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.
A lot of us who grew up fat or were fat for a long time but overcame that have what I call “Ugly Duckling” syndrome. I’ve mentioned it before obliquely, but it’s basically what you’d expect: we went from fat to fit but still carry the fat kid with us in a few ways. It actually reminds me of something my brother said – though it’s a pretty common aphorism I think – when talking about chasing women. He said that you don’t want the girl who has always been hot, because she knows she’s hot and expects more. You want the girl who used to be a fat dork because she doesn’t know she’s hot yet and you have a much better shot! A lot of us are like that. No matter what we look like on the other side of our journey through fitness, we will still be, to a lesser or greater degree, dysmorphic. What we see doesn’t really line up with reality entirely.
I was about to have a meta-discussion right here about my reasoning for writing a post like this, but I stopped caring half way through… meaning I’m sure readers don’t care either. Bottom line: it’s my party and I’ll write what I want to.
So I’m massive now. In a very literal sense massive. I’ve shot up to 255 lbs. I had no idea I’d gotten so large and really didn’t believe it except that I kept hearing from people, “Dude you’re huge. Looking swole.” I’d brush it off but people seemed to insist… I was visibly bigger. So I hopped on the scale to discover, lo and behold, I’m bigger. Much bigger. 12-15 lbs bigger in fact. Another instance, I guess, of not seeing progress in your own self.
I’m Colossal… And it’s actually kind of alarming. You may recall I discussed some of my goals in previous posts (here and here), and while my coverage of my bodybuilding schedule has become embarrassingly lax – a problem I’m seeking to fix, I promise! – my goals are the same: roughly 260 lbs and I’d like to level out under 10% bodyfat. I haven’t checked my bodyfat recently. 2 weeks ago it was 9.5%, but I was also 242 lbs so there’s no rational universe in which all this weight is muscle (or is there…?). I’ll check my bodyfat in a week just disabuse myself of the idea that this is all good weight. For now, I’m kinda happy.
The thing is, though, I wasn’t trying to gain weight. I’ve been hoping to cut weight. I realize that I’m shockingly endomorphic and can eat barely anything and still put on muscle – my buddy Aaron balked and said he hated me when I mentioned my weight haha – but I try to bake that into the cake when managing my body.
I’ve obviously failed pretty spectacularly on that front if I’ve accidentally gained in the neighborhood of 25 pounds this spring. So it’s time to face fact and have a little Come to Jesus meeting with myself.
There are two main failures I think: one about orthodoxy (right belief) and one about orthopraxis (right action)… (behold my literary-historical nerd peeking out haha). My failure of orthopraxis is going about this process basically wrong from the get-go… and may be partially because I’m working with a training partner, weirdly enough. My buddy’s goal is to get hugely strong and enter a strongman type competition. Fine: excellent goal. What it requires, though, is slow, heavy lifting to build the body and increase power. And while that’s generally a great way to go, it isn’t exactly a cutting program. So I’ve been lifting with him and doing basically a routine I designed to get him huge… and, surprise surprise, I’m getting huge. (He is too, incidentally. He’s visibly bigger than when he started lifting with me)
What I need to do is find a way to go through a much higher volume routine and stop lifting in the 6-8 range that he needs. I really shouldn’t be surprised if I gain a ton of weight by lifting in a way that gains a ton of weight, but I guess I wasn’t paying too close attention! The fix is to change to higher volumes of exercise and not as much weight. My bridges and pyramids routine will be good for this, but I’ll modify the pyramid part to shave down the weight a bit.
My failure of Orthodoxy is more stinging… I need to just face the music and realize that I can’t be social in the same way I’ve been used to being social. I love going out with my friends, I love going out to restaurants and movies and bars and everything else. But pizza and popcorn and candy and especially booze are not going to get me where I want to go. Even in my already limited way, those things are holding me back. (This past week is a poor example probably… went to New York and clicked “vacation mode” in my brain, which meant “gorge yourself”…) So what to do?
I think I’ll basically just have to reevaluate how I’m social. I won’t be eating the same things as other people and I won’t be drinking at all. So much of being social involves these two things that it’s kind of a hard task I’ve set before me, but at the end of the day I have to decide it’s worth it. I’ll just be sober. And clean. And kinda boring.
I write a lot about momentum, sometimes more and sometimes less explicitly. Momentum is something I take for granted a lot of the time, even though there are those times I set down my flag and say, “Yes! Nothing is more important!” And that’s largely true. At the same time, nothing is more difficult to maintain unless you plan on maintaining it. (A failure to plan…)
This musing about momentum arises from me having not written anything here in several weeks. I lost my momentum – through both external stresses as well as just my failure to plan ahead – and so this fell off my radar. It shouldn’t have and I’m returning to it to attempt to rebuild that.
So, a little story about momentum:
I have some good news and bad news here along with my little story. First the bad news: the dark secret lying at the heart of health and fitness. There is no resting on your laurels. Ever. There is no point where you look at yourself and say, “OMG Finally that’s over. I can stop now.” There’s no stopping. There’s no finish line. There’s no top to this mountain.
I was contacted recently by more than one person asking about weight loss. They were now as I had been years ago: very overweight and searching for solutions to their obesity. A question that keeps coming up for people – men usually contact me, but it’s also especially prevalent among women trying to lose weight – is whether or not they should even be lifting weights. For women, there is this fear that lifting weights will turn her into She Hulk in no time, and for both men and women there is a fear that somehow lifting weights will be a waste of time inasmuch as it distracts from the person’s primary goal of losing weight (presumably through a few hours of mind-killing cardio).
Lets talk a little about why these fears are unfounded.
I want to expand on both my “fatties don’t get phone calls” post and something I alluded to recently in this post about masculinity and self image. This won’t necessarily apply to all my readers, or maybe even most of you, but it’s part of what shaped my experience growing up with obesity and what I know shaped the experiences of several other former fat boys I’m acquainted with. Most of the experiences of being fat and young can be pretty generalized – a lot of what I’ve written so far speaks to a lot of people who used to be fat or are still struggling with their weight – but there are things that not everyone struggled with. But maybe as I write this, the broader application to everyone will emerge on its own.
Fatties don’t get phone calls. My episode with Starla reinforced that fear for me. What’s funny is that on the one hand, yes, I felt rejected because of my weight and that hurt. But it didn’t hurt like it might because I was only partially invested in trying to date her, or even to date my ex girlfriends in high school. The main way that my weight impacted my love life was that it basically kept me in the closet until I was about 24.
Was just asked this. I got asked it last night too while I was out and about. And really, I get asked it some some frequency now that I think about it. There’s something about my personality when people see me in person that seems incongruous I think. From a distance, I look like a jerk and a douche and a stereotype. I look like I’ll be conceited and superior and condescending and abrasive. I look like I’ll be Big Guy at the beach kicking sand in the nerd’s face. But when someone speaks to me, I’m not that way at all. The departure from the stereotype is jarring for some people. I’m apparently sweet and funny and playful and kind and magnanimous… and it contrasts with how I look. So people ask me, “You know you’re beautiful… right?”
Here’s the thing: knowing and feeling aren’t the same thing. I see my flaws magnified 1000x because they’re mine. For a long time after I lost all the weight and got big and strong, compliments made me squirm. I didn’t like the scrutiny because I didn’t really understand it (and because I’d been used to feeling scrutinized in a negative way). It’s hard for me to take a compliment… and if I get asked something like the above, I don’t know how to respond! I know I should feel one way and respond with something gracious. But I usually end up saying something clumsy that reveals that, no, in fact, I don’t really realize what I look like. And I’m embarrassed to be reminded that what I see in myself is still in contrast to what everyone else sees.
Embarrassed, but also in some way encouraged. Encouraged to know that I am doing well and that what I feel is just a feeling and not reality. It’s hard to change that feeling though. Because whatever we look like now, to one degree or another guys like me will be haunted by our inner fat kid.