Big belly blues
June 11, 2006 2:37 PM   Subscribe

OddBellyFilter: Is it weight, an allergy or just the way I was made?

From under my bustline to my bellybutton, I have a spare tire/muffin top/roll of fat that protrudes a lot further than the stomach below my belly button - up to 4 inches. It's gotten to the point where if I wear a top [not even tight fitting], my "middle" belly protrudes out almost as far as my breasts, yet my "lower" stomach remains [relatively] flat. If I wear an empire line top [tight fitting under breasts, loose fabric down to the waist] I can look up to 6 months pregnant!

I seem to carry all my weight in my stomach[s]. I need to lose 20/30 pounds and I stand at 6ft. I've got oddly thin wrists/arms and ankles/legs in comparison to the rest of my body - it's even soemthing that other people comment on [in a nice, yet surprised, way].

Also, if I have a particularly "milky" meal [tea, cereal, toast with butter], I find the "protrusion" gets quite hard and prominent. I've tried talking to my doctor - his advice was to lose weight [duh] and that I'm "paying too much attention to myself"

But I find it verrrry strange that one part of my abdomen sticks out when the lower part is way flatter. Really if my middle stomach was as flat as my lower stomach, I'd probably go down an entire dress size, even two.

Can anybody shed some light?
posted by Chorus to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
First off, your doctor sounds like a bit of a tool - sorry to be so blunt.

There's no question that we all have our genetic make-up that can include weight distribution and weight maintenance issues, but my personal feeling after much research and hands-on "growth" in this area, is that there is always an equilibrium we can strive for in terms of our health. Through this we will ultimately find better weight, shape, energy and overall tolerance to the elements.

For me, for example, I can pretty much eat any kind of food and feel fine. However, IF I eat lighter foods or mostly vegetarian, my energy will skyrocket to the point that I could play 2 soccer games back to back (the equivalent of about 20km running) without any significant cardio training (but I do excercise regularly). I am nearly 40 now and am in better shape than when I was 25 just through these gradual improvements.

Closer to your situation, I've had a friend with mysterious sinus issues that no conventional doctor could diagnose. It turned out his body didn't "like" cow dairy, but did like goat dairy (BTW goat dairy molecules is much more similar to human milk and for some people that makes it much more digestable), his body didn't like the leavening agents in commercially-produced pasta or bread and so on and so on.

When he changed his diet, not only did his sinuses clear up after many years of these issues, but he also lost 20 pounds and looked great.

My instinct would be to find a naturopath or similar natural diet consultant AND read all you can on nutrition for yourself. It's the best investment in yourself you can spend.
posted by iTristan at 2:55 PM on June 11, 2006 [2 favorites]

I have a similar problem as you, except I'm only 5'4". I've got narrower hips and broader shoulders, as well. I always figured that it was just a function of my genetic makeup.

Does your stomach appear flat when you're slim? I know that for me, even if I'm quite skinny, (which I'm not right now so it's worse) I always have a bit of extra fat there. It's annoying because I can get a "dunlop" even if I'm a size two. No amount of crunches or running or anything will fix it for me.

As for the milk issue, you may very well have some kind of lactose intolerance. I'm no expert on that, but I would suggest cutting down on the dairy. I'm a vegetarian, and I've noticed that if I rely too heavily on dairy products for protein, I gain weight very easily. My personal theory is that the weight gain is more attributal to all the hormones etc that's in unorganic dairy products, rather than just the saturated fat. I try to eat organic dairy as much as possible, and it seems to help.

Anyway, I empathize with what an embarrassing problem this is. It makes me feel less feminine, because my body is out of proportion to what it "should" be. I joke with my husband that after we have kids, I'm going to get me a little nip-n-tuck.
posted by meringue at 4:38 PM on June 11, 2006

I would guess that your abdominal muscles have been really stretched out in that area, which is what is causing the extra protrusion. This is common in people who have been overweight for long periods of time, or have experienced sudden weight gain from either getting fat, or getting pregnant.

I was the former. I used to be obese, and my stomach was flatter on the bottom belly area, but I had an extra roll above that which stuck out in similar "spare tire" fashion. I eventually lost over a hundred pounds, but still had the weird protrusion in the upper stomach area. I also had lots of extra skin from the weightloss and opted to have a tummy tuck to have it removed.

I am not suggesting you should get a tummy tuck, but part of the procedure in a full tummy tuck involves stitching back together the abominal muscles which have stretched out (due to weight gain, or pregnancy in women), and caused that protrusion. Sure losing weight might make it a bit less noticable, but more than likely it's not just fat, it's the muscles under the fat causing your stomach to bump out like that. After having the surgery I am flat as a board in that area.

It's possible that doing some exercises targetting the abdominal area might help you, but it sounds like your describing something above and beyond the reach of sit-ups and crunches. From observing what it was like in my body, and from looking at thousands of before and after photos of tummy tuck patients, this is a very common problem, and this surgery is basically the only way to make it go away. No amount of crunching and sitting up is ever going to force distended muscles back into place.
posted by RoseovSharon at 5:03 PM on June 11, 2006

Oh, and as an alternative to surgery... those nice body shaper undergarments sure go a long way in flattening and disguising any unflattering bumps! Try one on, they're quite comfortable and can look rather sexy too.
posted by RoseovSharon at 5:06 PM on June 11, 2006

Everyone's fat distribution is different, and changes through life to boot. Your doctor's not necessarily saying anything incorrect, because, indeed, there's nothing "wrong" with being at a less-frequent position on the body-shape bell curve, even if you're not happy with your look. It's actually a good thing that general practicioners these days are less inclined to pathologize the natural.

That doesn't mean you can't change it, of course. Consider a a six-month program of weight loss and abs-focused workouts and if you're not satisfied, then get a consult for surgery. Regardless of your ideological view, that's what plastic surgery really does well: handle aesthetic issues that diet and exercise can't. It's not morally different from a buying a closet full of shoes and handbags. And it lasts longer too: if you keep the weight off, the useful life of a tummy-tuck is measured in decades.
posted by MattD at 5:14 PM on June 11, 2006

Lactaid tablets are available with no prescription. They're the enzyme that lactose-intolerant people lack and they're labeled as a supplement. They seem to be quite safe. I diagnosed myself recently and have been using them. My stomach is still the same size, but much happier. It's an easy thing to try.
posted by theora55 at 6:54 PM on June 11, 2006

Just on the off chance, have you ever been tested for polycystic ovarian syndrome? My friend and I both have it and we've always had very round bellies.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:20 PM on June 11, 2006

I carry my fat in the same place, it's not odd or unusual. And it's definitely genetic to some extent, my mother and sisters are the same. I happen to have also inherited my Dad's large legs, which means I'm in proportion but will never be skinny.

Crunches focussing on your upper abs can help, but when the fat roll sits partially over the ribs like mine even tight muscles can't fully hold it in. Mainly I just wear tight fitting singlets under my clothes to give some support in that area and work at maintaining a healthy weight (less fat everywhere = less fat on my tummy). Barring surgery, I don't see that you can (or even need to) do anything else.

In all cases the range of what is biologically normal is much larger than society would have you believe. You're normal.
posted by shelleycat at 7:27 PM on June 11, 2006

You're tall, so have you ever considered that possibly part of the problem is your posture? I know it may sound odd, but slouching all the time AND gaining excess weight may be the culprit. I have a similar problem to a slightly lesser degree, and I find that slouching tends to push my stomach out further. I would imagine that over time, with excess weight gathering around the middle, this would cause your stomach to stretch most around the area where your slouching causes it to protrude.
posted by nightchrome at 7:42 PM on June 11, 2006

I had the opposite problem, where my upper stomach was flat but the bottom stuck out. I have a hamster metabolism, so it seemed strange that anything resembling fat would appear. Turns out it was posture, and my upper muscles were far more developed than the lower ones.

I fixed by doing a partial Pilates routine a few times a week, which also did wonders for my lower back pain.
posted by yorick at 8:01 PM on June 11, 2006

I don't think that it would hurt to see a new doctor. Weight loss is a normal and sound piece of medical advice; suggesting that you're "paying too much attention to yourself" based on what sound like valid observations and concerns, is not.
posted by penchant at 10:57 AM on June 12, 2006

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