As a kid, I grew up in a God-gut family. Our bellies were central in decision-making, identifying safety, and determining mistakes. I “followed my gut” to choose to be an educator. I left a relationship due to a “yucky tummy.” I admitted lying when I had an “upset stomach.” We really use/used our stomachs to find the “best” answer when our head-brain doesn’t produce an obvious answer.
Now, as an adult, I realize that there is science for “going with the gut.” Referred to as our second-brain, the stomach is a part of the Enteric Nervous System (ENS). Science of probiotics and microbiomes aside (although, check it out here), our bellies are deeply connected to emotional-feeling states. Harvard Health Medical School explored the interconnection between the brain and the second-brain (belly), explaining that mental health issues like anxiety can “show up” in the gut.
So why Belly Stories?
When I was eleven, I started marking my stomach with the word FAT over and over in permanent marker. Anorexic and fatphobic, I agonized over the flesh that protruded over my shorts. I spent eighteen years starving and overexercising to get a concave stomach. Each bathroom I entered, I grabbed my shirt and pulled up to see if my stomach was “behaving” (read as bone-showing thin). My life was cataloging my food and shrinking my body – nothing more.
Then, one hot spring day, I idled my car in the cul-de-sac of a Baltimore suburb. Seatback, eyes closed, I listened to a podcast where a person (they/them) shared their story of overcoming their eating disorder. They shared that they woke up and did not think about what they should or should not eat. Their partner didn’t need to tell them it was okay their thighs had stretch marks. They were living fully – ice cream, broccoli, cookies. Nothing was off-limits. They seemed free. And, with that story, I started eating. I went to Baskin Robbins and ordered a brownie sundae for the first time in six years. I ate ice cream and I did not die.
Yet, my belly still haunts me. This is because I cannot find belly stories. Stories of beautiful bellies of all backgrounds. So, that is what this is: this is a place for bellies to tell their stories.