7 Reasons To Embrace The VBO As The Weather Warms

In theory, warm weather should be arriving in no time. And if there's one thing guaranteed to make it into our lives and news-feeds as soon as layers are shed, it's bikini body advertisements. Sometimes I think the parade of "fix your stomach in time for the beach" and "drop three sizes before bikini time" messaging is one big, long April Fool's joke: The first of the month always seeming to give brands and publications the green light for body shaming. But this spring and summer, I'm proposing something a little different: The welcoming of the visible belly outline with open arms.

Just ICYMI, the visible belly outline (or VBO) is essentially the antithesis of a flat stomach. When wearing clothes, a VBO will generally appear rounded and grab-able, and is most common on plus size individuals. It's also a supposed summertime no-no. Far too many grow up believing that shrinking themselves — in both presence and aesthetic — is of utmost important, the stomach often being a prime source of shame and self-doubt. And if we are in possession of flabby tummies? We're told time and time again to bring out the Spanx, the high-waisted underpants, the flowing dresses, and whatever else will make us look as not-fat as possible.

Truth is, there are plenty of reasons to love your belly as it is. I don't just mean loving it passively, resigned to "accept yourself" without actively enjoying yourself. Rather, I mean a full-on embracing of the visible belly outline. Here are some things to consider.

1. There's Nothing "Ugly" About It

Just look at Corissa Enneking of Fat Girl Flow. Her VBO is not detracting from her badass look. It is not shameful. It by no means reduces the general sultry model vibe of the image. And it's certainly not ugly.

The same is true for all VBOs, whether present on an hourglass, boxy, apple, pineapple, or cucumber shape. Just keep this in mind: There is no one definition of beauty, because our individual perceptions of what is attractive vary as widely from one another as our heights or weights themselves. If ever anyone tries to definitively define words like "ugly" versus "beautiful," just remember that only a Sith deals in absolutes.

2. Bodies Are Supposed To Look Different From One Another

Imagine a world in which everyone looked precisely the same.

I truly hope you can't. Or, if you can, I hope you can only imagine that being a reality in some kind of dystopian novel.

We are all different. We all want different things. We want to wear different clothes. We want to sleep with different people. If most humans can agree that each individual is a unique entity, then it should follow that each individual look like a unique entity.

I understand social brainwashing. I know how crippling beauty standards can be. But your VBO is yours and yours alone, and that's a fabulous truth. Its shape, feel, and appearance underneath your clothing are unlike any other VBO in this world.

3. Jiggly Stuff Is Fun

Ever heard of Jell-O? How about quiche? What about the water snakes so popular in the 1990s? Ever dreamed of a bathtub filled with chocolate mousse?

Jiggly stuff is fun. Like, a legitimate blast. If you can appreciate the look, feel, and pleasure of a water snake, there is no logical reason not to celebrate the wobble of your belly, and the way it looks underneath that cute printed skirt.

4. You'll Give Yourself More Swimwear Options

I'd wager that fear over fatness being visible underneath swimsuits is the prime reason beach season seems to come with so much anxiety for people the world over. When you're taught to believe that any kind of fat is bad — no exceptions — it makes sense that you'd translate that to, "Well, I should just stay hidden."

I won't deny that baring it all as a fat person on the beach or at a public pool will come with stares, maybe even the occasional rude remark. That is not a reflection on you. That is a reflection of a person, and a line of thinking, that adheres to the notion that groups of humans deserve to be treated cruelly if they do not fit aspirational tropes of beauty. And does that really sound like a kind of person whose opinion you should concern yourself with?

The fatkini revolution of the past few years has yielded cuter, more fashion-forward swim options in sizes 14 and beyond — particularly in the bikini department. While everyone has the right to feel comfortable and safe in different styles, I have to say that learning to enjoy my body in both high-waisted and low-waisted suits (Black Cat Bikinis' low-rise selections are available up to a 6XL or 7XL) while out in public has been one of the most liberating experiences of my life.

5. And Clothing Options In General

If ever you've fancied wearing a tight miniskirt, a bodycon dress, or a pair of low-rise jeans, but stopped yourself over concern that your stomach would be an unfortunate sight for those around you, I beg you to reconsider. There is no style in this world that is size-specific. There is no style any one person does not deserve because of their body. Every look is for every person who wants is. Full stop.

It isn't always easy. The flattering complex is very real, and it's one most women and feminine people are bombarded with daily. The best way to flatter your figure, though? Wear something that makes you happy.

6. Deconstructing Standards Of Acceptability Is Important

Every generation has its "ideal" body type, from the boyish, flapper silhouettes of the '20s to the Baywatch-approved bustiness of the '90s. And I'm certain that every generation has faced its fair share of accompanying self-criticism if ever the standard is unachieved.

At the end of the day, however, there is nothing about your physical appearance that should ever equate to being mistreated. Generalized prejudices are most often unjustified, and the same is true for prejudices against fatness.

But the only way to deconstruct ideals of "acceptability" or "beauty" or bodies is to own our differences: To confront people head-on with the things they fear or feel disgust towards until they have to analyze precisely why the thing they're seeing so bothers them. For this reason, posting images of my VBO on social media has become a beloved routine. There's nothing unacceptable about a VBO. But if someone wants to believe otherwise, I'm generally of the mindset that they deserve to have news-feeds filled with jiggly bellies.

7. There's No Reason Not To

The best reason of all to embrace your VBO is simply because there is no reason not to. The world will not collapse. Nobody's eyes will bleed. And you'll likely feel a whole lot more optimistic about body image and life in general when you learn to appreciate the body you're in. I'm all for people making the decisions that feel right to them, and that includes the way they present their bodies — VBOs included. In my experience, however, spending more time with and unapologetically showing off the parts of your body you've struggled to see beauty or worth in is one way to facilitate a new relationship with that part of the body.

I know the conventional messaging this time of year is: You need to change now. "Step it up." "Lose the weight." "Flatten the tummy." But our narratives are not written by cultural dogma. The bodies we have, or the bodies we choose, are not decided by the media. And fat shamers? Tuning them out can be trying, emotional, enraging, and almost impossible sometimes. But remind yourself that they don't operate on fact. They operate on hate. And you do not need to cater to hate.

Your VBO is beautiful. It's fun. It's a comfortable pillow for your partner or your cat. It doesn't deserve to be hidden, unless doing so is fully your choice. I'd venture to say that as the weather warms, the only thing it deserves is some airtime in the sunshine.

Image: Virgie Tovar (1)