Kim Caldwell is THE expert when it comes lingerie. As an experienced bra fitter in NYC, she knows the ins and outs of a dressing room—and the female psyche when in search of a well-fitted bra!—like no other. We support her call for women to celebrate what’s inside, outside and underneath, which is why we are sharing her blog dedicated to that oft spurned part of our bodies: the tummy. Sure, we love the pics of Kimmay wearing miel, but we especially love her healthy attitude towards body image. Go Kimmay!
Check out her #MoreThanMyNumbers project reminding us that women should be empowered, and not defined, by their measurements.
Learn to Love: Your Belly
By Kimmay, published on June 19, 2017
Oh hey there, Belly. Tummy. Stomach. Gut. Abdomen. Whatever you call it. Learning to love this part of my body has been a real doozy for me. The two parts of my body that I hated the most were my thighs and my tummy. Ever since I had the awareness to recognize it, I have been sucking in my tummy to make it look flat, or in order to look thinner, or to hide its soft curves and gentle rolls from other people’s gaze. I totally admit it. This was an area of my body that needed a major makeover – not even physically, but I mean in the way I talked to it, what I expected from it, and how I related to it. Because our bellies are part of our bodies, and our bodies require kindness, compassion, and understanding in order to go through this life with us and help us truly thrive. I was not doing that, friends. So years ago, I realized: it was time to learn to love my belly.
How do you treat your belly?
I want to start by saying this: learning to love anything, or repairing a broken relationship takes time. So I’ve taken MANY beautiful steps toward loving my belly. And yet, we’re not exactly on “I love you 100% all the time” terms, either. I’m on this loving journey with you. I’ve become aware (in more ways than one) of how much I hold in or flex my belly. It’s become especially obvious the more that I meditate! When doing a body scan or slowly going through my body from head to toe, bringing awareness to each part and allowing it to relax, I almost always notice that my tummy is clenched. When I let it go, and release the hold, I feel more at peace, am able to breathe deeper, and have a more expansive feeling.
So why am I sucking in my gut so often? How in the world have I become conditioned to do so? It comes down to how I see myself, and how I perceive others view me. OK, so legit, my past self was SUPER worried that if I had a less than perfectly flat tummy that other people would think that I am ugly, unhealthy, unfit, and unattractive. All those “u” words. Logically, I knew this wasn’t true. But a big voice whispered loudly all the time: “suck that in or he’ll think you’re ugly”! or “don’t let them see you’re bloated today – they’ll think you don’t take care of your body!” or “Better not wear that shirt, it will show your belly and that thing is NOT cute. And you need to be cute to be loved.” For real, this is what it came down to. Sound familiar?
Even if it doesn’t, you may be able to recognize the pressure in our society to have a firm and fit abdomen. There are countless workout videos dedicated solely to this part of the body. Glossy magazines obsess over it. Articles are written about how celebrities get their tight tummy back after having kids. And women everywhere compare their self worth to the size of their pants or the inches it takes to go around their belly. Having a six pack or a toned tummy is lovely, and it’s also not the only “good” way to have a tummy and means nothing about your true worth.
Listen to Your Gut
Don’t get me wrong, plllllease. A fit and healthy tummy is a big hurray! Taking care of your body in a loving and respectful manner is so so so good. And getting to that place takes compassion and understanding. It takes listening to your gut – and I mean both in the metaphysical sense and the literal sense. Trusting your gut and intuition becomes easier with practice, and is only possible when you lift any tightness, anger, or resentment of that area. And having a healthy gut and stomach is key for overall health.
Here’s something to consider: my gut was screaming at me for years, and I didn’t listen. I was diagnosed (that feels like a strong word, but I suppose that’s correct) as lactose intolerant at age 9. And it was a pretty intense. Like, if I had just one Hershey’s Kiss I’d be sick for hours in the bathroom with major cramps and diarrhea. SO I took lactase enzyme pills with my meals. For years. Even with the pills, I still felt like poop (literally), and needed a bit of “recovery” after very dairylicious meals. But I kept at it. My body had tried whispering, gently: “Hey there, Kimmay. I don’t like it when you put dairy in me. I feel pain and discomfort and inflammation. Did you notice that?” And I would cover that voice right up with some pills, and tons of other things going on in my life. Who has time to reevaluate their dairy intake and create a new eating regimen when they’re working full time and going to school full time and falling in love? Honestly! So, that whispering turned into a pleading, and then yelling, and then screaming at the top of its lungs. My stomach had had it with dairy. My whole body was very sick, and the doctors couldn’t figure out why. So when I finally sat down and listened, the most obvious thing occurred to me: “Kimmay. Cut the dairy. Your stomach isn’t happy with it. And when your stomach isn’t happy, you are not happy. Work with it. Trust it. And give it only what it wants and needs. Not what it doesn’t.”
That was 2013 or so. And I’ve been dairy free ever since. And my tummy and I are having a much better go of it. And just like in any relationship, I keep checking in to see what it needs, what it craves, what it could do without. I used to say “Ugh, my stupid stomach is upset!” Now I’m no longer cursing it for being in pain. In fact, if I’m ever sick to my stomach, I usually apologize. I say “Ooooh, tummy. I know I shouldn’t have eaten that. I’m sorry. I will do better next time so that we both don’t feel this way. You deserve good nourishment and health.” Yes, I talk to my tummy and my body. After all, we’re in this life together.
Learn to Love
Speaking of together. What I am eating is just one way I updated the relationship with my tummy. The other was less about what I put into it, and more about my relationship with how it looks. I was such a mean girl to my tummy in the past. We’re still working on that, but gosh we have come a long way. Every time I looked in the mirror I would curse it for not being flat. Every day I got dressed I’d resent it for being in the way, and try to hide it with clothing. Each time I went to the beach, I’d try to find the best position so that I didn’t have to suck in as hard, and could trick people into thinking I had a smaller tummy. The thing is, I actually did (and do) have a relatively small tummy. Did I have washboard abs? No. But I had a healthy, beautiful body that I took for granted. Ironically, now I have more inches on my waist and years on my body, and I have so much more appreciation and love and respect for my tummy.
I realized that the way I was speaking to my belly was not serving us. I realized that the outside validation I was seeking would never add up to my inner self worth. I recognized that my stomach was not the enemy, and that my body is a God given gift and tool that I should take care of and work with so that we can go out in the world together and get shit done. I started small. I started by apologizing. I asked for forgiveness. That helped me stop comparing. And seeing other bare bellies in bra fitting rooms during my time as a bra fitter helped me see bodies with new eyes. These were not airbrushed to perfection bellies. These were real, human bellies – mothers, young, elderly, healthy, sick, supermodels… That helped me lift a bit of the resentment and fear. I started to find that loving and caring for my stomach was the road to hurray. Not cursing it, starving it, or forcing it to change.
I went from a person who would never wear a midriff and panicked when wearing a two piece bathing suit in public, to the person who travels all around the world doing photo shoots in my underwear and lingerie. I’m not saying you have to or even want to do that – but my oh my I feel such a healthy dose of freedom and a release on the self judgement now. That’s a huge hurray.
Sometimes these photo shoots land on or around my period. That’s no so Hurray. It’s nearly impossible for me to hide bloat (or my emotions) just before my cycle starts. I have done SEVERAL photo shoots with lots of bloat. And the first time made me anxious. And the more and more I did it, the more and more I realized that this is what my body looks like today. This is who I am today. I can choose to cower or I can choose to say hurray today. That respect for my body as it is today has fostered such a powerful relationship with my belly, and my whole body. Instead of going through images of myself in my underwear and thinking “ugh! That angle is so terrible!” I think “this is what love looks like. I have loved on this body, and it shows.”
I don’t want to mislead you. I still like to choose the image of me with the flatter looking tummy than the one with rolls or bloat. And sometimes in the photo shoot I’ll do my best to pose or hold my body in a way that I think is more flattering to my body – especially my tummy. I want to look and feel my best, after all. It’s the same reason that I wear pants with a higher waist or a looser dress on a bloated day. It’s not that I’m hiding my belly. I’m choosing to wear what helps me say hurray that day. And something that is digging or too tight, or shows off more than I want to that day is not the pathway to hurray for me. You get to decide what makes you say hurray. You get to determine where you are on your journey with your belly. I am committed to keeping it real. So you’ll never see an airbrushed belly on my site. You’ll also see that sometimes my belly looks different based on if I’m standing, if I’m sitting, if I’m bloated, if I’m leaning over. Bellies are like that. You’ll also see that sometimes I’ll choose the photo showcasing my soft rolls over one with the flexed tummy, and sometimes I won’t. What I hope you’ll really see, is what love looks like. Hurray!
Building a Healthy Relationship
As noted above, please keep in mind that learning to love anything – especially if there is some repair needed in the relationship – takes time. You wouldn’t expect to be best buddies with a friend you’d been fighting with for years after one heart to heart conversation, would you? Building up the trust, loving compassion, and authentic care can take some time. And just like with most relationships, it can be worth the effort. Especially when you two are connected for the long haul. Unlike a bad friend who you may need to let go of, your belly and your body are constant companions on your journey through life. So creating, growing, and fostering a healthy relationship is so so so so worth it.
Visit Kimmay's blog for testimonials from readers as well as 15 ideas for loving your belly!