It’s a trending Instagram hashtag, and it’s not just for plus-sized gals. #VBO stands for Visible Belly Outline. It also stands for “I don’t have washboard abs, and I don’t give a damn, because the vast majority of people don’t have washboard abs, so fuck you and the Spanx you are all wrapped up in.”
Seriously, friends, it’s time to get real. We are not Hollywood starlets who get paid actual cash to do grueling workouts with our highly sought-after personal trainers. We don’t have three hours per day to devote to workouts with names like The Brutalizer or The Ab-Blaster or freaking Crossfit. We don’t have personal chefs or outrageously priced meal prep services.
We are parents. We have had one, two, three, or more children. Some of us have had a tummy pooch when we were a size 2 because that’s just how our bodies were made. Some of us took until baby No. 3 to develop it. Hell, I’d be two sizes smaller if it weren’t for my belly pooch. But the vast majority of us have, will have, or will always have a visible belly.
Oh, we can hide it. We are good at that. We can Spanx it. We can disguise it with flowy dresses and tops. We can go under the knife.
But in the end, it’s better, healthier, and more liberating for us to say: Listen, world. I have a visible tummy outline. That bitch isn’t going away. Almost every single woman on earth, especially every woman who has given birth, has a visible tummy outline that isn’t going away. So I’m going to take pride in my body, take pride in who I am, and stop feeling ashamed about something natural and normal. I’m going to stop crying in dressing rooms. I’m going to stop trying on half my closet before I go out. I’m going to stop sucking it in before every picture and dreading the resulting Facebook tag. I. Am. Going. To. Stop. I am going to accept myself.
It’s scary at first. You’re worried that someone will come out with those dreaded words: “When are you due, sweetie?” When you’re not due, because you’re not pregnant. And this, normally, would set you running to a bathroom to weep bitter tears that you don’t look like Scarlett Johansson. Do you know how ridiculous that sounds? Not to denigrate the pain, which I’ve felt in this case, which is real and harsh and ugly. But we don’t have to feel that pain because we don’t have to meet that standard. You know what you say to those hags who ask about your body? “No, I’m not pregnant, and how dare you scrutinize my body, then comment on it.”
You speak up. You speak out. You say, no, this is not cool. This is not okay. You say that to anyone who dares comment on your VBO. I don’t care if it’s some old lady. It’s not acceptable. Things have changed since the days when it was socially acceptable to smoke cigarettes while pregnant in an effort to stay thin, Barbara.
Because VBO is here, and it’s here to stay, and we are so grateful for it. Go peruse the Instagram pics of the #VBO hashtag. Most of them are plus-sized women, but remember VBO happens to women of all sizes — and I guarantee that you can find a woman proud of her VBO in your own size. Check out how gorgeous those girls are. Seriously, look at them. Look at their fierce beauty. Look at how they tell contemporary standards to fuck off. Look at how their confidence jumps off the screen. Don’t you want that for yourself? Don’t you want to tell everyone that you are you, VBO and all, and screw anyone who can’t accept that?
Because you are you. You are empowered. You are beautiful. You are stunning. How often do you actually, seriously, walk down the street and think, “Damn, she’s ugly,” or “Damn, she’s nasty,” or “That woman needs to suck it in?” You don’t. You don’t think these things because your criticism is aimed only at one person: yourself. Imagine it aimed at another person. Imagine looking at another woman and thinking the things you think about yourself. Imagine seeing her and thinking, “Damn, that chick needs some Spanx. Her belly is too flabby.” Imagine thinking, “She needs to suck that shit in and get her ass to Pilates.” Would you say it out loud to her? Would you criticize her belly to her face? No, because you think it looks fucking fine. You would never, ever do these things to a stranger because you’re not an ignorant asshole. So don’t do it to yourself
You are one of the beautiful. You are one of the amazing. You have VBO. Most of us have VBO. Washboard abs are not some criteria for beauty. My husband doesn’t give a shit about my soft, squishy tummy. Your kids don’t give a shit about your tummy either. It’s a comfy pillow, a place of refuge, a part of what makes mama cuddles extra special. I remember this from my childhood. I see this in my sons. My mother and grandmother, they’d complain about their stomachs. And I would think, Why? That’s the best part!
Girl. That is still the best part. Ask your man or woman. Ask any body-positive website or group. Ask those gorgeous Instagram models. And ask yourself. Your VBO is lovely. Your VBO is lovely, in part, because it’s part of you, and you are lovely. And you deserve to love yourself. You deserve to love all of yourself. So give up on the tummy hate. Give up on disguising it. Wear what you want, and don’t compromise your comfort. And most of all, love yourself, VBO and all.
This article was originally published on