An open letter to Laura Craik*, myself and anyone who has ever longed for a flatter stomach


*the original article written by Laura Craik.

Dear Laura,

I read your commentary on ‘stomachs as status symbols’ with both admiration and sadness.

These are the things I admired:

  1. You had the guts to go against the grain when you used humour to pour contempt on the Kayla Itsines (amongst others) obsession with physical perfection. (The heroine of these Instatums is Kayla Itsines, a personal trainer with 9.7 million followers who posts binary motivational quotes such as ‘You got two choices 1) Do it now 2) Regret it later.’ I posted ‘3) Or you could just eat cheese instead’ in the 585-strong comments underneath, but Kayla didn’t reply to me. She sounds like a well-meaning girl, but merely looking at her makes me feel exhausted.) When did a flat stomach become aspirational? When did flat stomachs become our gods and idols, our raison d’etre? When did we sell our souls to the devil and become body-worshippers rather than worshippers of all that is good and uplifting about humanity?
  2. You understand the vulnerabilities of some women from an aesthetic point of view and you rightly recognise that this is big business for those who are unscrupulous enough to exploit this frailty. The true frailty is not the size of our stomachs but rather the way in which we as people (men and women) empower and value ourselves or disempower ourselves based on the size of our stomachs. This frailty is about the fact that the synonym for a flat stomach is strength and the synonym for a protruding stomach is weakness.
  3. Finally, I love the fact that you have made peace with your stomach and that you choose a slab of that great Swiss/French cheese, raclette, over a flat stomach. I buy the ‘food is fuel’ line just as much as I buy the ‘sex is for procreation’ line.

These are the things which saddened me:

  1. That you consider a ‘big stomach’, a cross to bear. (In the wobblefest of life, we all have our cross to bear. I have a big stomach, but I’ve had to make peace with it because I’m greedy. Faced with a choice between ‘flat tummy’ and ‘slab of raclette’, I’ll always choose the cheese.) A stomach is just a stomach. But sometimes, we (both men and women) consider it a burden if it is not flat. If it wobbles or protrudes. In the grand scheme of life, you will be so much happier and so will all of us if on our death beds we remember the sacrifices we made for loved ones rather than the sacrifices we made in our desperate efforts to acquire a ‘flat stomach’. A big stomach is not a cross to bear. There are those whose stomachs really are a cross to bear because they suffer from digestive or other medical issues. There are real crosses to bear such as poverty, illness, addiction, broken homes and marriages, a lack of education. When lined up against this ugly list, surely you can see that a big stomach really is not a cross at all. We ought to be glad for stomachs that can nurture babies for those women able to have kids. We ought to be glad for stomachs that rise and fall and mimic the rise and fall of laughter. We ought to be glad for stomachs that are big because they are satiated rather than stomachs that are weak and shrivelled up from the ravages of starvation. Not all flat stomachs are starved stomachs but inevitably, some will be.
  2. That we as people (women and men) are so hard on ourselves. I feel sad that we feel the need to turn our bodies into things they were never intended to be. Sad that women feel the need to resemble men and sometimes go to great and terrifying lengths to achieve what they consider perfect proportions.
  3. I feel sad that some believe in such a thing as a bikini body and that somehow not having that is a failure. I feel sad that our minds are so preoccupied with size and shape that we cannot see the devastation that is right in front of us: people engaged in self-loathing, the silent killers, addiction and poverty. I feel sad that we give our time, minds, money to aesthetic improvements rather than soul and spirit driven improvements.
  4. And finally, although I sense humour in the article and especially in your parting words of advice, (If, like me, you’ve failed to acquire a bikini body this summer, I offer my own motivational quote. 1) Buy a really massive handbag 2) Carry it in front of your stomach at all times 3) Job done.) I find your proposed solution frightening.

I/We/You do not need to apologise for the size of our/your stomach(s). I/We do not need to apologise for our size. What I/We ought to be sorry about are the things we have neglected because of our all consuming desire to acquire physical perfection. We ought to be sorry for the relationships we neglected or sacrificed, sorry for the people and things we could have focused our energies on and most of all sorry, for neglecting our minds and souls because we were so consumed by our bodies.