As Gyms Remain Closed, Officials Fear Second Plague of Muffin Tops

NEEDHAM, Mass.  Cindi Swarthmore is a young mother of two who maintains the slim, girlish figure of her college days by an assiduous devotion to exercise.  “Sunday is spinning, Monday is cardio kick-boxing, Tuesday is Zumba, Wednesday is Pilates,” she says, ticking off the various regimens she follows before catching her breath.  “Thursday I power-walk 5 miles, Friday is water aerobics and Saturday is sex,” she adds with a naughty leer.

Zumba:  Exercise routine, or endangered species?


But the measures put in place by public health officials here to slow the spread of the coronavirus mean a lockdown of health clubs, with the unforeseen result that Swarthmore’s routine has been disrupted, and not in a good way.  “To tell the truth, if I didn’t like a glass of wine or six with dinner every night, I’d be perfectly fine without all that huffing and puffing,” she says as the corners of her mouth turn down in a dejected little frown.  “I hope like hell they discover a vaccine for muffin tops soon, or I’m going to look like Mrs. Poppin’ Fresh,” the plump spouse of the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

“Let’s get this party started!”


The term “muffin top” refers to the resemblance between the overhang of a muffin beyond the top of a tin and rolls of body fat that extend horizontally over the waistline of pants or a skirt and are visible in the gap between upper and lower garments.  “It is a useful medico-fashion descriptor,” says Dr. Emil Nostrand, Professor of Baked Goods at the New England School of Medicine.  “It’s ironic since a literal muffin top is the most desirable part of a muffin, but one of the least desirable parts of a human.”

“Social distancing” techniques recommended to halt the coronavirus have had no impact on the spread of muffin tops, and may in fact have made things worse.  “It used to be I could get together with friends for aerobics, then go out for drinks,” says Amand Greyfe, a neighbor of Swarthmore’s.  “I can drink alone, but I need somebody yelling at me to do something as stupid-looking as Zumba.”

There is no known cure for muffin tops other than exercise and a low-calorie diet, but victims of the ailment say that they are stuck between a rock and a hard place until restrictions on group exercise are lifted.  “You think it’s easy going without chardonnay?” Swarthmore asks this reporter.  “You should try being the mother of toddlers for a day.”

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