I started doing this every day and my stomach shrank

Spare tire. Muffin top. The trouble area. 

We throw our bellies a lot of shade. No wonder they respond with digestive issues and bloating. (I defend this body part and explain why it's totally awesome here). 

So much changed when I traded self-hate for self-awareness. One of the surprising changes was in my belly.

First, let's back up to yesteryear — the era of crunches and self-hate.

Nothing would make my belly disappear.

It was the first thing I looked at in the mirror. Even before my face. Always with hate. Disgusting.

I was running several miles per day, doing countless crunches and eating very minimal calories, yet my belly seemed to taunt me. It will never shrink!  

Once I started my eating disorder recovery journey, I kind of threw in the towel. I believed I would never have a flat stomach, but ultimately decided that it was better to accept this fact than to (literally) kill myself trying to achieve the unachievable. 

I got bigger.

I gained weight. All over. I still carried more weight in my belly, but the weight gain was pretty evenly distributed. It didn't matter. I was happy. I accepted the belly.

Then I started this practice, and my belly started shrinking.

I became committed to my pranayama and meditation practice — prioritizing it just as much as my workouts. In fact, I've come to prioritize it even more.

Amazing things happened. I felt less stressed, more energized, more self-aware and self-confident.

And my belly shrunk. Seriously.

It's kind of ironic, right? I'd been killing myself trying to get a flat stomach, and when I stopped trying and started slowing down and breathing — my body responded. Better than it responded to torture and crunches.

It makes sense because science.

According to WebMD, there are three common causes of bloating:

  1. Overeating.
  2. Eating rich and fatty foods.
  3. Eating too fast.

Mindfulness (in the form of pranayama and meditation, in my case) alleviates all three of these causes.

  1. Overeating. By slowing down and increasing self-awareness, we are able to eat more mindfully, recognizing our hunger and fullness cues.
  2. Eating rich and fatty foods. Pranayama and meditation is known to help tame stress response systems, so we are less inclined to shove our faces with piles of potato chips when we've had a rough day.
  3. Eating too fast. There's a link between mindful behavior and disordered eating. People who eat mindfully are less inclined to binge eat or emotionally eat (source).

Before you go "all in" on pranayama, meditation and a mindful life, I must drop a little truth bomb.

This approach isn't perfect.

We can't expect perfection. Despite my efforts, every once in a while I find myself in the bottom of a bag of chips, a little dazed and confused.

And sometimes (preferably), I eat a treat mindfully. Mindful eating does not necessarily mean healthy eating.

But the point is, it's something I practice — not something I've perfected. And that practice has paid off in the form of peace, self-acceptance, increased energy, gratitude ... 

... and yes, even a flatter stomach.