A couple months ago I stumbled across an interesting blog called The Tummy Project. At the top of the blog it reads, “A blog about body empowerment and the sexiness of a beautiful natural tummy, no matter what size.” It features photos of tummies with a narration submitted by the person attached to the tummy. The Tummies are as diverse as their narrations. What they all have in common is a story. Most universally a story of struggle, for many the struggle continues, for others the struggle has begun to subside and for some the struggle has given way to acceptance. I recently interviewed Jamie Theophilos who created the blog.
Jamie started The Tummy Project after a discussion with a friend about how little conversation there is about body image, not only in the communities she was a part of (queer and feminist) but just in general. Like most of us Jamie had struggled with her own body image. She said “Growing up I had felt very isolated and alone when it came to the size of my body.” Her reflections on her communities and her own past birthed The Tummy Project. She says, “My idea originally started as more of an art project. I would want to post an image and a story once a day for an entire year. My end result would be a compilation of 365 bellies: round, small, big, curvy, or boney, all to show that we come in so many different sizes.” She wanted to show what the reality was rather than an imposed standard. Jamie believes the project has become more than just an art project (and is well over 365 submissions). To her it has become a place where people can acknowledge that they are not alone. Where people can be honest about their experiences, good and bad. A medium that rebels against the norm, against the pictures we see of tummies in magazines and TV.
I asked Jamie what has surprised her most about the submissions she has received. She says that she is surprised about the amount of women that talk about feeling better about their bodies because of their significant other. She says she has mixed feelings about this, “if someone has gained their confidence through someone that has made them feel special and has impacted their life, then more power to them. But on the other hand, I wish I could see more women find this confidence through other things then just men.” Jamie says that she likes the submissions that end on a positive note, but her favorites are those that are funny “it’s nice once and awhile to take light of a situation such as this!”
Moderating The Tummy Project has provided growth for Jamie herself. She has learned more about acceptance and diversity that she could ever have imagined. Jamie admits she still struggles at times with her own body image, but has realized that even the strongest of activists can have “ a hard time escaping societal ideas of what our bodies should look like” She says, “I cannot force anyone to love their body. There are many different reasons why people might not have that ideal perfect relationship with their stomachs. With a society that pushes self loathing and expectations on about every different type of person (race, class, gender, size) it would be quite ridiculous to expect everyone to post submissions that said “I love my body and you should to!.” What I’m looking for in this site is acceptance and knowledge from every type of person. I want to, collectively, try to bring on a type of body empowerment, that we are together showing what real bodies look like and that all of that is in fact beautiful.” Jamie believes true beauty is on the inside, but is willing to use the outside beauty of stomach diversity to fight back against a media that “pushes on us what is and should be beautiful” Jamie hopes that the followers of The Tummy Project get empowerment, inspiration and community from the blog. Her message to Women, “Don’t give up on the struggle!”
Jamie considers herself a fat activitist. In her own words that means, “someone who actively tries to dismantle and change societal attitudes towards people who are considered fat.” I have often wondered of late, whether or not I consider my self a fat activist. I don’t know if I would label myself with that exact term, but I do know that I am an activist of sorts. An activist takes intentional action to bring about change. The change I seek? It begins with all women learning to accept themselves and their bodies as they are. To let go of society’s ideals as well as the idea that they will be happy when their body is different than it is. However my activitism doesn’t stop with promoting acceptance. I believe that acceptance is the first step. It is what leads the way to self- love. When you accept your body, it allows you to truly love it. When you love you body you can then act out of that love. The behaviors that you will choose out of love will give you the healthiest body possible. It’s important to note that body looks different for everyone.
Jamie and her blog, The Tummy Project have started the conversation necessary for acceptance to begin. I am grateful to Jamie and to each and every person that has the courage to submit their tummy’s story to her blog. Thank you Jamie for doing this interview. Keep fighting the good fight!
A self-love triplet:
"When you dislike something, there is no real motivation to take care of it. When you have to take care of it, you hate doing it, it’s difficult and you would always rather be doing something else. When you love something, love itself is the motivation. Taking care of it comes without question, you enjoy doing it, it’s easy and there is nothing more you’d rather be doing. Do you dislike you body or do you love it?"
- That’s Right, I DID just Quote MYSELF! :-)
P.S.I submitted my own photo and narration to the Tummy Project a few weeks ago. To be honest I have not shared it before now because I am nervous about posting it here on my blog. As much I have accepted my body, showing it to all of you isn’t easy. Frankly it scares me, which to me means there is value in doing it. So here you go…my tummy (and its story.)
My stomach hasn’t been this exposed to the world since I was a little kid. As the fat girl it was imperative that I always covered it up. I covered it up when I was 10 and was encouraged to go on my first diet. I covered it up when I was 13 and the doctor’s scale (that maxed out at 300lbs) could not weigh me. I covered it up when I was 17 trying to navigate adolescence at 360lbs. I covered it up when I was 19 after going on a diet and losing 60lbs. I covered it up when I was 24 getting gastric bypass surgery on my 420lb body. I covered up when I was 25 weighing 160lbs less. I covered it up when I was 29 with more shame andembarrassment then ever when I gained back 60lbs again.
Today I am introducing my stomach to the world at 30 years old. This stomach I introduce to you today is a part of a body that weighs less than it ever has before. I don’t actually know my exact weight today because I don’t weigh myself everyday, every week or even every month. The scale is no longer a valuable tool for me. My tool is the moment. In each and every moment I strive to be present to my emotions and thoughts, present to what my body wants and needs, present to acceptance of myself as I am, present to the love I have for my body, present to the JOY living in alignment with that love brings me. Final I am FREE to uncover not just my stomach but my most authentic self to the world. Just like my stomach at every size could always have been uncovered, so was my authentic self available the moment I decided NO WEIGHT or SIZE would make me…me. I may have had some radical weight loss, but what I want to share with the world is my radical hate loss.