For as long as I can remember my stomach has been my most hated part of my body. I’m not saying I didn’t hate everything else at one stage or another (I have) but my stomach has consistently been the MOST hated part.
Maybe you can relate? Maybe you too hate your stomach and know this ‘ritual’ all too well?
Every morning I used to wake up, go to the bathroom, look in the mirror, lift up my top and stare at my stomach. Think some thoughts about how much I hated it and why was my stomach so flubby even when I eat well and work out?
I’d change angles, look from this side, that side, suck in, hold my breath… does it look better like this? Or like that?
Remind myself how much I hated my stomach and then walk out of the bathroom in frustration. Like WHYYYY hadn’t my stomach changed overnight into some other, more ‘accepted’ stomach?
Starting my day with a real pep in my step… not. Absolutely not. Starting my day feeling down about my not good enough stomach and telling myself that I should probably eat less and workout more in order to ‘fix’ that problem stomach area.
Whether it’s your stomach, your arms, your thighs, your nose, your skin, your legs, your butt… you too might have a ‘problem’ or a ‘trouble’ spot.
I hope you’re already starting to feel (like I am as I write this) how awful this ritual is (was). Not just awful but also how (because I can’t think of a better word) stupid this is. In no way am I shaming this behaviour. I DID THIS FOR YEARS. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t done it this year. I totally have. Old habits die hard. But let’s agree that this is stupid. It’s a waste of our precious time. What difference does a flat stomach make to a little rounder stomach?
The answer… nothing. It doesn’t change who you are.
What if, the only reason we all had these ‘trouble’ or ‘problem’ spots was because we labelled them as a problem. Because we decided they are a problem. No one else. Us. We decided those certain centimetres of our body, yep, this small part of our external shell is a problem.
I know this was what caused the problem for me.
I looked at something or someone else… compared mine against theirs and decided, yep, mine is wrong, theirs is ‘right’.
I used to think that I needed a 6 pack, I needed a flat stomach. Only then would I be happy with my body. If I could just lose a little more weight around my belly… then I would be ok to wear the bikini. Only then I could wear a crop top to yoga because heaven forbid if my fat roll should hang over my pants.
Like… woh, right?
Can we stop for a moment, take a breath, and collectively agree that these beliefs, this behaviour is not serving us in any way at all. It’s not bringing any goodness. It certainly didn’t bring goodness to my life.
Changing this belief was something I realised I really wanted to do after starting my yoga teacher training.
When I started practising yoga consistently, it allowed me to slow down and tune into my daily thought patterns. This one in particular, about how ‘bad’, how ‘troublesome’ my stomach was, seemed to take over my life.
I could see how much this one thought was impacting my life. How much it was stopping me from living my life. I would say NO to so much. I would feel self-conscious all the time. I would try my best to always ensure my stomach would be seen at its ‘best’ angle. Far out, it was tiring!
I wanted so badly to change this belief to a loving one. I wanted so badly to love my stomach… but I had no idea where to begin. How could I love something that I have hated for so long? And how could I love something when I believed so strongly how ‘wrong’ it was?! It wasn’t a made up belief. The way that I thought about my stomach being wrong and horrible was my truth.
And here it is, The Aha!
My daily thoughts about my stomach. The cycle. The ritual. The one I had created and allowed to continue was the reason I believed so strongly that my stomach was ‘wrong’.
I created this belief. No one else. Which means… I can un-create this belief by creating a NEW belief.
And I can do it the exact same way that I created the first one.
The exact action steps I have taken (and still take) to stop hating my stomach.
The action steps that have helped me feel LOVE for my stomach for all that it is.
Start with my thoughts.
Begin to simply notice them and take note of how much energy and focus was on my stomach and how much I hated it. Wow. I didn’t do anything with the thoughts first. I just noticed them.
Wrote love letters to my stomach.
And no, they weren’t crazy woo woo. I simply would write down I 100% and wholeheartedly accept my stomach just as it is. I didn’t believe the words when I wrote them but I had read enough about affirmations that I thought… why not give it a go?
Went cold turkey on that daily morning ritual.
Instead of lifting up my pjs, checking my stomach at all angles, I would simply look myself in the eyes, smile and then walk out of the bathroom. Remember above: I still fall back into this old habit. It’s a daily practice. A daily un-practice.
Yoga. Yoga. Yoga.
I practised. I showed up and did my best. The essence of Yoga (well, one of them) is unconditional love and acceptance. You show up exactly as you are, you practise, with no judgement. This is why you won’t see many mirrors in traditional Yoga studios. It’s not about what you look like. It’s about what it feels like. It doesn’t matter if your stomach rolls over your pants. You have to bend and the skin has to roll somewhere! During my practise I would focus on letting go of these self-loathe thought patterns. Every time a thought would float back into my mind I would simply come back to the breath and let the thought go. Even if the thought would happen every minute I would continue to come back to the breath.
I would send love to my stomach during my practice.
I would breathe into my belly, allow it to expand and allow it to soften. This is an interesting thing to ask yourself and check in. How often are you sucking in your belly? When we do this, our body immediately goes into fight or flight. It thinks we are stressed, in danger and releases cortisol. A build up of cortisol (the stress hormone) can actually cause us to put on weight around the belly (lots of Medical Professionals talk about this, see Rachel Wyndham, Jules Galloway or Tia Miers).
During Savasana, and during seated meditation, I would place my hands on my belly, once again sending love to my belly area. I would think I love my stomach. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I am so grateful for you. I am so grateful for this body. This able body. I would just let the loving thoughts rattle off. It feels nice. Try it.
I forgave myself for all of the previous nasty thoughts.
So often when we become aware of something we’re doing and have done for a long time, we can get angry and upset at all the wasted time and energy. This is where forgiveness is key. While focussing on the love, the acceptance and the gratitude I also forgave myself for all of the hate I had given myself. In fact, I thanked it, for it lead me to where I am today.
I focused on core strength, through both Yoga and Pilates.
Focusing on building this inner strength in my core area, allowed me to stand taller and I felt more confident. Even if the way my stomach looked hadn’t changed at all (it has from my practise but this is not the goal), it was the way I FELT about my stomach that changed.
Through this ongoing practise (and un-practise) I’ve found freedom and peace within my body. By letting go of these thoughts I have created so much more space, time and energy for all that life has to offer.
My hope is that if you have a trouble spot, a problem area… that you take one (or all) of my action steps and just begin to make a small change.
I never, ever, ever, EVER thought I could love my stomach… but now, I do. It didn’t happen overnight. It wasn’t as if by magic. It was a gradual transformation. The secret? It to simply begin and begin again. It was through practise, practise, practise that the new habits and beliefs were created.
And NO, I don’t have a 6-pack… or a flat as a tack stomach… but I DO love my stomach. And this is freedom.
P.s if you hate your stomach or any part of your body for that matter, I really do hope you take one of these action steps. And if you want to learn more about how I strengthen my core to create confidence, TRY MerryBody for free for 7 days!
It’s not about creating the 6 pack, or getting rid of the ‘muffin top’ or any ‘trouble’ spot you think you might have… it’s about building strength from the inside. The Challenge is about learning to move your body in a safe and enjoyable way.
With consistency, the moves we teach you will build strength, lengthen and tone your amazing body.