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To all the dads who have let themselves go.

Me, the big patriarch was at the complete mercy of food. I had become food’s bitch.

I shaved my head and grew a beard. I wore black T-shirts and bigger hoodies. I threw myself into my work even more. I told myself I was the provider, and I must provide.

Then I took the photo on the top (I didn’t want to). I looked at it for ages, all the while battling with the excuses and denial running through my head. “I’m busy with work,” “I’ll start next week,” “nobody really notices,” “it’s not THAT bad…”.

But it was bad, I was taking your run-of-the-mill average everyday dad issues and eating them. Along with a lot of other calories. I’d eat until I was sufficiently stretched to be satisfied, then be too tired (and full) to exercise. So I’d eat some more. Then I’d decide that I would start tomorrow.

So to start tomorrow I would have to eat everything that I would miss, just in case I would “feel like it” tomorrow. “Get it out of the system,” I’d tell myself. But I couldn’t. Because the system that feeds to satisfy addiction is always hungry. Always telling me “one more, and you’ll quit junk forever”.

"I was stressed, but like every guy, I gloss it with a sheen of playfulness."

One day, I put the kids in the car and they screamed the whole way home for an ice-cream. Or pizza, or bikkies. Because I didn't spend as much time with them as mum, I had been buying them off with food. Then using them as the excuse for me to eat the pizza, the bikkies or the ice-cream.

They had become like me. Eating to satisfy an emotional need… an addiction. I wasn't depressed, just stressed. No time, no energy, always angry… always on edge. Food took the edge off. Food made me happy. Food made me playful. Temporarily.

Then I took the photo and realised that I needed to be a better father. I was acting and dressing tough to cover my insecurity. Me, the big patriarch was at the complete mercy of food. I had become food's bitch. But I denied it vehemently. "I am a man, I can't be an emotional eater! Men don't do that! If anything I eat more junk when I'm happy."

But happy is an emotion too. I was stressed, but like every guy, I gloss it with a sheen of playfulness. And my 'fun' side was to eat. A LOT!

Then I said to myself, "It's just not fair to burden my children with my food issues. I created mine through laziness. I can't create theirs through MY laziness. At least give them a chance..."

So I started fresh. I did things differently. I prepared meals. I ate proactively, not reactively. I saw that the Rock ate the same meals every day for 6 months. Boring, but simple.

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So I ate simple food with my kids and spoke about what good it does. I cut down on the bullshit and "flavour," I found simple was easy and easy food beats complex flavour food and variety every time. That’s why fast food is so popular. It’s easy, it’s convenient. But eating the same four meals every day meant I had something even more convenient than that… a habit.

"Fitness is not another thing a dad has to do away from his family."

My kids picked up the habit even faster than I did. Only a few days of eating the same veggies and meats and they were hooked. And better behaved. I had inadvertently created stability for them, something I now know they crave.

I cut out all my "trigger food" and learned everything I could about the mathematics and science of fat loss. I didn't trust 'concepts' or fads.

Most importantly, I exercised with my kids. I used to think that exercise was something I would have to go away to do. Something else that would take me away from the family. Now, I use my kids as weights. I carry them, I lift them, I throw them in the air. I chase them, catch them and tickle them. While I’m getting my exercise in for the day, they are having fun. Real fun. Not drive-through chemical fun like before. They laugh and squeal and giggle, they don’t sit in silence and consume. They make working out so much more fun, their excited cries of “more,” “higher,” “faster, daddy” push me harder in every workout than I ever would by myself.

Fitness is not another thing a dad has to do away from his family. You just have to look at it differently. I don’t do fitness anymore. I play with my kids in a way that they get to see an exhausted, sweaty, satisfied smile on my face every night.

When I die one day, that’s how I want them to remember me and I want them to embrace that in themselves. If I can show them how much fun it is to be physical, in spite of life’s great stress, they will believe that health and fitness is in them. “Dad was fit,” is so much more important than “Dad was rich,” because money can be made and lost, but health once lost, is lost forever.

If you’re a dad, doing your best to juggle work, kids and life remember these words forever:

Your children will never remember you, unless you are there to make memories with them.

Find out more about how Julius went about regaining his health at sharnyandjulius.com.

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