Unwelcome Tenant: Nightmare Muffin Top Refuses to Break Contract

It’s my fault. I cheerfully invited the muffin top into my life the moment the two little pink lines appeared. I simultaneously thanked God for my unexpected blessing and calculated the quickest route to Wendy’s. Double Cheeseburger — prepare to pleasure me. Pregnancy gave me total authorization to overeat. No, I’m not talking about splurging here and there on a chili-cheese-dog or a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey. Mine was a no-holds barred food marathon. Really, I looked at pregnancy as the only time in life that I’d be encouraged to gain weight, and I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity like that. Of course I knew what the guidelines were, and was well aware that I should only gain between 25 and 35 pounds. The doctor kindly reminded me of this at every appointment. I’d smile and nod, “Yeah, I had a bad week.” In the depths of my gluttonous soul, however, I had no intention of following any sort of diet. Screw that, I’m a goddess of baby-building wonder. I shall now reward myself by eating my way through a large pepperoni pizza.

Unfortunately, the nausea located me faster than the delivery man, and I spent the next three months hunched over a toilet. I could barely hold down a sip of water and half a Ritz. The Philly Cheese Steak I so desperately wanted to want was simply out of the question. Eventually, though, the desire to eat (and indeed stuff myself into a roly-poly oblivion) returned with gusto. I made up for lost time.

And now, sixteen months after the birth of my son —I’m still paying the high price of my Gorge-Fest. I weigh two pounds more than I did when we came home from the hospital.

Oh yeah, it’s beyond apparent to anyone without a seeing-eye dog that I have developed a wicked-nasty- stuff-my-Buddha-ass-into-my-jeans- muffin top. For a while, I owned it. It was evidence of a healthy pregnancy. We were good friends, the muffin-top and me. I was willing to accept the consequences (including public humiliation) of a nine-month Bratwurst-Bender.

No more. My ownership has mutated into a reluctant truce. “Alright, Muffin Top, you can stay, rent out the place for a while, make a mess of my marriage and self esteem and nights out on the town. You’ve overstayed your welcome. Don’t get comfy. Come summer, you’re outta here.”

Summer has come and nearly gone, and I’m still leasing out my body to an unwanted tenant. I‘m over this business of accepting the spare tire around my middle as yet another battle scar from the great pregnancy war. Fair enough, I’m not actively doing anything to remedy the situation — but I remain quite perturbed about it, and continue planning my imminent attack on the muffin top.

What a wonderful thing, when a woman accepts her body “as is.” No qualms. And I’ll admit I’m sorta envious of this semi-exclusive club of women, openly accepting — even loving! — their bodies through thick and thin.

Let’s face it: I’m not a member of the club. Even before pregnancy, I had serious hang-ups about my physique; my arms jiggled in the breeze, regardless of the myriad of toning exercises designed to whip them into shape. I had cellulite at the tender age of 11 (thanks, mom!) and went to great lengths to hide my pocked thighs. The stretch marks marking my chest and stomach gave away my yo-yo dieting, and ultimately resulted in a painful, vanity-fueled breast surgery.

Overall, though, I couldn’t complain. I didn’t have to work out or count calories to maintain a pretty healthy 115 pounds (at 5’2”). I looked pretty damn good, smugly wore dangerously short Juicy Couture dresses, and bathing suit shopping didn’t turn my stomach…on a good day.

And then — pregnancy. Morning sickness and mood swings aside, I watched in horror as the scale flashed increasingly vexing numbers. Of course, I never cut back — I simply rid myself of the offensive scale. Packed it away in a brown box labeled, “Do not open until spring 2006. “ At OB appointments, I closed my eyes as the nurse weighed me, and instructed her to never, ever read aloud the number. She listened. Fifty pounds and nine months later, I delivered a six pound, eight ounce baby.

No worries though, I told myself, I am the queen of self-control. I knew this was going to happen, and now I just have to change my habits. Food shall hold no power over me. I will promptly lose this weight! I will be the quintessential skinny mom, speed walking with a jogging stroller around the block. Now that my sweet alien invader has vacated his uterine home, I’m free to work out like a madwoman, right? Of course, like many first time mothers, I made the fatal mistake: Actually believing I’d have the time, energy, and motivation to become an exercise fanatic. At first, I felt pretty good. Coming home from the hospital a full twenty pounds lighter aided my motivation to achieve the status of “hot mom.” I ate fruit and whole grains, spent thirty minutes daily on the treadmill. The reality, though, set in after two weeks. I barely had time between diaper changes and feedings to scarf down a Whopper with cheese. I was tired, hungry, and battling a severe case of Post-Partum Anxiety. Exercising and healthy eating became secondary to mere survival.

The weight doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the shape of things under my oversized t-shirt. It shocks and repulses me, this muffin top which now defines my self-esteem. Why, just thinking about it makes me want to curl up in the fetal position, tug my earlobes, and hum “Don’t Stop Believin.”

For the first few months after Cole’s birth, my jiggly, pasty white mountain of excess flesh didn’t bother me. Shouldn’t there be some leeway here? Really, I wasn’t even allowed the option of exercise for six weeks after my c-section. I could smile proudly, baby on hip, and know that it was alright — this lingering belly fat — because it hasn’t been that long since this child (yes, this one here in my arms) was inside me.

In my elastic gauchos and too-tight t-shirt, I was ready for a fight, “What? What? I have a four-month old for Heaven’s sake. Here, ya wanna see it? Stop looking at me, skinny lady.” Without shame, I’d sit in front of the television, watch “America’s Next Top Model,” all the while drumming on my belly and listening to the “pla-bonga, pla-bonga.” It did become rather bothersome, though, when the dog started using my protruding muffin top as a boost up to look out of the car window. Or when my sweet child, around 13 months old, developed the amusing habit of patting my stomach with undisguised glee. Oh yeah, mama’s got a big ole belly. It’s fun to jiggle, eh, baby?

I’ve recently realized that the muffin top isn’t the worst of it. It’s big and ugly, no denying that, but the nightmare only escalates. My husband and I are laying in bed, probably a month or so ago, and we’re just about to go to sleep (no, really, we’d taken melatonin and were drooling like zombies watchin’ a particularly gory brain surgery). He snuggles up to me, spoon-like, and reaches around just to pull me close. I feel him tense, draw back.

“What?” I recognize a subtle shudder. He says nothing, frozen.

“What?” I ask, louder, and turning my head to let him see the narrowed-you’d better tread lightly-evil eye. The man is not stupid.

“Nothing.”

Riiiight. I glare at him, as I reach down over my stomach to investigate the source of revulsion. Great googily moogily. My muffin top has deflated to one side.

Dear God in heaven, is this my body? It’s like — well, it’s like a muffin that’s kinda half-cooked and then you tilt it over and it goes “ploooooggggg.” With growing horror, my hand trails over the gelatinous mound of ickiness, and I wonder how I‘ve overlooked, for so long, the ugly side of my once cute baby belly. Silently I thank God for having the sort of husband who dares not draw attention to such a monstrosity.

Then and there I vowed, for both our sakes (as well as that of the general public), to remedy the situation, and fast. I don’t say a word, nor does my darling husband, and we fall into an uneasy silence. The muffin top has never been mentioned again, but neither has his hand strayed toward my stomach. I, too, haven’t dared journey to the forbidden zone. Amazing how quickly one can adapt to stomach or back sleeping when ego is on the line. If I do rise to the challenge or succumb to discomfort, bravely flipping to my side, my hands are plastered beneath my pillow. Sometimes, in need of a little gratification I’ll lie there and touch my hipbone. Regardless of the sloppy muffin, that hipbone has the fortitude and good-will to hang around and remind me of more willowy days. Good for the morale.

Of course I still want to exercise. And now that the kid is a little older, I could. I could strap him into car seat, lug him to the YMCA, and squeeze in a yoga or cycling class. I could go jogging. I could hop on the treadmill that sits dusty and neglected in our dining room. I could pop in a Pilates DVD while he naps. I could do squats as we leisurely stroll around the block. I could sit in Starbuck’s drive-thru and clinch my butt cheeks.

The problem is not that I’m lazy, but rather how I prioritize my alone time. I’d much rather snuggle into the couch and read a good book while he sleeps. I prefer to spend a few minutes catching up with my girlfriend, getting a load of laundry done, taking a long shower with expensive shampoo, browsing E-Bay, or sipping a cup of coffee in blessed silence. My free time is limited, and like all mothers, I must pick and choose how it‘s best spent. To me, doing crunches on my living room floor doesn’t exactly equal a good time. At the end of a long day, I don’t care to squeeze in a cardio workout. No, after I’ve tossed the last bottle into the dishwasher, returned the last toy to the bin, and picked the last soggy Cheerio from the sofa — I’d much rather have a glass of wine and a forbidden cigarette on the back deck.

So for now, I think I’ll hang onto this muffin top–begrudgingly. It can lease out this body for a few more weeks, perhaps months. I’m not happy about it, and I’m determined that the exercise shall begin soon; I’ll lay off the cheeseburgers and pasta, and get down to the business of becoming super hot. I’m convinced that in the not-so-distant-future, my muffin top will fall behind on the rent, and I can evict it for good. Sure, it’s made of mess of the place; I’ll have to repaint the walls, scrub the carpets, maybe call in a cleaning crew. But I’m evicting it, and soon. Perhaps tomorrow, after I’ve caught up on a few “Scrubs” reruns.

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