I’m venturing out into territory that is not overtly Christian but is, in its own right, a holy path. I’m beginning a journey of self-acceptance that is long overdue, and I just haven’t been in the place to truly begin. Have you ever heard a particular message at just the right time? One that if spoken over your life would not have resonated as truth even days prior? This is me right here, right now, having just listened to an interview with Morgan Day Cecil on the Love Always, Jo podcast. I have followed Morgan for over a year now, especially since she lives in the city just north of me. She is a brave champion of women, advocating for the truth, freedom, and wholeness. Her work has always resonated with me, but the particular topic of this podcast interview gripped me in a different way. In her interview with Joanna Platt, she talked a lot about self-love, but very specifically about belly love. And it broke me.
I’ve been on a health and weight loss journey for the past year and a half. I have taken control of my food choices, lost 20 pounds, and gained strength in the process. I am leaner, stronger, more flexible, and generally healthier than I have been in my entire life. And it feels amazing. One of the most healing gifts a woman with a history of abuse can give herself is physical fitness, and the feeling of power and strength that I have gained is incredible. I trust myself and know myself in a new way that has nothing to do with how I look but how I feel. I feel capable. I’m 33 years old and this is the first time in my life that I have felt truly capable. Do you know how crazy that is? But in all this shaping and learning and throwing away the old, I still have the stomach of a petite (aka short) woman who has carried two babies well past term. And I have tried everything to be rid of it. I’ve tried sculpting it into submission with exercise. I’ve tried eating vegan, eating paleo, portion control, extreme cardio, drinking ketones….and nothing has budged the soft roundness that I have carried for most of my life. Now I’m sure I could take things more extreme if I wanted to. I could completely eliminate carbs, I could try different types of fasting, or I could, yet again, look into my hormone levels. But here’s the kicker: I FEEL good. I do! I have found a lifestyle of diet and exercise that makes me feel good. I am sleeping well, have no digestive issues, I have energy for my family, work, and my 6 day-a-week workouts, and my skin is clearer than it has been in years. Whatever I’ve tapped into is GOOD. So why am I obsessed with my stomach? Why am I ashamed of my belly?
I don’t think the answer to that question is very complicated. Our society idealizes physical fitness, but more than that we idealize a perfect looking body. We don’t reward women for wearing a bikini if they don’t look flawless and without body fat. We don’t encourage women to wear tight clothing if there is a going to be a visible bulge or a roll. So in spite of being in the best shape of my life, I have been preoccupied with how it looks to society, negating how I feel and how hard I have worked. Not to mention negating the miracle of creation and gestation that my body has done twice. And when I think of it that way. I am downright ashamed of myself. I have finally started to consider how it makes my God, my Creator feel to have me stuck in this place of discontent…and it has broken my heart. Stumbling across Morgan’s interview was the most perfect and timely happenstance. She spoke a lot of body love and acceptance but what really struck me was her methodology. She spoke about loving your belly through touch so that that a different neurological connection can be forged. I thought about what happens when my husband touches my belly. I flinch. That’s what I do. I recoil in shame while self-disgust washes over my psyche. That’s so unhealthy! How have I never realized how unhealthy that is!? So I listened on while Joanna continued to press in and ask Morgan what it looks like to love your belly (or any hated body parts) through touch. She suggested massage in the shower, lovingly and tenderly in a similar way that you would cuddle or caress a child. She challenged listeners to try it for three weeks, once a day and to watch what happens. She said your head and heard might not mimic the tenderness of the touch, but that in time….it would. I have to admit I’m skeptical. I have spent so many years loathing my stomach that I can’t imagine accepting it, let alone loving it. But I’m going to try. I’m going to honor that work that God is doing in me and I am going to commit for 21 days to loving and embracing my body the same way that He does. Our bodies are not unimportant. They tether us to a real, tangible, and beautiful world full of experiences. Do not neglect the way you feel about it. Will you join me? Will you war against a spirit of darkness and hatred and fight back with radical love and acceptance? Will you make healthy choices for your body for health’s sake and not for vanity’s sake? It begins here. The more love we can give to our hungry selves, the more we can receive from others and the more we can then mirror back to a world starving for authenticity.