Eating Disorders

An Appreciation of This Bloated Belly

Venus of Urbino by Titian (1538)

Venus of Urbino by Titian (1538)

“As long as you’re at it,
die wide.
Follow your belly to the green pasture.”
– Erica Jong, from For Claudia, Against Narrowness


I’m used to it now, after that worst first start at recovery from ground zero, and the numerous restarts since then. The belly wakes up first: it needs the most protecting. After all, this is where a kind of magic happens. That specifically female magic, which, if I so choose, might nurture a child or two.

Endless studies confirm this to be true, and not merely a false conceit brought on by my unhealthy mind. Those who are starved of crucial nutrients grow large in the center upon return to normal eating. It’s why tiny children in third-world countries often display bellies to rival a pregnancy. It’s the faltering organs just beneath that most need extra cushion.

Mine, of course, is not so extreme—especially now, when I’m only a few strides away from “okay.” The sensation is more like a loaf of bread, rising slightly in the oven—notable protrusion, where a flat plane has been. It’s hard, not soft and squishy. It’s uncomfortable and niggling…a thick sign that I’ve equated with shame.

The sign needs refashioning, a page refresh.

So what, I force myself to wonder, is so unworthy about it? What’s so awful about a healthy reaction that goes against tabloid magazine constraints and a culture warped in innumerable ways? Is this imperfect space so unlovable? Or am I not giving love enough credit?

I pull my shirt up just to stare: Oh hi, you’re there. It seems important to do this, though I’m not entirely sure why. They used to tell us to avoid our bodies—not to touch them, to hide all mirrors at this time. That’s one kind of currency, but there seems to be better value in this frank acknowledgment, the swallowing of the whole.

It really doesn’t feel so ugly to me, when I let go of the perceptions I’ve been fed. It seems that what’s inside me could and should transcend whatever’s briefly swollen, when glanced with the right eyes. And the swelling, this perpetual hot air at my core, it seems necessary now—a beacon of good things to come. Satiety.

The filling in of what, for too long, has been hollow.

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