Flabby Muscle


“Its not fat” said Mum. She put a hand on her protruding belly-fold and wobbled it, making the whole thing ripple with vibrations that seemed to run right round her waist and half-way down her legs.

“It’s not fat, it’s flabby muscle. Because of all the gymnastics and swimming I used to do when I was younger. And then I had you two.”

“Mum, Have you thought about going on a diet?”

“No. It wouldnt work, love. You can’t burn that off, that’s the problem.”

“Yeah, right.”

I looked on with all the sensitivity of a young teenager, not bothering to hide my horror and twisting side-on to show my own flat stomach in the mirror behind her. I prodded my hip-bones.

Mum looked disarmingly cheerful. “Just you wait!”

Fast-forward sixteen years or so to my mirror last weekend, trying on top after t-shirt with my only wearable pair of jeans, prodding the soft bulge that interfered with my waistline whatever I wore and however I stood. That bulge suddenly symbolised everything that had been stressing me.  “Its not FAIR!”

My husband can read through most distractions. He didnt even look up.

”Don’t be silly. You look fine.”

“Fine means bloody awful! Typical men!  pretend it doesnt matter what you look like, and that you don’t give a stuff how we’re dressed, and then we go out and meet some well-groomed blonde with a little waist and big tits they’re suddenly the most interesting person you’ve ever met….and… and…”

Mildly, “Are you having a hypo, dear?”

As it happens I was, but the sentiment still stood. I felt fat.

My husband’s Auntie is on the 2:5 diet and very proud of her new waistline. She limits herself to less than 500 calories on just two days each week.

I eat more than 500 calories worth of sweets just correcting breast-feeding hypos every day at the moment.  I suppose I could cut all the other calories in my diet: then I might not need to bolus insulin and then I might not keep hypoing in the first place…

“Oh no you mustn’t!’ Auntie says kindly. ‘The 2:5 diet isn’t suitable for diebetics.”

I open my mouth to ask why in the world eating fewer than 500 calories a day would be any less suitable for diabetics than the rest of the population (correcting hypos excluded); surely id just take less insulin?

Then I close it again. It’s not a bad excuse.

“It can be very dangerous for you to diet” she says.

“Oh right” I say.

But I have a better reason for not dieting.  Eighteen months ago now, when my Mum was ill and had eaten like a sparrow for months, I happened to see her stomach.  Despite the thinness of her legs, arms and shoulders, that band of ‘flabby muscle,’ or ‘spare skin’ or whatever it was, was still there. The meals she hadn’t been eating had done nothing to shift it: a diet would have been an unnecessary restriction in a life that was to prove too short.   I was so proud of her for all those years of enjoying her puddings and refusing to be talked into fruitless avoidance of chocolate cake.

Mum always said that with ‘flabby muscle,’ more exercise would have been the only way forward.

So you’ll find that I’m enjoying BBQ season.


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