Like about 99.99% of women, I gained a few pounds as my 50th birthday approached, with most of the weight settling into the inches around my belly button. I like to think that I am a self-confident woman who knows that beauty is more than skin deep, but something about this newfound roundness just ate away at me.
I started using a phone app to “track” my diet. In principle, this seemed like a grand plan… enter my weight, set a goal, then eat the number of calories necessary to get to the finish line… how simple is that!?! Super simple… except that I now spent every minute of the day thinking about food. It is impossible not to obsess when every bite that goes in your mouth has to be entered into your “food diary”.
Most mornings, this meant that by 9am I was already stressed because a slice of toast with peanut butter had used up 1/4 of my allocated calories and the glass of wine I so desperately wanted with dinner was destined to eat up another 1/4 (I like a FULL glass… don’t judge me). The app cleverly increased the number of available calories when I recorded exercise but this proved to be a depressing feature because it showed me that 45 minutes of brisk walking only burned about 200 calories, which wouldn’t even merit a wine glass refill!
In my humble opinion, “diet tracking” is the fast track to depression and an eating disorder. At the end of a month, the only thing I had lost was my self-esteem and the ability to eat bread without experiencing a level of guilt more appropriately associated with crimes against humanity. The dreaded muffin top was still there, laughing at me like a playground bully; calling me names as I stood in front of the full-length bedroom mirror.
Over the next few months, I tried all sorts of things:
- I started taking hot yoga classes four days a week. Dressing in top-to-toe spandex and then hanging upside down in a room full of people did not improve my plummeting self-esteem or beat my muffin top into submission, although I do think my upper arms now have a bit less “waddle”
- I joined the nearest gym so that I could run on a stairclimber at lunch. I lost a couple of pounds but I think it had less to do with the stairclimber than with my lack of available time to actually eat lunch. And since the only people at the gym in the dead centre of a workday were amateur body-builders, I felt like a (fat) fish out of water, huffing and puffing on a machine while a herd of uber-fit young men pumped iron beside me and debated the merits of various power shakes
- I gave up wine… for a week. I returned to drinking wine. Enough said!
Then I had an epiphany. It happened one morning as I was getting out of the shower. I usually forget to put on the bathroom fan which means that the mirror over the sink is too foggy to function, but on this occasion I remembered the fan switch but forgot to get a towel from the hall closet. The end result was that I stepped onto the bathmat and came face to face with my fully naked self.
There I was… and I looked pretty good! I’m not saying that I felt compelled to start taking naked selfies, or that I will be sunning topless on my next holiday, I’m just saying that the body in the mirror was perfectly acceptable. Parts of me were rounder than they used to be but it was a feminine sort of roundness that seemed to flow together well-enough, and THERE WAS NO MUFFIN TOP!
In that singular moment, I came to realize that the muffin top is not a body “thing”. None of us have a muffin top. Fat is real but that roll that sits atop the waistband of our pants is not. Take off your clothes and it is gone.
Armed with my newfound sense of reality, I headed to the mall and bought a bunch of slightly larger underwear and two pairs of slightly larger jeans. I discovered that those pretty panties in the fancy lingerie shop look the same in medium (and large and extra-large) as they do in small. And the only thing different about my slightly larger jeans is that I can put them on without wiggling back and forth and hopping up and down.
At this very moment I am sitting in a chair, in my jeans. There is no muffin top. I am comfortable and fashionable and, dare I say it… attractive. The only thing making my 50-year-old body look bad was me trying to cram myself into clothing built for my 40-year-old body!
To make that muffin top permanently disappear, all you have to do is buy clothes that fit. It’s not “giving up” or “giving in”. In fact, it is a tremendous victory. I feel great. Four days a week, I will still go to hot yoga because it’s fun and healthy. And I will feel strong and beautiful, dressed in slightly larger lululemon pants and a slightly larger top.