My Paunch: An Intimate Look

Rich is struggling to find balance. In his stomach.

I recently put a little money into fixing up my ’97 Subaru Impeza (actually an Outback Sport, but no big deal), and it’s afforded me a horrifying amount of freedom that up until now had been spent wandering around the house playing the ukulele for my dog. So with this new-found freedom I decided to go into town to just get out of the house for awhile.

First I decided to go to the Laurel Diner, a little grease-trap on Main Street in Southbury that  closes at noon, yet still boasts “Breakfast Served All Day.” I suppose it’s at this point that my problem usually starts. The diner has a giant piece of hot, flat metal covered in oil and, well, grease. And they place potatoes, bacon and eggs onto the hot, oily surface until they are of an edible nature. Then they give you the potatoes, eggs and bacon and you, in turn, place said food into your mouth, chew and swallow.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the food is delicious. But it’s not the enema and shot of wheatgrass that the 21st Century seems to advocate as a healthy breakfast. And so while my stomach is full and satisfied, so too is my capacity for guilt. This is where the problem starts.

After that I went to the bookstore. Nothing really happened there and I didn’t even buy anything. Probably shouldn’t have even mentioned that.

OK, so now, a couple of hours after my deliciously greasy breakfast, I decided it was time to indulge my “lighter” side. I’m going to go to Starbucks (admittedly mainstream, I know), get some tea and read a book. On this day I happened to be reading Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch, which I think is the novelization of a Farrelly Brothers movie. Anyway, I got my tea, sat down, and that’s when an all-too-familiar awareness crept into my brain: it was my beer gut, my spare tire, my paunch. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I tried. I certainly tried. But it was no use.

The worst is when I sit down and I can feel it all sort of lump together and protrude over my belt. That’s what was happening to me this time. I was able to read a little over a page, desperately trying to enjoy Hornby’s bookish, conversationalist style, but I honestly could not stop thinking about the paunch. I was so distracted that I packed everything up and went home. I knew I should’ve gone to the Mom & Pop enema place down the road. Rich, you stupid, stupid man.

There is so much to be said about my paunch that I don’t know where to begin and where to end.

A majority of the struggle with my paunch has not been so much to physically lose it, as it has been to rationalize and justify its very existence. After all, lots of guys have paunches. Really cool guys. Guys in Judd Apatow movies. Guys in punk bands. Famous chefs. Almost every comedy writer known to man. Ricky Gervais. So what’s the problem? I’m only 24.

I had an uncle or someone say to me not too long ago that I shouldn’t look the way I do, “Not at your age. You can still get out there and exercise.”

There really is some truth to that. Most guys my age don’t have a paunch like I do. And those kinds of guys I mentioned above are generally in their 30s and 40s. I’m really just trying to get to age 30 without getting too much larger, that way I can wear my paunch with a little less guilt.

A paunch can say a great deal about a man in a positive way. I like to interpret my paunch as a sign of my robust and idle lifestyle: satisfying meals + full-flavored beer + hangin’ out all the time = a paunch. Whereas: carrots sticks + MGD 64 + two hours at the gym after work = a six pack. Can’t there be some kind of balance between the two? Well, there really shouldn’t be. What’s the point of that? Then again, a jog every couple of days wouldn’t be so bad either. (Ed. Note: Gaaahhhh!!)

It’s true that the time I spend worrying and feeling self-conscious about my paunch is far surpassed by my enjoyment of the materialistic and social pleasures that life provides. So why does it bug me so much? Should I just stop being bugged?   

Well, I have started running more and feeling generally healthier (). I’ve found that it’s all about balance. Indulge everyone now and then, sure. But, at the same time, you have to stay active and remain proud of your physical appearance.

Oddly, running on a regular basis hasn’t made my paunch go away entirely, but I definitely feel more comfortable with it.


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