It’s said that the Eskimo have 29 words for snow to be able to convey the nuances needed to describe exactly what kind of precipitation they mean. It stands to reason that they would need such an expressive set of words, since in the frozen winter wonderland, snow of every conceivable type is pretty much all they see.

A recent article in the New York Times gave me pause, because it detailed the emerging new nuances in our own language for fat.

While a few descriptive fat-phrases have been with us for quite some time: turkey wattle (the double chin) and love handles (the fat at the waist) and pones (the fat on the upper outer hip/thigh area) the origin of this newly-emergent shading of the meaning of a pretty straightforward word–fat–derives from the world of liposuction surgery. According to the NY Times piece, apparantly a need has arisen on the part of plastic surgery patients, young women mainly, to specifically describe the particular offending pooch they want a doctor to suck out.

No longer is it sufficient to say “Doc, get rid of this excess fat on my belly or thighs.” One now must specify the banana fold (fat roll under the buttocks above the thigh) or the wings (the stuff that pooches out over the bra, under the arm) or the doughnut (pooch of fat around the belly button) as well as a whole list of other descriptors detailed in the article. My favorite, occasioned by the recent trend in wearing crack-exposing, hip-hugger jeans: the muffin-top, which by any measure is, indeed, a perfect description of the fat that bulges out over the low-riding tops of jeans, which, if I were in charge, would only, only, only ever be sported by young women with body fat percentages under 20. All others would be cited and fined–or as I often put it, ticketed and towed.

Of course, I’m not in charge, thus the current state of fashion affairs and the reason I spent an entire otherwise lovely dining experience recently staring at the purple thong, crack, tatoo, and rather large muffin top exposed above the “waist” band (archaic term) of a pair of jeans worn by a young woman who really shouldn’t have.

If the Eskimo needed 29 words for what was all around them, what does this spate of ways to describe fat mean for us? Clearly, that we’re a nation awash in a landscape of fat, which isn’t news.

Since for most of us, liposuction to sculpt these areas is out of the financial question (and should be out of the question on grounds, in my mind at least, of medical appropriateness of therapy, since it is not without sequelae, but that’s another blog entirely) perhaps we might be better served to harken back to what it is that makes us develop these unsightly pooches that inspired a legion of new words for fat. Hello out there! It’s what we eat!

Never doubt it: Muffins* beget muffin-tops.

*Traditional high-carb muffin, made with lots of flour and sugar, not to be confused with a low-carb Power Muffin, made with almond meal and artificially sweetened, as detailed in The Low Carb CookwoRx Cookbook or found among the recipes on our website.


  1. Dr MD

    Do you remember the first time “hiphuggers” made the scene? At that time they were tailored differently, so that they curved around the female hip without making a muffin top, because the tailoring was specific to the hip. Plus, people walked more, so that the natural girdle of muscles created by walking made the distribution of female fat different than what it is today. I was plump as a teen-ager, but I walked a four mile round trip to school and home everyday, and there was nothing hanging over my hiphuggers.

    Today, a low rise jean is simply a regular jean that has been cut down — it is not tailored to the hip. Manufacturers nowadays take shameless short cuts in their pursuit of profit, taking advantage of a generation that no longer sews and doesn’t know any better. (I did sew my own hiphuggers) In other words, even if a girl were to choose the next size up, she’d still have the same problem, until she got to a size that would not stay up! Today, girls don’t walk anywhere, and I am just fixated at looking at the torsos of girls who look so much puffier than my friends and I did in my adolescence. I remember clearly that while my friends and I did not have “six packs”, there was a pulled in look to the side and front of the abdomen that is now very rare to see. There is also a certain polarity–either anorexics with no hips or puffy muffin-top types–both of which were rare when I was growing up.

    COMMENT from MD EADES: You are right on that the tailoring nowadays makes a difference, but I think that on the whole the bodies are largely…well…larger, too. And yes, I so remember when hip huggers came on the scene. I had a great pair of orange (yes, orange) low hipsters with a wide (maybe 3″ or 4″) self belt and bells that I loved dearly. My father about had apoplexy when I put them on, but hey, they were the rage and I wouldn’t be dissuaded. And I can promise you that if the slightest hint of a muffin top had pooched over their rim, I would never, never, never have worn them outside the confines of my bedroom. Maybe not even there. Times, fashion, and shapes change.

    And PS, I rescued your comment from the Junk Comment folder, where everything goes now if the commentor doesn’t type in the visible password. It’s our only means of keeping spam (which we get blasted with) off the comments page.

  2. Also, wasn’t it common to wear bodysuits with hip huggers in those days? My older friends who wore them say that they always had on bodysuits with theirs. And I really agree with the above reader’s comment about today’s teens having “jelly bellies.” I’ve made the same observation myself and cannot recall any of the kids having those when I was a teen (mid-late 70’s.)

    I’ve pretty much given up hope that clothing manufacturers are going to ever sell clothes that are actually tailored to the female form instead of a popsicle stick with two peas attached to it. I have a waist that’s a size smaller than the rest of me (yeah, I’m blessed with the old-fashioned hourglass figure) and trying to find a pair of pants or a straight skirt that fits is an exercise in frustration so I’ve given up on them. Remember “baggy” jeans? Those things were a godsend because I could buy them to fit in the waist and they would fit everywhere else. Today, the only halfway decent fitting jeans I can find are the relaxed fit ones.

    I definitely think you’ve hit the nail on the head about muffins = “muffintops”. Seems to me that ever since the low fat/high carb way of eating has entered the scene, aided and abetted by the evil high fructose corn syrup, the prevalence of weight carried around the middle has increased dramatically. Heck, a muffin when I was a kid was about a third of the size that they are today and didn’t resemble a cupcake minus the frosting.

    COMMENT from MD EADES: Your friend is right on (as we would have said back then) about the body stockings, because, for crying out loud, how can you keep a shirt tucked into hip huggers? But we also wore crop tops with the hipsters. I had a lovely little crop top with puff sleeves that I wore with my orange hip-huggers.

    From jelly bellies to muffin tops, a lot of the change in the midriff landscape out there today can be laid at the door of the main ingredients in that pair of adjectives: carbs.

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