Real Women Have Belly Fat

How a photograph is reminding us that what we see in the mirror isn't always reflected in magazines
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Real Women Have Belly Fat

How a photograph is reminding us that what we see in the mirror isn’t always reflected in magazines

-Kathy Campbell

What is beautiful to you? Magazines would have us believe that beauty can only be found in blemish-free skin, impossibly long legs, perky breasts that would do a Victoria’s Secret model proud and a flat belly.

So when Glamour magazine chose to run this picture of a real woman on page 194 of its September issue, it caused an outcry.

Lizzie Miller in Glamour

And that got me thinking. How sad is it that a photo of an average-size woman that reveals she has stretch marks and a belly can lead to a media storm? After all, isn’t this what most women see when they look in the mirror?

And then my sadness turned to anger. I mean, how messed up are we as women that when we see a photo of a size 12 woman in a magazine we find it thought-provoking, confronting and worthy of discussion. Shouldn’t the conversation be about why women who look like this model, 20-year-old Lizzi Miller, aren’t on the pages of every magazine, including the cover?

Confession: I am a size 16, and worked in women’s magazines for years. I am one of those people who has gazed at photos of Chanel-clad stick insects and wished for just a moment that I was eight inches taller and 50 pounds lighter.


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50 thoughts on “Real Women Have Belly Fat

  1. Manicmommy says:

    I wish all I had was HER belly fat. I wonder if she was standing up/with clothes on how our perception would change of her?

  2. mk_ultra says:

    I know it’s not politically correct, but I can’t help but think ‘ick’ when I look at her stomach. I wouldn’t want to see $12.99 Payless shoes in a fashion magazine just because they’re what “normal women” wear either.

  3. needcoffee says:

    i’m torn on this one … i’d have to say I sorta agree with mk_ultra on this one. I think when it comes to health we have to set our standards high, but it also doesn’t mean i don’t think that women of all shapes and sizes shouldn’t feel comfortable in their skin and that the media places way too much emphasis on appearance…

  4. Manicmommy says:

    mk – that’s just horrible that you think the woman’s stomach is ‘ick’. And sad that you’re too good for Payless shoes.

  5. Carolyn88 says:

    I think she’s gorgeous!

  6. Candice says:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS.
    I saw this picture in the actual magazine and I admire her, for one, and the magazine for two for putting this in there. It’s real.

  7. mfe says:

    I think Glamour needs to have her on the cover next time!

  8. Strong and Quirky says:

    I agree with @needcoffee

    Lizzie is normal. Many people need to face the facts that not every female is hipless, curveless, small busted (or big busted like Barbie) with a flat tummy.

    We should embrace all shapes and sizes. Not every woman above a size 2 is obese.

  9. GonnaLaughatYou says:

    I am appalled at the fact that they finally placed a woman in that magazine. They should have done this SO LONG ago!!! The Dove “real women” campaign had something when they advertised their product with REAL women in their commercials. Good photographers are able to capture anyones inner beauty and already have a leg up on what’s really appealling…It’s called REALITY, and it’s about time the mag editors begin standing up to and showcasing this reality as well. I see women like this everyday at the store, walking in the park, sunbathing, shopping, they’re everywhere. And they’re beautiful! It’s just the plastic-like, makeup slathered 20,30 and sadly sometimes, the 40 somethings stuck in their teens who need to face life, give their overall personality an overhaul with a shot of moral botox, some guidance filled implants here and there, and maybe a handbag filled with integrity. Join the rest of the real grown-up women, in the real grown-up world. A person is more than just that big organ sheething over our frame, our skin. Sometimes advertising stretchmaks as proof of childbirth, a hard life evident through our scars and even a spot of rebellion proudly etched onto it even if it meekly proclaims “I Love Mom”. I’m so happy to read such refreshing comments about this story, and after doing so, I’m even more proud of my own body. Even if it may need some exercise, has stretchmarks and a scar here and there, it’s mine nonetheless.

  10. 24glow says:

    Have some of these women who find Lizzi “appalling” ever had children? Yes, after children one can get back into great shape, but the skin does stretch a bit. If she were standing or even sitting differently, the “pooch” would show less. The point is, she is a beautiful woman…period. I wish my skin were that clear and the only place I had a little fat was my stomach. It’s not like she has dimples on her thighs or flabby arms. As someone said, camera angles are everything. Glamour probably shot her this way to provoke discussion and here we are discussing it.

  11. Chavqueen says:

    Well, she looks just like me, and I’m a size 8, so go figure. She also looks like most of the women I see in my health club! We’re healthy, NOT obese, and just happen to be carting around these bellies – oh well!

  12. BARBIEFAN says:

    I am “appalled” that they felt this photo had to be clear back on page 194!! She has a great body, just a tiny belly flap, probably from being a MOM! Celebrate that side effect of being able to create life!!

    I do love fashion magazines, it lets me enjoy all the beautiful creations fashion designers are capable of achieving. BUT, I definItely would appreciate having more things that are ATTAINABLE!! Things that I could go right out to the store advertised and buy! IN MY SIZE!! IN MY PRICE RANGE!! Isn’t that the whole point! If I just wanted to look at them just for an artistic value I’d go to a museum or exhibit!!

  13. lakegal1 says:

    Just because people are thin does not mean they are more healthy than someone who has a little more beef. I will bet that the beautiful girl in this picture is more healthy than the thin readers commenting on how “ick” her belly looks.

  14. mk_ultra says:

    Manicmommy – I didn’t say that I was “too good” for Payless (and stomach fat,) only that I don’t want to see them in a fashion spread. Magazines are supposed be either inspirational or aspirational, not scenes from every day life.

  15. LookitsCynthia says:

    Oh my gosh, I read this article in Glamour (long time subscriber) and thought “wow, she’s beautiful!”. I had no idea it was creating all this buzz. I have to say I am so surprised people find this gross. There’s a lot of women out there BIGGER than Lizzi and they eat healthy and exercise too. Everybody isn’t born with a perfect metabolism or body shape, and just because they’re bigger doesn’t mean they’re not taking care of their body or respecting themselves.

  16. mfe says:

    I don’t think this model has had children.

    She was on The Today Show and is 20 years old.

    And MK (who I think I know who you are, and felt bad about my initial comment!) … Why can’t magazines include photos from everyday life? I think that this article/story/photo has churned up more inspiration for a lot of women than seeing a stick thin figure in some gray wool coat.

    I wouldn’t say Glamour is a specific fashion magazine either. When I think fashion mags, I think Vogue or Elle, but what do I know, I wear Payless shoes! Hahah.

  17. Fern says:

    who gets to decide what magazines are “supposed” to be? And besides, I think that model IS inspirational.

  18. Ann13 says:

    I think this is inspirational, and why shouldn’t magazines be a reflection of every day life? Is it so terrible to acknowledge reality? Man .. this picture is causing way too much of a stir!

  19. mk_ultra says:

    mfe – No offense taken! To each her own.

  20. KadiPrescott says:

    I did a blog post about my reaction to this article. Feel free to read my opinion on this matter here:
    http://www.momdot.com/featurewriters/28-feature-writers/808-as-the-pendulum-swings

  21. blondeelicious says:

    The only reason I feel torn about this is because of the pressure that media has put on me and everyone as far as image is concerned. I LOVE this picture, she really is beautiful with a mega-watt smile :) The only reason it makes me cringe a bit is ONLY because I’m not USED to seeing it. It goes back to how I feel about myself… I feel sexy & beautiful, I enjoy sex with my loving bf and have no problems showing my body to him but when I see pictures of myself, I feel completely differently. It’s then when I can’t escape the image of myself, the one my eyes automatically compare to magazines and the media only because my eyes are literally conditioned to seeing slimmer, tighter bods. I love this pic of Lizzie, I really wish there were more magazines that would just be for women like myself that have curves and extra fat so that we could start to accept different body types as beautiful! The sad thing is that the majority of existing magazines will NEVER do so because without perpetuating the self-hate and self-disgust, we won’t buy all the products they’re promising will make us ‘perfect’.

  22. fryingpan says:

    Not disputing that this woman is beautiful, but the angle of this photo is SO unflattering! Her head looks tiny. As for her size, I don’t see her as big in any sense of the word, but her belly flap isn’t attractive to me. Obviously, her own confidence in herself is all that matters. I’m just not sure I like seeing it in magazines. I also wouldn’t like to have this body, I am not stick thin but I take care of myself, eat well and am toned, no flaps/rolls anywhere! I don’t think women should aspire to let themselves go..

  23. Courto says:

    She is no more of a “real women” than the skinny girls on the runways. Would it be nice to see more of a variety in magazines and movies? Definitely. But don’t think those with the hollywood “perfect” bodies are any less of women than this girl.

    Still, good for Glamour for breaking out of the mold, even though it’ll probably be a one-time thing.

  24. AzerothGirl says:

    I am a real woman and I don’t have a belly fat because I go to gym 6 times a wekk and eat sensibly. If some women fave body fat they must like it or (if they whine about it) plain lazy.

    As for a woman on the picture, it doesn’t seem to me like a belly fat, it does not accumulate like this in a single fold. It looks like her muscles were either damaged after childbirth or didn’t came back in shape yet. Either way, this picture is not relevant. What I find appaling is the way media still trying to promote the image of wholesome lady as healthy. While that might be true in some cases, the only women who find comfort in such things are the ones who are obese. “Healthy”, curvy women don’t need reassurance.

  25. AzerothGirl says:

    Apologies for typos, it’s late now

  26. anemilyfine says:

    @GonnaLaughAtYou

    Unfortunately for you, you fell for a genius marketing strategy. Dove managed to spread the idea of the real woman while at the same time still having age based marketing, they simply changed the word anti to pro. Thusly, although their products do the same thing as the “anti-age” folks and are for the same purpose, they marketed it differently to broaden their range of customers. It’s incredibly brilliant but remember, it was not a totally selfless thing in regards to the idea of “real people” and all. A great idea but not done just for the sake of what’s right and good.

    I love that image shown in the magazine and I’m sure that Glamour will play off of this nicely. Hopefully it can create a new image of health and beauty, though not necessarily advocating a lack of attention to those things but rather embracing what is simply natural.

  27. Eira says:

    I think AzerothGirl needs a small reality check. It’s great for you that you work out six days a week and don’t have extra fat. However, this girl is probably much healthier than someone without a bit of body fat. Coming from a medical standpoint, this woman appears to have a close-to-ideal body.

    I would love to see healthy bodies promoted more and our current idealized figures promoted a bit less. As for healthy, curvy women not needing reassurance, it’s not easy to feel beautiful in your own skin when what you’re being told is that you’re too fat to be attractive. The fashion industry has seriously warped our perspective as far as that goes.

    PS AzerothGirl, once you’re out of your 20s, I’d like to see how you feel about people with bellies being “lazy”.

  28. Eira says:

    Also, @Blondeelicious
    “The sad thing is that the majority of existing magazines will NEVER do so because without perpetuating the self-hate and self-disgust, we won’t buy all the products they’re promising will make us ‘perfect’.”

    It makes me sad that this is so true. They’d lose a lot of money if we started feeling happier about realistic beauty and figures.

  29. diamoira says:

    There are real women without “curves”, too. Does anyone really consider the hurtful intention of that phrase before they proudly snap it off to anyone skinnier than themselves? I read this website because of the strong women represented here, but if all I keep seeing are articles about how skinny women are the downfall of the modern pro-female movement, I quit. Way to perpetuate the idea that appearance is the true measure of a “real” woman.

  30. girlfriend_2 says:

    Is that belly fat? Most women dont consider that fat. Im 26 and a size 22-24, and thats not belly fat. When she stands and gets dressed you cant see that belly fat. But what is important is how you feel. Im from the deep south and 95% of the women wear my size or bigger. But its Aug of 2009, men dont want a stick anymore. Love whatever size you are!!!

  31. lozzy123 says:

    I love belly fat on women, like hers anyway. I think it’s very womanly. I don’t know what we’re all so worried about, at least we don’t get beer guts… Hopefully women can get beyond this obsession with weight, if we did i’d say we’d eat far less anyway if we didn’t have constant body worries niggling at us

  32. pawketstuf says:

    I believe that flaws should not be praised. Her stomach is unattractive and frankly, not somthing I want to see on a naked woman in a magazine. As a skinny woman I take offence to everyone saying that a woman has to have a tummy or huge hips or boobs to be a real woman. Size 2s are women too. Don’t hate us because we work hard to eat right and exercise and actually care enough to be in the best shape possible.

  33. Beaney says:

    She is 100% lovely. Confidence is sexy and that she is. She wears it well. You never know what will be “in” next season; perhaps a little belly fat?!

  34. annathy says:

    “Don’t judge others according to YOUR abilities.”

    This also applies to their personal appearance. Why do we have to “compare” ourselves against others? Why can’t we just “be” ourselves.

    Why was this picture even necessary? Why can’t we be evaluated on our brains and personality instead of our body. If we require perfection then things should be modeled on mannequins and not humans because they are flawless and constantly perfect.

  35. Spirea says:

    I think Lizzi is beautiful. This is what the average woman CAN achieve …not the ultra thin models girls are starving themselves to look like. Kudos to Glamour for trying to get self image back in check.

  36. alice+w says:

    I think its terrible that anyone would say this body isnt beautiful!
    its took me 7 months to loose 4 and a half stone, and to look half as good as she does would be an achivement.
    at the weight of 9 stone i have found it increasingly hard to keep my weight down, dispite working out nearly everyday and eating right nearly all of the time.
    The perception of beauty will always be skinny to the media, but the problem isn’t the media but the way everyone reacts to somebody who is a size 12 in a magazine. We should be happy that Glamour decided to do this, although it will only be of course a one off, and went straight back to the stick thin models it always will use.
    So don’t go ick, or eww when you see a bit of belly fat, it only means they are enjoying their life, and arent hung up on straving themselves, and working themselves to the bone excercising.

  37. kirstizoe says:

    I adore this photo. Women were given curves for very specific reasons. We give birth, our bodies stretch and grow and change. We’re soft so that when our lovers and children cuddle they feel safe and warm. Soft and warm means a little body fat.

    I’m a size 16 and when I get up in the morning and look in the mirror I see beautiful. I look at some of the most lovely women I know and every last one of them has “flaws”. Its their self confidence and joy at life that make them so lovely in my eyes. If we are healthy, TRULY healthy as God has created us, and not how society tells us, then we are beautiful. This girl is living her life and being a proud and shining example to the rest of us.

  38. kat103 says:

    I think she’s beautiful and the photo is refreshing from all the photos of starved, bone-y girls.

  39. backspacer82 says:

    I love this photo, but it’s not just about fat or not. I am not fat, I am 5’8 and I weigh 110 pounds. But my body is not perfect, far from it actually. The point is that no one has perfect skin, perky breasts, a flat stomach, a tight butt, long legs, and every other little feature that we as women are taught to believe that we should have. We need to focus less on being fetish-ized by men and try to concentrate on being healthy and what makes us feel good about ourselves. Besides, nothing is sexier than confidence

  40. CaJiIs says:

    Comments like the one from Mk_Ultra is why so many girls grow up with self esteem issues.

    Look at the way Lizzie is sitting, obviously her stomach fat isn’t that bad, if she was standing up she’d have a normal looking pooch that you probably wouldn’t notice if she were clothed. She looks exactly like a normal woman and I wish we saw more of this. Maybe there wouldn’t be so many mental health problems in women if there were.

  41. CaJiIs says:

    Comments like the one from Mk_Ultra is why so many girls grow up with self esteem issues.

    Look at the way Lizzie is sitting, obviously her stomach fat isn't that bad, if she was standing up she'd have a normal looking pooch that you probably wouldn't notice if she were clothed. She looks exactly like a normal woman and I wish we saw more of this. Maybe there wouldn't be so many mental health problems in women if there were.

  42. Press says:

    This *is* what my belly looks like and I hate it. I had a flat belly my whole life then two kids.. and.. well you know how that story goes. But I love this womans confidence.. I wish I had it.

  43. jellyfish says:

    It is disgusting to think that some of you do not think she is worthy as a magazine model. You women look at her stomach and go “ick”, yet a man would not even take notice of these things and think she is beautiful. EVERYONE gets rolls when they sit down, you should not be ashamed of your body or you will never have a happy relationship with your self.. and in the end that is the most important relationship you can have. Women like this (like us) are everywhere!

  44. lesismore1969 says:

    I think the importatnt thing to remember…the entire point of this discussion is…that there is way more than one standard of beauty, in particular, the one standard of beauty that is constantly rammed down our throats by the media. If you ask me, and every hetero guy you know if this woman is attractive the answer is yes. Don’t be brainwashed, be strong in your own ideals. You know in your heart that beauty comes in all sorts of forms. Beauty is all around us. And let us not forget that more important than beauty, looks and image, is sunstance and character. I have met stunning people that were painful to spend time with and plain people that became truely beautiful as i got to know them. It seems like the focus of the media is on stuff that doesn’t really matter…and we eat it up.
    Let’s stop. Girls are way smarter than that.

  45. SookieStackhouse says:

    To all the women who think the belly is awful… see y’all in 20 years or so, after children, Honey!

  46. Diva323 says:

    This is an awesome picture! This woman looks happy, healthy and comfortbale with who she is.

    I am the mother of 5 children, and my body has blossomed into exquisite, firm roundness since having my children.

    Yes, I have belly fat! From carrying healthy, well-fed, well developed babies. It’s no big whoop, I cover it modestly when I wear undergarment foundations. I use to be ‘annoyed’ about it, because I allowed myself to believe all the media tripe and had an assinine ex husband who clowned me after my figure changed from having ‘his’ kids.

    I now have an awesome boyfriend who absolutely appreciates the female form in every sense of the word! When I showed embarrassment about my lil gut, he responded by saying; “Dang Mami, you had 5 kids! There’s gonna be some wear and tear, that’s life. I got no problem with it. It’ll be MY lil buddha belly, let it go!”

    So here’s to all us ladies, with a little pudge! There are men out there who will love us gut and all, but we must love ourselves first!

    So yeah, I got a gut. But there’s some good ‘juicy’, under this gut!

  47. pearlish says:

    I think it’s a beautiful picture. Lizzi has a beautiful spirit that and a lovely figure. Thank you for sharing this. :o )

  48. texasangel09 says:

    it’s the exact mindset of the media that fat is bad that has made women today starve themselves to be or feel “pretty”. It has gotten to the point now where pregnant women are starving themselves & their unborn child because they are afraid of that “pooch” mentioned in the previous comments. It has become an unhealthy trend now where it is popular to starve yourself

  49. Divaliscious says:

    Very interesting – am so glad you showed a real woman – people should know more about reality and less about having to control’s one’s outward image so much!

  50. Derick says:

    She's still an attractive woman. A person can be attractive and not be magazine-perfect. It would matter to me more, how she treats other people, her significant other, etc. Personality lasts. Youth is fleeting. Granted, it takes more work and fewer calories when you're older. Childbirth changes most women. As a man, what's our excuse?

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