Saturday, 12 September 2009


I am indebted to Julia Roberts for making us natural forty-something mothers feel normal.

Surrounded by images of the toned bared midriffs of those who have succumbed to the surgeon's knife to perpetuate their youthful abs, rather than work tirelessly on diet and exercise to check the march of Old Father Time, it is most gratifying to see a celebrity mother who looks normal.

Once you reach your mid-forties, you start to notice the deterioration of your skin's natural elasticity. Suddenly you become aware of the crinkle and sag of your abdomen where the skin was stretched to accommodate your growing baby. In a lot of younger women, this area does apparently revert back to normal, although for those who have put on excess weight due to water retention, gestational diabetes, multiple foeti or just lots of pregnancies, the fluffy skin and stretchmarks never return to their pre-pregnancy appearance.

However, the onset of peri-menopause and the imbalancing of the hormones that control skin and muscle tone means that even those of us who have worked our butts off at the gym or consistently found ways to exercise throughout our working day start to become aware of a stretched quality to our skin that we certainly didn't have before. It doesn't even happen gradually. Just appears overnight. The first to go is the neck with the appearance of the waddle, much celebrated by Dyan Cannon, the object of Richard Fish's lust in Ally McBeal, and followed by just a general loss of skintone when you pull faces or just move generally. Then the creases at your elbows suddenly seem to be so much more apparent. Crinkly and fluffy where once there was smooth definition. And then the abdomen. The hard-earned six-pack of yesterday seems to become an unsupported blob of nothingness overnight.

No matter how much you frequent the gym, dose yourself up with collagen pills or starve yourself, it seems to be impossible to improve the elasticity of the covering that holds the body together.

All you can do is keep working the muscle underneath in an attempt to fill it out and hope for the best.

But, woe betide you if you falter because there are no day's grace before you look and feel flabby again and to expose such a sight in a bikini would be considered a public decency offence... pre-Julia.

In the face of such symptoms, the nipped and tucked freaks on our television screens will immediately resort to the surgeon's knife and and have any excess tucked into their bikini lines, making the rest of us feel even more inferior, when it should be them that we point at for being abnormal. The world has developed a very strange slant in terms of what is right and wrong.

Of course, the alternative is to start downing vast quantities of lager like our menfolk. Somehow, beer bellies seem to maintain their firmness and fill out the skin above. Perhaps on a smaller scale, we could emulate them and make the most of the positive qualities of the mini-pod?

Well, it's a thought...

Pictures Courtesy of


Lady in red said...

Being one of those mums who carried excess fluid during multiple pregnancies together with gestational diabetes and now type two diabetes, I have been unable to even look at a bikini since the advent of children.

However I have discovered that there are many men out there who do like the natural body far more than the nip and tucked celebrity look. I have lost count of the times I have felt embarrassed and shy about my post multiple pregnancy figure only to be told not to be stupid it shows that I am a real woman.

It isn't men who make us feel bad about our maturing bodies, but as you point out, it is these superficial bodies that the media would have us believe are what we should all strive for.

I may have had a weight problem since I became a mother but have always strived to keep myself fairly fit. My GP though confirmed several years ago, that no amount of excercise will give me back my flat abdomen because the muscles were damaged beyond repair during my preganacies. My only chance of anything resembling decent abs would be costly surgery. So like many other women, I have to just accept what I have and celebrate my body for the miracle that it is. (not always easy to do). But we shouldn't be afraid that the ravages of age make us any less desirable.

I would love to have a figure like yours but I don't so intead of focussing on those parts that are not so easy on the eye (my eye that is) I have to concentrate on those parts that I know are still good.

Gorilla Bananas said...

I think Julia has improved with age.

Anonymous said...

Im giggling at the Beer Belly comment in your post.

That was definitely a good read. I actually think Julia Roberts looks beautiful :)

13messages said...

We're pushing forty here and love what you just wrote. Have a great day.

Tom Allen said...

Trust me, the beer gut thing ain't as sexy as you'd think.

I used to hear that Playboy magazine was bad because it gave men unrealistic expectations of what women should look like. But my take on this is that women's magazines are far worse; not only do they constantly feature size 2 models, they also harp on women to be thin in the clothing articles.

I just happened to post about this the other day, when I ran across the article that Glamour magazine is featuring a model with a little belly. OFGS, you'd think that they were using an alien, the way that the media is hyping this.

Trust me, most guys are just happy to have a healthy partner who loves them. 6-pack abs aren't all that high on the list.

Semele said...

Starving yourself certainly isn't the answer...

As Catherine Deneuve pointed out, after a certain point women have to choose between face or arse. If you stay thin enough to have a pert behind, your face will look gaunter and older; if you have a youthful, plump face, your bum might spread a little. I'm assuming the same applies to stomachs!

Joanna Cake said...

LiR - People always say how lucky I am to have my figure, but it went through years of anorexia and then a lot of physical training over the last five to get it so I look healthily toned rather than just stick thin. I was lucky that my caesareans gave me loss of nerve sensation rather than loss of muscle tone but I think I resent the changes that are being forced upon me by the aging process because Ive worked so hard to get to this and Im not really slacking off. But it was the media that was originally responsible for the whole anorexia thing and if they featured more normal women, there wouldnt be so many eating disorders today.

Mr B/Morning Glory - She looks great doesnt she :)

13messages - thank you x

Tom - I shall go have a look at your post but I still miss my toned tum :)

Joanna Cake said...

PS Ruf has asked me to point out that it is still toned, just not as super defined as previously :)

Drinky Crow said...

Drinking heavily increases those elbow creases. If you have arms.

Transylvanian Miss said...

I think as long as someone keeps themselves healthy and is happy then it doesn't matter about the rest every woman is beautiful in their own unique way and the media should be ashamed of themselves for the pressure they do place on us all to be like wippets. It's completely unrealistic to expect everyone to be able to achieve this, everyones body is different after all. And wouldn't it be a bit boring if we all had the same figure, variety is the spice of life. We should celebrate what we have, life is too short to constantly criticise ourselves.
P.S You look AMAZING in your picture on your previous post! Go You! :)
Your ever faithful reader,

Joanna Cake said...

Semele - Oops you slipped into the crack between my replies. Id forgotten that Catherine Deneuve quote but I shall certainly endeavour to prove her wrong :) According to the yogis, the best way is to keep smiling as this activates all your facial muscles and keeps them working.

Drinky Crow - but surely lifting all those pints helps with bicep definition?

TM - B, you're right but so many of us have a natural inferiority chip that we're still going to do it. It would certainly be dull if we all looked the same tho. But then we'd all have to work on our personalities and perhaps there wouldnt be room for the nasties who want to criticise everyone else...?

Transylvanian Miss said...

Very true and I agree completely about the inferiority chip, sure mine is more like a felled tree at this point :D However on the nasties who criticise; I think there will always be people out there who want to criticise even sometimes simply for the sake of it. Some people are natural born critics and also in many cases hypocrites and even if we all did look alike and were forced to work more on our personalities they would then find fault with that instead. Luckily we all don't look alike though and perhaps over time we will grow to love ourselves (every inch of us) including the imperfectons and the chips we carry around because in the end isn't that what makes us human? And therefore perfect in our own complex unique ways.
I do love it though when you have a really feel good look good day and the chip gets forgotten about! :)

Transylvanian Miss said...

cont: Perhaps through this then the critics won't have anywhere to go with their nasty criticisms, because no-one will want to listen to them and will die out like the dinosaurs. Rose tinted glasses? moi? Always. :)

T said...

So true.

I just posted my post-diet picture.

No dieting and exercise in the world has ever been able to put things back to their former state.

I wore a bikini recently and my mom just looked me up and down for a moment and then said 'You're brave'. Not exactly a vote of confidence.
But I wanted a belly tan and I was, by God, going to get one!

PS. You're right.
Flash and tan. Along with the benefits of laying flat. But the naked truth is hanging out there now. I mean it... hanging out. LOL

Cate said...

The first thing I noticed in the picture is Julia's smile - it's far more sexy than any six-pack stomach. I agree with the comments about the media and how we get such a warped idea of what makes us beautiful when really it is all about attitude.

If you know how to enjoy life then there is really nothing more enticing to me.

Cate xxx

BenefitScroungingScum said...

I had to really study the photo to see the crinkly's not what the eye is drawn to!

I don't know if you personally take a collagen supplement, but if they had any value at all we bendies would be prescribed them, we're advised not to waste our money though!
Still havning seen your photos I don't think you need worry Ms Cake, you've got a figure teenagers would be envious of! BG xx

Joanna Cake said...

TM - Unfortunately, the world will always contain miserable gits. My motto has always been Thumper's Mother's Rule: 'If you cant say something nice, then dont say nothing at all!' :)

T - Love that picture! I agree with you, goal weights are not always suitable for the body. If you're too thin, you feel cold all the time! And the more extreme diets are positively dangerous. You need to eat regularly and healthily. Cut out the majority of the treats, but allow yourself one per day. And exercise! Walking for 15 mins every day makes an incredible difference. Ive also tried putting weight on to fill the pockets but it never seems to go in the right place :)

Cate - Exactly. Distraction techniques! If you're smiling, you draw the eye of the onlooker to your face :)

BG - That's interesting. What about hyaluronic acid (sp?)? That's what they're promoting these days. And thank you :)

Transylvanian Miss said...

Hear Hear! I tell you thumpers mom was really clever for a rabbit! *sighs* I love that film I may just have to reacquaint myself with my childhood memories!:)