Health and Fitness

How to Stop Worrying and Accept That You’ll Never Have a Beach Body

A story of one man making peace with his paunch.
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I'm quite lazy by nature. I don't mean mentally—I think about work endlessly (is my OOO too bossy? Did I remember to change the caption on that page in the September issue? How many 'E's are there in Ermenegildo Zegna again?)—but when it comes to physical exertion and in particular, the pursuit of the beach-ready body, I'm the human equivalent of a middle-aged labrador that's been fed too many left-over Aunt Bessies. 

Working in an industry where the quality of ones physical stature is considered more important than the state of your soul (or horcruxes, as we call them in fashion) should probably be a motivator. As should the fact that I'm gay: being homosexual in London is like being part of a herd of pumped-up kangaroos that want to fight you as much as fuck you (so long as you go to Barry's Bootcamp eight times a week). But neither of these (relatively compelling) facts have done anything to ignite my inner iron man.

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At school I was useless, a barrel furnished with uncoordinated twigs that couldn't tell the difference between a cricket bat and a tennis racquet. By 20, I was at university and putting to seed some of that vanity which came to inform my later career choice. I started on a diet of Granny Smith apples and Special K (both kinds) and went to the gym three times a week. Needless to say that didn't last very long, not least because the naughty kind of Special K made lifting my legs on the treadmill especially difficult.

In the decade that followed, my devotion to exercise waxed and (more regularly) waned. My early twenties were spent boozing and enjoying the wonders of a youthful metabolism. By 25, my merlot hips were wider than my shoulders and I decided it was time to do something about it. I started seeing a personal trainer regularly and was in the best shape of my life (slight, seemingly immovable pizza paunch notwithstanding). But then at 28 I embarked on a serious relationship and exercise went out the window. I gained a stone, tried squeezing into some old designer clothes, which, frankly, it was ludicrous to have bought back when I had the waist of a ten-year-old girl, and flopped down on the sofa where I belonged.

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Now at 30 I'm more aware than ever of the state of my body, but still: give me the choice between a superfood salad or a roast chicken and I'll go for a 16" pizza with extra pepperoni, cheese, and a tiramisu chaser.

The author on holiday…doing what he loves best

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I'm fortunate, I suppose, that I'm tall. At 6'5 those extra pounds can be hidden quite effectively under clothes (stuff from Scandinavian and Japanese labels works particularly well, designed, as much of it is, for plus-sized inner-city art teachers and people too cool to be worried about body image) but at the moment I'm on holiday, and spending each and every day having your torso judged by strangers can throw your physique into harsh perspective: like an unusually bottom-heavy Cyprus tree under the glare of the midday Mediterranean sun.

It's a fact that men are becoming increasingly concerned about the way they look. It was reported in the Guardian a few years ago that some 80.7% of men regularly talk negatively about their bodies, in contrast to 75% of women. 29% of men also said that they think about their body image some five times per day, and 38% of men said they would sacrifice a year of their life in order to attain a perfect physique.

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Personally I've come to terms, somewhat begrudgingly, with the fact that I'm never going to have a perfect beach body. For starters I don't have the time to dedicate 10 hours a week to the gym. And gyms smell of other people's fungal infections. Then there's the food problem. And let's not forget the booze. So, as I sit here on my sun lounger looking down at my old chum paunch, kept in place by those clingier friends, hips, I decide I'm going to embrace my slightly lumpy, lazy body whether my fellow holiday makers like it or not.

I'll eat in moderation (one pizza per week, or so), I'll see my personal trainer now and then and I'll go for a run once every five days…if I get round to it. So long as I can fit into my clothes and I don't come up against anything inconvenient like a heart condition, I'm going to lay back, throw on on some extra-stretch Issey Miyake sweat pants and knock back the merlot—because life's too short to be an over sexed kangaroo with a Special K problem.

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This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk.

* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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About The Author
Teo van den Broeke
Teo van den Broeke is the Style Director for Esquire.co.uk
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