I’ve written on this topic before but I wanted to add some more nuance as we head toward Thanksgiving and various other gluttony-based holiday events. I’ve written in the past about the need to plan ahead, to plan for cheating, to plan for failure, etc. But I wanted to talk more specifically about how to do that for the holidays, how I do it in general, and how I’m doing it now with my specific workout/eating regimen.
I sometimes wonder about the focus of fitness magazines as I’m walking through the store and see them on the rack. I’ve mentioned before that I think the industry misses the mark a lot of the time with regards to overweight people, and the lines of fitness magazines on the rack at the grocery store are a good example of just how. A lot of the articles you’ll see are about that last 10 or 15 pounds, or how to “finally” shed that belly fat… But what about the guy who is just getting started? It seems to me as if fitness magazines will be one of the first resources that a fat guy picks up when he wants to lose weight – it was the first thing I picked up, after all. They’re visible, they’re accessible, and they’re relatively low-investment… but they also tend to focus on guys near the top of their game. Which is fine, in some ways: that’s part of the mission of Men’s Health and their declared readership. But I think fitness magazines – men’s magazines in particular, since I think women’s mags do a slightly better job of this – would be well served to push the border a little and try to rope in the casual or even beginning health nut. What if someone is just “interested” but not a committed follower?
In a world obsessed with losing that last 10 pounds to finally see that washboard stomach for beach season, what’s a guy to do if his problem is tackling that first ten pounds?
So I’ve been kinda stressed the last week or so, which largely explains my intermittent posting. I’m sorry about that, honestly: I mean for this to be a daily exercise. In fact, I need it to be a daily exercise. Not just so I have a body of work – which is important for any writer – but also because I need the discipline. I enjoy writing, I’m good at it, and I need it to become second nature to me. Even if I produce something stupid and useless, it’s still production! It’s similar to what I’ve been talking about with fitness: just do better than what you did yesterday.
That’s not to say that this post is useless, just kind of airing out my thoughts as a preamble! This post is about stress and how I handle it.
For the last few weeks I’ve obviously been doing my bodybuilder challenge. Part of the challenge is to get my bodyfat percentage to an athletic level and that struggle isn’t just a physical one for me. It’s largely a psychological one that requires me to really change the way I looked at weight for most of my life.
Body transformation obviously isn’t easy. The main reason that transforming the body isn’t easy is because the body isn’t just a thing to be shaped into whatever we want it to be. Our bodies are the evidence of the way we eat, the way we move, the way we sleep, the way we work, the way we play, the way we rest… Our bodies are evidence of the life we lead. Which is why when you are losing weight, a good health professional will tell you that changing your diet or changing your exercise routine isn’t going to fix your problem. If your problem is your body, and your body is just evidence of the life you lead, you have to change your life. People with amazing bodies don’t just have healthy bodies: they have healthy lives.
But there is a tendency, while losing weight is our goal, to imagine our needs in that respect to be physical ones. And why not? It’s a physical problem. We’re fat. We look lumpy and rolly and big and so forth… Of course it’s a physical problem with physical needs and physical remedies. But in my experience it’s not nearly as simple as that. And I think a careful reader will have gathered that from my writing so far: making a physical change requires much more than physical discipline. And this may be the hardest part of the whole thing: changing your mind.
I feel awful… and since today I can’t generate a post that’s on topic about weight loss or fitness or being a fat kid, I’ll write about this. Hopefully since the blog is about me in a broad sense it still is kinda relevant.
There are days I feel awful and today is one of them. I sat down at my computer hours ago to try to write something, anything, so I could tell myself I’d written today. I started writing about 5 different things and in the process wrote a few pages worth if unfinished scrap. Nothing to show for it really. I have plans to work on my book chapter, plans to finish an article, plans for this and that… everything is in a stage of “almost there”. I just can’t focus: my mind is flooded today by anxieties and fears and frustrations and a dozen things that make me depressed.
I’ve been depressed for a few days. And not depressed in the vague “oh I’m kinda blue” way. If I’m doing something I really commit, and being depressed is no different. I’m overwhelmed by a lot of things ahead of me, even as I’m haunted by a lot of things behind me. The mountain of my responsibilities, of my uncertain future, looms above me and leaves me paralyzed it seems. Can I really do this? Any of this? Is moving to Chicago a mistake? Is committing to this writing a mistake? I’d a book something I can even do? Will anyone even read it? How do I get from here – from basically nothing – to the life I imagine for myself? Is that even possible for me? Can i move and find work and find friends and find a home and find love and find success… Can I do all of this?? And do it by myself?
I feel overwhelmed. I have too many things to do. I can’t do them… I want to give up.
And so today I can give up. I can’t do those things… so I won’t. This isn’t the first time I’ve felt this way and it won’t be the last, so instead of trying to shape my whole life I will just shape today. What can I do today?
I can get up and go to the gym. It’s small, especially in the face of everything ahead of me, but on a day like today I need to not focus on the things I can’t do and focus on the things I can. And if that is the only thing on the list, it’s still a step above laying on the couch with a pint of Cold Stone ice cream. I can’t be perfect and I won’t plan on it… but I can be better.
So I’ll hit the gym and take care of today. Tomorrow can take care of tomorrow.
It’s a phrase I use with friends when it’s time for us to really cut the BS and face reality. So that’s what I’ll do here for you, dear reader, because while it’ll be painful to document my own BS, it’ll probably be helpful for me and maybe even for you! (I’m imagining this being a long series… I have a lot of BS I cut through). So prepare to look behind the curtain.