“2 Steps to a flat stomach!”

There’s been a massive increase in the past year in the amount of “flat stomach” obsession, particularly online. We see these ads everywhere now, every single day. The opposite is obviously the “I got ripped in 3 weeks” ads for the men, which further reinforce the gender binary and are probably just as bad. I’m convinced that this “flat stomach” business is damaging in a whole other way than general weight-loss ads. Yes, if you’re thin you’re more likely to have a flat stomach, but that’s not my point. The reason it worries me so much is that it’s a total lie that the one necessarily leads to the other. One article I read says “If you lose enough weight from your body, you will eventually lose it from your stomach to get a flat belly!” and then goes on to tell you a handful of tips towards losing weight, such as not eating anything sugary. In other words: you may be thin, but if you haven’t got that flat belly yet, then you’re not thin ENOUGH. Just to give my personal view: I’m a UK size 8/10, which is the equivalent of a 4/6 in the USA. I weigh about 55 kg. My stomach is not REMOTELY flat and never will be, because
1) I don’t have the genes for a flat stomach, and
2) I put food and water in it, duh.

There is a time when it’s flattISH, and that’s first thing in the morning, before I’ve eaten anything. Now, I’m not saying it wouldn’t be nice to have a flat stomach – it’s considered beautiful in our culture, and it makes your clothes hang better, so if you have one, you’re lucky. But I am convinced that the reason this obsession is happening is that the weight loss industry is trying to find a way to expand its market, and so it wants to cut into the section of the population who are thin or normal, and convince them that they too need their products because they still have a lot of work to do if they haven’t got that flat stomach. This is further reinforced by all the ads that use the word “bloated” to advertise yoghurt that apparently helps your digestive system (which it can do, but that’s not what the ads are getting at. What they’re really doing is saying “nudge… get it? It’s like a laxative. You won’t be full of all that crap and be just a little bit flatter.”). Since you can no more get a flat stomach by dieting than you can get pert breasts by dieting if yours are not, then you’re fighting a losing battle, which is of course what the get-a-flat-stomach pushers want. I have a friend about my size who has quite sturdy legs, and she thinks that if she diets long enough she will have long willowy legs. She also has a flat midriff, which she had even when she was a few sizes bigger than me. She’s not going to have my legs, I’m not going to have her flat midriff. End of story.
When we talk about figure variety in the media, we seem to be talking only about dress size. But I’d like to see not just more different sizes in models and celebrities, but some my size without stomachs made to look flat as a pancake, either by airbrushing, abstaining from food, restraining underwear or just simply sucking the stomach in as the photo is taken. But when anything else means ridicule from the press, what can they do? I worry not just about young girls who obsess over losing weight in general, but about those who have figures like mine and think they need to torture themselves into getting a “flat stomach” to be normal.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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