Thoughts

Body image, public perception and the media

Just wanted to publish here a post I wrote on Facebook this morning about body image and the recent controversy surrounding its representation in the media:

Something I don’t get: people are making such a big deal in recent times about being thin and how the fashion magazines are promoting it. They’re making it into a huge issue, as if the plump girls are being persecuted and they’re putting it as if this has been going on forever.

Truth is, this is only a recent thing. Until the 60s, it was a plump girl’s world. Yes, all the way from antiquity to the 1960s or so, people liked bigger women. The thin ones were the outcasts. Nobody wanted them because they were too skinny. They were told to put on weight. There were ads in magazines everywhere for fattening creams and lotions and vitamins and lard and all kinds of stuff to help girls put on weight fast and become “attractive”.

So here’s what I think: all this bulls**t be damned, if you want to be plump, be plump, if you want to be thin, be thin, but do yourself a favor and stop blaming others for your body type. If you’re plump and you’d rather be thin, stop complaining about fashion magazines and learn to love yourself. If you’re thin and would rather be fat, well then, you’re in luck because there are a ton of processed foods out there to help you achieve your goal.

And if you like yourself just the way you are, congratulations! You’re one of the lucky few who get what it’s like to enjoy life. Go on enjoying it, we typically only get 70-80 years of it and we shouldn’t waste it complaining! 🙂

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Exercise

A leg workout

During this workout, I trained my legs with the following exercises:

  • Front Squats (5-6 sets)
  • Regular Squats (1-2 sets)
  • Leg Extensions (5-6 sets)
  • Hamstring Curls on the exercise ball (both legs and one leg at a time)
  • Leg Presses (4 sets)
  • Donkey Calf Raises (3 sets)
  • Sitting Calf Raises (2 sets)

I also (unexpectedly) reached new maxes on the front squat, the leg extensions, the leg presses and the donkey calf raises and in the video, I talked about how gains come when you don’t expect them to (as long as you put in the work to get your body ready for them). I also talked about how we perceive weight and how we tend to let pre-conceived notions dictate to us how much weight we can or cannot lift. It’s important to approach each set with only the expectation of getting the most benefit out of it. Don’t pre-program yourself for any specific weight, because who knows how much you can truly lift? Why limit yourself?

Hope you enjoyed the video!

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Exercise

Flabbier by the day

I used to smirk when I heard the excuses I make now. I used to feel superior. What me, ever get flabby? That’s for losers who can’t find the time to visit the gym, right? Well, here I am, thirty, and getting flabby. Sure, you can’t see it yet. If you saw me, you’d say I still look fit or even thin. But that’s not the picture I see, since I’m privy to more revealing details…

It’s ironic, finding myself in the same situation as the people I used to deride. I went to the gym regularly, obsessively, one could say, from the start of college to my mid-twenties. It was easy. I was driven to get big, and I got big. I wanted strength and muscles, and I got them. Then, complacency set in. That, and the fact that I got tired of homosexuals trying to pick me up during my workouts… I tell you, those were traumatic experiences for me, because I started to associate the gym with being harassed by homosexuals, and how much fun are workouts going to be when that happens? But let me focus on the things I could have changed instead.

About 25, I got a job as a director of IT at a hospital. The responsibilities were huge, and given my young age, the pressure was on to deliver results. I stopped working out as I worked long and longer hours. When I did manage to go to the gym, my mind was on other things. My workouts were sporadic. And as we all know, consistency is key to most things in life, including exercise. I couldn’t exercise consistently, and a trip to the gym here and there wasn’t going to cut it. I’m a naturally thin person, so my muscle mass kept dropping, along with my weight. I’m now somewhere between 155-165 lbs (haven’t weighed myself in a while), and this seems to be my natural weight. My body tends to stay there no matter what I do. At 21, I was 195 lbs at 7% body fat. At 18, I was 135 lbs at 4% body fat. Yes, that’s a big weight difference. No, I did not take steroids. I did eat like a horse though, and worked out a whole lot.

Given that I exercised regularly for such a long time, my body stayed together and looking good for a good while after I stopped. I swam in high school and worked out regularly for seven years, almost every day, so I was in great shape. For the sake of those numerous workouts, I managed to get through the two years in my stressful IT job without showing much damage. Then, I had another computer job for a couple of years, implementing a complex new system for a university. Even though my office was right next to the gym, and even though there were no homosexuals to harass me there, I couldn’t bring myself to go regularly. I always found excuses, usually work-related.

So here I am today, in another computer job full of responsibilities, having turned thirty some months ago, and getting flabbier by the day. After five years of practically neglecting my body, it’s starting to show. It’s amazing I’ve lasted this long, and it only goes to show how resilient the human body really is — but I can see it won’t work anymore. My bones are starting to make cracking sounds when I get up or exert myself. Physical effort tires me out. If I go up two flights of stairs, my breathing will noticeably increase. I get a lot more headaches nowadays. If I don’t consciously tense up my abs, my stomach bulges outwards, just enough to scare my wife. When I sit down, I can grab the fat layer on my abs in my hand. I’m starting to get love handles, and no, there’s nothing love-ly about them. Instead of pectorals, I now sport two soft placeholders, sad reminders of what used to be there. My shoulders have rounded out and my biceps, once the size of baseballs, have turned into golf balls. My strong back muscles, once able to squat and deadlift hundreds of pounds, have now flattened out and gained the consistency and firmness of sponges. My quadriceps, once rock hard all the time, are now soft, and jiggle like jello when I walk. I can feel them doing that, and it’s really sad. I’m ashamed of my calves once more. And of course — the most telling sign — when I wave my hand, what used to be my triceps now flips and flops worse than some current-day politicians. It’s really depressing, so I won’t go on.

Here’s how my typical day goes, and I’m sure it’s like this for many, many people. I get up from bed, where I’ve been lying down, and sit down to have breakfast. Then I sit in the car on the way to work, where I sit in my chair for 8-9 hours, only to walk out and sit in my car on the way home, where I sit down for dinner and sit at my desk for another 3-4 hours, working on consulting and personal projects. When my wife and I relax or visit with friends, we sit on couches. During the weekends, most of our time is spent sitting in church on Saturdays, or at home, with friends, at the movies, in restaurants, etc. There’s always something to do, but most of the time, it involves sitting. And it’s really easy to make excuses for not exercising. After all, there’s always something pressing: a deadline, an email, a project that needs finishing, a movie we’ve really been meaning to see, fatigue from overwork, malaise, etc. The reasons keep coming, they never stop, and that’s just it. We need to stop them! I need to put a stop to them! Because if I don’t, life will go on, and I’ll get flabbier and flabbier, till pretty soon, I’ll be a sorry shadow of what I once was, worn out and exhausted, dysmorphic, continually making excuses for something I could have changed a long time ago.

The point is, I did it to myself. Outside of a couple of things I had no control over, I am responsible for this. And I’m also responsible for turning things around. I can do it, but I need to stop making excuses.

As I write this, my sorry substitutes for pectorals and triceps are sore from a workout I did last night. My abs are still sore from a workout I did two days ago. Yes, it’s sad that it’s taking so long for my muscles to recover, but that’s a hole I dug for myself. I made a promise last night that I’m not going to let myself slip into pudginess and dysmorphism, and by golly, I’m going to keep it! Say it with me people, it’s not cool to be flab-ulous! 🙂 From now on, I’ll push work and personal pursuits aside for the sake of exercise.

The truth is, and it’s taken me a while to realize this, life gets busier as we get older. And if we don’t make time for exercise, if we don’t consider it as important as sleep, food and water, we’ll never be able to do it regularly. And when we don’t do it regularly, we get flabby, fat, overweight, obese, etc.

I’ll post updates from time to time on my progress. And if this inspires any of you out there in the same boat as me to start exercising, that’ll be wonderful!

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