There’s nothing funny to me about having a dad-bod. I reject the cultural cuteness we’ve given it over the past few years. I had a dad-bod before I had a son, but no one gave me a high-five for being so hip and ahead of the curve(s).
If you happened to read my posts from time to time I’ve mentioned that I thrive on proving people wrong. I get joy out of defying expectations. I like taking what someone assumes I should be or do and be the opposite. That has created a constantly-rotating wardrobe, different hairstyles every few months, new music explorations, new book-reading choices, and so on. Whether the drivers are healthy or not, the effects have given me a freedom to be and do whatever I want.
This is how I found myself at a gym, one week before my first son was due, signing up for a new membership — my third different membership since I moved to Wisconsin. When the manager asked what my goals were, “I want to look like a monster,” wasn’t a strong enough metric to monitor progress. He also couldn’t really take my testimony that I used to be in really good shape as a reliable gauge on what I should aim for. But that doubt gave me motivation.
My son was born on a Thursday; my first session with my trainer was the following Monday at 7 am. I hadn’t eaten before the appointment, I hadn’t slept much — as anyone with a newborn could understand. I nearly passed out. I couldn’t get through the 30 minute fit test. I spent the following 33 minutes crouched on or around the one men’s toilet. It was not my best day and not the impression I wanted to set with a guy I was financially and contractually obligated to see once a week for at least two years.
But it got easier over time, as things do. My wife was always home, and so I knew I could go to the gym before or after work, and she’d be with the boy. I started making visible progress. For the first time really in my life, I focused on the lower half of my body and started developing an ass, which I have never had in my entire time on planet earth. Eventually, my wife also got a personal training program with the same trainer, and she was able to go consistently between her part time schedule at work and either of us picking up our son from day care.
Culture makes it seem like the dad-bod is some sort of badge of honor, but here I was getting into the best shape of my life. I was telling people that this is my dad-bod. By Memorial Day, I was finally on the right side of physical strength and wellness. Then shit got complicated.
My wife went back to work full-time and our routines fell apart. One week I needed to be in San Diego, the next week she’s in Texas. Next week we’re both in town but I have band practice. She’s clawing her way back into full-time work mode, so she needs late nights at the office to get caught up from months of maternity leave and part-time work. Oh, now I’m in New Jersey. Now I’m in North Dakota. Now I’m in North Carolina. She’s in Texas. She’s in Palm Springs. Family is visiting. Family is visiting again. The rain finally stopped, we need to do yard work. Nope started raining again, this time causing floods in the basement. Oh, time to travel again.
It’s mid-August and in just 10 weeks, I feel like I’m slipping into that skinny-fat stereotype of bearing a father-body. I stepped up my volume of eating to account for all the gym time, but when my stops at the gym decreased, my caloric intake didn’t. I see love handles, I see a fuller belly, I see saggy man-boobs. Dammit.
After justifying my descent into mediocrity for weeks, I really got into my head about how I got here, and most importantly, how to get back. I don’t know if I have good answers really, but here’s the plan I’ve come up with. First, I need to do it as early in the day as possible so I ensure it gets done. Second, I can’t focus on the perfect opportunity. I have a plan each day to exercise and then I have things happen where my ideal scenario of exercise is compromised and before you know it I’m half-asleep in bed drifting off into tomorrow.
It must be a priority. It was a priority before and life was probably just as complicated (but in different ways) as it was a few months ago. But because it was so important, I found ways to do it consistently. My lesser vices went on the back burner (things like waking up and playing on your phone for 20 minutes can set off a sequence of laziness that derails a perfect amount of time to exercise). I ate better because I knew it was helping me each day. Once it’s a priority, it’s a way of life.
My son is getting bigger and heavier. I need to be able to haul him around, and set a good example. Today was the day I needed to remember how far I had come at one point, and how far I’ve slipped. But I am not discouraged, just delayed. I have a deadline to get to the shape I want to be in. 11/11: Family reunion for my wife’s side of the family. I was telling her that I need to be the most physically impressive man at this reunion so that her family knows the Shermans have strengthened the genetic makeup of our family tree. She laughed. But motivation comes in a bunch of silly forms. And that’s the motivation I need.