By Louise Kennedy
I had an epiphany of sorts over the weekend: I hate my belly.
Actually, you can’t really call it an epiphany if it’s something you’ve felt for just about your entire life. And ever since I got a little chubby in second grade – a chubbiness that lasted until puberty, returned with the classic “freshman 15” in college and has waxed and waned ever since – I have gazed down at the extra flesh between my navel and my hips with a mixture of shame, disgust and self-loathing.
And let’s just say that passing the 50-year mark hasn’t helped with any of this. Here’s how we know Mother Nature has a sense of humor: Just when your body stops being capable of pregnancy, it starts looking as if you’re already about 4 months along. Permanently.
But that’s no reason to hate myself, is it? Sure, I’d like to lose the weight. But if I don’t, I don’t want to carry around this toxic mix of negativity along with the extra pounds.
So here’s the real epiphany: I don’t want to hate myself anymore, not even one imperfect part of myself. I don’t have to love my belly; I just want to stop hating it. I want to make peace with my body.
My, that sounds sane. But you may come up with another adjective when I tell you what I did next: I Googled “belly fat.”
Here’s a quick tip: Don’t do that.
Oh, go ahead if you want to. But I can save you the trouble. Here’s what I learned:
Belly fat is bad for you. Duh. It’s bad for you because it means you have excessive fat deposits around your heart, lungs, liver and other major organs, and that makes you less healthy and more prone to diabetes, heart disease, stroke and even dementia.
“Spot reducing” doesn’t work. Another duh. I can do a million situps, and probably have. I have nice strong abs to show for it. But you can’t see them, because they’re still hidden under a layer of fat. Exercise is part of losing weight, but it leads only to overall weight loss, not targeted reductions.
You’ll never guess what does work. Oh yes you will. Eat right and keep moving. Oh, and get enough sleep: Several studies show that sleep deprivation increases your body’s storage of fat right where you don’t want it. So does stress, because it raises cortisol levels, which encourage fat storage – so try to reduce your stress levels, too.
OK, I learned one new thing. Cinnamon, apparently, may help reduce belly fat, and also may improve the regulation of blood sugar. The studies aren’t conclusive, but it seems harmless enough to add some cinnamon to my diet. (And blueberries, another vaunted fat-killer. Why the heck not?) So I’ll be doing that from now on.
But there are plenty of things I won’t be doing. I won’t be buying any of the thousands of miracle diets and pills and supplements. I won’t be clicking on those “5 foods you should never eat” or “1 weird tip to lose belly fat” buttons – because I did it, just for you, and I can now tell you that they lead you into the bottomless pit of infomercial hell.
And, most of all, I won’t be doing liposuction. Let’s be frank, I was never going to be doing liposuction. But I have to confess that there is one tiny, embarrassing, retrograde part of my brain that whispers, “Just think about it – one little operation and then poof, that belly you hate so much would be gone forever!”
Trust me: Don’t Google “liposuction,” either. Yeah, I did that too. And aside from the many, many ads and “testimonials” and “objective” Wikipedia entries that seem to be under constant dispute and revision, what I found was what the rest of my brain, the smart part, already knew: Liposuction is painful, expensive and risky; often the weight comes right back, looking weirder and worse than before; it can leave you with dimply, puckered, wrinkly skin that looks even worse than a round belly. Oh, and you could die.
Yeah, I know, you could die crossing the street, too. But I personally do not want to be remembered as the woman who died because her vanity led her to have her belly fat sucked out through a tube.
So I guess I’m left with just one last epiphany: There’s no quick fix. If I want my belly to look different, I need to stick with a reasonable diet and exercise plan. And if I want to stick with my plan, I need to stop hating myself – all of myself, including that poor little belly.
I think it’s time to call my trainer again.
Readers, is there a particular part of your body that you focus on? Have you found a way to make peace with it? And, if not, what holds you back?