Interview: The Tummy Project
Today I am thrilled to share an interview I did with Christine Thomas, my friend and curator of The Tummy Project–“a place for encouragement, acceptance, & love for others and, especially, for ourselves.” I asked Christine about her work to support body positivity and wellness on the internet and beyond. Trigger Warning: open talk about Bulimia in this interview
1. Tell us why you started Tummy Project–what are you hoping people will see there?
I started the Tummy Project to help with my own eating disorder recovery. I wasn’t seeing a lot of body diversity online, certainly not all sharing the same space, and a tummy that looks like mine was really hard to find. So, I created a Tumblr to showcase tummies of ALL shapes, sizes, colors, adornments, etc. I want people to see body hair, stretch marks, curves, edges, modifications, and scars that look like theirs every so often. I want people to feel included and welcome, and to know that while they are unique, they are not alone. Everyone is beautiful and deserving of admiration. That’s what I want people to see.
2. How and where do the images of tummies come from? Can people submit pictures? Yes, people can submit pictures! Follow the link, or shoot an e-mail with your photo(s) and story to firstname.lastname@example.org. You may remain anonymous or be loud and proud in your submissions. As far as content goes, I try to keep posts around PG-13, though we stray into mature territory every now and again. 🙂
Though I wish we received more submissions from our 2500 followers, most of the tummies featured are reblogs from elsewhere on Tumblr. I browse certain tags like “body confidence” and “tummy” on a regular basis seeking material that fits the intent and message of the Tummy Project, and I queue it up!
3. You censor any mention of numbers on the Project: any size or weight information is removed. Tell us about that decision.
In the throes of my eating disorder, I would obsess over numbers all day, every day. I would count the minutes allowed until I could have a bite of food. I would weigh myself several times in the morning before allowing myself to eat or drink or dress, making sure to note the lowest possible number. I would count up my calories to make sure they didn’t exceed a certain “acceptable” limit. I would constantly compare my numbers to other people’s numbers. I needed the smallest sizes and the most exact portions.
My recovery was all about getting rid of this fixation on numbers. I eventually smashed my scale with a mallet. I began to look at fiber and sodium and vitamins on the nutrition labels, not calories. Numbers can still really trigger me and I don’t want to enable my followers to make those harmful comparisons, so I nix the numbers.
4. You speak candidly on your site about being in recovery from Bulimia. How did your eating disorder affect your view of your body (or vice versa)?
I’d never been happy with my body. I’m short and stout and prone to self-destruction. So, during a particularly difficult undergraduate semester full of loss and betrayal and rejection, I developed bulimic tendencies and a few other bad habits. I began to see my body as worth more and more with every pound I lost. Although my habits ceased when my recovery began, it took months of therapy and openness and support for my self image to improve. In the wake of my disorder, I’ve learned to appreciate what my body can do and how much I put it through. I like most of my curves most of the time now. I eventually realized that my health and fitness are not determined by how much I weigh, which is really cool. I’m just a lot more in-touch with my body now; we’ve been through so much together.
Plus, even though I’ve always been a little on the squishy side, I never really had a butt. Now that my eating habits are healthy again, my body redistributed the fat and gave me an adorable ass!
5. What kinds of tools do you find work well for your recovery?
Browsing diverse bodies helps me to see where I fit in the human spectrum, just the way I am. I also like to look at bodies that are about the same size and shape as mine to help with my body dysmorphia. If they’re all beautiful in my eyes, why can’t I be, too?
Exercising regularly and eating well much of the time, on my good days and my bad, helps to give me consistency. I’m lucky that my family helps to keep me accountable for taking care of myself–never underestimate the power of your support system! Therapy was also crucial to getting me started and keeping my recovery going for the first year or so.
Meal planning can be fun. I like body modifications and playing dress-up. Having sex reminds me that my body is awesome. On those really bad days where I feel guilty eating at all, marijuana helps soothe my anxiety and gives me the munchies. The rest is introspection and practicing self love whenever possible. Recovery is an ongoing process and it takes a bit of work every day to keep it up and make progress.
6. How can people better support each other on the journey to body acceptance? Also, specifically how can we support those who struggle with self-harm or eating disorders?
It all starts from within. Cease the negative self-talk (I’m too fat, I’m ugly, I need to change X about myself) and start complimenting yourself and others. Don’t make unsolicited comments about another person’s weight loss or gain–this could be a very touchy subject. Pay attention to how often you find yourself making judgments about another person based on their size or shape, and challenge these assumptions. Do some research on body acceptance and speak out when you witness bullying or discrimination. We need vocal activists and supporters if body positivity is going to become more prevalent in this world of ours.
This is one of my favorite collections of supportive resources. Familiarize yourself with these organizations and others intended to help people who are struggling with eating disorders or other forms of self-harm. Understand that it isn’t your job to fix people, but to be there for them while they work on themselves. Be kind, be accepting, be understanding. Many thanks to Christine for sharing all about the Tummy Project with us! Go check her out: