I love the above picture of a pregnant woman (photo credit). It so clearly shows the beauty in her less than flat stomach. It shows how she is embracing and loving those changes and her body. If only we could have the same attitude towards our body after pregnancy too! How beautiful that would be.
But what about when we have legitimate concerns about our weight, or our pooch-y stomach, or simply prefer a smaller stomach. Can we love our bodies, and still want to adjust certain things about it? Can we accept ourselves, and still work for change?
I have gotten many a sheepish email since I started my series on belly fat – women who feel that their stomach could use a little tender care, but are worried that they are giving into society’s wrong pressure to have the perfect body. They aren’t sheepish that they have a bigger belly – they are sheepish that they are interested in trying to get it back in proportion.
It’s a hard balance to find in our crazy, crazy world.
(Read the rest of the series here: How Stress can ruin your health and give you a big belly, Dietary Changes that Help with Weight and Belly Fat, Do you have a mommy tummy or diastasis recit? What Made the Biggest Difference in Losing my Mommy Tummy, Five Reasons I am Going to Talk about Belly Fat )
I have had so many interesting side conversations with many of you since I started my series on “mommy tummies” or belly fat (the two topics have kind of converged in this one series). But all of that escalated when I shared my success using the Itworks wraps here. Included in that post, was a picture of my stomach, showing the difference it made.
On a personal note, after I posted it, I had many, many conflicted emotions about it. The main reason I choose to share the photo was so that my readers could have proof that they really did work. I really didn’t want my readers to think I was scamming them. How convincing is it to say that I wrapped something around my waist, and it shrunk in size?! I was very skeptical about the idea at first myself. I was also concerned that sharing about this product could feed unhealthy self -esteem. (That is, I didn’t want people to think that I was sharing it because we should be ashamed about having “bellies”.)
The most important conversations I had with many of you were about our view on beauty, our value, and the pressure we have to conform to a certain modal to be “beautiful”. A question I was asked by several people was, “Am I caving into society’s pressure to try these wraps, or trying this eating plan?” I think that’s an important question to consider and think about, regardless of what changes you are considering.
One of the things I said early in this series was that the main reason I wanted to address this issue was because some types of belly fat are linked to a variety of serious health problems. If you have a muscle separation causing a belly pooch (called Diastasis Recti), that can cause back problems and digestive problems. We aren’t looking at belly fat and pointing fingers and moaning about wanting a perfect body. We are simply trying to figure out if our body is demonstrating physically an issue we can fix for a better, healthier life.
That has been the focus of this series. But where do the Itworks wraps fit in? In a lot of ways, they don’t. Yes, the herbs and ingredients can provide good nourishment to your skin. And your skin is important. But you can get that nourishment from many, many products, and truthfully there are purer products out there. Obviously what is unique about these products are that they tone, and lift, and pull back skin that has gone through a lot in a dramatic way for some people.
In the end, a lot of the benefits of Itwork products are physical…and yes, about our appearance.
Which begs the question, “Is it okay to make changes – or use products – just for the sake of appearances?”
My personal opinion is, yes, it’s okay to do things solely because of their benefit to your appearance, within reason. This isn’t about being a size 2; looking like your favorite actress or fulfilling some ridiculous standard society loves to throw at us. This is about loving and caring for our bodies. If using certain products, wearing flattering clothes or jewelry, or doing stomach exercises, is an expression of healthy care towards your body (and fits within your budget and is part of a well-rounded life), then go for it!
This is about loving your body no matter what, and accepting it as worthy of respect no matter how much it looks different than the bodies on magazines. There is this beautiful verse in the Bible that I think Christian and non-Christian alike will find interesting. Paul tells us in Ephesians five that “husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.”
For those of you who are unsatisfied, angry at, or hate your body, what would it look like if you loved others like you love yourself? Would that be a picture of love to you?
Paul is trying to show in that verse how tenderly and completely a husband should care for his wife. He takes it for granted that there is a natural, healthy love we have for our body. Not an egotistical, prideful, selfish love, but one that is based on the recognition of what an amazing creation our body is, and how honored we are to have it (as a Christian, I believe we are made in the image of God, which elevates the body even more). Our bodies are worth honor and respect and love, and when we say that we love someone else like we love our own body, that should signify a deep care.
So how does that relate to working on belly fat, and how we see ourselves? It means this: Care and love for your body will look different at different times. Sometimes that might mean changing your diet around so that you can reach a healthy weight. Sometimes it might mean looking in the mirror and instead of seeing all your “flaws” seeing how absolutely lovely and amazing your body is. It can look like taking care of it so that it looks nice. I think that when I dress in an outfit that makes me feel attractive, make sure my hair is shiny clean, and put on jewelry, for me personally that is an outward sign that I am honoring this vessel given to me. Sometimes it means looking at a lumpy stomach, and loving it for how amazing it is, what is accomplished, and how beautiful the process of motherhood was that made it that way. Sometimes love speaks by eating foods that nourish the skin, and natural lotions that help prevent stretch marks, and yes, even Itwork wraps. Sometimes it means looking at society’s messed up standards in the eye, and rejecting it whole-heartedly and completely. At times, it may mean changing habits because you need to show better care and love towards your body, at other times it means facing the mirror and saying, “This is good and there is no reason to change anything.”
In the end, yes, you can be doing exercises to heal your diastasis recti, changing your diet, and using Itworks wraps because you hate your body and want to change it. But that is backwards. If you decide to do any of those things, please do them because your body is a beautiful thing worthy of respect, love, and care.
We can only work on our appearance while rejecting society’s pressures on us if we are content to be healthy and love our bodies regardless of what that looks like for us. Some of the ladies I know that use Itworks wraps with great success are plus sized ladies who love their bodies, and are simply using them to help look their best. Many people I know who excel at cooking nourishing food are far from model like, and they embrace their robust, healthy bodies.
Use this series to perhaps find out new ways to love and care for yourself, just like you would care for a beloved friend or spouse. Don’t use it to beat up yourself over things you can’t change, shouldn’t change, or haven’t changed.
What do you think? Is it possible to find a balance between the two extremes?