When my friend, model Emily Nolan asked me to share my #Belfie (and explained her reasoning below) I was so on-board, and I hope you will be too. Particularly because bellies are places of such shame, attention, worship, and criticism for women. I too have had a complicated relationship with my tummy, starting with adolescence when I was a scrawny thing with a tiny pouch. Jewish girls like me, who loved to eat in a borderline competitive sport sort of way, weren’t born with six packs and long limbs. I was working with what I had and I worked hard – starting in my early teens – to have the tummy I wanted and by the time I met my Husband had gotten the tight, toned belly I’d always dreamed of having via 5 day a week work outs and a raw foods vegan diet. And as life would have it, a few short years later (hey, at least he knew me when) I would spend the next 5 years in one after another boy pregnancy that would stretch my tight muscles into a montage of sudden outy belly button and stretch marks.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Okay, surely I would ditch the stretchies and muscle separation if I could – but being as thin and tight as I was (111 pounds, 5’6 when I got pregnant the first time) – they were pretty much unavoidable in three pregnancies one after the next. I, like most women who have a few babies very close together, got a case of diastasis recti (also known as abdominal separation) defined as a separation of the rectus abdominis muscle into right and left halves – which you can’t really see with the naked eye – but a Doctor can spot in a second. And for my troubles, I got the most beautiful little boys a Mom could possibly dream of – all big lips, golden curls, and doe eyes, silly and bright. Do I look back at my old tummy with wistful remembrance? Once in a blue moon. Do my ears perk up when I overhear Moms at preschool talking about their upcoming distasis recti surgery? Totally. I want to know all about it because it my stomach ever becomes a place of hatred for me (I can’t imagine it possibly would or could) – I like to know my options.
But even now as I look down at my very pregnant belly (5 weeks to go!) I thank the universe, goddess, and Mother Nature for having a healthy belly that works, that can make babies, that can digest food, that is disease free. Obsessing over whether or not I have a six pack is the sport of the 18 year old me still struggling to figure out who I was. The 38 year old me wouldn’t wear a belly shirt now even if she could, so there. I’m happy to have made the switch from tiny bikini’s to tankini’s or bathing suits, I feel far more myself and authentic when I’m comfortable. I wore stilletos and false eyelashes for too many years, I’m enjoying my granola and overall thirties. I can breath. I’m joyful for my no longer being a girl. Being a woman means my belly is mine, not a place of judgement for the rest of the world.
Here’s my current #BELFIE
My old tummy was pretty, but what did she do for me? Did she make me giggle at 3am? Did she say “Mommy I love you” with sparkling sweet eyes?
This tummy gave me these joyful people.
So I don’t wistfully mourn my hard tummy, I feel grateful it’s soft. A cushy resting place for my boys to cuddle as they nurse with healthy flora and a love of cashew cheese. My tummy will continue to evolve, who knows what she will look like after this baby comes out. I promise to be kind to her, whoever she is, and walk with her kindly towards my 40’s, head held high.
Me And My Belly: The Belfie Project
Anyway. Read Emily’s lovely words now, and then please share your #BELFIE
“There’s no such thing as a completely healthy belly. How dare we not celebrate this. I actually like having a belly, personally I feel more feminine.”-Mikaela Reuben
We Don’t Need Photoshop To Look Healthy by Emily Nolan, My Kind Of My Life
I think about the 15 year old me often. Like trying to go back in time to fix something but you can’t, really. You can only change the now.
You are about to take part in a revolutionary self-confidence initiative leading up to Valentine’s Day.
Here’s the scoop.
In search of some real body inspiration, I Googled: “regular women’s stomachs, normal man’s belly, real stomach, normal belly, regular woman in bra, healthy men without six pack…” All I could find were extreme images. I found thin women, most likely retouched in photo shop, and then I found heavier women squeezing the fat around their belly in contempt. Nothing in between–or at least realistically normal. Like mothers with stretch marks practicing yoga. No thin woman admitting that she’s always judged by her body and rarely celebrated for intelligence. Or a moderately toned women doing something inspiring, like a handstand or finishing a 5k.
The Google searches I came across for normal men’s bodies were even more appalling. They were completely a misrepresentation of most of the men I know. The men in the image searches looked like they ate Popeye’s can of spinach right after they came out of a spray tan booth…macho, six pack and tanned dudes in women’s underwear—or was it? And then I found extremely heavy men with bellies so large that they joked about using it as a tray for their dinner plate or beer bottle. Again, nothing balanced really. Nothing “in between,” like the guys I usually see in my yoga studio. Or the men that prefer community sports over the gym.
This is what media’s new normal is.
Where’s the balance? Is extremism really the only way to get our attention or break the internet? What are we teaching each other? That we can only grow to be depressingly thin or joke about being so unhealthy and making poor lifestyle decisions (and eating off our bellies? Ew.).
The 15 year old me would have appreciated seeing a positive change. A viral network of healthy, real people showcasing their belly with no retouching or photo shop. I would have benefited from seeing a real person with a real body who’s actually healthy. A picture that would say, “I’m healthy, I’m fit, I’m normal, and my size is just a number. I’m not afraid to show off my vulnerabilities if it reinforces that I am #BiggerThanMyBody, and you are, too.” A collaborative media push to promote self-confidence and health at every size. That’s what the 15 year old me could have used.
She would have wanted us to rewrite the way media depicts healthy.
This movement would have saved me 10 miserable years of eating disorders and supplemented me with enough self-confidence to overcome a depressing amount of body dysmorphia and the pursuit of plastic surgery.
We have the chance to rewrite history. To flood the internet with healthy pictures and stories for the 15 year old me.
What really matters, in my opinion, is the effort. The effort to choose health over vanity. The effort to let go of strict social ideas of body image and shamelessly embrace the blessing we already have. The effort to just own it. Soft belly, stretch marks, pregnant belly, six-pack abs or not, scars, bloated stomach, outie bellybutton—whatever. We own it.
And the #Belfie Project was born.
The #Belfie Project is for real people with real bodies. It’s a chance to rewrite the images that popup online under, “normal healthy body.” It’s a chance to influence a generation that buys into 6-pack abs, and teach them that their soul is worth a lot more than that. For the #Belfie project, you don’t need to squeeze your stomach fat or skip a meal before your picture, because you’re perfect just the way you are.
Real people. Real bodies.
We don’t need photo shop to look perfect–we’re good enough just as we are.
What is a #Belfie?
A healthy belly selfie. And a chance to share your personal journey: Why is your belly healthy?
“My belly is healthy because I just gave birth to a healthy baby boy. #belfie #healthybellyselfie #biggerthanmybody”
“ I’m healthy because I choose to eat real food. #belfie #healthybellyselfie #eatrealfood #biggerthanmybody”
“This is what a healthy belly looks like after running a 5k in 30 degree weather #commit. #belfie #healthybellyselfie #runeverydamnday”
“My belly has been with me through 16 different sizes, and it’s happy and healthy as it is, just in this moment. #belfie #healthybellyselfie #selflove #selfconfidence #mykindoflife”
What is the goal?
Women and men flood social media with the goal of 214 pictures of healthy bellies before Valentine’s Day 2015.
What will we accomplish?
Exposure for real people to feel more human by seeing real healthy belly selfies from normal people with honest stories. This post will continue a self-love initiative leading up to Emily’s nonprofit Topless Tour event in San Francisco on Valentine’s Day weekend.
When can I start posting?
The #Belfie Project post starts February 3! Join in and share your #Belfie on all social media channels—Our goal is to have 214 #Belfies before Valentine’s Day.
Why am I asking for your help?
I believe in your story and how it could touch someone in need of inspiration and self-confidence.
What you need to do:
Post a picture of your #Belfie on social media, and make sure to use the trending hashtags, #Belfie and #HealthyBellySelfie. This can be any picture of you with your belly exposed—it does not need to include your face. You can take your #Belfie with your friends, in a yoga pose, with family, by yourself in a mirror, on the beach, in the yoga studio…get creative. We’re inspiring health at all sizes. Extra points if you take your #Belfie after a workout!
After you take your #Belfie, make sure you nominate 3 other friends to take their #Belfie in the next 24 hours, so we can flood the media with over 214 #Belfies before Valentine’s Day.
I’m so touched that you want to align with The #Belfie Project, promoting this powerful and healthy self-confidence initiative before Valentine’s Day.