be completely out of character for her to make such an implication. Her point is that women harbor a lot of negative feelings towards their stomachs, even those who have socially-sanctioned figures. Why manufacture outrage over a completely innocuous statement?

  12. Duchesse says:

    This is a masterpiece, Imogen! Why, in classical art, do we see rounded bellies and women think they should be flat as a credit card?

    Anonymous: This is not what the writer is saying.

  13. materfamilias says:

    Bravo!

  14. Marie-Christine says:

    Not only that, but a little fat is precisely why most women survive better than most men – you need reserves for when you get that terrible pneumonia, you fall into that icy lake, you have a round of chemo..
    The photo you show is not only normal, it's minimum for health.

    That said, the argument about 'extra internal organs' is totally bunk. You could accommodate 6 times that uterus without showing anything at all. That's why you don't look pregnant at 3 weeks, or even 3 months.

  15. une femme says:

    Fabulous post!! This needs to be shouted from every rooftop!!

  16. Thanks for this. I like the rest of my body, but always feel awful about my tummy. It's only gotten worse after two kids, though in some ways my mindset is better in that I'm confident in the capabilities of my body. I always wish that I could be more content that my husband thinks I'm sexy and beautiful and not worry about the rest of the world.

    About the model thing… my sister, who is a beautiful woman, worked for a hair salon and was asked to model for a styling competition. She did it and a huge, wall-size display window was filled with a photo of her. I worked in that plaza and knew she had modeled, but it took me MONTHS before I realized that photo was of her. It was so different from her actual looks. Beyond that, the actual haircut she got was atrocious in real life. Looked great for the camera, but she spent years growing it out. Goes to show you that those photos are more about the photoshop skills than the model.

  17. I wondered about the ‘extra organs’ part too.. since I had a hysterectomy years ago, and still have a “well-rounded” tummy. By the ‘extra organs’ statement, I should be concave, then without those organs? I’m a LONG way from that!

    I’m not sure about everywhere else, but in the midwest of the USA, where I live, it seems to me that people wear much tighter clothes than they used to. Accentuating more than used to be seen.. is this a global thing? Personally, I prefer clothes to skim over certain areas rather than snugly show them off. Or maybe it’s an age-thing? I’m over 50, and just don’t see the attractiveness of clothes that show every lump and bump.

  18. no name please says:

    Thanks for this uplifting post. I am actually in tears as I read it. Through out my entire life I have felt so ugly and undesirable because I have a stomach that protrudes. I have wondered if I am at risk of weight related illnesses sensationalized by those who are destroying the self esteem movement by promoting the false belief that it is possible and healthier for everyone to have as little body fat as they can. Even when I was an 85 lb, athletic, ballet dancing 13 year old, I had a “gut.” It got larger with every bit of weight I gained in puberty. As I look back at myself in high school, I was a beautiful teenager with a beautiful body despite my lack of ab muscles, but boys would tease me about my soft belly and suggest that I “suck it in” or lose weight (I was all of 100 lbs at the time). I am even heavier now, and not so beautiful with an even larger stomach, but my BMI remains in the healthy range. I can’t suck it all the way in like my even more body conscious and “sexier” peers can successfully do, and I feel it is unnatural and uncomfortable to try to walk around like this all day if you aren’t working as a dancer or model, and when you can find clothes that fit. I now have a loving husband who tells me my body looks how it is supposed to look as a healthy woman. I wish I would believe him when he says it. It is really hard to hear mixed messages. I believe that “healthy” is what I should reasonably strive for, and the numbers on the scale, my activity level, and the foods I usually eat should indicate that I am doing so, but what if I am not healthy unless I have a flat stomach? I appreciate that at least some others can confirm that the two do not always go hand in hand. :`) I also enjoy the fashion advice on this site. Keep up the great work.

  19. I don’t hate my stomach. I have a complicated relationship with it as it has a complicated relationship with me (it constantly complains about something, it’s grumbling, it’s rumbling, it’s bloated from this and that). When I’m standing naked in front of a mirror, I usually like it. Sure, at the moment it carries a bit more weight than I’m comfortable with, it flabs and wobbles a bit more than I’d like, but it has a nice rounded shape that flows nicely with my hips and waist. But unfortunately I neither can nor want to walk around naked, and t is difficult to find clothes that flatter a nicely rounded stomach without making it look like I am trying to show off a pregnant belly. I have most luck with skirts and dresses, so that is what I wear, finding a pair of pants that flatter me (not flatten me) on the other hand, well, let’ say, I’m not overly optimistic that I ever will…

  20. Surely a woman’s own perception of her body is more important and valid than her partner’s? If she wants to change the shape of her body, her partner’s opinion shouldn’t matter.

    • Anna – absolutely if it’s her body she can do as she wishes. But sadly so many women feel that they need to change for someone else when in fact their significant other thinks they are absolutely fine the way they are.

  21. I think this is an excellent post in a lot of ways, but it seems a bit ineffective on the topic of weight.

    I really appreciate the message that tummy curves are perfectly fine, but I wish that the author hadn’t made it so exclusive to “healthy” people. I carry my weight pretty evenly, but I definitely still have a decent-sized fat deposit on my belly; despite being healthy, I have a much more noticeable bump than either of the pictures on this article. As a result, a lot of people perceive me as overweight or unhealthy, but I still like my body just fine.

    However, I feel like a lot of people could look at this and miss a lot of the message because they’re seeing bodies much thinner than theirs. It seems a bit sad that even in a body-positivity article about one of the most noticeable fatty areas, the people being most directly addressed are still the skinny ones. I think it’s important to also represent people who are heavier than what’s being shown here (there’s nothing inherently bad or unhealthy about fat).

    It’s also important to remember that health doesn’t always directly relate to beauty! Just as sick people are still beautiful, people who are unhealthily overweight are beautiful too. Even if your weight is not good for you medically, it doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with your appearance. Also it’s good to check with an actual medical professional because your weight might not be as unhealthy as you think.

    Just to be clear, I don’t mean to attack the author in any way. I appreciate their message, I just think that the topic of weight could have been handled more inclusively – especially in the pictures. Seeing pictures of people like me was really helpful when I was learning to accept my own body, and I think it could be helpful for others as well :)

    • Crow – no matter what ‘weight’ is mentioned in any post, some people will get up in arms. This post was particularly aimed at women who are slimmer but have body dysmorphia around their stomach. I think all women are beautiful, no matter what their size or shape.

  22. SUCH an amazing article! Thank you for writing this!!! Like many of the other commenters, I’ve struggled with accepting my perfectly normal, perfectly acceptable tummy pouch. I’ve always had a curvy tummy, but it has become noticeably more so after having my wonderful son by C-section. Your post was a gentle, level-headed reminder that a tummy is “normal,” it’s feminine, it’s beautiful! Love your blog in general and this article in particular!! Thanks for being a voice of sanity in an chorus of craziness…

Trackbacks

  1. […] 47% want to change the size of their stomach, an issue which I’ve addressed here. […]

  2. […] and accept your belly. Read this article by Imogen Lamport (@ImogenLamport) on her fabulous website Insideoutstyleblog.com. We all have limitations. If you feel your tummy is a limitation, enhance your attributes! There […]

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