Ms R wants a flat stomach, and worries constantly that her stomach is not flat enough.
Hello Sandy. I am 16 years old, and I have a major problem with body image. I can’t get it out of my head. I feel like there is a problem with my stomach (that it isn’t flat enough) even though everyone tells me I’m skinny.
I never go a day without thinking about body image, and I can’t so much as look at another girl without comparing myself to her.
I do not have an eating or exercise disorder, but I definitely have a problem. It’s become an obsession; what can I do to get myself to stop worrying about it? ~Ms R
What’s Reasonable and Real?
Hi Ms R,
First of all, the fact you’re looking for an answer is a reason to feel hopeful – you’re aware that it’s a problem. So yes I’d agree you don’t have a disorder, it hasn’t taken over your life at this stage despite your obsessive thinking.
BUT it is really exhausting always being on comparison alert – it ties up so much energy doesn’t it?
This is a big and complex issue Ms R– it’s got plenty to do with the way the world views female bodies: displays them everywhere with as few clothes as possible, and photoshopping them to very unrealistic manufactured representations.
There’s not a lot you can do about that whole industry here today. Making them change their distorted imaging is a much longer fight; it is happening but it will take more time to turn over.
What you CAN do is start to be more conscious about what you allow into your mind, and check that what is in your mind is actually true:
- Remind yourself of this reality: a woman’s stomach is different to a man’s stomach. Should a woman even have a flat stomach? There are two extra organs inside a woman’s body – ovaries and a womb. And they take up space inside the body.They cause that little roundness. There is nowhere else for the organs to go except to round the soft abdomen wall slightly outwards. If this was not meant to happen probably the abdomen would be boney, not soft.Every image of a woman which shows a flat stomach is ignoring the reality of a woman’s body.
When you do see a piucture of a flat-stomached woman ask yourself – is that picture of stomach photoshopped? Is she sucking in her stomach really hard? Did she starve for days before the photoshoot to get that unnatural look?
What’s that you say? You can’t know for sure? Exactly.
But what you can know for sure is that behind the usual roundness of a woman’s stomach are ovaries and a womb, each performing vital functions in keeping your body healthy and strong (they’re not only about reproduction!)
If men carried these organs inside their bodies, they’d need more room in there too, and their tummies would be rounder.
Your stomach is not meant to be flat like a man’s stomach because you are not a man, you are a woman.
- Stop reading magazines. I know that might be hard, but every single image in girls and women’s magazines is digitally altered.Stop looking at them. Choose something different, like magazines that celebrate women instead of trying to force them to conform to one manufactured body type.
The whole advertising industry is researching constantly to find new ways to stir up ‘not good enough’ feelings in you so that you’ll keep feeling bad and eventually you’ll buy their crappy products that don’t usually work the way they say they will.
The magazines are massively funded by companies selling these products so the mags keep using those manufactured images.Opt out. You can. It’s your choice. You’ll still keep up with fashions by seeing the new styles in the shops.
- Keep reading blogs with body-positive messages. There are loads of awesome body-positive fashion blogs too, usually with loads of pics. Seeing pics of more normal girls and women helps to shift the image in your head about how women ‘should’ be, and about your own body.
- And honestly the absolute best thing I can ever recommend to anyone is to keep being honest about these feelings.Acknowledge you have them, don’t just squash them down and try to ignore them, that is a sure path to clinical depression.
I can see by what you’ve said that you are looking for a path that leads somewhere other than depression; good stuff!
Think about using a mind-body process like EFT tapping to help you shift the feelings. I’m betting the feeling is a lot like a pressure inside your chest or middle, right? Tapping can help to move it on and out, and change your feelings permanently.
Ms R, what I read in your email is that you’re a smart young woman.
To me that means you have the intelligence to be whoever you want to be – and that means you have the intelligence to start getting conscious, and start choosing what you want in your life.
I so admire that you’re looking for answers and not just following along with the masses. You can choose. Keep choosing lovely!
Feel free to ask any other questions, I’ll do my best to help.