I’m Developing a Pot Belly! A Dad’s Body Image Blues

A Dad's Body Issue BluesI’ve always been tall and skinny, but recently it looks like I swallowed a basketball or ate a baby or something. I’ve grown a little pot belly. A pooch. A bump. A swollen softness in my middle.

Oh, the belly! For me it’s the first part of the body to show signs of neglect, and also the first area that shapes up when I restart an exercise routine.

Once upon a time I felt so proud of my abs I used to ask people to punch me in the stomach. “Go on, do it!” I’d goad them, usually after a couple of drinks. “Really sock it to me. It’s steel down there.” Those were the days when five mile runs, pilates videos, and yoga classes happened several times a week and not once or twice a season. Great days, I should add.

Felix’s birth threw me off this rhythm, but not long after his infancy I got back on track and ran a half marathon. It wasn’t hard: at the time I was mostly a stay-at-home dad. Running got me out of the house and gave me something to focus on other than parenting. I felt good both physically and also mentally, like, I’m not just a stay-at-home dad. I also run.

Well, now I also write. The work is a great thing, but in walking the tight-rope of career, parenting, marriage, and friends, I’ve pushed exercise to the back burner. When my wife comes home from work, I’ll either start dinner or use whatever slim window of time I have to wade through my inbox (which also has never been as plump before), or, more likely, try to get ahead of my assignments so that later in the evening I can spend some QT with either my wife or a book, and then hit the hay at a respectable time. But it’s hard feeling good about myself when my tummy has become as soft as the pillow on which I flop my head!

I’ve been especially aware of my body this week as the news of the royal baby turned from wonder over his name — which, surprise surprise! turned out to be the very traditional, English, kingly monicker George — to thoughts about the Duchess of Cambridge’s weight loss. The British tabloid OK even had to apologize after running a headline about the Duchess’s “Weight Loss Regime” the day that Kate Middleton stepped out the hospital for the first time with her son.

So I appreciated the advice from Redbook’s editor Jill Herzig to new moms like Kate Middleton, and also Kristen Bell, who will be gracing Redbook’s cover eleven weeks after the birth of her daughter and about fifteen pounds over her pre-pregnancy weight: “Take your time. Be patient with your body. And whenever you can, sleep.”

It can be hard to forgive myself, to remember that these insane days of spending five or six or more hours with your son, and then equal amounts of time launching a career, will not last forever. I also need to keep in mind that a little physical activity goes a long way to making me feel better about my body.

My goal for the next few weeks — weeks when our sitter will be away and I’ll be home for long days with Felix, and then we take a family vacation — is twofold. First, be nicer to myself, and, in the words of Babble author Ellen Seidman, “Rock the pot,” even when I bare the belly at the beach. And also, try and take a few minutes every day to move and sweat. Taking ten minutes for a hip-hop dance party with the boy helps in this regard! Or an after dinner stroll.

Hopefully when Felix enters school in a few weeks I’ll be able to schedule more time for exercise. It can only get better, right? The older he gets the more time I’ll have for myself, and for my tummy. You watch. Won’t be too long before I’ll be writing a post inviting readers to “Punch my stomach!” (Kidding, kind of.)

 

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