As an apple-shaped lady,* I was really glad to see this post about the protective properties of belly fat.
There’s so much noise about the evils of abdominal fat–it eats puppies and kittens for breakfast, steals purses from old ladies, and makes the baby Jesus cry. These breathless reports are almost always accompanied by headless fatty pictures, as if to say, “If you look like this, you’re doomed! Also, too ugly to show your face.”
It’s good to finally see evidence that belly fat–just like almost any other physical characteristic–has positive as well as negative associations (none of which, btw, are destiny).
My stomach, for so long my nemesis, has been the hardest part of my body to stop hating. The part of my body I used to try so hard to shrink, doing crunches every day in eighth grade.
All the scare-articles about abominable abdominal adiposity booga booga didn’t help. They just gave me the excuse that I wanted a flat stomach for health reasons–not so I could look like Gwen Stefani or find pants that fit. They gave my body hatred a veneer of scientific rationality.
Even in my dieting years, though, it annoyed me that a waist under 35 inches was considered ideal for all women. First of all, men were given a 40-inch allowance, but as (mostly) non-child-bearers, they have less stomach fat to begin with. Second, even if you accept the evils of a large belly, it doesn’t make much sense to have one waist-size standard for people of all heights.
These days, I’ve managed to reach a fragile detente with my stomach. But with my family history of heart disease, I still find it hard not to see my belly as a betrayal, a symbol of future ill health.
It’s likely that my tendency to gain weight in the stomach rather than hips or thighs does stem from the same metabolic makeup that puts me at risk of heart disease.
You know what else is correlated with heart disease? Stress. Like the stress of constantly being told your body is toxic, unhealthy, wrong.
What can I do but accept that I’m at a higher risk for some problems and a lower risk for others, then do my best to mitigate my risks and let my weight fall where it will? Even the most pro-dieting people will tell you it’s impossible to spot-reduce. And considering that 95% of diets fail, overall-reducing doesn’t seem like a great plan either.
What can I do but see my belly as part of me–part of this amazing body that breathes, laughs, carries me around?
This belly, round and squishy and stretch-mark-streaked, is mine. I refuse to hate it.
*I know the whole fruit-identification thing is silly, but apples are frickin’ delicious. I can’t wait for apple-picking season. (These pictures are from two years ago, when I went apple-picking with a group of friends. Highlight of the trip: finding a “fallen empire” — i.e, an empire apple sign that was lying on the ground.)