Ask Calorie Ken: Mastering the Muffin-Top

How to avoid strange and bizarre waist scrunching

By , Columnist

Dear Calorie Ken, Not all of us are 25-year-old personal trainers.  How can we mere mortals who were once young and thin but now work long hours at stressful sedentary jobs, have no energy left for exercise, find ourselves eating too much, and are beginning to muffin-top, get a handle on our calorie imbalance?
Ballooning in Boston

Dear Ballooning,

"Muffin-top." I had to look that one up. Like camel toe.  Honestly, some things in this world are scarier than Ted Haggard, the Taliban, and the Tennessee General Assembly.

According to the Urban Dictionary, "muffin-top is a word used to describe the strange and bizarre waist scrunching effect that results when females wear tight fitting, low-rise/hip-hugger pants along with small-sized, navel exposing, mid-riff tops."  There's more to the definition, but I think you get the idea.  

Ballooning, Calorie Ken is not a 25-year-old personal trainer and wonders if the picture that accompanies my column makes you think I am.  It was taken one year into the CALERIE Study when I had achieved my target weight - and when I was 49 years old.

The best way to get a handle on your calorie imbalance is to know what your target is - to know how many calories you need.  Before the CALERIE Study, I had no idea how many calories per day was right for me. Nutrition labels on food say they are based on a 2000-calorie diet, but it never occurred to me that that was some kind of target that might apply to me. I learned my target, and when you know your target, you can work backwards from it: deflate that balloon with reverse engineering!

Ever heard of Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR? BMR is the number of calories your body burns just to keep functioning.  We tend to think we only burn calories when we are doing, but, we burn calories just by being.  Our bodies are machines that need fuel 24/7, so, even if we stay in bed all day, we still burn calories, and that number of calories is our BMR. Your BMR is your baseline daily calorie need.  Knowing it will help you figure out how many calories you need on top of it to do the things that you do, and you can plan accordingly.  

Check out this BMR Calculator, learn your baseline, and begin your journey back to the swankiness of yesteryear.  I know from personal experience that the healthy, vigorous you is hidden inside that stressed out, overweight, muffin-topping shell.  Set it free!


Swanky reader, Calorie Ken wants to hear from you!  Post your comments below, and send your questions to  And, tell others!  Post on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn...everywhere, and share with your e-mail distribution lists. We hope to make Calorie Ken the Dear Abby of good health and nutrition, and we need your help.  Cheers! 


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For two years, Ken Brooks (Calorie Ken) was a volunteer in the Tufts University CALERIE Study. He is now a nutrition evangelist. Send your nutrition, weight management, general health and exercise questions to

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