Sucking In My Stomach Was Sucking the Life Out of Me

woman with hand on her stomach
woman with hand on her stomach

Saturday morning, my daughters slept until 7:15. This was pretty lovely on its own, but then they both came into our bedroom to snuggle with us in bed. Yeah, there were elbows in the side and knees in the stomach, but there were also two pajama-clad, blanket-warm girls and a husband next to me.

A few minutes later, the girls crawled out of bed and started taking books out of my bookshelf and playing with the toys we have in our room. My husband rolled over and put his arm around me, then placed his hand on my stomach.

I sucked my stomach in.

The second I did it, I mentally flinched. Why was I sucking my stomach in? What did I aim to accomplish from this? It was a lovely morning, a lovely moment. Family, closeness, warmth, all that jazz. And I was thinking about my stomach?

Usually, when you read posts like this, it always ends with a happy ending, an uplifting message where the writer realizes that her life is so much better when she doesn't worry about her body. Then she numbers her blessings and lets it all hang out. She wears a bikini and holds her head high and makes love with the lights on.

I didn't do any of that, though. I kept sucking my stomach in for a few more seconds, until I shifted positions.

I know my husband loves me. I know he loves my body. I know he's happy with the changes it's gone through in the past year, as I've relaxed after more than a decade of restriction. He's seen it all and doesn't judge.

I was still worried about him feeling it, though. Not because I thought he'd think poorly of me. Not because I even thought poorly of myself in that moment. I wasn't feeling bad about my body or my weight in the slightest.

I just did it. It was a habit, a reflex, something that we all do, whether we're trying on clothes or being touched by the people we love.

And that makes me angry.

I don't want this to be a post about how I realized I was self-conscious about my body and had all these realizations and la-di-dah happily-ever-after I was the poster child for confidence.

I have had these realizations. The majority of the time I believe them, too. I know there's more to life than my body and my feelings about it. That life was in our bedroom that morning, in the shrieks of a toddler and the giggles of a little girl. In the man beside me in bed.

But I still sucked my stomach in anyway.

I've spent years sucking it in. Sucking everything in. I've sucked in my spirit trying to be what other people want me to be. I've sucked in my true body restricting and over-exercising.

I sucked myself in. Now I'm starting to let it out.

Yet I still do things like this. Because it's habit. Because it's what I've done for so long.

So this isn't a story with a happy ending. At least not right now. I didn't change anything that morning. I thought about it. I knew I should have. But I deliberately kept my stomach muscles tensed.

This isn't a story with a sad ending, either, though. I don't feel awful about myself. I didn't do anything disastrous. I just did something that women and men do every single day.

The thing that took up mental space and pulled me out of a beautiful moment. Even if I disappeared for only a split second, that's a second that I missed out on. That's a second where my body, where the instincts cultivated in me through years of practice, took over.

Where the cozy Saturday fell away and my mind narrowed in on something that doesn't matter to anyone. Not my husband. Not my girls. Not me.

I didn't spend the rest of the day obsessing over my body. I didn't spend any more time obsessing over my body, actually. But that moment still happened. That moment, that habit, is still something that's in my life.

I didn't work to change the habit then, but I'll try in the future.

It's ok if my husband feels a bit more flesh. If someone sees a bit more flesh. That's reality. That's what's there.

So yeah, maybe this is ending up as one of those "everything is so wonderful, aren't these realizations great?" type of posts. But how else am I supposed to sign off? I want to work harder. I don't want that knee-jerk "suck it in" instinct to take up residence in my head anymore.

So that's how I'll end this. I'll work harder. I'll be more conscious.

I'll relax. Not just my stomach, but everything.