02/11/2014 08:41 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Let Our Bellies Be!

My belly eats when it's hungry (it's hungry a lot) and sometimes when it's bored (we're working on that). It prefers salty and carb-y over sweet. It loves vegetables (we're lucky that way). It loves pretzels, too (a little less lucky). Most of the time, my belly operates without paying too much attention to my know-it-all brain, who often nags my belly to replace those pretzels with things like spinach and kale (not happening).

My belly has been known to overdo it. Who hasn't suddenly found his or her belly belly-deep in a box of chocolate-chip cookies or a bag of chips? But I believe in cutting back on things like refined grains and added sugars not because diet books scream of the horrors of a wheat belly or a sugar belly (or a beer belly, for that matter). Instead of fearing foods based on how they may or may not make my belly protrude, my belly and I prefer to focus on the very real health risks of overdoing it on the highly-processed, highly-unnatural ingredients we call food.

Sugary drinks alone, for example, may be guilty for around 180,000 deaths around the world each year. Added sugar also contributes to growing rates of diabetes. Refined grains -- like those found in white bread or pasta or bagels, some of my belly's all-time favorites! -- are stripped of the essential vitamins and nutrients that make their unprocessed peers, whole grains, so beneficial. And all of that sounds much more important than achieving that mystical flat belly we're told we should want, to my belly and me.


Amazon photos from here, here and here

Luckily, my belly doesn't give too much thought to overdoing it after the fact. No sense worrying about what you can't change, after all! But we're lucky that way too; I've learned that not all bellies are so carefree. And it's for these bellies that we have to stop this name-calling, once and for all.

If we're ever going to make peace with our bellies, they can't be categorized as if they were accessories we choose to wear. When my friend tells me I look nice, I don't say, "Oh, this old thing? It's just my sugar belly!" I don't bring my wheat belly to the beach. Our bellies aren't going anywhere; they're not so easily dismissible as categorizing them this way implies. The sooner we stop leaning on scapegoats for our bellies, the sooner we can come to love them as ours.

Since we're already doing away with body labels like "ruler-thin" and "pear-shaped" (and, really, let's get on that already), let's also do away with the wheat bellies and the sugar bellies and food baby bellies and just let our bellies be.