Beyoncé is an artist who is used to making history. Which is why, on Monday, it was no surprise that she made history again with the release of Vogue’s September issue — and not just because she was given unprecedented control of the magazine and hired its first black cover photographer. She also made history because of her FUPA.
To the uninitiated, FUPA is an acronym for “fat upper pubic area.” Technically, it is called the panniculus. It’s a loose layer of fat in the lower abdomen region that sometimes emerges because of rapid weight loss or recent pregnancy. Other times it’s there because that’s just how your body is. You might also know it as the muffin top.
“The FUPA and the panniculus are the same thing,” Dr. Jennifer Wider, a women’s health expert, tells Inverse. “It’s incredibly common and often the archenemy of post-pregnant women everywhere. It’s completely normal to have this area stand out after pregnancy. It’s just one of the many post-baby body changes that women have to contend with.”
Beyoncé’s FUPA is special because no one really talks about loving their FUPA, which is exactly what she did in Vogue. Set a Google search for FUPA to any day before Monday, and you’ll get an internet full of videos and articles teaching new mothers how to get rid of their FUPA, and fast. But now, when you Google FUPA, you get Beyoncé along with comments from hundreds of women saying she’s helped them finally feel at ease with the bit of curve around their belly.
So while Wider is right that FUPA is the declared enemy of new mothers, it’s motherhood that helped Beyoncé come to terms with it. In Vogue, she writes that after her first child she felt pressured to lose all her baby weight in three months. After the birth of her twins, however, she began to embrace the way her body changed. Beyoncé writes:
To this day my arms, shoulders, breasts, and thighs are fuller. I have a little mommy pouch, and I’m in no rush to get rid of it. I think it’s real. Whenever I’m ready to get a six-pack, I will go into beast zone and work my ass off until I have it. But right now, my little FUPA and I feel like we are meant to be.
FUPAs come with motherhood because women gain weight during pregnancy in order for their unborn children to have the resources they need to live. How much weight depends on the woman and how much she weighed beforehand. The CDC determines “how much” a woman should gain by their body mass index (BMI) before pregnancy. If a woman’s BMI is “normal,” or 18.5 to 24.9, then she’ll likely gain 25 to 35 pounds. If she’s going to have twins, like Beyoncé, that will probably jump to 37 to 54 pounds.
According to a 2016 study on pregnancy weight gain, “for all women, pregnancy may serve as an inciting factor that leads to body weight 15 to 20 years postpartum.” That’s mostly because being a mom is an insanely difficult job. Moms don’t sleep enough, and they’re not given the time to eat healthy 24/7. Wider says there are many ways to try to lessen FUPA, ranging from dieting to cool sculpting, but the question is: should you?
Science and the School of Beyoncé suggest that if you’re healthy, then you should do you. In a fact sheet on post-pregnancy weight gain, the National Institutes of Health emphasizes that “it could only become a problem if you get too far out of your normal weight range” and “you don’t have to be thin to be happy and healthy, and have a healthy baby.” There are way more studies on the benefits of self-confidence and self-acceptance than on the downsides of a little FUPA.
“During my recovery, I gave myself self-love and self-care, and I embraced being curvier,” writes Beyoncé. “I accepted what my body wanted to be.”