The pointless pursuit of midsection perfection

There comes a time in every woman's life when she takes stock of her bountiful blessings and astonishing good fortune and says, often aloud: Something's gotta go.

I decided on my abs. It was a fairly straightforward decision, since, in all honesty, I let them go years ago.

In my early 30s, they housed a couple of enormous babies. ("Large for gestational age," the doctor told me. Both times.) And while those babies are both school-age now, my abs never really did what you'd call "recover."

I suppose I could help them along. But that would require buying a cookbook by Gwyneth Paltrow (not gonna happen) or surgery (would happen in a New York minute if I had the money).

So I haven't helped them along. And maybe I've even impeded their recovery with my affinity for dark chocolate and my willingness to classify running for the bus as a workout.

But they make it so easy to let your abs go these days, what with the shape wear and the forgiving silhouettes and the Dove Real Beauty Campaign. You almost feel like you're supposed to let your abs go.

I am bestowing a healthy body image upon my impressionable young daughter! I am assembling Legos with my son instead of doing crunches! I am concerning myself with matters of real import: climate change, for example! And cannot be bothered to whittle my waist!

Then, without fail, spring arrives. And with it, bikinis. Bikinis on magazine covers. Bikinis in catalogs. Bikinis near the Target checkout when you're just trying to buy dryer sheets, thank you very much.

And like winter's final, halfhearted, short-lived snowfall, your virtuous feeling melts away until all you're left with is despair and self-loathing.

Oh, fine. Not exactly despair. And self-loathing is a tad harsh. But self-questioning, for sure.

Would it kill me to attend a Pilates class now and again? Am I the only person on Earth still eating carbs? Why does (Facebook friend with killer abs) still look like she did on spring break 1994?

You start to view your abs as a metaphor for all the haphazard shortcuts you take when you figure no one's looking.

The nights your kids go to bed without brushing their teeth.

The mornings you pluck your daughter's favorite leggings, unwashed, from the hamper.

The evenings you have popcorn and wine for dinner while you unload the dishwasher and check spelling homework and whip up brownies for the teacher appreciation lunch you learned about three weeks ago but shopped for 30 minutes ago.

You start to wonder if your willingness to abandon your abs is yet another manifestation of your poor time management skills.

What, having a job and a couple of kids prevents you from doing a sit-up?ap Did you really need to look at (Facebook friend's) Facebook photos for 30 minutes?

Your failure to grasp the larger picture.

They're not just abs, you dolt. They're your core. The center of your very being.

Your failure to consider the long-term consequences of your actions.

So you'll just use your kids' college funds to pay for all the back surgeries that result from ignoring your core?

And just when you decide your abs are absolutely the wrong thing to let go, just when you vow to realign your priorities and eliminate gluten and start wearing your yoga pants to actual yoga class, you catch a glimpse of your daughter.

She's upside down. (She's always upside down.) This time it's for a perfect handstand, and her shirt is up around her shoulders and her little bare belly is exposed and she is giving that last detail exactly the amount of thought it deserves, which is none.

It's a belly. It connects her legs, which need to be in the air, to her strong shoulders, which need to support her. It holds food. It reminds her when she's hungry. It might, someday, house a baby or two. It doesn't need to look like Jillian Michaels' belly or Selena Gomez's belly or whatever perfectly toned midriff happens to flash before her at any given moment.

It's her core.

And she's your core.

And you decide your priorities are fine and your blessings are bountiful and your good fortune is, indeed, astonishing and if anything is going to go, by golly, it's going to be, once again, your abs.

And the popcorn/wine meals. And maybe Facebook. Point is, there's a middle ground between killer abs and slowly killing your health and sanity (and core). And you can find it.

And then you can go find your one-piece.

Twitter @HeidiStevens13

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