How to Get Rid of Your Muffin Top (for Cheap!)

BlogHer Original Post

So I have a secret to share: I've been working on my muffin top since December.

Background

As a formerly disordered exerciser and eater, I have to make sure any change I make to my diet or exercise routine is very slight. I have a tendancy to overdo things and get hung up on routine to the extent I feel horribly anxious and guilty if I miss a workout. However, that doesn't mean I can't learn to be kind to myself while at the same time maintaining my physical self in a reasonable manner (stress on "reasonable" -- there will be no three-hour-Gwyneth Paltrow workouts for me).

Flashback to December 2012. Ah, aging. My belly, once flat, was growing puffy and poofy. When I leaned to the side, part of it would fall over the edge of my jeans. That has not happened since I was a little kid. When I realized this ... extra ... was not water retention but actual slack womanfat, I knew it was time to make some adjustments.

I understand how I got there. There were extra French fries. There were evenings on the couch instead of running around the yard because it looked like midnight at 5 pm. I didn't actually notice the change at first. It snuck up on me as slight weight gain is apt to do. I was cold, so after showering I would grab the towel, then the bathrobe, then the clothes without a stop at the mirror ... until that fateful December evening when I realized I had officially joined Generation Muffin Top.

It wasn't fair. I'd already joined Generation Cellulite. Last year, I made peace, FINALLY, with the fact I now have cellulite on the front of my thighs. I've always had in on the back, but you can't see the back, you know? And if you can't see it, everyone knows it doesn't really exist. Realizing the cellulite was going to be there all front and center even if I lost weight (because let's face it, even skinny older ladies have cellulite) was rough at first, but I made some accommodations to my wardrobe and was ready to move on. So this whole muffin top business was like adding insult to injury on top of crow's feet. There is only so much you can do about most aspects of aging, but the muffin top thing? I was not going to take lying down.

muffin top

Credit Image: diekatrin on Flickr

Which is a lie, because I had to lie down to start doing crunches.

At the end of December, I stumbled upon a blog post of a woman about my age doing some combo of sit-ups made popular by Ab Ripper X or some such thing I would never buy. (I just searched and searched for the post to link it. My search term was "crunchy frog" because that is the name of one of the exercises, and if you google "crunchy frog," the earth rotates backwards on its axis, so I gave up. Suffice it to say, there is lot written on the topic of crunchy frogs, and only some of the words are about sit-ups.) I also started doing a ballet workout on Sundays. The ballet workout is interesting in that it is extremely painful without making me sweat. The ab workout is the only ab workout that has ever caused me to immediately perspire. Riddle me that.

I normally do about 150 minutes of exercise a week, usually in four, forty-minute sessions, but because if I am too rigid about anything I will go overboard, I just shoot for the 150 minutes whether I get it in two days or six. I added the 60-minute ballet workout on Sunday afternoons, and I've only missed one since January. I don't count it as part of the 150 minutes, and if I miss it, I don't try to make up for it. I added the 5-7 minutes of ab exercise to the end of at least two of my normal workouts a week, plus the ballet one. I spent about $25 on the ballet DVD and $0 on the crunches, because, hello? Internet.

Results

No one has noticed. Except me. That means one of three things: 1) They didn't notice the gelatinous nature of my core before. 2) They noticed but assumed I didn't need to be informed about it, given my delicate flower body image. 3) They noticed and didn't give a shit. (I'm guessing it's 3.) (Most people really do not care if you have a muffin top.) I wouldn't say my muffin top disappeared so much as firmed, much like the difference between a ripe avocado and an unripe one. Same basic size, but don't feel the same and don't really look the same.

avocados

Credit Image: You As a Machine on Flickr

You know how a second-trimester pregnant belly and an immediate post-partum belly can be the same exact size and yet look totally different because one is firm and the other is not? It's kind of like that.

I didn't lose one single pound, but my core is all sproingy with a little bit of flub sitting proudly in the front, but the sides! The sides do not slide over to greet me when I sit down. Which is totally awesome. The sit-ups are definitely working. The ballet workout is working, but in a different way than I thought. My legs are definitely stronger. I know now exactly where my inner thigh muscle is. And my ankles are looking more svelte -- not sure how that happened. Again, these are changes I think only I would notice, which is why there are no before and after pictures here. I'm telling you all this because one thing I've learned in my journey to better body image is that the easiest way to feel good about your body is to feel strong and capable and independent in your body, and there are certain things you are able to do to impact that. Strength training is one of those things. Everyone can get a little stronger, and getting a little stronger feels totally great. And also, who knew you could reshape your ankles?

The Exercises

In the post I originally saw (which I am so sorry I cannot find), the woman did these ab exercises every day for a month. I am here to tell you not to do that. The first time I tried to do all the exercises at once, I think I pulled a groin muscle. I could barely move the next day. The pain was insane. After taking a week off, I started over doing five of each instead of 25 of each and worked my way up, adding five to each set every week. Now I can do 25 of each with a break every 100 repetitions to stretch. I try to do them before I do any other ab exercises that are part of whatever DVD I am doing, because if I wait until the end, I flop around on the carpet like a newly caught salmon and then have to lie there panting for two minutes. It's not pretty. Also, I may not be doing these all totally correctly, because I don't own any video that involves the word "Ripper." Finally, I'm not a fitness expert. So, you know, try at your own risk.

  • 25 in-and-outs (cross your hands over your chest, balance on your butt and move your legs straight out, and then back in up to your chest, like you're rowing with no hands)

  • 25 forward bicycles

  • 25 backward bicycles

  • 25 crunchy frogs (just like the in-and-outs but wrapping the arms around the knees when you come in)

  • Lie on the floor and pant. Stretch your arms above your head and see if that relieves some of the pain.

  • 25 slow scissors. If you are like me, you will want them to be fast scissors, but slow is much harder. I also find it very difficult to keep my knees straight, but they are at least straighter now than they were when I started. I tend to need to pant after this one, too.

  • 25 butterfly lifts -- I don't think this is the right name, but it's a better descriptor for me as I do butterflies in the ballet workout. Basically, this one looks ridiculous. You lie on the floor and put the soles of your feet together with your knees open. Then you try to lift your hips using your abs. It's hard and grunt-inducing.

  • 25 hip lifts -- Put your knees together and straighten your legs up and lift your hips. This feels different than the butterflies, and I find it's easier.

  • 25 V-up roll-ups. I am actually not sure I'm doing these right. What I am doing is making my legs into a V and then rolling up from a horizontal position to touch my toes from side to side. When I look at the videos online, I see some people have their legs in the air. I remember doing what I am doing from PE in high school, so I'm just rolling with my version. I can definitely feel them.

  • Pause for panting and stretching.

  • 25 side crunches -- If you've ever taken an aerobics class, you've probably done these. You cross one ankle over your knee and crunch up with one arm toward the bent knee. Do 25 on each side for 50 total.

  • 25 reach-ups -- Put one leg in the air and reach up with your opposite hand to touch your ankle or toe, depending on how strong you are. Do 25 on each side for a total of 50.

  • 25 (I've seen 50 other places, but honestly if you can do 25 of these by this point, you're all good) kayaks -- pretend to kayak for 25 strokes. Initially I hated these most, now I like them best. Weird.

Do you do other free exercises to tighten any jiggles? Do they work?

Rita Arens is the author of the young adult novel The Obvious Game & the senior editor of BlogHer. Find more at www.surrenderdorothyblog.com.

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