Kelly’s blog has moved

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Kelly’s blog has moved to the revamped KellyECarter.com.

Visit the new site to read Kelly’s latest musings and subscribe to her blog, Kelly E. Carter — Never at a Loss for Words.

Or sign up here: Subscribe to Kelly E. Carter – Never at a loss for words by Email

You can still read all of the blog posts from this site on Kelly’s new blog so hop on all over to check out the spruced up site, which is still being tweaked.

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Bye, bye belly

My pouch was visible when I visited Lipari, one of the Aeolian Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea, off the north coast of Sicily.

Close your eyes and visualize this: A toothpick that swallowed a lemon.

Now open them and you will see how I see myself, which is why I have decided to have tumescent liposuction today.

I’m 50 years and three days old. But the decision to do lipo didn’t just hit me because of my age. Those of you who know me have put up with me complaining about my belly for years. When I texted the news to a girlfriend in Chicago whom I’ve known since the 80s, she texted back:

“Awesome Girl!!! I’m surprised you didn’t do this sooner because you never liked you (sic) “tiny pouch”. lol

I eat healthy 90 percent of the time, work out four to five days a week doing weight-bearing exercises and floor work for my abs and walk the hills of San Francisco to run errands since I have no car. I’m quite pleased with the rest of my body after dropping a dress size while researching The World’s Top Destination Spas story for Elite Traveler this spring. I can’t afford to lose anymore inches. My butt is practically non-existent. My boobs have shrunk. My pencil legs are now toothpicks. Still, my belly persists to the point where it is much larger than my ass. And everyone knows you can’t spot reduce.

What’s a girl to do?

I’m 6-foot-1, 152 pounds, reed thin. My legs are so skinny I have to get all of my boots taken in. Always have.

And I’ve always had a belly too. I’ve grown as adept at holding it in as I have at breathing.

When I was in my 20s, I popped laxatives before going on vacation to get rid of my bulge. Seven, 10, 12 at a time. Whatever it took.

By my 30s that no longer worked and I went to 90-year-old nutritionist Hermien Lee, who turned me into a lean, mean, machine.

And then came my 40s. I opted for more drastic methods such as the Master Cleanser or doing a raw diet with no alcohol for weeks at a time. Being that I’m a travel writer and part of traveling is eating then guzzling lemonade for several days at a time and not eating anything cooked can only work so long for me.

Everyone knows what a foodie I am and my stomach is a bottomless pit. The way I eat, I should be 300 pounds but I’m not because I exercise regularly — plus, I have great genes. Previously, if I needed to get my belly down, all I had to do was really watch what I ate and give up alcohol. Within 10 days, I’d be looking good enough to rock a bikini like I did in St. Tropez this summer.

Kelly E. Carter, Trina Turk bikini

I rocked this Trina Turk bikini in St. Tropez this summer, holding in my belly.

But age has a way of catching up with you.

When I returned from St. Tropez, I learned that the beau would have to endure six weeks of radiation. Before he began his treatment in September I offered to give up alcohol to support him. Oh how we both love our wine! He looked at me with the most loving eyes, for it was akin to me offering to shave my head if he lost his hair. (Thankfully THAT didn’t happen.) Outside of drinking at HBO’s Emmy party, during a business trip to South Beach and in Atlanta, where I went for a funeral, I stuck by my no-alcohol edict. After the beau’s radiation ended, his belly was gone and he was down 20 pounds. My belly still stuck out like a hump in a camel, a further indication that alcohol was not what was causing me to look four months pregnant.

During a visit to the beau’s dermatologist, I spotted a brochure for tumescent liposuction. Curious, I picked it up. I thought back to a recent lipo discussion with a retired dermatologist friend from my beau’s yacht club. He tiptoed around my situation but agreed that lipo wouldn’t be a bad thing for me. And I recalled a conversation from a couple of years ago with a friend from childhood, now a medical doctor with a weight loss clinic in L.A. She told me back then that I was the ideal candidate for lipo. The brochure in hand, I looked at these before and after photos and read when the procedure should be used, the risks, how it is performed and why a dermatologic surgeon should be used.

tumescent liposuction

Liposuction is most effective for removing localized fat deposits that do not respond to diet or exercise. It is not intended as a substitute for weight loss; rather, it is a contouring procedure, and is optimally utilized in a program of exercise and weight maintenance.

I know a lot of you reading this may look at the before picture and ask “Where’s Waldo? Where’s the fat?” Not me! I looked at the photo and said, “That’s me!” I gave the brochure to the beau, who said if that’s what I want then fine, I could have it. But, he made it clear, he thinks I have a fantastic bod. We returned for a consultation with his doctor and scheduled my procedure for Nov. 30. This gave me license to thoroughly enjoy  myself during a decadent birthday trip to Las Vegas with several girlfriends to ring in my 50th.

Now, a bon vivant like me disdains buffets but Kitty Yancey, a USA Today travel writer whose opinion I trust, assured me in an email that the new, $17 million Bacchanal Buffet at  Caesars Palace was worth it and wrote that her story in USA Today didn’t give it justice. You have to go, she implored.

So off me and my girls went for my birthday lunch. With each plate, I reminded myself that everything I was eating would be removed on Friday.

bacchanal buffet Caesars palace

After starting at Bacchanal Buffet’s seafood station, I moved on to Italy, pausing to pick up a slider during my birthday lunch at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas.

At Bacchanal, I took it upon myself to gorge on fresh East and West coast oysters, prawns, shrimp and grits, mussels, grilled salmon, pepperoni pizza, meatballs, sliders, French fries, chips and guacamole, Kung Pao chicken, edamame, low mein, crème brûlée and lots more. With more than 500 dishes to choose from, I couldn’t try everything – though I wanted to.

That night, my birthday dinner took place at James Beard award-winning Chef José Andrés’ Jaleo in The Cosmopolitan. I devoured cured ham from the legendary, acorn-fed, black-footed Ibérico pigs of Spain, 18-month salt-cured Serrano ham, white asparagus with idiazábal cheese, grilled skirt steak with piquillo pepper confit, traditional chicken fritters served in a shoe and so much more, knowing that it would all be gone be in just a few days.

Jaleo Las Vegas Jose Andres

My yummy birthday dinner served tapas style at Jaleo by Jose Andres in The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas.

Before I left for the trip, I went clothes shopping in San Francisco for a couple of new birthday outfits since it was Black Friday.What a frustrating experience that was! I looked longingly at dresses that I knew were not right for my body type because they hugged the mid-section. I was nearly in tears as I went from one store to another, unable to find anything despite the Black Friday sales. I admit I do a pretty good job of hiding my belly. One saleswoman convinced me to try on a dress that she said would hide the belly that she couldn’t see. I wiggled into the cute red dress and her eyes nearly popped out when she saw my belly protruding like a beach ball. Oh, she said, before finding the one dress in her store that hid a belly. But I didn’t care for the dress. I told her I was having lipo in a few days and she said she looked forward to seeing me back in the store in a few months. I waddled further down Chestnut Street and into BCBG Max Azria, where I picked up this darling shirt dress that hides my pouch, and a couple of other items that would suffice.

Kelly E. Carter, Ghostbar Palms Casino

Me at Ghostbar, on the 55th floor of Palms Casino for pre-birthday drinks.

As much as I absolutely love, love, love this BCBG shirt dress, in a few months I won’t be limited to dresses that flow. Thanks to the beau and his generous birthday present. Even though he doesn’t think I need lipo, I do. And that’s what matters.

Check back later for updates.

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Without health everything is nothing

SHA Wellness Clinic motto

The room keys at SHA Wellness Clinic in Spain do more than unlock doors of rooms.

I’m on what the beau calls my WST, or World Spa Tour. We’re not talking spas where people go just to get a massage, a facial and seaweed wrap. Rather where folks go to detox, lose weight, retain their youth and for medical purposes. My research is for a story that will appear in Elite Traveler’s September/October 2012 issue.

Yes, it’s a plum assignment but it’s also one that makes me focus much more on my health and wellness as I encounter the 1 percenters who can afford to stay at such places as SHA Wellness Clinic in Spain, Cal-a-Vie in San Diego County, Miraval in Tucson, The Ranch at Live Oak in Malibu, COMO Shambhala Estate in Ubud, Kurotel Longevity Medical Center and Spa in southern Brazil and Ananda in the Himalayas — just some of the other spectacular places I’ll feature. Rates can soar up to $10,000 for the week, which may seem rather astronomical to most of us, at some of these places. But really, can you put a price on health?

I’ve just left SHA, on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. It’s relatively new to the scene, having opened just a couple of years ago. People stay anywhere from a few days to usually a week  and sometimes longer. I met a couple of people who extended their stay by another week because it took nearly a week before their body adjusted to the program. I heard that one American man had stayed a whopping six months!

And why not? If you’ve got the money why not stay in swank digs with views of the Mediterranean, where you don’t have to think about what you’re going to eat that day because you know whatever they serve is going to be healthy and delicious, an array of lectures, fitness and cooking classes and activities are available daily, a fitness center and personal trainer await not to mention the spa and oodles of health professionals who can guide you with stopping smoking, sleep disorders, losing weight, stopping the aging process of Father Time, etc. Yeah, I’d stay for six months too if I could because I’m worth it.

The motto at SHA, “Health is not everything, but without health everything is nothing,” is on each room key. Reading that saying several times a day reminded me that one can have all of the money in the world but without good health, what good is being a one percenter? Take care of yourself. It’s the best thing you can do for your body.

SHA Wellness Clinic in El Albir, Spain

SHA Wellness Clinic in El Albir, Spain

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It’s time for a tune up

SHA Wellness Clinic

Me on a morning hike in El Albir, Spain while at SHA Wellness Clinic

Now that I’m several months shy of a milestone birthday, it’s time for me to get my butt in gear. I expect to look a certain way when that big day comes in November and I won’t accept anything less. We all have our standards and mine are high. I thought I was my worst critic until I saw the experts at SHA Wellness Clinic on Spain’s Mediterranean coast.

After hearing from Dr. Ken Prange that my nerves were frayed and that the excess of refined sugar I consume is apparent in my fingernails and tongue, I figured I would stop ordering “a muffin for my muffin top” during my occasional visits to Peet’s and Coffee Bean in the States And I really would make a concerted effort to cut down on my red wine. Although wine is available at SHA, I’m not ordering any. It’s not like I can’t go a few days without it.

Dr. Prange was just one of the doctors I saw during my stay at SHA, one of the spas I’ll feature in my story on the top spas in the world’s in the September/October issue of Elite Traveler. People don’t come to SHA because they’re perfect. They come in search of perfection. Therefore, there is no coddling by the experts, who specialize in a variety of areas.  Dr. Dolores Antón Rico, who specializes in advanced anti aging skin techniques, was generally pleased with the elasticity in my skin but nonetheless showed me a video on Thermage. Intrigued by it, I asked her if it could help my thighs, which had started to sag several years ago.

“Let me see,” she said.

I was still wearing the running tights from my morning walk and warned her that I wore no panties.

“I’m a doctor,” she said with authority.

As I peeled my Brooks running tights away from my skin, she nearly gasped when she saw my bulging belly. I can’t remember if she asked if I was pregnant or had had children because her reaction to my muffin top caused my brain to stumble. Whatever she asked, it didn’t matter. The answer was NO! She examined my thighs, lifted my tush and told me Thermage could help both. But, she added, not the belly. As if I didn’t know. But thanks anyway doc.

My next stop was with the doctor who heads up aesthetics medicine at SHA Wellness Clinic. I pointed out the ever-so-slight lines that appeared in the creases when I smiled, asked if a little filler in my cheeks would help. She took it a step further and rattled off some other things I may want to consider as well.

I was feeling pretty good about myself when I came to SHA. Now I think I need to stay for about two months and rob a bank to pay for all of the work I need done that I didn’t know I needed done until I arrived. We tune up cars. We change timing belts around 100,000 miles. Our bodies are machines and need work too. Some more than others.

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If Gwyneth can do macrobiotic then so can I

macrobiotic meal SHA Wellness Clinic

Dinner at SHA Wellness Clinic in El Albir, Spain

It’s easy to explain a vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian and even Mediterranean diet. But tell someone you’re going to a spa where only macrobiotic food is served and inevitably, the question is “What does macrobiotic mean?”

I know I sounded like an idiot when I told people had no idea. My only association with the word was through actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who did the macrobiotic thing for a few years, and M Café, a macrobiotic restaurant in Los Angeles that I had talked about a couple of times to Susan Irby on her The Bikini Chef radio show though I really didn’t know understand what macrobiotic meant.

All I knew was that I would be eating not just super healthy but exceptionally well at SHA Wellness Clinic because the chef Pablo Montoro had worked at Ferrán Adrià’s renowned restaurant El Bullí and in Martin Berasategui’s kitchen. I was eager to begin my “Discovery” program, the name for the uninitiated such as myself that flock to this clinic on Spain’s Mediterranean coast to detox, lose weight and learn how to take better care of themselves. I crammed my 36-inch inseam into what had to be seats with a 25-inch pitch on Iberia Express and jetted off to Alicante from Madrid.

My first introduction to macrobiotic food was breakfast, which I arrived just in time for after the 45-minute drive in a luxury sedan to SHA in the resort town of Albir, which has been overtaken by Germans and Brits. Breakfast started with a delicious mixture of carrot and fruit juice. Then I was served Miso soup, porridge, spelt toast, pears that had a hint of ginger and compote. I thought the porridge was steel-cut oatmeal but I was surprised to learn that it was brown rice and spelt milk. I had barely heard of spelt and had no idea you could make milk from it.

For lunch, I feasted on asparagus and zucchini soup topped with rice noodles, turbot paella, salad with sunflower seeds and almond crème brûlée with crumbled cinnamon. Then I was served kukicha tea, which is loaded with calcium and has tons of nutritional benefits.

Later that night I gobbled down pumpkin soup with caviar eggs, bread sticks, rolls and what appeared to be butter though I know it wasn’t, thinly sliced fresh vegetables that were so tasty that I might change my opinion of cauliflower being the worst food in the world and a white fish called “gill head.” A trio of homemade sorbet (orange, chocolate and strawberry) were presented for dessert.

Hey, I can do this macrobiotic thing for life. If it’s so good why does it sound so horrible?

The next day I met with Dr. Ken Prange, who presented me with a multi-page document on the macrobiotic diet, looked at my fingernails and tongue and suggested I cut down on sweets, or at least those made with refined sugar, and told me that my central nervous system was frayed. (“Could it be the economic conditions under which I live as a freelance writer,” I wanted to ask him?). He also suggested I eat Miso soup daily to improve my immune system after I told him I have way too many colds despite taking Spirulina, Chinese herbs and vitamin C daily.

I didn’t receive a textbook definition of macrobiotic from him so was eager to read the document he gave me. I still don’t know what it is but I’m thoroughly enjoying the dishes served at SHA Wellness Clinic.

pumpkin soup SHA Wellness Clinic

Pumpkin soup at SHA Wellness Clinic in El Albir, Spain

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Is it me or Spain?

Kelly E. Carter Lucy Carter Madrid

Kelly E. Carter and Lucy Carter in Madrid

Spain is one of those places that I can’t quite figure out. Most people love the country but I don’t. Someone tell me what I am for I know it is something.

My first trip to Spain was in 2004 when I was dispatched to Madrid by US Weekly magazine. Ben Affleck was in Madrid and happened to be in the midst of ending his inexplicable relationship with Jennifer Lopez. I was asked to get a comment from him and gladly obliged since it meant going to Spain, a country that everyone just seems to love.

I packed a change of clothes and off Lucy and I went in search of Ben. The assignment was only for one day and after I finished I decided, since it was a Friday, to go to Barcelona for the weekend. I had heard so much about Barna, as the locals call it, that I just had to experience it for myself. Although I enjoyed the tour around the city from atop a double decker bus and the popular tapas joint Cal Pep and drinking Claras, I wasn’t impressed.

Hoping for a different experience this time, I arranged for a three-day stay in Madrid before heading south for my spa assignment on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. My mission: to fall in love with Madrid. I was blown away by the elegance of the Hotel Villa Magna, where Lucy and I stayed in a luxurious Villa Magna Suite suite that I could live in forever. And the neighborhood had every designer store imaginable. A shopper’s dream! A visit to the Prado museum with a friend and her beau, who coincidentally were visiting from Germany, was educational and enjoyable. And I thoroughly enjoyed the Mandarin restaurant Tse Tang in the courtyard of Hotel Villa Magna so much that I ate there twice.

Yet there was still something missing. What could it be? Warmth, perhaps? Spaniards are wonderful people once you get to know them but as strangers I find that they keep their distance, don’t make eye contact and certainly don’t say “Buenos dias,” in the way that Italians greet people they don’t know with “buon giorno” when you pass them on the street. Catch a Parisian on a good day and even those snooty, chic folks will even say “Bon jour,” to a stranger.

But not the Spaniards. I discussed this topic with an American family that I met my final night in Madrid. I struck up a conversation first with the husband as we all hung out in the hotel bar watching a soccer game none of us cared about. While the patrons in the jam-packed bar rooted for Real Madrid to beat Barcelona and sang after their team won, I couldn’t help but note how the Spanish expressed tremendous passion when it came to futbol. Then why can’t they treat strangers the same way?

Or maybe it’s just me they don’t. I’m not going to give up on you Spain. I know there’s a chance for us to have a relationship at some point. When you’re ready, let me know and I’ll be back.

Hotel Villa Magna Madrid

Villa Magna Suite at the Hotel Villa Magna Suite in Madrid.

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The trip that almost wasn’t

It’s a miracle that my 21-day European adventure began on time considering I couldn’t find my passport when I went to check in for my Iberia flight at LAX. I knew I had put it in the front pocket in my massive BET tote bag, where I could retrieve it easily. Yet it wasn’t there.

I took everything out of the tote bag (laptop, iPad, still camera, Flip video camera, BlackBerry, electrical cords, datebook, folders and more) couldn’t find it! Then I took everything out of a raggedy BCBG tote I am so attached to and still, it wasn’t there.

“Can I check in without my passport,” I sheepishly asked the lady at the counter.

“No,” she said sweetly.

She let me know that the flight was delayed about 30 minutes and for once I was grateful for a delay. I hadn’t arrived the recommended two hours early for international flights because it never takes long to check in.

My beau Bill suggested I go through my luggage. To appease him, I opened my humongous suitcase and pretended to look. He asked if there was any chance I put it in my dog Lucy’s carrier. No, I said.

I knew exactly where the passport was — in the taxi we had taken to LAX.

“Try to reach the taxi driver,” I said to Bill, as if the cabbie was a neighbor whose number he had.

I’ve left a lot of things in taxis. Sometimes I’ve managed to get them back, such as my favorite jacket in Athens and a tote bag in New York, and some I haven’t, such as a darling mink scarf in New York and on another occasion, a winter hat in New York.

But a passport? I flashed back to 30 minutes earlier when the cabbie opened the trunk at LAX. My BET tote bag was upside down. As my luggage was unloaded, I saw that the front flap of the pocket wasn’t shut and made a mental note to make sure all pockets were always closed in the future. I thought I quickly glanced around the trunk to make sure nothing had fallen out. Obviously I was wrong.

As Bill talked to the taxi company on his cell phone, I replayed the day in my head. I had packed my belongings and moved them into storage. Had I mistakenly put my passport in my computer bag that was now in storage? Was there time to jump in a cab, rush to the storage unit and find out? Or worse yet, maybe I had put my passport, which I keep in a holder, with things for the movers to pack. It could be in any of a number of boxes that were stacked so perfectly in the storage unit. Yikes!

I thought about my options. How long would it take the U.S. government to issue me another passport? A day? Two days? A week? I had flexibility so if I had to push the trip back then I could but everything had been so neatly arrange.

“Come to San Francisco,” Bill said when I told him I didn’t really have to go to Madrid. It was just a stop en route to my final destination.

That wasn’t an option. I knew in my heart that the passport was in the taxi. It was just a matter of finding that damn taxi! Bill called back and explained the urgency in the situation. He had his own flight to catch and had sweetly accompanied me to the international terminal after checking his luggage.

Finally, the cab driver was located and he confirmed to dispatch that he had my passport. I passed along my mobile number to the dispatcher for the cab driver to call me and waited patiently. Bill marveled at his accomplishment.

The man never keeps receipts and I’ve been on him to do so for months. Despite all of the advancements in technology, errors still occur on credit card bills. I save every receipt (yes, I’m a hoarder) until my statement arrives and then shred them, or keep them even longer. It amazed me that Bill never, ever, ever bothered to take his receipts. Until this day.

I literally thanked God that Bill, for the first time in his life, saved a receipt. Without it, we never would have tracked down the cab.

With the assurance that the cab driver would call me, Bill gave me $40 to give to the cabbie and scurried to make his flight. He now realizes the importance of saving receipt the same as I realize the importance of making sure every zipper is zipped and every fastener is fastened on my tote.

Eventually the cab driver called me. “Hey Clipper fan,” I said when I answered the phone after seeing an unrecognizable number on Caller ID. Bill had the cab first from his hotel and they had talked sports before they picked me up. The three of us continued talking sports to the airport and while Bill waited in line to check his luggage, the cabbie and I chatted about life in New York, where he is from and where I spent four years. By now, he was like an old friend.

The cabbie let me know he was in Culver City and it would take him about 15 minutes to return to LAX. “Hurry please!” I said. When he arrived, he handed me my powder blue passport holder and I gave him the $40. I’ll never forget the appreciative look on his face. It truly made his day.

I know I should have told him the $40 was from Bill but since black women have a reputation for under tipping (it’s why Oprah over tips but she can afford to do so) I decided not to divulge that information. Sidebar: Wasn’t there a Seinfeld episode about someone always taking credit for something someone else did?

When we spoke after I landed in Madrid, Bill and I applauded ourselves at how well both of us handled our first minor crisis. Neither of us panicked, freaked out or shouted.

“I still can’t believe we pulled it off,” he said, as if it was a heist.

And in a way, I guess it was.

Kelly E. Carter Lucy Carter Iberia

Kelly E. Carter holds Lucy Carter on their Iberia flight from LAX to Madrid

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