LGN 51: Angstpiration

Inside:  Fat and fit?; Family health angst and frustration; Pro-ana and Thinspiration; Cultures and fitness; Fat and attraction

This is a long one.  You’ve been warned.

Let me say something about being overweight.  I still am.

I’ve been obese, 5’7″ and 245 lbs at one point.  I’ve been very overweight and fat at 200 lbs. a few years ago on my way up to my peak fatness.  And now I’m pretty fit (compared to any time over the last 20 years) at 201 lbs.  I’ve still got stubborn fat to lose, but I probably won’t lose much weight along the way.  Fat yes, weight no.  We’ll see.

Fitness is much more than how much you weigh.

I still ask people who’ve made progress how they do it.  Whatever it is, I want to hear it.  If it’s long, hard work and changing what they eat, that’s cool.  It would also be super extra special cool if they’ve found a healthy shortcut like, “Not only has eating Boysenberry Greek Yogurt once a day for lunch made me as regular as Jamie Lee Curtis but I also lost three inches off my waist.”

I’d be all for it.  Hm.  A Jamie Lee Curtis yogurt joke.  That’s kind of old hat.  Anyway…

The Sprint

There was a finisher weeks ago where I had to race Justin and the consequence of my losing was that me and the rest of the 7pm-ers had to do burpees.

I wanted to let you all know that I let Justin win.  And I’ll tell you why.  Because he’s a LOT faster than me and I didn’t have a chance.  Holy cheez-its!  But if it weren’t for that, I would’ve dusted him.

Fat, Thin and Nothing In-between

I realized that family health angst tends to be behind my “let’s get un-fat” thing, which offends some people.  Then again, I think that the people who are offended by these blogs or annoyed by my Facebook wall have already made the wise decision to mostly avoid or filter them out.  I’d like to claim that I don’t care if I offend people, but I do.  Obviously.  Still, though.

Did you know that there are pro-anorexic sites?  Or Thinspiration sites, as I think they prefer to be called.  They’ll post tips on how to not eat.  Seriously.  How to resist the urge to eat and the painful sensations of hunger.  They’ll harshly criticize models who are pretty thin by most standards as being atrocious cows, picking apart their physiques inch by inch.

On the other hand there are pro fat sites as well, although the aim is different.  They’re anti “fat-shaming” to the point of being fat-positive reactionaries.  They often claim that attempting to lose weight is worse for your health than being overweight or obese.  They also claim that there’s no proof that being overweight or obese is bad for you.

Two extremes, in my opinion, neither of which are healthy.  Believe me, I’ve wanted a beach body by Summer.  Last Summer and this Summer.  But my priorities changed somewhere along the way.  My priority shifted to performance first and leanness as a natural consequence.

I think we should all be trying to reach our optimal selves.  Even if we all change what we eat and exercise every day in a way that we love that doesn’t feel like exercise, we aren’t all going to have the same build.  We aren’t all going to look like a magazine cover model.

We’d look friggin’ awesome.  Just not necessarily like someone else’s awesome.

These days when I think of health and fitness I think of being physically capable in a well rounded way.  Strong, fast, flexible and having stamina/endurance.  We don’t all have to be capable of winning a national or international fitness contest but you know.  If you get winded walking up stairs you’re probably at the low end of the fitness scale but it’s not a black/white thing.  Or if you have a lot of lower back soreness when you do the simplest things.  Wonky shoulders.

There are people who are strong but slow.  Who are good at sprinting but bad at running longer distances and vice versa.  We can have good attributes and still have weaknesses that we can address.

The Long Game

I do believe that our notion of dieting is unhealthy and ultimately unproductive.  We go for the quick fix.  Stop eating x and start doing activity y for three months, lose z pounds, celebrate and then return to prior habits in the same environment with the same stressors and influences.  Lose 30 lbs. in time for bikini season.  Lose 30 lbs. to fit into a wedding dress.

And if you don’t succeed then it’s because you’re destined divinely or genetically to be big.  Or there’s something wrong with you or you’re weak and screw society anyway.

I’m not saying that having aggressive goals is always a bad thing, but you know.  Sometimes we hinge our self-worth on those aggressive goals and then flagellate ourselves.

The fittest people I know have been working at it for months-going-on-years.  They’ve accepted that fact from the start.

I know the feeling of impatience.  I want it now.  I want to be irresistibly studly and physically confident and athletically unstoppable by approximately right this very moment.  Then you realize that it’ll be months or a year before you get there.  And you eat the rest of your pint of Haagen Dazs Green Tea ice cream while you ruminate about it and write blog entries.

It’s that inner tension, though.  It’s painful but it’s a good thing if kept in perspective.  That’s how batteries work.  That’s how water flows.  It’s how wind blows.  Different energy levels.  Take that as new agey or actual physics/electromagnetics/thermodynamics.  Whatever suits you.   Potential energy.  Positive and negative charges.  Thermodynamic gradients.  Sinks and sources.

It’s hunger.  It’s thirst.  Like trying to scratch an itch in a knitting bone.

When I first started at Underground Athlete I wondered (and still do) what was driving the other people that trained.  The intensity.  The tolerance for pain.  The embracing of “punishment”.  No fear of pain and discomfort.  Just a “Oh this is going to suck” and then all in.

They want it.  They put all of that “want it now” into the moment and they turn that moment into the next step that gets them closer to their goal, mentally and physically.

It’s a sight to behold.

A few weeks ago I was training and I was doing chin ups or something between a mother and daughter each doing their own sets of rows on the right and left of me.  I wanted to stop and take a picture.  I felt honored to be there with them.

I like watching the really super fit people, of course.  It’s inspiring and humbling what they can do and how much they can push themselves.  But I like watching the people who still have a ways to go even more.  Or the ones who just started because they want it so bad.

They want their optimal physique and fitness so bad.  I can relate.

We’re doing it, peeps.  Keep it up.

Fat and Attraction

I have a lot of theories.  I don’t think that physical attraction is based on what society tells us is attractive.  There’s some influence, definitely.

From Rubenesque portraits to Marilyn Monroe to Twiggy or Kate Moss and back to Halle Berry walking up a white sandy beach in a bikini to Jennifer Lopez and Kim Kardashian.

From the rugged, beefiness of — I don’t know.  Watch movies and TV from the 50’s to the 70’s.  The male sex symbols were intriguingly not really physically fit.  They had gravitas, though.  Kojak (Telly Savalas) vs. the supporting cast of CSI.  Watch some old Hercules movies.  Compare that to today’s boyish, square jawed, abtastic, single-digit body fat look.

There’s also a schism between Hollywood and TV attractive (pretty thin, very pretty), magazine/model attractive (unnaturally thin with no muscle tone to speak of and dramatic facial features) and internet attractive (pretty face and bazooms and big booties).  I don’t mean to get socio-political on you, but it’s becoming much more mainstream to lust after women who are built like a lot of black women are built but aren’t black women.  A hispanic or multi-racial woman with curves and a huge butt??  Reality TV gold!  A star is born.  Infomercials for Brazilian Butt Lifts, underwear that makes your butt look bigger, fitness informercials promising to tone and lift, jeans claiming to make your butt into a booty.  An actual black woman with those same features?  Rap video objectification or trying to lose weight to be Hollywood material.

Wow.  That last paragraph is chock full of generalizations.  That’s my barber shop commentary mode right there.

I don’t know why we’re attracted to what we’re attracted to.  It’s complicated, obviously.  It’s fluid.  We have our types and we have our types that make us drool.

I’m talking about physical attraction in this section.  Thank goodness we’re not limited to that, though.  There are some very physically fit people who are a few pennies short of a dollar and as flaky as a croissant.  Of course, there are those who are active but not necessarily physically fit but are much more capable than me in just about every aspect of their lives.  Better people in many ways, too.

But still … Magic Mike, right.  You may go home to a chubby, hairy yet balding man that you love with all your heart, but you still get a thrill from a David Beckham commercial or that old D’Angelo video.  I’ve heard you in the movie theaters gettin’ all hot and bothered when a toned dude takes off his shirt.

You, if you’re a guy, probably would not mind if your girlfriend or wife changed up her routine and eventually looked more like [insert idealized woman of the moment here].

All that to say that fit people are hot.  As a general rule, fit people are hotter than people who are not fit.  Clear your cerebral RAM, though.  Throw out the pictures that probably jump into your head of physical extremes that most of us won’t achieve and don’t really want to commit to considering how much effort it would take.

I’m sure I could come up with some (mostly uninformed) evolutionary psychology babble but that’s a trip down the rabbit hole and it’s getting late.

Angst and Everything After

I went on vacation with the family this past week.  I went up late.  The kitchen was depressing as hell, considering the medical condition of many of my family members.  It was 90% carbs in a family run through with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease and every inflammation-related ailment you could probably think of.  I think it’s partially because people still can’t be convinced that fat doesn’t really make you fat, assuming the calories are reasonable.  It’s ingrained.  Plus they just like sugar and carbs.

And the kids.  My god.  They don’t stand a chance.  I’m sure (I hope) that’ll change as they get older.  Young kids often have a lot of peculiar hangups about food — the way it looks, the texture, aftertastes, etc.

I love my family.  They’re great people.  Kind, generous, loving, involved in making the community better in many ways.  But Jesus J Jones!  I’ve seen how some other families do.  You can be great people and eat like you want to live past retirement age.  I’ve seen families where kids eat real fruit and vegetables.  Voluntarily!  Where a toddler will reach for steamed broccoli and consider ice cream a treat and not a go to snack.

I’ve sat down with families that make amazing meals that are so colorful and vibrant and full of fresh ingredients.  My family tends to rely on comfort food.  It’s what we know.  In this age of convenience that comfort food will sometimes come from a grocery store.


The quality of life in my family is on the fast track for devastation.  We do and eat the exact opposite of — well, let me put it this way.  For the sake of this conversation, let’s think of food as either medicine or poison.  We opt for poison.  What’s that saying I heard recently.

“Digging our graves with our forks.”

None of this is to say that I’m a perfect model of clean eating.  I’m also not a purist even though I’m becoming more of a food snob.  I still did my morning homemade mocha thing.  I had pancakes twice.  And some gross fruit snacks that have never been anywhere near actual fruit.  I don’t think you should be able to drop names of fruits if the only thing you have in common is bright colors and fructose.  Peanut butter Twix.

I can afford to, though, depending on how you want to look at it.  I also payed the price with itchiness, as I have an eczema thing going on with certain foods.

I mean, you can see that as hypocritical if that’s your bent.  But I’ve never said or been about never ever eating something delicious and decadent.  I’m not an ascetic and I don’t want people that I care about thinking that I’ve made progress by denying myself every gustatory pleasure.

In fact, if you ask me I say include it in your process of getting fit.  Don’t just allow for it.  Plan for it.  Look forward to it, even.  So please don’t assume that I’m painting in black and white here.  I’m not an extremist.  But I am frustrated.

I was hoping that my progress was having some influence.  Or more influence.

This is really selfish of me, I know, but the consequences of these health and diet lifestyle choices aren’t limited to individuals.  When you get older and your body starts to go south on you, other people have to pick up the slack.  I mean, as far as these things are in our control.  Stuff happens.  But choices/habits happen, too.

I mean, it’s stressful to watch your relatives age.  And painful and stressful for them.  But we get more stubborn and set in our ways with age.  I think it’s a cultural thing.  The attitude is, “Well, I don’t have too long left anyway at this rate.  Might as well enjoy myself.”

Plus that aging people’s inexplicable lack of will to do anything other than what they already do.  And the decline continues.  We believe that you’re supposed to fall apart as you age.

I believe wholeheartedly that it’s a lie.  We slow down with age in many biological ways, sure.  We will have ailments.  We will have episodes.  We’ll even have emergencies.

We don’t have to live a life of steady, debilitating decline and physical atrophy.  But we make the choice to.  We believe that we’re supposed to.

That’s why we’re in pain.  That’s why we’re dying.

So if you have a young family … you have a chance to make a lifetime of deposits into your health and longevity accounts.  You can set habits that will last a lifetime even if they falter for a while.

If you’re older it’s still not too late.  Heck, if you’ve made it this far in this blog entry you’re probably way ahead of my thought processes.

In short, I ain’t changin’ no old people diapers.

Downer Epilogue

We went to Cracker Barrel on the way home.  They’ve never gotten a poached egg right by me, by the way.  I looked around at the clientele.  I thought to myself, is this how we want to look?  Worn down, obese, flabby, barely making it.  You ever do that?  It’s like when you go to a buffet and see morbidly obese people feasting at the proverbial troughs.

Flumpin’ Golden Corral with their new chocolate fountain and cotton candy.  Go to hell.

Upbeat Epilogue

I don’t want to end on negativity.

I went mountain biking at Patapsco a few weeks ago.  Or last Monday, actually.  It was righteous.  I tackled two of my nemesis hill climbs.

Where that green marker is on the map is the middle of a mile long climb of singletrack.  That climb was my tester back in my super fit MTB riding joy times.  The goal was to get all the way up without stopping.

I rocked that motha.  It is easier when there’s not a 4 ft. diameter tree laying across the trail interrupting one’s flow.

Nemesis #2 is where the second grayish area on the elevation chart indicates.  It’s long with berms, rocks, roots and then some serious rocks and roots.  I was tired by that point.  Understatement.  Recovery formulas are not the same as food, by the way.

That’s my effortception hill.  It looked loooong.  I was slow.  But I got to the bend, picked my path and then practically floated over the rocks and roots.  Well … floated with intense muscle burnage.

It has a been a long time since I dared to do both of the hills in the same ride.  This strength training and conditioning is no joke.  It feels so good to ride now.  I’m fit enough to explore.

The only thing wrong with the ride was that I don’t enjoy riding alone as much as I used to.  I think I’m being socialized like a misfit puppy.  Like someone’s been taking me to the dog park or something.

Anyway, I went riding with Justin the other day.  Good times.  It was most awesome and fun.  You know how much I like acting like a know-it-all.  Dr. Noah Tall at your service.

Once he decided to turn on the afterburners I couldn’t keep up with him for a while.  Of course.  But that’s what branches, wet logs, roots and rocks are for.  To level the playing field.

I learned some things out there.

  • Need to stand up on the uphills.  Get out of the saddle.  (That would help a lot with the calf cramping, too, I’ve been told.  It is advice I will follow.)
  • Need to get used to switching off the rear suspension while on the move.

So yeh.  All of this training work has made me so much more fit for something that I love to do.  Joy.

We may even be able to scrounge up a little Underground Athlete MTB club.

Click here to see all of my LGN (I want to Look Good Naked) and functional strength training posts.

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