If you are a real friend you may have seen my belly. If you haven’t seen it, don’t worry. It’s not that I think any less of you. It’s more about what I think of myself. Decades ago I trained myself to subconsciously hold in my pouch. Several years ago my dear friend Marsha gave me a gift I have always treasured: a package of cocktail napkins that read “You Don’t Have To Hold Your Stomach IN For Real Friends.” I’ve never opened the package of napkins but I still hold in my stomach around my real friends.
My belly is on my mind this morning, as usual. Every morning when I awake, I stand in front of the mirror, examining my belly from all angles, sucking it in, letting it out. Exhaling with despair. And now I’m supposed to feel better about my pouch after seeing the above photo of model Lizzie Miller in the September issue of Glamour. Well, I don’t. Plenty of women do though as evidenced by the comments on Glamour.com.
Some of you know that I often refer to my figure as resembling a toothpick that swallowed a lemon. I’m 6-foot-1 and 160 pounds, or 157 if I haven’t indulged in cheeseburgers or pasta for the past 24 hours. For the most part, I love being svelte. What I don’t like is my belly. Lizzie is a size 12/14 so a belly on her is fine, maybe. I don’t know how tall she is but she looked like a glamazon while sitting on the Today show couch next to Glamour’s seemingly petite editor-in-chief Cindi Leive for an interview yesterday. I’m a size 8/10 and stretched over 73 inches, a belly on me doesn’t look good. Not when you have no hips, no butt, no thighs, no calves, no waistline. A kangaroo pouch that comes out of nowhere just doesn’t fit and makes shopping for clothes difficult because designers or pattern makers assume if you have a waist the size of mine then you must have a huge ass, wide hips and thick thighs. Not me. Just a belly. I probably could wear a size 6 were it not for my little round friend that has been with me since my college days.
You’d think I’d be accepting of my spare tire by now but I’m not. Nor am I sure sure whose standards I’m judging myself by. Deep down I know I should be thrilled with my bod but I’m not, unless I’m walking through the Cincinnati airport. I want washboard abs. Is that out of the realm of possibility for a practically 47-year-old woman who has never given birth to a child? I think not. I look at swimmer Dara Torres, who is five years younger than me and who has competed in five Olympics, and think, yeah my abs should look like hers. Heck, my good friend Andrea has abs like Dara. But I don’t and it bothers me.
I work out like crazy at the gym several days a week. Step class, spin class, kickboxing class, 35 minutes on the elliptical trainer, 30 min of abs, free weights. I even walk to and from the gym, which in L.A. is saying a lot. Outside of my arms, which could put Michelle Obama’s to shame, I don’t see the results I desire. (For the record, I took the above photo of myself in 2008, a year before I started my intensive exercise routine. I still look the same.) Today when I was leaving the gym, someone complimented me on my abs. I was holding in my stomach, as usual. I let out my belly and said that I have to get rid of all this fat. The lady told me it was just water but I’m not convinced. It looks like fat to me. I understand that body size is also about food consumption and that’s why I try to limit my trips to In-n-Out to one or two a month. OK, so I have to have truffle French fries every so often for my job. But for the most part, I eat pretty healthy. And even though I believe wine is one of the food groups, I limit my alcohol consumption, well, at least while there’s a recession. I ask myself why then, despite all of my exercising and sticking to my former nutritionist’s eating principle of BVD (balance, variety and moderation), do I still look five months pregnant?
While I imagine it’s comforting for some women to see Lizzie Miller’s pouch, it doesn’t make me any happier with mine. I still want washboard abs and look forward to the day when I no longer have to suck in my stomach. Maybe then I will open that package of cocktail napkins.