by Richard Fried, MD PhD
Why are they so bothersome? What can we do?
Our satisfaction with the appearance of our bodies is largely determined by societal norms. Currently, these suggest that our stomachs should be firm and flat. Similarly, our hips should be smooth, tight, and gradually sloping. These "rules" are imprinted into our brains via numerous teaching tools such as television, movies, magazines, and social media. The beautiful people and their perfect bodies are in our faces almost at every turn.
Enter "the evil mirrors" - those nasty tormentors that are constantly reminding most of us that we fall short of these ideal proportions. The reality is, that attaining and maintaining the "ideal body" is phenomenally difficult and for most of us, not realistically possible even if we subsisted on salad greens eaten after 7 hour daily visits to the gym. For those lucky people who were born with that perfect body, fear not, time will win! With a bit of maturity (defined as age, childbirth, menopause, andropause, life's demands, trials, and tribulations), the bellies, bulges, and love handles will make their unwelcome appearance. None of us are immune - they will come.
Simply and sadly stated, bellies, bulges, and love handles "violate" the societal rules of proportion. Our negative self-talk about these unwanted body contours can make us feel badly. Sometimes, these unwanted body contours can be subject to or cause friction resulting in skin discomfort and/or rashes that "feel bad". Many patients have told us that the belly, bulge, or love handle is a source of self consciousness and preoccupation. Internal dialogues such as "I hate these", "I can't stand it", "this makes me feel old" can be ever present intrusions, distracting us from fully enjoying the present. If only we had the perfect body, all would be well and our lives would be perfect. NOT SO!
Please don't let this get you down - this is about to get cheerier!