Body Image Issues as a Modern Day Dude.
“Who you were emotionally as a teenager, determines who you’ll be emotionally for the rest of your life.”
– Steve (some guy I met in SF)
Early one morning while I was living in Ubud, Bali, a friend and I decided to go for a run. While taking in the gorgeous views of the Balinese rice fields and dodging dog feces on the street, the two of us started discussing how we’ve viewed our bodies. Between the two of us, we had histories on opposite sides of the spectrum – he’d always viewed himself as being too thin, while in my mind I’ve always had a little extra weight on me. It’s a conversation I’ve had with several guys, many times before. We stopped for a moment during our run to have a stretch when he asked me:
“That’s amazing that you could think you’re still fat… What would it mean about you if you actually were?”
I paused for a moment before answering. That wasn’t the response I usually get. Most of the time, whenever I make a negative comment about my body I’m met with something along the lines of “That’s silly, you look fine!” I appreciate the gesture – it’s only human to want to make a friend feel better about themselves.
“It’d mean that I’m lazy…” I replied. I took in a heavy inhale to the chest, and as our eyes met we both knew we’d struck a sensitive topic.
As we go through life, all of us get a certain adjective assigned to us, whether it be from our parents or someone else in our environment. Many times, this happens with our best interests in mind. Whatever the particular labels might have been for you, you have the choice to the find the gifts within them and accept that they’re just a part of you. Or, you could spend the rest of your life working hard to overcome them, to “prove them wrong”. If you’re like me, you’ll often find yourself fumbling back and forth between these two options. I could go on about what “laziness” has meant to me in my life, but here I’ll be focusing on what our society considers to be the physical embodiment of it – being overweight.
You would think that in order to associate with being chubby, that I must have spent the majority of my life being overweight. For me, that wasn’t the case at all. Actually, it was only from about ages 8-15 (I’m 26 now) that I had trouble with my weight. But those are critical years, those which can potentially shape how we’ll experience the rest of our lives.
Stoked to present my school project!
Over the years I managed to maintain an exercise routine and drop some pounds quickly enough, but some things never really went away. What’s been consistent throughout is that I’ve been pulling my shirt up in front of the mirror to see if my “abs” are any more visible than they were 20 minutes before. Or pinching my suprailiac skin fold as if I actually had a pair of fat calipers in my hand. Even when I developed chest muscles (pecs, if you will), I disliked working on them too much because they reminded me of having “man boobs”. In a gesture of admiration, dudes (always dudes) would reach out and squeeze that part of me that’s always felt vulnerable. I don’t really blame or resent them – they just aren’t able to tell what my “story” about my body is.
All the while, I’ve been overlooking the fact that I have a perfectly-able body that can climb, run, and jump.
Earlier this year, one of those weight loss transformation videos came up on my Newsfeed. I watched for a good 3 minutes as someone I’d never met went through a drastic change in their body composition over the course of a year. Seeing that person through their body transformation gave me the idea to do the same.
Now I’ll admit it – I might have gotten kinda chub while I was traveling. As it turns out, it’s pretty difficult to avoid eating a lot of rice when you’re in Southeast Asia. Still, I never gave up having some kind of body movement practice and did my best to stay away from all the fried stuff. I didn’t bother making a video, but I did make this gif (The earliest picture is where I’m in the greenish room, the last one is where I have burgundy-colored shorts and look really pale):
Nudez coming soon.
Pretty quickly, I realized that my weight could fluctuate up or down pretty quickly, and the two factors that made the biggest difference in these photos were:
a) How recently I’ve eaten.
b) How much water I’ve had to drink.
Throughout the course of the six months since I started, I became slightly indifferent to how much of a “transformation” I was going through. I still took care of myself as best as I knew how, but I wasn’t going to let my appearance dictate how I felt about myself.
A few people reading this might know that while I was still in college, I was a member of my school’s powerlifting club. Even fewer will know that I have a (now expired) personal trainer certification. That means I’m like, totally an expert and stuff. Every now and then, friends of mine will come up to me and tell me that they’re planning to start a new workout regimen, or that they’re changing their diet in a certain way. By all means, I’d recommend that they go ahead and do so, if that’s what they actually enjoy. But more importantly, and what I seldom tell them, is this:
All my efforts to fix and change my body haven’t brought me any closer to the people that I love. If anything, it’s kept me from talking to an attractive stranger because in my mind I was a lil’ extra puffy.
Having had several different body types, I can safely say there’s no body type that won’t be met with someone else’s comments, opinions, and criticisms (even if you don’t actually hear them). Thin people will be seen as weak or unhealthy, overweight might be seen as being careless and lazy, and muscular people will be thought of as being conceited or obsessed. It’s going to happen – you can’t win everyone else’s game.
But you can have compassion for yourself and your body in its current state, and you can even have compassion for the voice in your head that’s telling you you need to “fix” it.
It’s that level of relentless self-love that I owe to the boy in all of these pictures, just as much as you owe it to the kid that’s still in you.
With unconditional love for however way you view your body today,