The Pannus

Most of my friends are at least in their mid-twenties. All of us are at the crux. We must decide either to embrace healthy dietary and exercise habits or capitulate to the slow and debilitating onslaught of the Pannus.

Many of you may not know what the Pannus is and what it represents. Like you, I once was ignorant of this word and the corresponding posture towards life. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia, the web’s foremost authority on the Pannus, which will illuminate this phenomenon:

Pannus is a medical term for a hanging flap of tissue. When involving the abdomen, it is called a panniculus and consists of skin, fat, and sometimes contents of the internal abdomen as part of a hernia. A pannus can be the result of loose hanging tissues after pregnancy or weight loss. It can also be the result of obesity. A pannus can come in many different sizes and shapes and can become very large, even hanging down below the knees. The extra tissue of a hanging pannus can make personal hygiene difficult. Skin conditions such as yeast infections under the pannus are common problems. A massive hanging pannus can get in the way of walking. A smaller pannus can be an annoyance with clothing as the individual sits or stands. (Source)

Sweet Sally, I think I’m going to have nightmares.

The Pannus is more than rolls of belly fat. The Pannus is a state-of-mind. I had two years of Latin in high school, so I can tell you right now that the Latin word panis means bread. The Greek word pan means “all” as in “pantheism” or “pangaea.” Thus, the Pannus means “all-bread,” or “Pillsbury Dough Boy.” Expressed in layman’s terms. The Pannus means “letting yourself go.”

We’ve all thought about it: Nobody wants to be that guy at your ten-year high school reunion. When you see him, you almost cuss. You’re that shocked. It’s as though he’s gone fuzzy around the edges. Somebody erased all the lines then pumped him full of lard.

Bear with me as I paint a picture for you:

[Some of the former dorks, thespians, and computer geeks are standing in a corner of a rented room drinking punch and dropping chip crumbs onto the floor. In walks Dudley, the all-star quarterback, now part-time father and real estate salesman. Conversation ensues.]

Ralph: “Good gracious, is that Dudley?”

Sarah: “What happened to him?”

Russell: “Boy, did he let himself go!”

Ralph: “He looks awful.”

Sarah: “That’s what happens when you date Natty Light for about 15 years.”

[All three laugh.]

Russell: “How much do you think he’s put on?”

Sarah: “Fifty or sixty pounds at least!”

[Sarah begins to feel bad about her enthusiasm.]

“Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had two kids, and I can tell you right now that it’s a struggle to find time to exercise. But there’s a difference between putting on a few extra pounds and begging for a heart attack.”

[Dudley walks over. He smiles at nods at the three.]

Dudley: “It’s been a long time.”

Russell: “No doubt. How’re you doing, Dudley?”

Dudley: “Pretty good, pretty good.”

Russell: “Where’d you get that beer? I must have missed them.”

Dudley: [He winks.] “Oh, I brought it. I’ve got some more out in my truck if you want one.”

Russell: “Oh, that’s alright. Thanks for offering. I was just wondering.”

Dudley: “Cool. Well, you guys take it easy. I’m gonna go says some more hellos.”

[Dudley wanders off.]

Ralph: “Holy crap. He brought his own beer.”

Sarah: “Yes, he did, and he finally earned his name.”

Russell: “Sarah, that’s terrible.”

[All three laugh.]

This scene, though fictitious, illustrates what can happen when we fail to guard against the Pannus. Sure, we can make jokes about our compromises by slapping our bellies and saying, “Why have a six-pack when you can have a keg?” We can create imaginary ailments as conversation pieces. Take, for example, Dunlap disease: “Your belly has done lapped over your belt.” Or Thangdo: “Your gut sticks out farther than your thang do.”

Our metabolisms slow down, and other responsibilities and obligations cut into the time we once used to stay in shape. Life happens, and poor time management skills and a lack of self-discipline plant us on the couch.

Letting ourselves go happens slowly and subtly. You still feel like you’re sixteen, then, one day, you look down and realize you can’t see your feet. The Pannus has struck again.

I know what you’re thinking:

“There’s no such thing as Pannus envy. How can I be on my guard? What can I do to protect myself?”

There is hope. I’ve compiled a list of questions, known as The Pannus Prognosis, to help you identify attitudes and assumptions that make you susceptible to the Pannus.

Instructions: Ask yourself the following questions and keep track of your answers. Give yourself a 5 for every Yes and a –5 for every No.

1) Could one healthcare professional locate my genitals without assistance?

2) Do I have the mental and emotional fortitude to put a pint of Ben & Jerry’s back in the freezer after opening it?

3) Do I still have what people refer to as a chin?

4) Am I able to get out of bed without help?

5) Can I remove the rings from my fingers?

Next, give yourself a 5 for every No and a –5 for every Yes.

1) Do I have any body parts I wasn’t born with? (Examples: a panniculus, turkey gobble, or muffin top.)

2) Do I often partake of the Captain Ds?

3) Do the good folks down at my local Golden Corral or Ryan’s Steakhouse know me by name?

4) If bacon were a person, would I date him or her?

5) Do I consider butter a food group?

6) Have I ever found missing objects on my person while naked?

7) Do I own a Snuggie?

8. Do I wear sweatpants anywhere other than the gym and grocery store?

9) Have I ever lived or do I currently live in the state of Texas?

10) Do I ever unbutton my pants during or after a large meal?

Now, calculate your score out of a possible 75 points.

If you scored 50 or below, you are at risk. 50 and above means that though the Pannus may yet overtake you, your appearance at your high school reunions probably won’t make people gasp.

Keep in mind, however, that this test is still in its trial phase.

People all over the world, especially in the United States, are counting on you to help make the Pannus Prognosis into an effective tool for the diagnosis and treatment of The Pannus.

Please submit your own questions in the Comments section.

Comments Closed

11 Comments

  1. Posted May 21, 2009 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    In my circle of friends, the pannus is known as a fupa (pronounced foopa)

  2. Posted May 21, 2009 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    I’m so glad you included the grocery store as an acceptable place to don one’s sweat pants. Fellini Kroger FTW.

  3. Lauren
    Posted May 21, 2009 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    I agree with fupa and/or pooch, but pooch isn’t quite to the pannus stage.

  4. Posted May 22, 2009 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    I read this while eating two hot dogs. And without irony.

  5. Austin L. Church
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Of course not. Eat your hot dogs with gusto. Then, go for a walk or run. Ethan makes that easy, right?

  6. Austin L. Church
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Agreed. The “fupa” or “pooch” is distinct from both the “pannus” and the “flumpis.”

  7. Austin L. Church
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this valuable contribution to the lexicon of “Body Parts We Weren’t Born With.” I’d love to know about any others that you have heard about.

  8. Bethany Massey
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    I’m impressed that you informing the general public of this tragedy. I definitely did not know the correct term for pannus until I was in my first year practicing as a NP and had a patient who had undergone a pannilectomy.

  9. Austin L. Church
    Posted May 25, 2009 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    The general public needs to be aware. It is the duty of everyone in this country.

  10. for me to know
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    whoever you are, i am obsessed with you. you have nailed the pannus. and yes, it is a state-of-mind. show your face, i want to be your wife!

  11. Austin L. Church
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Thanks for your vote of confidence in my marriage-ability. I’ll use this remark for firepower against all the skeptics.