Despite the risks of it hanging around, over time I’ve come to accept and respect the persistence of my belly against diet and exercise. (It’s really something.) And in doing so, I’ve achieved something like a (slightly front-loaded) equilibrium.
And putting aside that I loosely associate with gay beardom – a subculture that values bellies as a beacon of Al Borland-esque masc-for-masc realness – I’ve even found an ample source of belly pride in my own personal pantheon of sports heroes. A bellied man may not technically be a healthy man, but he can be strong, powerful, even fit – part Budai, part badass.
Strongmen, from old-school tanks like Bruce Wilhelm and Bill Kazmaier to beastly contemporaries like Eddie Hall and Zydrunas Savickas have all wielded belly power to great athletic advantage (you’ll find it’s hard to haul a 475 lb.atlas stone without one). An entire era of professional wrestling, from Arn Anderson to Andre to A-Train was loosely defined by loose definition, its largesse a product of largesse. And from Babe Ruth to Prince Fielder, bellied sluggers have long bent the benches of the big leagues. (Oh, also, there’s also football, which has players.)
The shot-putters (see: Christian Cantwell), the bobsled pilots (see: Steve Holcomb), the rugby props (see: rugby props) – all are part of a long, productive relationship between guts and glory.
Depending on how you look at it, a substantial belly can be a symbol of man’s poor health, or a display of life’s rich pageant. But it is perhaps the unbudging bothness of the belly that makes it so tough to fully condemn or champion. What does it really look like to live well?
It’s possible that my current enthusiasm is merely an elaborate projection of my own lame excuses; after all, I haven’t entirely ruled out future efforts to lean up (according to Google there are roughly 15 million ways to go about it that I haven’t tried). Who knows? I’m fickle too. With a little more determination and a lot less glass-bottle Dr. Pepper, I might soon enough become an ab advocate myself, singing an altogether different tune in praise of the six pack.
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Michael Andor Brodeur is an Austin-based writer, eater, trainer, and lover (not a fighter). You can follow him on Twitter (@MBrodeur), Instagram (@brdr76) Snapchat (@mbrdr76), and from a slow-moving brown sedan. Or email him at email@example.com.