Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Blame the Belly

It's strange to notice that the more stressed out I am the more anxious I become about my body and weight, which leads to an odd desire to shop for new clothes, which makes me even more stressed out and anxious about my body/shape/weight. It's a tremendously destructive cycle.

My area of greatest body concern has always been my belly. Even when I was starving myself sick but thin, it stubbornly held on. It is strangely resilient, this belly of mine. It refuses to be flattened or kept down. For something so soft and round, it's tough. It likes where it is and no amount of crunching, dieting, or obsessing seems to change its need to be seen, to be felt, to be noticed. And believe me, I've tried to hide it in every empire waisted, baggy, boxy, shapeless style you can think of.

There are days when I hate it. In fact, I can't remember not feeling, at best, disappointed with it. On my worst days it's an object of disgust, something I've dreamed about slicing off. It's the core, the center, of my self-loathing.

Like most things I dislike about myself, my belly hate starts in adolescence. Before puberty I was slight. Not skinny, really, but small and slimish. I never gave my body a second thought. I didn't really think about how I looked at all, and my weight was never a point of concern. Until it suddenly became one, which really did feel like it was overnight. Unlike how most girls seem to develop boobs and other noticeable sexual characteristics, puberty for me was gaining an overall softness sans breasts. It was confusing because I didn't look like other girls. I didn't look older or feminine. I just looked...soft. I went through puberty in the 90's which was the era of the half shirt/crop top. Everyone seemed to be showing off flat, muscled, slim abs. Even before my peers starting pointing it out, I knew my body was not "right" for that. And I couldn't seem to make it, no matter how hard I tried. So during some of my most formative years I became deeply convinced that my body was wrong, and that my belly was to blame.

Now, everyone knows that girls bodies change in adolescence. Periods, boobs, your hormones are doing their thing. What I don't see people talking about much, if at all, are the further changes our bodies go through in our mid twenties to late twenties. I wasn't prepared for that at all. I had grown accustomed to, if not particularly fond of, my body shape. I was still suffering with disordered eating and body dysmorphia so we'll take it with a grain of salt that I had a remotely realistic idea of what that shape was...but I had small boobs and no hips and my belly was still there. That had been my reality for over 10 years. It was my status quo.

And then suddenly...I grew breasts. It wasn't quite as overnight as puberty, but nearly. I didn't know what the hell to do with them. I went from pretty much never wearing a bra to, well, jiggling. Noticeably. What had always been what I called "booblettes" were now absolutely boobs. I was in complete denial at first. And then, a little later, out popped some hips. What the hell was going on with my body? Why was I suddenly "developing" at the ripe old age of 26-28? Was something wrong with me?

And what about the belly? It remained steadfast, though it did yield a bit more to a "curve" than previously in the waist department. But otherwise it still sloped and curved, still remained stubbornly un-flat. I had hoped it would be redistributed somehow, but, no. My belly was not having any of that.

A quick poll amongst my female friends of the same age made it apparent that we were all experiencing shifts. I even asked my mom who said "Oh, yeah, that happens." Which was both funny and irritating since I'd never heard about it before, from a woman who told me very candidly about the first time she had sex. I suppose it's not as traumatic for other women who don't have the body hangups I do, but I can tell you...I had a lot of cries over this sudden upheaval and change in physical terrain.

When I went into nutritional treatment and therapy for eating issues I went through another change. I gained weight when I started eating which has led to more boobage and hippage. Nothing drastic, but enough to make me anxious and self-conscious in a way I never had before.

And the belly...oh the belly. My soft rounded friend. She's certainly enjoying the additional curves, the added softness, the more rubenesque rolls. I haven't quite gotten to that yet, where I can rejoice in additions to my body that indicate a healthier, heavier me. I know that I am mentally and physically healthier now than I was when I was starving...but oh, the resentment that sometimes wells up. The anger, the disappointment in my roly poly fleshyness.

The thing is...I don't have this problem when I look at other women. Slim, fat, curvy, athletic, average, old, young or any shape or size you like...I honestly believe I see beauty in everyone. Except me. Myself I always view in terms of taking up too much space. I don't just "feel" fat, I feel enormous. As though I dwarf anyone else around me with my vast expanses of skin. This is, by the way, in complete denial of reality. I may feel like I'm towering over people...but at my height you'd need to be a child for that to be accurate. I'll refrain from even attempting to rationalize my size because this hasn't been a great day and I'm afraid I'll make some insulting comparisons or suggestions.

And in the end, it all still revolves around my belly. The center of my distress. The core of my terror. Because she's just so easy to blame.

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