“The literary equivalent of a summer night, a good friend and a gin-and-tonic: Shannon is a deft writer; a natural storyteller with a wicked turn of phrase and frighteningly specific memory...”

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How I Came to Love My Soft Tummy

Body Image Issues Begone!

“What’s this?’ I asked a roided-out Gold’s gym employee.

I was holding a fistful of my own soft, round flesh, which seemed to have suddenly appeared beneath my belly button two Mondays ago.

I was twenty-eight years old, 5′ 6” and 120 pounds.

I’d always had a flat tummy with the faint outline of a two, or maybe even a four-pack. I could eat anything I wanted and wouldn’t gain an ounce. I didn’t even own a scale.

“That,” said the ripped behemoth “is fat.”

“Fat?” I repeated, as if he’d spoken in an ancient, dead language (Sumerian perhaps?).

“Yes, that’s a little fat donut you’ve got going on there,” the muscle head continued.

“That’s not a donut,” I said. On further inspection, “It’s more of a muffin top.”

“That’s a cruller if ever I’ve seen one,” he decreed, loud enough for all the grunting and heaving masses to hear.

Apparently, according to the Mr.-Know-It-All, after a certain age, fat deposits in the belly. Basically, it’s the only kind of deposit you really don’t want.

Ever since that fateful day in the Venice Beach Gold’s, I’ve grappled with that little round hillock of flesh loitering under my belly button always tempting my breasts to play a game of craps. (She’s an inveterate gambler). But she’s winning.

Shannon Bradley Colleary, body image issues

 That was then (with former beau)


 This is now (with hubs, our tummies grappling for turf).

With each passing year, my tummy has grown incrementally.

She even seems to have a personality; stubborn, intractable and fractious when she isn’t fed. She’s particularly fond of Nutella and any type of white flour she can sink her teeth into.

I’ve gotten into the habit of referring to her as Gertrude. She’d prefer something more glamorous, like Celeste or Guinevere. (She fancies herself a libertine.)

Gertrude demands that I wear dresses and shirts with an empire waist so she can roam at will.

She does NOT like to be hemmed in.

And every time I try to put her in a burlap sack and leave her in the desert, she manages to flag down a dairy truck and hitchhike her way back to that gently expanding piece of real estate just beneath my belly button.

After years of cursing her cruel infamy, I gave up. 

I realized I just didn’t have the self-control to regain my two-pack and that I’d have to flip the Kate Moss maxim, “Nothing tastes as good as Skinny feels,” on its head.

My mantra became, “Nothing feels as good as Voluptuous tastes.”

But I didn’t really mean it. Until one fateful autumn evening when my friend Lucille had to leave her 2-year old son, Ellis, in my care for half an hour as she took her older child to piano lessons.

Ellis and I didn’t really know each other all that well, so when his mama walked out the door, sobbing commenced.

I pulled out my arsenal of bribery.

I offered Sesame Street. I offered dolce de leche ice cream. I offered a puppet show wherein I performed several different roles. I even offered money in unmarked bills.

Nothing worked.

Ellis was one ticked off, sad little boy, right up until he walked over to where I was sitting, lifted my shirt up just high enough to unveil Gertrude and placed his head on top of her.

Then he assumed the position. Right thumb in mouth, left cheek nestled into a particularly voluminous bit of tummy terrain, free hand patting Gertrude with a great deal of reverence and affection.

So this is what you’re for, I exclaimed to Gertrude, and felt such an unexpected rush of affection for her.

She was a soft, warm, safe place for a baby to rest his head and she was really good at it.

I decided to accept her as she was and to try, on most days, to treat her right.

That meant no more low-rise jeans. Shirts and dresses with empire waists. And no belts, under any circumstances.

Now, when Gertrude lies next to me in bed like a small puppy, I try to remember how Ellis curled up on her, his eyelids fluttering as he found contentment, then slumber.

When his triathlete mom came back to get him she was a bit jealous to see how comfortable and happy her son was in my arms.

I suggested she trade her washboard abs in for a soft tummy, then proceeded to offer her a tin of larded duck confit. (the French really know how to live!).

If you’d like to see my #LoveYourBodyNow Project: Healing Body Image Issues Through Fine Art Nudes, go here. And enjoy your Nutella crepes!


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  1. Monika
    Monika 28 April, 2014, 12:34

    Gertrude sounds very lovely. Can she be rented for a snuggle?

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 28 April, 2014, 15:46

      She can Monika — you will find her in the lounge of the Peninsula Hotel with several high class call girls (although Gertrude beats them all out of business. They keep threatening to “cut a bitch”)

      Reply this comment
  2. Henry
    Henry 28 April, 2014, 12:51

    As God is my witness, I will get you back for posting that photo.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 28 April, 2014, 15:45

      Henry if I’d posted one of your hunkier photos I would have to fight off the slew of women that would come running at you.

      Reply this comment
  3. Kaydee
    Kaydee 28 April, 2014, 12:56

    Oh, lord, sweetie, that’s so beautiful I’ve got tears in my eyes. My mom always complained about her “pouch,” her “pooch,” her “fat belly,” and I felt bad and for a long time I didn’t realize that it was because she was insulting my first home that I felt sad.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 28 April, 2014, 13:04

      Kaydee I’d never really thought about how much my girls like a soft body to snuggle with. Mom’s body is home.

      Reply this comment
  4. Sharon Greenthal
    Sharon Greenthal 28 April, 2014, 21:13

    Soft and sexy, that’s what a belly is. At least, that’s what I tell myself on good days!

    Reply this comment
  5. Melissa
    Melissa 3 May, 2014, 09:08

    ahh, yes. Goals. I never thought I’d have backfat. (Great pic but I bet he was the turd who cheated.) Glad you and Henry found each other. That’s better than hard abs.

    Reply this comment
  6. Roseanne Salyer
    Roseanne Salyer 3 May, 2014, 09:34

    My Gertrude had expanded back up and under my breasts. Penelope. My girls are grown, but when they were little I was the perfect cuddle. Joe thought so, too. Thanks for the laugh and common sense. You always brighten my day.

    Reply this comment

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