Whether the latest nutritional research debunks low-fat diets or the media magnifies a body-shaming comment, FAT catches our attention. It is a subject that overwhelms us with information, and more importantly, with emotion. Just saying the word “fat” feels like pushing a boundary. Since it feels taboo, I thought I better write about it, get it all out in the light of day, this novelty of a pudgy tummy. Cutesy labels aside, it feels foreign having a fat belly. I do not have a lifetime of good nutritional habits or even awareness of calories and fat, but once my metabolic/hormonal cocktail changed my shape from flat to round, I became more mindful of what I eat. Sugar and reading are my favorite hobbies and pave my road to belly fat along with lowered progesterone levels that leave estrogen running the show. When you have a sudden urge to throttle the one you love most or sob when you cannot find a parking space, estrogen is in charge. When estrogen is dominant fat stores around the middle and fat produces estrogen, creating a vicious cycle. The more fat I gain, the more estrogen I produce, the more people I do not like.
Until this year, my strategy was adding healthy food to my diet, crowding out unhealthy food. It worked for a few years, but as we age our bodies change on the inside, too, the mechanics moving slower, malfunctioning and needing replacement sometimes. I once flaunted, “I eat whatever I want because one day I won’t be able to”, noticing how my grandparents restrictions included everything from sugar to potatoes to steak. “One day” is now. Actually, it was some random day last year that went by without me noticing. When my husband put me in his phone as “Big Booty” I laughed and tried adding more salads and reducing my gummi worm intake to one box a week, but I still could not fit into my pants. I bought new pants two sizes up and accepted my softer self until it seemed I would outgrow the new ones, too. Sugar in all its glorious forms metabolizes quickly in the gut and increases belly fat, and belly fat increases my pant size and estrogen production. Gummi worms had to go along with french vanilla creamer, but more importantly I needed more vegetables. The fiber in vegetables reduces estrogen by eliminating it through the bowel, along with everything else we do not need.
As I continue to adjust my diet and what is important to me in the 5th decade, I strive for a reasonable balance that will not leave me feeling ashamed of my aging body. When I eat a truffle or two I think of how my grandchildren will lie back against my puffy belly like a pillow while I read to them and I promise myself a long walk so I can play with them at the park across the street.