One of the many things that I take pride in is the fact that I make time to take care of myself by exercising on a daily basis and drinking a lot of water. And, in an effort to control the symptoms associated with endometriosis, I’ve changed to a vegan diet and I have also been very successful with intermittent fasting for close to two years.
Consequently, my body has started to reflect the changes I’ve made to my diet and my exercise. My chest, shoulders, arms and legs are more toned. One change that hasn’t been as significant, however, is in my mid-section and it’s driving me crazy. Now let me be clear: There has been quite a change in the size of my stomach and I am so happy about that, (My twin had to remind me that “little changes should never be discounted”.). However, it is still not where I want it to be. I can easily attribute my swollen stomach to endo belly, a term used to describe the swelling and bloating that many sufferers of endometriosis experience. Or I can blame it on the three grape-sized fibroids my GYN found in my uterus after an ultrasound a few years ago.
Even though I am very aware of how my afflictions can expand my stomach, I’m still so disappointed when I see how much it protrudes while wearing a slimming outfit. It doesn’t look like the stomach of a person who exercises frequently and has taken measures in her diet to be healthier. I find myself obsessing over it on a regular basis. Wearing loose clothing has helped me hide this insecurity and I sometimes avoid taking full-body pictures. It has become a source of stress and bitterness for me. It doesn’t help that my twin sister is a fitness expert and that her lean body reveals that. Each time I am next to her, I compare my round belly to her toned stomach and it makes me feel ashamed. And I know my feeling this way is ridiculous because there is nothing to feel ashamed about; yet my emotions and mind speak very different languages.
One morning recently, I happened to introduce a new guided meditation into my regular morning routine that I found on YouTube. The voice guiding the meditation reminded me to feel grateful for my body. “You consider how it keeps you alive even when you are not even conscious of it. Your body breathes for you, digests food for you. What else does it do for you? Take a moment to think about the way your body serves you.” As she said these words, a flood of emotions ran over me. I wanted to cry.
It occurred to me that I was being unfair to my body and unfair to myself. I ask my body to do so much with my strength and cardio exercises on a daily basis. And it has always performed at its best during those times. My body has helped me overcome a number of illnesses, including COVID. Twice! And here, I’ve been obsessing over a pot belly.
Because of that particular meditation, feelings of gratitude overpowered me. I was thankful for the breath in my body, the strength of my lungs and the overall functions of all of the complex systems that operate within my body. It does not serve me to condemn my body for looking a certain way despite what I put it through. I feel like I have learned a very important lesson: Never speak ill of the body that serves you. Be kind to your body; be grateful for it.
I end this post with an awareness that even though I was reminded of this constructive way of thinking during my morning meditation, I know it will not take just this one time for me to stop feeling negatively about my belly. However, each time that I do look at my belly, I will be forced to remind myself of the meditation that has opened my eyes as well as the written testament to myself within this blog post. I will think about how grateful I am for my body and how grateful I am to my body.
Cathy Jean-François worked in book publishing for six years before becoming a New York City public school English teacher. She’s written short stories and created a blog about her experiences as a single woman and a newlywed. Most recently, she’s been working on Cathy’s Cross: A Depressive’s Positive Perspective, which is a blog about her decision to remain positive amidst life’s challenges despite her daily battle with depression. She uses her experience with depression to create her main character’s inner conflict in her novel The Box. You can find Cathy every Saturday morning hosting a room on Clubhouse tackling the very important issue of mental health. When she is not working on lesson plans and grading assignments for her 7th grade and high school students, she is either writing a new blog post or spending time with her husband and their miniature schnauzer Roxie, where they live in Queens, NY.