I Know My Feet Are There—I Just Can’t See Them: My Flat-Belly Quest


I am at my perfect body weight, but I am not happy. You would think that I would be ecstatic. My weight is just where I have wanted it to be for most of my adult life.

So why am I so unhappy?

Last week, I stepped on the scale and it read 117.2! Let me say that again in case you missed it…117.2! Now, when I was a kid—the fat kid—I couldn’t see my toes. I would look down, and my belly was in the way. “Hey fatty, I bet you can’t see your toes.” “Yes. I can,” I whimpered. But I couldn’t. “I’m wearing sandals.” Then I ran away.

Ah, the trauma of youth is over…surely at a perfect weight, I can see my feet. Try it. Stand up straight and look down by bending only your neck. I did, just for the satisfaction, because, as you may know, I weigh 117.2! But my feet were still obscured by the small beach ball that I must have swallowed overnight.

Well, maybe 117.2 is not my perfect weight. I decided to consult the French.

I think French women are so beautiful at all ages—think actress Jeanne Moreau. I discovered the Dukan diet, from France, which promises weight perfection from lean protein, oat bran, water and a daily 20-minute walk. You can eat unlimited quantities of food if they’re on the approved-foods list, which includes very few, if any, carbs.

Dukan gives you an online quiz to determine if you are at your perfect weight. I took the quiz. The response came almost instantly. With a dash of French cynicism, I was told, “We cannot help you! Your weight is perfect. If you are telling the truth!”

Now what?

As I researched ways to rid myself of that middle bulge, which has haunted me from baby fat to teen tummy to my adult wardrobe of over-blouses, I discovered a shocking eye-opener. I may never see my feet again.

For postmenopausal women, belly fat might be hormonal and biological, in a Darwinian sense.

According to Dr. Babak Moeinolmolki of Healthy Life Bariatrics, it’s all a matter of childbearing physiology. Damn that estrogen…

“During puberty, the hormone estrogen tells the body to begin storing fat on the hips and thighs to prepare for pregnancy. While this subcutaneous fat isn’t harmful, the excess fat can be challenging to lose.

Menopause officially occurs a year after a woman has her last menstrual period. Around this time, the woman’s estrogen levels plummet, which causes fat to be stored around the abdomen rather than on the hips and thighs.”

And for anyone at any age, you can’t diet off fat in one specific region of the body.

“It’s essentially impossible to tell one specific region of your body to accelerate fat metabolism,” says Chris DiVecchio, an NASM-certified personal trainer and author of The 5 x 2 Method: Revealing the Power of Your Senses.

So should I just give up the ship (SHAPE)? No. Belly fat, even though natural as we age, can be dangerous.

It’s “the most dangerous location to store fat,” says Lawrence Cheskin, MD, chair of the department of nutrition and food studies at George Mason University and adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Belly fat tends to increase sugar levels and thereby to increase the risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

So how should I go about finally seeing my feet?

For me, a lot of the basics are already in place. That’s why (I am not sure you heard), I weight 117.2! Still, let’s just list some of these essentials, lest you forgot how to diet…

  • Limit sugary foods and beverages, and watch calories. Before you know it, that single serving can lead to an excess of fat in and around your stomach. Calorie control is hard—I did use these 25 ways to cut 500 calories a day from Prevention.com.
  • Limit alcohol. Unfortunately, excess calories from alcohol are partly stored as belly fat. (Hence, the well-known term “beer belly.”) Honestly, I drink a glass of wine almost every day…but I play around with calorie-free spritzers and two tiny glasses instead of one big one, as I typically like to pour.
  • Avoid trans fats. Trans fats, derived from animal proteins and dairy, can cause inflammation, which can, in turn, lead to insulin resistance and an excess amount of belly fat.
  • Move. As I have written in my last blog, sitting more than moving raises the rates of obesity, especially abdominal obesity. And studies have also shown that inactivity can contribute to regaining belly fat after losing weight.
  • Walk every day. One small study published in the Journal of Exercise Nutrition & Biochemistry found that obese women who did a walking program for 50 to 70 minutes three days per week for 12 weeks slashed their visceral fat compared with women in a sedentary control group. Check out Freewalkers, and walk with us or form your own local chapter.

It was these habits that got me to my lower weight…which is…well, you know. So, what more can I do?

Add fat-burning foods, such as…

  • Avocados
  • Yogurt
  • Berries
  • Chocolate skim milk
  • Green tea
  • Citrus
  • Chia seeds
  • Fibrous foods, such as whole-grain bread, oats, vegetables, beans, legumes and chia seeds

De-stress to lower cortisol. Cortisol, the “stress hormone,” leads to weight gain, particularly around the abdominal area. Significantly, cortisol-induced weight gain, instead of spreading out the storage across the entire body, gets stored right where you don’t want—on your belly. Analyses have shown that women who have a larger waist-to-hips ratio secrete more cortisol when stressed. This may be why I always had that big stomach. Getting bullied for it added even more stress. Bummer!

Do core exercises more religiously. According to Dr. DiVecchio, “There are literally dozens of muscles between your shoulders and your hips that are involved in every movement you do. The fastest way to create a lean midsection begins with choosing the right moves.” There are tons of different ab workouts you can do right in your home. During sequestration, choose the YouTube class that suits you best. Although exercise won’t spot-reduce the fat, you will look toned when the weight comes off.

Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep is huge when it comes to your weight-loss success—and that’s both if you sleep too much or too little. Check out my earlier blog on the importance of sleep. What I said there applies equally to dealing with the tummy.

And finally, the hardest new habit…

Roll with the punches as I age. I may have to accept the fact that with regard to my chance to be a super-model, that ship has sailed. Or maybe…I can change the image of what is beautiful. For example, the standard for beauty could become, let’s say, someone who is 72, in good shape, has a bit of a belly…and of course, weights 117.2!