Of the many practical jokes of middle age, one is the receding hairline instead of the receding waistline. Now, my hair receded so long ago, the memory of any sort of hairline is tied to a college yearbook photo.
No, the parting of the hair had a parting of the ways eons ago. The good ship U.S.S. Thick Mane sailed into another harbor. I’m good with that. I still am holding out hope, however slim it may be, on the waistline. That’s the only thing that may be slim.
I can accept a lot of physical failures – liver spots, for instance, have a certain mature charm – but having a pot belly, a gut, a boiler, a spare tire is not one of them. Unlike going bald, going belly can somewhat be controlled. Somewhat.
I’ve gotten a glimpse of my full-body self in some Globe-News videos over the past couple of years, and it was jarring. Maybe it was the angle, but, it was like, what was that? Whose stomach did you borrow, and please give it back. What happened to the old thin guy I knew and sometimes liked?
This has just doubled my determination to really do something about it. So, like a lot of men, I did. When at home, I pull up my shirt and look at my profile in the mirror and try to mentally will my stomach to shrink a couple of inches. It’s a process.
Ladies, if you’re down about your derriere, in a rut over your rump, fanatical about the size of your fanny, there’s good news if misery loves company. Men feel the same way about their stomachs.
True, a casual look around throughout the day will reveal that many men have waved the white flag (or maybe it’s a white napkin) in the Battle of the Bulge. That’s fine. They are comfortable in their own skin, so comfortable, in fact, they decided they needed more skin.
But there are also many of us who hover in that Tummy Twilight Zone – not full-on big belly yet, but not the washboard look of our youth. And so we still think it’s a tiny bit possible to recapture the magic.
Certainly, men’s magazines think we can, or think we can enough to buy the magazine for the how-to articles. They’ve been saying the same thing in different ways since Elvis started padding those rockabilly hips in the early 1970s. I went by a magazine stand the other day:
“The Chiseled Six-Pack Abs You’ve Always Wanted” – Men’s Health Training Guide
“The Fool-Proof Lose-Your-Gut Workout” – Men’s Fitness
“Turning Old Flab Into New Abs” – Men’s Fitness (May edition)
“101 Best Flat-Belly Foods For Men” – Health Magazine
It all sounds good, but I’ve come to the conclusion the only way I’m going to lose a couple of inches in the waist is an old-fashioned five-day stomach virus, which I’m not totally opposed to if it will do the trick.
Otherwise, I’m just about out of solutions. I run 25 to 30 miles a week, ran two half-marathons in the span of a month, spend four days a week in the steam room, and even went on a low-carb diet to drop about seven pounds.
I ran pretty well – for me – and the diet lost the desired weight, but I think it was all in my arms and neck. My stubborn stomach remained untouched.
Every morning, I start with 25 elbow-to-knee sit-ups, eight crunches and hold it for eight seconds, then 15 leg raises on each side to work the love handles. I know a lot of physical trainer muckety-mucks say those don’t do any good, and they’re probably right, but it makes me feel like I’m doing something.
This was probably a cry for help about 15 years ago, when in a moment of shame and weakness, I ordered something called the Ab Roller, you know, As Seen On TV. It arrived via UPS a couple of weeks later.
It looked like a miniature Volkswagen with handles on the side and a spring inside. You get on your knees and roll it all the way down to where you’re almost prone to the floor, and then back up.
Then the spring or something broke inside about the third day and there went my $19.95 and prospects for a 30-inch, six-pack washboard waist. Oh, what might have been.
Tempting though it may be to just say forget it and let nature take its course, I can’t quite do that yet. My better angels tell me that lifting my shirt and staring at my stomach with an intimidating glare will eventually do the trick.
Hey, it’s all I got.
by Jon Mark Beilue
Jon Mark Beilue is an award-winning columnist for AGN Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (806) 345-3318.