The Middle-Age Bulge… A Confession of Sorts


Brad Mathias talks about health and fitness and self-image for men over 30.

So I’m having lunch with a group of long time Christian radio industry dudes, at a questionably healthy Mexican joint named “Nacho’s” in Franklin, TN. These men will need to remain anonymous as it’s not within the general policy of the universal ”man-code” to nark on your bros to the women… but here goes.

All of us are well over thirty… how much so will remain a mystery. All of us have varying degrees of manly decline, some of us are softer than others, rounder than others and generally less than we may have once been in the gym. Suffice it to say, we’re middle-age dads… and the discussion migrated to the summer heat and unusual level of humidity this year. I made the innocent comment that I recently found myself avoiding the beach and visits to the pool these days... in a serious effort to keep my shirt on in public at all costs. This was met with a hail of manly solidarity from my fellow chip dipping salsa bros.

A discussion ensued in which each of us shared various stories of our own issues with finding modified bathing attire and our newly discovered modesty in middle age. It seems that we all had noticed a certain movement of our muscles from the chest to our guts and our butts to our belly buttons… something we’re not terribly proud of, but nonetheless true. Now given the weather had turned to HOT, our uni-sex pull over fleece one piece – hide all our fat- draping attire wasn’t going to work much longer and the need for tighter fitting polo’s and tee’s were suddenly a concern.

The hip-slick tuck in the front of your shirt behind your large belt buckle look… no longer had much fashion appeal to us and it seemed the darkest – deepest despair was always right before we had to make a belly bulge reveal, usually occurring around swimming or public water recreation… the dull dread of a chance meeting with someone you knew well from church or the neighborhood. The shame of them seeing you hanging out by the side of the pool in three foot deep area that lamely covered your white stick legs while your superbly inflated life raft of a belly bobbed at the water line for all to see and admire… SHUDDER...

We discussed the variety of ways to cover one’s growing mid-riff when one of the brothers, shared he had worn a tee-shirt to bed for six months after he first got married (NO WAY !!!), to save his wife the grief of seeing his over-developed table muscle. Which after he said it, the supportive man club… roundly applauded this poor man for his transparency and honesty, then snickering to ourselves... we all quietly decided it was time to move this conversation along. What’s my point?

We change, we age, we decline… but at a pace that we can largely determine.

Marriage, fatherhood and middle age are potent mixes of all kinds of pressure for men. We find ourselves often caught with the mind of a 20-year-old and the knees of a 50-year-old and the aches and pains and Advil bottle in our car to prove it. What happened to us? When did our studly vigor start to go south… and why? 

The answer is not just a medical one, low hormones, reduced metabolism, increased dietary intake and reduced activity all make up the answers. Throw in heredity and environment, self-esteem and job stability, and you’ve got a hundred reasons in a heartbeat. The reality is this… we take great pains to try to stay the same, when in reality we’re not going to succeed. We’re going to change, the body is going to fail us eventually and we are going to have to adapt our actions accordingly.

1. We can stoically accept it and continue to passively eat, drink and sleep our way to an early grave, with lots of extra long t-shirts and elastic waist band pants, or...

2. We can step back and look closely at the life we have and modify it for the better. Choose to eat less, walk more, and go to the pool with our kids, if for no other reason than to share that day with them without too much shame and distraction. No we are not going to be 20-something again, but we can be a healthy 40… something.

Guys, don’t forget to take care of yourselves... life is precious. It’s fleeting, and it’s ours for the living… but passivity and avoidance are choices, too. Skip the second helping… sweet potatoes are your friend, fried is a “four” letter word for your wardrobe and diabetes is a real thing. Our wives, our kids and our communities of faith are counting on us to love ourselves as much as we try to love them… they need us to be here when it really counts. Let’s do our best to push back from the table and walk with our ladies around the block at night, you might just find you feel a whole lot better and your bride might just think you look a heck of lot more… uhmm, “Nice.”

No great spiritual insight here, just a lighthearted reminder to myself and my Nacho eating compadres to work a bit harder this summer to return to our shirtless days and parent on with a bit less under the hood!

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