Indian Men And Their Beloved Big Belly … Why Do They Love It?

Months ago a reader of my blog suggested that I write an article about the ever-common belly that so many men sport here in India. At the time I really wasn’t comfortable with even the idea of it because it felt like I would be poking fun at or picking on only a certain subset of half of India. Yet as the months have passed, I am seeing that the belly is actually a key physical trait of the majority of Indian men here in Bangalore and that it probably deserves a bit of love and attention … so I decided to investigate a bit.

Wow, Akshay Kumar has amazing abs and seems unaffected by the staple rice diet here in India.
In addition to using my own day-to-day experiences and my own personal powers of sight, observation and deduction, I also called on roughly 20 Indians and one Australian friend of mine (who’s married to an Indian man) to help me round out my research on the topic. My ‘belly’ focus group included my driver, the lady who gave me a manicure today, a couple of work mates, 15 friends, and one of the security guards in my building. Everyone had something slightly different to say and it was interesting to hear some of the funny extra bits of value-added commentary that I am going to share with you now.

bangalore-blog-indian-men-have-big-bellyI posed three questions to 15’ish men and 5 women:

  1. Do you think an Indian man’s belly is solely a product of genes (“this is how Indian men are destined to be”) or is it created by genes + diet + lack of exercise?
  2. Do men wear the belly with pride…sort of a symbol that they are well fed, have a good life, etc? Or do you think most guys with bellies wish they had Akshay Kumar’s abs?
  3. Do you think the belly is SEXY?

There are so many factors that go into making us who we are and how we look. Some things are out of our control 100% from birth like our race, genetic pre-disposition and hereditary features. Yet there are an innumerable amount of qualities about our physical appearance that we can – at least loosely – control, such as:

  • Personal style, fashion sense and clothes
  • Hair length and style
  • Skin tone to a certain extent (we fair creatures can tan up but I know it is virtually impossible to go in the reverse direction)
  • …and lastly, weight!

When I first moved here I think I was so mesmerized by the high-waist trousers and the moustaches on the men that I didn’t pay much attention to their bellies. Yet recently for some reason I really have noticed that the majority of Indian gentlemen are sporting either a hint of a belly below their shirts or a full-blown ‘rub my belly to make a wish’ Buddha belly. Sometimes they try to cover it up with a slightly loose shirt but other times it seems that a man wears his belly with pride because he’ll frame it so tightly in his shirt that it looks like it is trying to bust and say hello!

So what is it about Indian men that make the belly a characteristic part of their physique? As one friend of mine pointed out, the belly (or obesity) is not unique to India and men all around the world have bellies. And this IS true. But in other countries I have visited or lived, I found the belly more on the older gents, like in Spain. This makes me believe there is something special at work here in India. As an example, I was recently at my daughter’s school for an award’s ceremony and the majority of the Indian boys around her age all had a bit of a belly, regardless of how fit they were in general. That would have been rare to say the least in Barcelona, where the kids are on the beach for half of the year and all try to stay in as good of shape as possible.

Question #1…so why are Indian men prone to have a belly when their arms and legs and back-sides often stay so thin? Here’s what I heard:

  • It is because the men eat dinner late after their duty, at 10 o’clock, and then go right to bed so there is no exercise.
  • Too much rice. Plus, the Indian body is predisposed to going that shape.
  • If u r having good time….belly grows with big smile.
  • Genes. And no time to exercise.
  • It is just fat…. Nothing Indian about it. Obesity is a global trend from US to Japan… We are just good at masking our insecurities with overconfidence. Maybe fat isn’t seen as a bad thing in a country where almost half the population struggle to feed themselves once a day
  • Lack of exercise and lifestyle ….. Genes too I guess but that may also be just an excuse.
  • Some are genes. With very few men, the major culprit would be diet — sweets, fried stuffs like samosa, snacks. Then to put the icing on the cake, lack to exercise. Another major factor would be the lack on information on how the above diet affects the health.

Question #2, is the belly a source of pride or do Indian men secretly long for rock hard abs? My group said:

  • I don’t know about other men but as for me, my belly will never be a nightmare! To keep it fit I hit the gym with lots of cardio and I control my diet like I go easy on the Indian sweets & fried snacks. Although, I know in some communities (mostly in rural areas), sporting a belly means that the guy is from a well-to-do family (properly fed).
  • Pride naaaaa …… But if you have one you try to carry it off …. That’s the only option.
  • Yeah, they’re quite proud of it because it’s a sign of being slothful and well fed.
  • I don’t like it but that’s my pride doing the talking ….. Hehe
  • We all wish we had six-packs!
  • My husband isn’t proud but he doesn’t care to change it either.
  • No way man, everyone wants hot abs!

And lastly Question #3, is the belly sexy? Do men feel attractive as they stroke their bellies after a good meal? Here’s the responses I received:

  • NO f***in way!!!!!
  • No way it’s sexy.
  • Sexy… wouldn’t have associated that word with a belly.
  • Ganesha was born with a big Belly….! Sexy belly is better than 6-pack-stack-cairn.
  • Hell no!
  • I think a very small one is kinda sexy…. but no more than that!

As for me personally, I’m not a Buddha belly fan. Sometimes I have a few more kilos on me than I should but generally speaking I think it is important to stay trim and I would expect that from my partner too. I’m not really attracted to a guy with a belly – but I do have several girlfriends who REALLY TRULY ARE so luckily there is always someone for everyone!

What I learned in my quest was that the general opinion is that rice and lack of exercise seem to be the major culprits in the belly dilemma. I was also told by more than half of the people who I interviewed that Indian men stay quite fit when they are single and then start to expand little by little over time once they are married, the same as women.

Now, before the men start to complain about me singling them out again … please hold your horses! I am fully aware that Indian women are also guilty of packing on extra kilos and that the men are not alone in this. For that reason, I have titled this article “part 1” … because it is the first in a series of two articles that I’ll write, with the follow-up article being all about the women.

I think we should all head to that tiny village in Karnataka that holds the “biggest belly” competition each year to gain some inspiration for staying in shape and to act as cheerleaders during the event! We could offer up some moral support and encouragement to the pairs of legs holding up the biggest bellies in India. That would have to be a real hoot!

XOXO Angela

© 2011 Angela Carson

At 21 I left uni, jumped into my Jeep Wrangler, and drove from my native California to live an adventure in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I've explored 37 countries on 4 continents, residing in 8 of them (currently Indonesia's Riau Islands is my home). I even have a private pilot's license and was shot at once by bandits!

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17 thoughts on “Indian Men And Their Beloved Big Belly … Why Do They Love It?”

  1. Its not sexy for me. But may be for The Richer. Mukesh Ambani, Vijay Mallya has it. ,.. As long as its nt a health problem , there is no problem, its personal choice of each man.
    I do Yoga for avoiding it. And i Have a flexible ,lovely belly like Bhaba Ramdev. Lol.

  2. Once it was considerd to be symbol of Wealth and Rich.
    Nw it is changing youngsters in twenties and teenagers like me are keen on body building and six packs.
    Ideal man should be –
    1. Amir khan or Bachan in perfection and professionalism.
    2. Arnold or Salman in Bodybuilding.
    3. Rajnikanth in Family, committment and life.

    1. You definitely have your opinions very structured 🙂 Thanks for commenting! But…Arnold is too big and is so far outside the “norm” that I think we should offer up a more accessible body image hero, no?? angela

  3. I think it is cultural as opposed to anything predisposed. Here in usa, if you see second generation men and women, they look like the generic all american pool, but for the brown tone.

    Interestingly one of my colleagues went to bangalore recently and it seems he asked the colleagues in bangalore, how come indians are all so thin. And, he comes back and says the indians stay thin even when they eat a lot. I kind of told him my opinion saying the youth are generally thin due to lack of high calorific intake, but over time the extra calories creeps on to your body.

    1. Ohhhh I do agree that there are really thin Bangaloreans too, but I do think I see my sweet Buddha bellies than string beans 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to comment! –angela

  4. Thats coz u both see 2 different Indians.
    1. Above 30age who were of trend that believed Rich men should be fat and thin are poor.
    2. Under 30 generation either following new trend of Salman khan body or atleast those who believe fat as unattractive.
    My uncle (who has a big belly as if he s had confessed that at their young age it was thought thin people were poor and being from a Rich jweller family it would be shame for him if he wasn’t fat.

  5. “If u r having good time….belly grows with big smile.” I like this one, I am however no fan of the big belly. But as it is in in India, the Buddha belly is a sign/belief of prosperity and wealth. I know many who keep it for luck even. Society is geared to accept men with bellies as healthy and normal (while it might not be so) the scrawny ones are always told off as being not healthy enough. Maybe this differentiates from those really impoverished, I can’t say. I do however have my personal opinions of those with the extra flab, but thats another thing.

  6. Great article Ange! I am glad you’re venturing out and investigating interviewing your security guards 🙂 I myself love a bit of a belly, not too much but just enough to keep me warm and I believe a tiny bit of belly does mean you’re less superficial, you probably spend more time enjoying life than hititng the gym 24/7 although no lazy bums either, a good healthy balance works the best!

  7. Great post! I don’t know about the entire country, but in most parts, having a belly is often associated with being healthy. People also use the word healthy/health interchangebly with overweight, obesity, being in a bad shape etc, usually to tone down the insult. Reasons you have covered all make sense. I’d say, plenty of carbs and low intake of dairy and animal products are the main culprits. Nobody wants a tummy. Although for some, it is a lifestyle choice, either to control diet and work out, or eat samosas and remain ‘healthy’.

  8. It’s the rice/starchy/greasy diet & lack of exercise.
    We used to walk everywhere, but then we got a car- now hubby is sporting a baby Buddha belly!

      1. Hey Angela-
        Feliz Navidad y Prospero Ano y Felicidad!!!

        Oh my hubby is the best, wouldn’t trade him if he had a maxi Buddha belly! Truly an amazing person.

        Ahhhhh, I’m approaching 50, he’s 10 yrs younger than me- I certainly can’t complain 🙂

        But he’s darned well going to pay for ME to get a facelift in California when I’m 50, not that I NEED one mind you! 😉

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