Musings on Muffin Tops by Shari Sachs

Something many  of us “wake up” to in our fifties and beyond is a changing body.  There are many ways we can choose to view and accept what we see in the mirror.  Here I muse about one in particular – the notorious muffin top.

I believe that every one of us is divine and that authentic beauty comes from within.

Whether we were destined to be short or tall, white/black/red, or yellow, pimply or clear-skinned, gay/straight or trans,  thin or fat, sane or insane I believe we are all inherently divine.

I believe that our physical form is just that — a casing, a vessel for that divinity.

At least that is what I tell myself.  Especially these days…

So why is it that when it comes to embracing my own divine physical specimen, I spend so much time looking at myself in the mirror and not liking what I see?

Especially since I got to be 50 – ahem… 55 (plus) something.

The thing I really want to know though more than anything is when did that sexy little twenty something anatomical quirk that used be affectionately dubbed “love handles” become known as “muffin tops”?

More importantly, why does the lexicon that describes body parts change at about age 50 or so?

Must our bodies automatically and inevitably transmute from having a distinct waist and hips to all of it merging together into a seamless blob sometime in mid-life?  Is it really that necessary?

And nothing, I mean nothing, tucks into your pants anymore no matter how loose they are. And I’m not talking about your shirt either.

What is the point of muffin tops anyway? I get “beer bellies” and “tummy fat”, “hippy” and “busty”; these just seem to be natural perturbations of the human body, even adding some uniqueness from one person to the other, but “muffin tops?


I used to think my least “spiritually evolved” moments were when I got mad at my kids or when I pouted like a child because I wasn’t getting what I wanted (and what I wanted was pretty unimportant). But lately the moments when I am at my spiritual low point are around a different kind of self-absorption. Specifically, when I’m looking in the mirror at my aging – rather my “maturing” – face and frame and wondering how the hell this happened. To me, that is.

I’ve always been my own harshest critic when it came to my body. So much so that I “bordered” on anorexia in my very early 20s if one can “border” on such a thing. I am not sure you can be a little bit anorexic any more than you can be a little bit pregnant except that the outcomes are less certain.

But there I was anyway, practically starving myself the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in college, unaware that “not eating” was actually not dieting but instead was equated with a disorder that had a name. It was 1977 or so and eating disorders were not the rage back then that they are now.  I just thought I was a really good dieter. The best of them in fact. And damn proud of it.

I was never officially classified with an eating disorder and had no idea such a thing existed until I read about this new “epidemic” amongst primarily young women in some magazine one day after I had not eaten anything but diet soda (does anyone remember TAB??) for lunch and bit of salad or fruit each day for about three months. Occasionally I’d cave to my gnawing cravings or just sheer boredom and woof down several handfuls of cold cereal then promptly beat myself up afterwards for my “transgression.”

After a while I just wasn’t even hungry anymore. Food had calories and calories were bad. So the less the better. At least that is how my thinking started to evolve and eventually it all made sense.

As I lost more and more weight that summer, I reveled in my clothes getting looser and looser and in my shrinking clothes size. It as an adrenaline rush to be in so much control and a high everytime the next smaller size fit me.

But mostly I loved the attention it was starting to get me. While I was never terribly overweight or unattractive I also wasn’t known for my looks in highschool. Shy and smart and just kind of plain, I was not the popular type, not the type that boys wanted for their girlfriends. But all that started to shift with my new slimmer, sexier frame and the self confidence that went with it.

I mistook this attention for how I looked for being liked for who I am. And that’s been a hard belief to shake.

Anorexia and it’s nefarious cousin bulimia, are quintessential examples of the extent that the ego will go to stay in control.

I say they are more of a thinking disorder than an eating one, one that controls you in the guise of tricking you into believing you are in control.

It tells you that you are fat, fat, fat.   FAT with a capital “F” and that no one would want you. It makes you believe that you can only be loved if you are scary skinny. And even then, it will find something “wrong” with you.  Adrenaline and feel good hormones pulse through you the more you can control, or at least the more you think you are in control.

It seeks out those who like being perfect, who don’t use substances to inflict self-harm but avoid them instead. Who feel a perverted sense of superiority by the ability to exercise intense,, will power over loss of will, as if that is somehow better.

Why do I say all this? What does it have to do with muffin tops? I say it because I am now 56, well on my way to senior citizenship with an AARP card and being in “retirement” to prove it. One would thing I’d be “over” it by now don’t ya think?

But here I am STILL looking in the mirror. Still obsessing. Still calling myself fat.  This, after a lifetime of thinness, of marriages and divorce, of raising children, of building a lifelong career.

Bitter, undeserved self condemnation after years of spiritual study and growth that knows doing so is the opposite of self-love, how it’s just seeking external validation, how there’s some empty hole that isn’t quite filled.  

After never wishing what I do to myself on either of my daughters – or any daughter. I am STILL looking in the mirror.

I pinch my muffin tops with disgust. Damn menopause. Damn hormones.

There is nothing I can do anymore. The old tricks no longer work with my changing bio-chemistry. Can’t starve myself, don’t really want to.  No exercises to tighten up those love handles, no “six pack” muffin tops, no matter how much any yogi tells me otherwise.

No. these damn muffin tops are invincible now. They won’t budge. They are here to stay I’m afraid. A post middle age affliction that requires my surrendering to. Something to “live with”.

Or…. wait one minute…..maybe there is another way to look at all of this…

What would happen if instead of just viewing them as something I need to tolerate as part of getting older, I could “love” them like their younger nemesis the “love handles” were once loved.

I could even start calling them love handles again. Then I could love myself too with or without them. And I’m guessing it wouldn’t change anyone’s else’s opinion about me either. The ones who love me still will and the ones who didn’t – well, it had nothing to do with my muffin tops anyway.

Still, if only I could just get them to stay inside my waistband, wouldn’t that be nice???…

Photo Colin Rose/wiki commons

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