Does This Uterus Make Me Look Fat?

Marci Anderson - Friday, August 05, 2011
How many advertisements and articles have you seen in your lifetime that sell you the idea of getting a "flat belly?" I've seen a zillion and I'm sick of it. In fact, I was brewing up a blog post about it and telling one of my clients about it. We were talking about the female anatomy and how as women our middles hold digestive organs (think stomach, liver, and intestines) as well as reproductive organs (think ovaries, Fallopian tubes, and uterus). Plus we need extra padding to protect all of those vital organs! A woman's belly IS NOT MEANT TO BE FLAT.


So as I was getting all worked up about this, my client informed me that she already wrote a blog post about this very issue! And it's even better than what I could have written myself. Gratefully, she has allowed me to share it with you. I am sharing part of it, but if you'd like to read it in its fabulous entirety, check it out here. Plus she has other helpful musings on how to be media savvy in our often toxic culture. Enjoy.


Thanks to photoshop, it's very easy for women to forget what a "real" woman's body looks like. My mother used to refer to it as her Kangaroo Pouch. The endless messaging of "targeting those hard to reach lower abdominals" in our core workouts, combined with the airbrushing out of any softness in a woman's lower belly has completely eradicated an all important fact from our minds - Women. Have. A. Uterus.

What's cool is that it helps us do all sorts of neat things, like ovulation, so that we can someday make some cute looking babies. Let's take a look at this before and after photo of Serena Williams shall we?



Before Severe Uterus Castration and After

See now I'm almost standing on my computer chair ready to deliver a tyrannical speech on "Saving the Uterus". Firstly, Serena is an extremely fit and strong woman, with abs that could probably survive one of those Acme weights or pianos falling on top of them.



Secondly, and this is key, she is a woman. By smoothing out (and airbrushing in) her stomach area, you are essentially removing that which makes her female, and you are perpetuating a myth that there is such a thing as a concave lower belly that occurs naturally, and not through extreme starvation. In essence, anorexia does the same thing to a woman as the photoshopped picture above - it removes the womanhood from the female, and creates a little girl. It removes any purposefulness, other than to be looked at through (or consumed by) the male gaze.

In the depths of my eating disorder, I lost the ability to menstruate. While of course women would kill to not go through the millions of annoyances of having a monthly cycle, for me it was the ultimate wake up call. I started having dreams of babies - dreams and nightmares. Babies floating on clouds, babies screaming and crying and me running through tangled woods to try and find them, babies who were hungry and I could find no food to soothe them. I recalled watching my mother try to conceive, the failure of her systems to operate properly bringing her miscarriage after miscarriage, watching as my father had to inject her with shots of infertility drugs, watching as she turned into a skeleton of herself as she cried in her room while others became pregnant when she did not. I remembered the joy in her eyes when my sister was finally born.

Suddenly, I wanted to fight for my uterus.

Now, I'm constantly amazed and astounded at my body. When I pay attention, I learn something new from it every day. I notice how my uterus ascends upwards after I ovulate in preparation for a baby (that will definitely not be coming anytime soon, but still!). I notice that this makes my stomach stick out for the two weeks prior to my period. And instead of lamenting my "kangaroo pouch", I thank it. I send it warm thoughts on how grateful I am that it is working properly. I continue to nourish my body and I recognize that underneath all the photoshopping, all women, everywhere, have a uterus.

Even if you don't want kids, isn't that a comforting thought?

Comments
Julie Duffy Dillon commented on 05-Aug-2011 10:35 AM
Another great post Marci! Thanks! This sarcastic remark is often heard in my office after a client mentions she wishes she has a flat stomach: "Well, cutting back on food won't make it flatter. Let's get your OB/Gyn on the phone to schedule a hysterectomy."
I wish more honored the amazing feats of the female stomach: creating a human being. Absolutely amazing.
Amy commented on 07-Aug-2011 07:15 PM
As I sit here, praying for my period to return in hopes of having a baby, I hope this post speaks to other young women fighting anorexia. If only I had known that my uterus would rebel against me and stop working as I starved my body....
Marci commented on 07-Aug-2011 08:47 PM
Thanks for your comments Julie and Amy. I realize this is a very sensitive topic for many women. While eating disorders can have profound physical consequences, I am often amazed and inspired by the resilience of our bodies as well. As we take good care
of them, they respond. :)
Jess commented on 07-Aug-2011 10:42 PM
I absolutely LOVE this post, Marci! It helps my body image a lot to think about my stomach in this realistic and biological manner. I showed it to my friend who is also in recovery and it gave her a new perspective, too. Your client is an amazing writer
and very inspirational.
Marci commented on 08-Aug-2011 07:19 AM
I'm glad you found it helpful Jess! And thanks for sharing it with your friend. I think we need to share more positive body messages with those we love. :)
Elizabeth commented on 17-Aug-2011 09:57 PM
fantastic, fabulous post! my belly has always been a love/hate relationship with my body and thanks for the reminder that that's what makes me female!
Marci commented on 17-Aug-2011 10:06 PM
Thanks for your honesty Elizabeth. Can't tell you the number of women I've worked with that loathe their mid-section...We need positive reinforcers to help us remember that we are women and designed to look that way!
Jill Will Run commented on 01-Sep-2011 05:33 PM
I commented on the original poster's blog as well, but I just wanted to thank you for sharing this... this had quite the impact on me. I lost my cycle for years due to my eating disorder. Only recently has it made a re-appearance, but I'm not sure I'm
"out of the infertility woods" yet... too soon to tell. But I've been feeling disgusted and frustrated with my body as I have gained back weight and developed that lower abdomen rounding. This was a real wake-up call to me that "DUH! That's just becoming womanly
again!" Thank you for sharing this.
Marci commented on 01-Sep-2011 07:53 PM
You are welcome Jill! And a big thank you to Kate who went out on a limb sharing her personal thoughts and experiences. It's helpful to get a reality check on how women are designed to look. We women need that kind of support from one another. Pass it
along and thanks for your comment!
Lucy Sabin commented on 07-Dec-2013 04:10 PM
Thank you Marci. I suppose it's comforting to know I'm not alone. Young women everywhere need to see this. If I'd come across this commonsense advice before, it's unlikely I would have mistreated my body. Insecurities about my lower belly was the main reason why my eating disorder took hold in the first place. Back then, I had no idea that that was simply part of becoming a woman. I was so ignorant of all this at 17 and like the other women on this forum, I'm praying that I don't have to pay the price of infertility for the rest of my life as a result. Only time will tell.
Anonymous commented on 07-Apr-2014 07:17 PM
I see this is an old post, but I want to comment anyway :) I'd taken birth control pills for about 10 years because I didn't get my period normally if I didn't (I was diagnosed with PCOS as a teenager) and had a completely flat, even concave tummy. A couple years ago, I stopped the birth control pills, intent on being healthy and not taking any artificial medication. Within a couple months, my formerly flat/concave tummy (which was a huge source of pride for me) suddenly stuck out a little. Normal people probably don't even notice it, but to me, it's all I see when I look in the mirror. For the last couple years, I've gone through every kind of crazy diet and exercise in the world trying to get my old tummy back because I thought it was my fault, that I had become fat and "failed" by doing something wrong. Reading this article makes me feel like my prized flat tummy was caused by the artificial hormones I was taking all those years. Thank you...I wish there were more articles like this!

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