Thoughts On Life Changes, Size Acceptance, And Bellies

Photo by Tõnis Riisalu. At Mystika Studio in Tallinn, Estonia.

Debby recently posted some provocative thoughts about size acceptance as it relates to a healthy sense of self and sexuality, to which I would like to add based on my own experience with life changes forcing me to come to terms with, among other things, my belly (which you can see in the photo to the right, playfully protruding from my coin belt at a dance performance).

You see, I am a belly dancer – yet one who, for the majority of her life, has not had much of a belly to speak of. Whether due to my genes or my active life style, that’s just not where my body tends to store fat. Because of this, I’ve had to confront some uncomfortable body policing, such as when people tell me I “can’t” be a belly dancer because I don’t have enough of a belly (um, I’m sorry, if you’re the belly dance police you’d better show some documentation! oh wait, haha, there is no belly dance police, it’s a totally open dance form that accepts people of every body type, age, size, and gender!).

However, due to some life changes recently (moving to a new country and spending a lot of time stationary while writing my dissertation), I discovered my belly. There didn’t used to be much there, and suddenly there was. It gave me the chance to reflect on how infrequently we give ourselves space to check in with our bodies as they change, and to accept them and love them anyway.

Since I enjoy an athletic lifestyle and have unconsciously ingested some of the fat-phobia that constantly surrounds me, I have to admit that my first thoughts regarding my belly fat were not ones of joyful acceptance. I’m not perfect. However, given some time, I was able to accept and embrace this change. It helped that I had belly dancing in my life. Suddenly, whenever I locked or shook my hips, I could see the reverberations in my belly flesh. There was more belly to roll when I wanted to do an undulation. Any movement I did gave me instant visual and kinesthetic feedback as the space around my stomach reacted with a jiggle or wiggle. It was as though I’d always known I could drive fast, but suddenly I had a speedometer that told me just how awesomely fast I was driving.

I’m one of the lucky ones, having such a body-positive hobby in my life. While I totally advocate everyone trying belly dance at least once (it’s a low-impact, gentle dance form that does great things for your hips among other things), I would more realistically hope that everyone is able to take some time to get acquainted with your body how it is now. Not how you wish it were. Not how it was 20 years ago. Connect with your body as it is now, and find a reason or a way to love and accept it. I bet it’ll be good for your emotional and sexual health, as body image ties in to all of these things!

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About Jeana


Jeana Jorgensen, PhD recently completed her doctoral degree in folklore and gender studies at Indiana University. She studies fairy tales and other narratives, dance, body art, feminist theory, digital humanities, and gender identity.