How to Get Rid of Muffin Top

how to get rid of muffin top

Back in the fall, I had a speaking gig at a big financial corporation in St. Paul. Once we dug into the Q&A – my favorite part – the audience members began plying me with fabulous questions. And one I’ve gotten time and again came up: “How do I get rid of muffin top?”

In my opinion, there are two answers to that question: Buy larger pants, or buy differently shaped pants.

In the majority of cases, muffin top is not an inevitability that should be worked around and disguised. It is a sizing or fit issue. For most people, midsection spilling over the waistband is a sign that pants are either too small or in a style/cut that doesn’t suit your frame.

Your pants are too small

Have I mentioned lately that clothing sizing is a load of arbitrary bunk? Because it IS. Head out to a vintage or thrift store sometime and try on your current numeric size of clothing through several decades. Oh, the laughs you’ll have. I have thrifted up everything from size 4 to size 16 in my time, and at this point, I generally ignore the tags and eyeball fit instead. And even if you aren’t a ninja-level shopper who can tell at 20 paces if pants will fit your curves, here’s something you can do: Ignore tags. Ignore sizing. When you try on bottoms, take a size above and a size below your typical size. If the larger size fits better – if it fits to your waist without pinching or subdividing your midsection – that is the size you should buy. If the size number bugs you, cut out the tag. Forget about the number, focus on the fit. Ideally, pants shouldn’t dig into your midsection, and in many cases going up a size or two can alleviate digging. (The next tip may address this in some cases, but if sizing up in the waist makes your pants too big elsewhere remember that they can be tailored.)

Your pants are the wrong shape

I hated pants for SO LONG because around the time I became a fully-formed adult human, the only pants available to me were low-rise. Remember the 90s, people? The variety of styles and cuts we have now did not exist back then. Times have changed, and for the better: Most folks can access low-, mid-, and high-rise pant styles new or used and in the gamut of sizes. There are even styles designed to work with small waists and large hips, and lines that aim to fit a variety of body shapes. In many cases, muffin top is caused by wearing pants that are too low in the rise. Many figure types carry more squish lower on the abdomen and less toward the bra line. So simply switching to a higher rise can make the waistband spillover vanish, in some cases. (Including mine.) The opposite is true on other figures: More softness is found higher on the torso and less toward the pelvis and hips. Trying a lower rise can help in this case. Muffin top occurs when waistbands dig into parts of our bodies that are softer and easily subdivided. Placing your waistband on a part of your torso that is less soft can work wonders. Yet another possibility: Your waist doesn’t curve in where the pant waistband expects it to. If you have a more straight-up-and-down torso shape without a defined waist, consider trying men’s jeans which are designed for a mostly curve-free figure shape. You won’t have as many wash and style choices, but you might just land on a few great pairs that fit without pinching. (Again, if waistband fit is the most challenging, buy pants that fit there and have them tailored elsewhere as needed.)

Also possible? Your underpants are too small

I’m a size 10/12 on the bottom. I generally buy XXL panties. In an ideal world, your underwear shouldn’t dig or subdivide either. This can be harder to make into a reality, I know, but be aware that your panty size and your pant size may not be the same. Again, ignore the numbers. Focus on fit. If you can find a style and size that fit to your curves without digging into your body, buy and wear those.

Are these universal truths with absolutely no exceptions? Of course not. Some bodies are shaped in such a way that waistband spillover will occur no matter the size or shape of the pants. If this is the case for you and if the spillover bugs you, there are other options: Look for bottoms made from softer materials or with softer waistbands that won’t dig as harshly, wear thicker or more structured outer layers with any pants that cause spilling, layer a snug but untucked tank or camisole between your top and pants. Also be aware that dresses and many skirts don’t cause these issues as often or as severely on many frames. (All of these work-arounds will work for most people, but I’d encourage you to try sizing up or changing pant style first if you think it might help.)

And, of course, if you experience muffin top no matter what you try, there is absolutely nothing “wrong” with you or your body. I mean it. Most of the clients I’ve worked with have been able to eliminate or lessen spilling by changing pant size or shape, but not all of them have. This phenomenon gets lots of negative attention because, in many cases, it can be avoided. But not in all cases, and no one ever seems to acknowledge that. If you can and want to experiment with fit and sizing to avoid muffin top, by all means do. If you’ve tried everything and it still happens, think of this advice like a tall woman reading tips for petites: It just doesn’t apply because that’s not how you’re shaped. End of story.

Furthermore, none of my figure flattery advice posts should be considered gospel, including this one, and I fully expect you to read them with a grain of salt. Style “rules” are merely guidelines, no matter who is dispensing them. I trust you to use your judgment. And I trust you to take what applies to you, discard the rest, and assume positive intent.

So. Are you someone who struggles with muffin top? Have you experimented with different sizes and rises? What’s working for you? If you are someone who gets waistband spillage no matter what, do you try to find workarounds? Any others to add?

P.S. Why does all figure-related jargon have to reference food? Eesh.

Images courtesy 6pm.

Originally posted 2014-11-10 10:41:36.

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12 Responses to “How to Get Rid of Muffin Top”

  1. loubeelou

    I find wearing a leather belt helps with the muffin-top too. Sometimes that seems counter-intuitive, particularly if you’re in a phase of life (or just time of the month) when your pants are a little on the tighter side. BUT it helps keep the top edge of your pants structured, instead of smooshing. This, for me, is key to muffin top prevention (deployed in combination with spanx camisole as needed).

  2. livi

    Yep, I hate all low rise pants for that reason, but as a teen and young adult in the 90s, I am 36, I beg to differ that low rise were popular in that decade (maybe at the tail end). In the 90s we had high rise jeans, the kind that became the infamous, derogatory “mom jeans”. I liked pants then, but hated everything in the 00s. 🙂

  3. Sarah

    That Levi’s link is a revelation to me. As a long-time reader, I am sure you’ve pointed it out before, but I’ve missed it. I rejoice in the reappearance of high-rise jeans since I’ve had babies. Just the ticket for me!

  4. Carolyn @ At Least I Will

    Thank you thank you thank you for including fit in this discussion. Growing up, I swear ever TV fashion stylist (cough*Tim Gunn*Clinton Kelly*cough) spouted that muffin top meant you were wearing the wrong size. I wore pants for years that were almost falling off of me because the cut was all wrong. I’m so glad that there are now dozens of different cuts of jeans on the market, rather than that all low-rise hell we survived.

  5. Emily Regan Wills

    I have been having the damnedest time finding pants that actually sit at my waist. For instance, I got all excited at finding out Gap had a “high waist skinny jeans” style, since I like the fit of skinnies but they often cut me off at an unflattering place…and they sat below my belly button when I put them on. Am I unusually high-waisted? Any suggestions for US or Canadian stores that do really well at higher waists in pants? (Esp that actually carry the top of their range in stores–I won’t buy pants sight unseen, but I wear a 14 or a 16, which not all stores keep in stock, hmph.)

  6. Liz

    Another related issue about pants fitting–I find that pants made with fabric that includes any kind of stretch and a zipper tend to be too roomy in the stomach area, as if all women were pregnant or had a large “pooch” (another cutesy term, like muffin top, I detest!). It’s a particular problem with jeans, cords, and casual pants.
    So either my stomach starts to push out in an almost unconscious effort to keep them up, especially after a few hours of wear when the fabric really stretches, I have to wear a belt, which bunches, or I have to take them to a tailor, which adds to the what already might have been considerable cost (I’m looking at you, Eileen Fisher).
    I have a relatively flat stomach, even for someone who is 65, so this aspect of pants drives me crazy.

    • Kate K

      Yes! I’ll wear pants/jeans in some situations and I’ve finally found a few pairs that fit, but I find it’s so much easier to wear dresses. In dresses, I’m a nice curvy hourglass pear, and pants really throw off those lines.

  7. Allison

    Low-rise pants have perplexed me for years. They seem to look attractive on women who are flat-stomached, long-legged and thin-hipped. In other words, practically nobody (though if you fit into this category, good for you! You look great in low-rise!) Everybody else looks short-legged and chunky in them. With major muffin top. I’ve always known that my very curvy, hourglass, 5’2″, short-waisted shape looks awful in them, but until recently there was no alternative. Some of the “high-waisted” styles are still below my bellybutton. But I’m delighted to see so many more choices out there now! I saw high waist jeans at Target this weekend.

    I think the tyranny of the low-rise hearkens back to that old Saturday Night Live skit about Mom Jeans.

    • Dust. Wind. Bun.

      Though I agree with you on the truly low-rise styles, I think some of it is people being able to at least try to compensate for different waist-lengths. For example, I’m built almost exactly like you (except you’ve got 2 inches more height on me – I refer to myself as a fertility idol in miniature), but where you’re short-waisted, I’m long-waisted – all my height is in my torso, but somehow my comfort-based natural waist, my belly button, and my narrowest point are in 3 different places (in lowest-to-highest order there, that was convenient 🙂 ) and with a mid-rise or generous low-rise, my pants stay where they fit best, at my lower comfort waist point – I don’t know if it’s unflattering on my weiner-dog, 26-inch inseam legs, but I kind of don’t care, I guess? Plus with the extra tummy roundness I have lately, I basically get a choice between waistbands around my ribs or hanging out right above my pubic bone below the belly, and at least a mid- or low-rise has less extra fabric in the way.

      So, yeah, I guess all of that was to say, possibly some of it is trying to compensate for other fit issues most retailers don’t bother to consider?

  8. johannac

    I love my high rise skinny jeans from Topshop. I prefer high rise both for avoiding the muffin top, but also for bending down and not worrying about underwear showing. Never have that problem.

  9. ABG

    Thanks for addressing this and including some tips around the “b-belly”. I have a defined waist but with smoosh above and below (it’s there without anything on, so it’s my body shape) — making me look like the letter “B” in front. Pants aren’t really an issue (totally agree about belts and camisoles, and really hadn’t thought about high-rise pants), but some kinds of shirts and dresses are a bit more challenging……