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My Life: The Buddha Belly Conundrum

This guest column is written by Kendra Mittermeyer, administrative assistant at DailyBurn. Follow along on her journey towards health, wellness, self-improvement and the perfect push-up. (And if you missed her first post, read it here.)

Kendra Workout

Photo by Nick La Marca

I took my top off at class last night. Talk about firsts.

I’ve always admired those toned goddesses who can rock the shorts-and-jog-bra-only look, but never imagined a world where I would join them. But last night I did. OK, so I was a different kind of goddess than the typical image, but I was a goddess. And you are, too. Let me walk you through this.

I’ve been a fitness binger all my life. I’ve taken this class or that class but I’ve never really stuck with anything for long. I definitely need to work on my mental tenacity but I also think a lot of the problem is how physically uncomfortable I feel. When you’re really getting into a workout you’re supposed to well… sweat. And believe me I do. It can feel really icky and cumbersome with my giant oversized gym clothes. But all this time I thought I needed to wear a gargantuan men’s Hanes T-shirt to cover my belly. It’s really a fantastic article of clothing right up until I go into down dog and choke on it.

No matter the workout, I always spend a good amount of time looking at the girl in front of me and the three in front of her: the lucky ones who actually have the abs to “pull off” pulling off their tops. Yes I covet their svelte bods for purposes of physical and emotional health, and yes for the purposes of wearing skinny jeans on Saturday night as well, I’ll admit to that. But really, when I’m working out hardcore, my fitness goals become very small. Very, very small — claustrophobic really.

What this perspiring fool craves is the freedom to wear fewer freaking layers for the times when I am literally attempting to sweat through them. There have definitely been times when that level of physical uncomfortable-ness has won out. With the heat and the overwhelming stickiness, the draw of air conditioning and an unjudgemental couch has been known to overpower my better instincts.

To be clear, that cycle is: I’m too bulky to do the workout that could help with my bulkiness. Excellent.

And then last night happened. I reached a headspace where it simply didn’t matter that I would be flubby ‘round the middle if I shed my shirt. Fact is: I am flubby ‘round the middle. A sweaty T-shirt actually does not hide that. What it does do is get in my way, weigh me down, and generally make me cranky. Why would I let a piece of cotton trip me up when I had already made such a commitment? I’d shown up and started moving, started caring for my body. Was I going to let a T-shirt distract me?

NOPE. (I can still hear my heart screaming the word internally, “NOPE this shirt has got to go!”) Off it came, falling in slow motion to a terrific thud on the mat.  Holy panic, Batman. There I was: bare. Well not really, but more than I’ve ever been without the excuse of a large body of water nearby.

So there was nothing to do but focus on myself, “flaws” and all. That’s exactly what I did. The svelte chickadees in front of me seemed to melt away and all I saw was myself in the mirror, my power in the mirror. I was magnificent! A goddess set free!

Admittedly, for the first seven to 15 minutes I was fully convinced I would be forcibly removed for public indecency. I just knew someone was going to see my brazen dis-robing, shame me and my belly, and march me right out of there. Isn’t there a rule? A rule that only bikini models get released from T-shirt strangulation? Did I even have the right to do this?

(Insert car screeching noise here.) Hello! Yes, of course I do! I have the right to do anything I can that supports and betters myself (you know without causing massive harm to others). And, of course, none of the terrifying scenarios I imagined came to pass. Nothing happened at all really. At most, some students gave me a small smile of encouragement, but generally everyone’s focus was right where it should be — on the work they were doing for themselves.

So I stayed in class, and worked on myself. Just me, my belly and my burgeoning self-respect. I’m here to take care of myself, to love myself and frankly I do it better shirtless. Please understand folks, I am not advocating nudity; just confidence in yourself and your goals, and the bravery to do whatever you need to meet them. It may not be a shirt for you. But there’s usually something. Something in the way, be it pride, fear, two-for-one happy hour specials…

And, for me, there’s something else. A few weeks prior, in a similar class, my boyfriend ripped off his shirt and bore it all. The very thing he swore he’d never do, not because of Buddha belly anxiety, but because he recently had open-heart surgery and didn’t want his scar to show. This giant pink scar spans his entire front and is, in truth, entirely hard to miss. For us it’s a symbol of a terrible time in our lives, as well as an incredible triumph. Either way, it wasn’t something he thought he wanted to share.

But he wasn’t sharing. He was doing. Doing something amazing, all for himself.

You cannot imagine how stupid and small my hang-ups became, watching him.

Working out gives him a beautiful, tangible acknowledgment of how far he’s come. This man knows what it is to have a body that is physically hindered, made weak, but he is strong again now. Those of us who are healthy have the choice to be strong. I don’t want to waste that anymore. I’m choosing my partner’s strength and bravery. I’m choosing to love my body right now, instead of holding out to love it when I look like Anja in a jog bra. She got there the same way we will, she got brave.

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