Category Archives: Aging

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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Leave me alone AARP!

aarp-cardThere it was. In my mailbox. Hiding behind my monthly ConEdison bill.

I quickly closed my mailbox and locked it, leaving both envelopes inside.

This was something I wasn’t prepared to deal with.

I returned home several hours later, opened the mailbox and it was still there. I grabbed the two pieces of mail and dropped them face down on the dining room table. I still wasn’t ready to deal with it.

Finally, this morning I opened the white envelope with red lettering.

AARP

CARD ENCLOSED.

Please do not bend.

Bend, I wanted to scream?! How about please do not cut?

I was barely 46 years old and already the AARP was aware of me. Is it not enough that the saggy breasts I look at each time I walk past my full length mirror are not a frequent reminder that I’m aging? Have I not noticed more gray upstairs and downstairs? Or the fine creases around my eyes when I smile? If I had a butt I guess it wouldn’t be as firm but finally I’m glad I never had one.

While sipping a hot chocolate today at Fred’s, I confessed to Lisa and Lori, “I got a letter from the AARP yesterday with a membership card.”

Lisa, always looking for the silver lining, said it was probably just because I subscribed to Good Housekeeping or some other magazine.

I gently told her that I don’t have any new magazine subscriptions and I don’t subscribe to Good Housekeeping.

Well, she said, remember Samantha on Sex and the City received a card when she was 43. But then she wondered aloud how come she was using that show, as much as all three of us love it, as reality. It certainly wasn’t reality for our trio.

None of us didn’t think the card was sent until you were 50 or 55. I know its magazine has become hipper over the years and I even used to buy it on occasion in hopes of freelancing for it, to no avail.

That must be it! Lisa said. You bought the magazine.

Bless her heart for trying to come up with a logical reason but buying a magazine at Barnes and Noble doesn’t put one on AARP’s radar.

The fact is, I am getting older. But has none of my other friends who are a few months or a year older than me received “the card?” None has mentioned it to me. This is the kind of devastating news you don’t keep secret from friends.

Now that I’ve got “the card” — at least my temporary one until I pay my one-year membership dues of $12.50 — I guess next I’ll go through “the change.”

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