I look in the mirror and I see my dad. Same eyes, same mouth, and (unfortunately) same belly.
I used to tease my dad (when he was in a good mood and I was feeling brave) about his gut. He normally ignored me, but one day (I think I was 16 or so and feeling particularly cocky) he stopped what he was doing, turned to me and said, “Okay – Go ahead and punch it.” I took a loooong pause cause I wasn’t sure if he was serious. But he simply smiled and encouraged me to take a shot at his gut.
It’s important to note that I’d been training in Tae Kwon Do for about a year at this point, so I felt pretty confident that I could kill with a single blow (cause that’s the sort of crap some martial arts schools taught then, and still teach today), so I was concerned that I would hurt my dad. But his repeated encouragement finally reassured me that he was taking sole responsibility for any major damage I might inflict.
He put his hands on his hips, presented his belly to me, and waited as I assumed a deep martial stance to get down to Belly Level. When I felt ready, I cocked my right fist near my right hip, took a few deep breathes, and let loose with my best Reverse Punch, striking him squarely in the center of his gut.
My wrist was obviously not well conditioned because my fist easily rolled forward upon contact with the rock solid surface of my dad’s stomach. PAIN shot from my wrist, up through my arm and into my shoulder. I hadn’t moved my dad one inch; his belly hadn’t collapsed or been otherwise affected by my punch. I stood holding my screaming wrist while my dad continued to stand in from of me for a few moments longer, hands still on hips, and a smile growing across his face. He then patted me on the shoulder, told me to put some ice on my wrist, and he left the room.
That was not only a life-changing lesson about the horrible quality of the martial arts training I had received over the last year, but it was also a lesson about one of my prejudices: I thought that because he had a big belly, my dad must be weak in some manner.
My dad just turned 84 a few days ago (the 26th) and he’s still going strong, gut and all.
Over the last month, I’ve noticed that my pants are getting uncomfortably tighter around the gut. I look in the mirror and I notice my dad’s gut staring back at me. I stepped on the scale this morning and saw numbers that match my life’s highest weight.
The lazy part of me wants to use my dad as justification to not worry about my big ol’ belly. Dad’s gut has been big for as long as I can remember. He’s still alive and healthy, so what’s the big deal, right? Plus, it’s probably genetic, right? I’m gonna have a big gut, no matter what I do, so just deal with it and get on with your life.
The rest of me is screaming “Get your ass into gear, man! You KNOW that’s not who YOU really are, so get your body moving and take care of it! Be an example of good, not laziness!”
I went to see my doctor recently because of a Gout flare-up and during the appointment, I actually expressed the thoughts of “Lazy Me”. He smiled and said, “Yes, you could do that, or… You can keep trying to get healthy. Are you just gonna quit trying?”
My doctor’s a really cool guy and I respect him a lot. He has gotten to know me a bit; enough to know that using the word “Quit” is the perfect way to point out that there’s really no choice. I HATE to quit anything! He knows this.
So yes, I have my dad’s belly. It’s MY belly now.
Time to get rid of it.