Times sure have changed. When we were growing up no one talked about gut health problems. We all had them; we just didn’t talk about them.
Some of us grew up in families with a dad who spent a good hour in the bathroom with the newspaper every morning. Or when you packed for vacation you always brought medication for diarrhea or constipation. You drank Metamucil in your orange juice. But you never actually talked about those things.
Suffer In Silence No More!
If you were about to go on your first date maybe you struggled with anxiety produced painful gas pains all night. You avoided parties because you were afraid you’d let out smelly gas in front of someone and they’d know it was you. Long car trips were the worst – having to stop every 20 minutes to find a bathroom. Everyone suffered silently. But we all knew someone who struggled even if we didn’t ourselves.
Not anymore! Hot Girls Have IBS! Social media and the company BelliWelli have brought IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) out of the closet and up onto a billboard and now people are talking about it. But let’s start at the beginning.
It All Began with A “Hot Girl Summer”
How did a trend that began in 2019 with the release of the song “Hot Girl Summer” by rapper Megan Thee Stallion, and rapper Nicki Minaj end up evolving into the trend “Hot Girls Have IBS”?
And what the heck is a “hot girl”? (More on that below)
The hashtag #hotgirlsummer went viral on Instagram even before the release of the song and a massive number of memes and social media posts were born that continue to pepper social media today. The term became an anthem of sorts for women (and men) of all ages to proclaim they were going to go out, be body and attitude confident, feel empowered and have fun.
In August of 2021 we saw the rise of the #gorgeousgorgeousgirl trend on TikTok sparked by a totally random video – also reclaiming the term “gorgeous” to be inclusive rather than exclusive.
Enter “Hot Girls Have IBS”
It was only a matter of time before the “hot girls” trend intersected with another trend developing on social media – where influencers and individuals were normalizing and being transparent in an authentic and unabashed manner about health issues… mental, physical and emotional.
The discussion of “bloated bellies” and “gas attacks” or the inability to leave the house because of bowel issues started to surface and be talked about openly more regularly as an entire generation of social media influencers and followers began to engage more authentically. The result was that hundreds of thousands of people realized they are not alone in suffering the challenges of irritable bowel syndrome and other related gut health issues.
The hashtag #hotgirlshaveibs started to get attached to videos posted by women and men and a trend was born.
What Is A Hot Girl?
Think you aren’t “hot”? Don’t identify as a “girl”? Let’s break this down…
These trends are about being your authentic empowered self. As with so many outdated terms Millennials and Gen Z have turned the term “hot girl” on its head – and have changed the definition of the term to be a far more inclusive and empowering one. One that takes the power away from the traditional use of the label that is usually handed out by one person (usually male) to another (usually female)– now it’s a self-proclaimed and owned statement of empowerment.
A “hot girl” is anyone who is willing to strut their stuff openly and authentically. Whether you are young, middle aged, full bodied, thin, any color, gender identified, differently abled – you are “hot”.
Get it? Be authentic. Be yourself. And if you have gut issues… then it’s about normalizing whatever it is that you are dealing with or happen to be. You might be a “hot girl” and not even know it. And if you have gut issues, brands like BelliWelli are here to embrace your hot girl self.
Enter BelliWelli – The Hot Girls Have IBS Brand
One day, while sitting in LA traffic, Katie Wilson, the founder and CEO of newly launched certified low FODMAP baked snack bar company Belliwelli, was thinking about how her brand that helps those suffering in silence with their digestive issues could better reach her audience. She was looking for a “shareable” tag line. Just then, she looked up at a giant billboard and thought about the #hotgirlshaveibs trend, and thought, why not?
“We didn’t just want to make fart jokes”, says BelliWelli founder Katie Wilson. “We wanted to tackle tough topics, like constipation, diarrhea, and bloating. Let’s TALK about IBS. Let’s make this a shareable conversation”. “Hot Girls with IBS” is clearly shareable.
Making A Huge Pink Public Statement
Next thing you know she is arranging for a ginormous hot pink billboard on in the middle of LA stating, Hot Girls Have IBS. Hot pink sweatshirts, T-shirts and sew on patches followed, as did another billboard in New York City’s Times Square.
When you look at the growth trajectory of BelliWelli since they launched last year in March hitting 1.5 million in sales their first year they have clearly hit a vein with consumers. The response? “100% positive,” says Katie. “We have 20, 30, 40 even 70-year-olds embracing the trend”.
“A 75-year-old man bought 6 sweatshirts so that he could rotate them through his wardrobe; we’ve heard from those in the LGBTQ community…a 90-something woman who had suffered with IBS her entire life asked a family member to take her to see the NY billboard.”
What about blowback using the word “girls”? Katie continued, “literally not one negative comment; not one.”
It is all about an aspirational energy – and getting folk’s attention. “Using the words ‘hot’ and ‘IBS’ in the same sentence is polarizing. That gets the conversation started”, explains Katie.
Talking About It Is A First Step
Katie wants to make it clear that while BelliWelli talks quite a bit about IBS, they are very well aware that there is a larger conversation to be had. So many people do not know what the low FODMAP diet is, or even what Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is.
Or maybe they do, but they haven’t been diagnosed or don’t think they have it. What people do know is that their stomach hurts. That they bloat after eating. That pain and their diet have become linked, and they don’t know why.
By talking about this – out loud and in public – sufferers can finally find their way to low FODMAP certified brands like BelliWelli, offering products that can be eaten without triggering gut symptoms. It can also give folks the encouragement to finally reach out to a dietitian and/or gastroenterologist who can help get to the root of their gastrointestinal issues.
You may want to read: How To Choose A Dietitian
Mental Health and Gut Health
A topic that came up in our discussions with Katie was the intersection of mental health and gut health. Which we’ve covered at length in several articles on our site. (see list below in Resources)
Gut issues can lead to food fear and anxiety. Anxiety about food can lead to over-restriction and exacerbate gut symptoms. One thing doctors and scientists agree upon is that addressing your stress and seeking the right kind of medical help can make all the difference. And that starts with being able to talk about what it is you are feeling, experiencing, or are afraid of.
Katie addresses the issue: “We have had many customers communicate quite openly with us about their relationship to food. It makes so much sense because gut health goes hand in hand with mental health. As a brand we want to foster an open, honest and non-judgmental space, where people can talk about things like food anxiety and even eating disorders – when they were previously stigmatized for doing so.”
You may want to read: The Intersection of Gut Issues and Eating Disorders
Social Media Has Helped Get The Word Out
A good example is influencer Emma Chamberlain who has built her massive following with 15+million followers on Instagram and 11 million on YouTube by being transparent and unabashed documenting her life. Emma has openly discussed her gut issues. This has helped “normalize” discussing very serious and impactful personal issues such as an eating disorder or bowel dysfunction.
BelliWelli has created a safe space through their social media and online for their consumers to feel comfortable discussing topics that previously would have been “unshareable” and in doing so empower them to seek support and accurate information to help them manage their symptoms. As well as provide them with delicious gut friendly baked snack cakes so they CAN have their cake and eat it too!
If you are ready to learn more about how to get a diagnosis or manage your gut health symptoms you can start by reading: IBS: Step-by-Step Guide from Diagnosis to Symptom Free Living
Remember, “hot girls” aren’t afraid to be authentic or take care of themselves. Be yourself: gut issues and all.
Let’s Talk About It Together
Having a large presence on social media like Facebook, Instagram, and especially TikTok, has brought awareness of BelliWelli to the right market. “We don’t position ourselves as experts,” explains Katie, but rather they seek to “facilitate the conversation – to focus on gut health and in the end, be inclusive and to help people find the products and help that they need.”
If you or anyone you know has an eating disorder, or food anxiety, please know that there is help. Reach out to your primary physician for referrals.
bars are geared towards those with IBS and other gut issues – in fact, all of their bars are . And they want to encourage public conversation about gut health, even if it includes topics that have been previously shunned in public.
BelliWelli products can be found in our online shop, via the BelliWelli website, Thrive Market and Amazon and in stores at Mother’s, Gelson’s, Earth Fare and at Central Market. Two more large retailers will be added by the end of 2022. BelliWelli products are currently only available in the United States.
And as far as the “hot girls” moniker goes, we are now feeling kinda hot ourselves. How are you going to take charge of your IBS like a “hot girl” this year?
Resources for Further Reading:
- IBS: Step-by-Step Guide from Diagnosis to Symptom Free Living
- IBS and Stress: Common Causes and Solutions
- The Intersection Of Gut Health And Eating Disorders
- Monash University & The Low FODMAP Diet
- How To Choose A Dietitian
- How To Choose A Low FODMAP Energy Bar