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3 April 2008, 2:00 pm No Comments

Health: Working Out? Be Realistic!

“Thomas from Berlin”, one of the many insecurity-inspiring models featured on WorkoutInspiration.Net

I’ve been going to the Dupont Results for over a year now, and I’ve had the opportunity to chart the progress of many friends and acquaintances who I see there on a regular basis. I noticed the other day that one particular friend-of-a-friend has really significantly bulked up in the past year. I saw him in the sauna after our respective workouts, and I mentioned my observation. I then asked if he has any particular bulk-goal in mind, because he was looking pretty good. (And quite honestly, he’s beginning to exceed the upper bound of attractively muscley in my opinion.) He replied that he had a particular look in mind that he was working towards. A friend of his who was in the sauna with us asked him, “Oh, that picture you have up in your office? That guy has a totally different frame than you!”

Upon hearing this, I began to verbalize something that’s been bugging me for quite a long time: Too many guys are striving for “looks” that are unattainable. They’re suffering through endless workouts and protein shakes to no avail and increased frustration as their pecs and shoulders continue to pale in comparison to those displayed in the myriad photos of hot guys taped to their bedroom mirrors or the doors to their refrigerators and pantries. It’s time to stop the madness.

I consider myself pretty lucky. I wear a 40-regular suit, size 32 jeans, medium t-shirts. Clothes fit me without much problem. I have an average-sized frame and am pretty proportional, with just enough meat hanging off my bones. Said meat is not necessarily the most toned, leanest or most cut, but at least it’s there. And I consider myself very lucky. I’m very happy with my frame. The rest, however, is a work in progress. (I’m far from looking like the picture above.)

Other people aren’t so lucky. Skinny shoulders, wide hips, short statures, baby fat, apple shapes, pear shapes, etc. People come in all different shapes and sizes. No big deal. The problem comes when people of one body type aspire to look like someone of a different body type. They cut out pictures from fashion magazines and swim suit catalogs, taping them up in places where they can be easily compared to their progress at the gym, or in places that might deter them from snacking. They constantly look at themselves in the mirror and judge themselves based on these images. Sadly, they’ll never get there. All of that emotional energy and self-criticism resulting in flagging self-esteem and raging insecurity. It’s all for naught.

I have a few friends and acquaintances who have really hot bodies. Bodies that others would “kill for.” But how do they see themselves? Too skinny. Too fat. Too flabby. You name it. There’s actually a term for this. It’s called body dysmorphia. It’s what often causes eating disorders, and it can cause excessive working out, too.

According to Workouts for Dummies, there are three primary body types: mesomorphs, ectomorphs and endomorphs. And for each body type, there are different workouts and different workout goals. If you’re constantly judging yourself based on a picture of Brad Pitt or David Beckham, STOP. Take serious stock of your body, figure out your body type, and appreciate its strengths and weaknesses. Then find pictures in magazines and catalogs that reflect your actual body type and set some attainable goals. Or even better, see a trainer at the gym and ask what workout you should be doing for your body type, and what sorts of results can you expect. And while you’re at it, start taking better care other aspects of your life as well.

What about you? Are you happy with your body?

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  • jonny d said:

    I’d say I’m definitely pretty comfortable in my skin at this point–like you, I’m happy with how my clothes fit, I generally feel content with how my body is, even if I do still consider it very much a work in progress (where are those washboard abs hiding?). Admittedly, a few “inspirational” photos made it onto my pantry door at times, but I’ve found that striving for a healthy state of being rather than attributing a specific image to it is far more rewarding. In fact, I replaced the photos about a year ago with a racing singlet that hung on my door for about 6 months (motivation for my first marathon) and haven’t looked back since. I definitely feel like I “fit” my body now–as if I had finally worn-in my raw denim–and I feel more so after each run or bike ride. That type of approach I’ve found rather satisfying, and it has actually gotten me closer to the body I always thought I wanted. It’s also something I now find really attractive in other guys as well.

    As you point out, I suspect we (as a broader society) have mistakenly translated America’s trademark spirit of egalitarianism to the realm of physical achievement as well. Namely, that if we work hard enough toward what we want–in this case spending enough hours at the gym or staying on a protein shake IV-drip for long enough–we can ultimately achieve what we want to be or look like. Unfortunately, biology is often far more restrictive than gaining wealth or climbing the status ladder. It sounds harsh out of context, but I think it’s well worth recognizing. Thanks for bringing attention to it.

  • Michael said:

    Hey, Jonny D. You should join the queer-friendly Saturday morning bike rides. I lead ‘em.

  • jonny d said:

    I was excited to see you were starting those up. Let’s hope the weather holds out this Saturday. If so, I’m planning to be there.

  • Parker said:

    i don’t really know what body type i have. maybe i have the same one that brad pitt has but he just has more time to work out and a personal trainer? or maybe it’s because it’s his job to be super hot? whatever the deal is, all i know is that gay men think they’re taller and more “normal” than they are (how do you explain all of the unfortunate tight shirts?) and there probably are not many dudes who are actually like me (or anyone)in magazines. i also know that there is only one mirror in the western world that makes me look as hot as i sometimes think i am. the bf doesn’t know it yet, but that miror the only reason why we’re staying in our current apartment once our roommate moves out.

  • Timp said:

    Americans, gays included, suffer from several things. Narrow minded attitudes on what is good. Not just what is attractive, but just good. We are ignorant, because we don’t educate ourselves, when information is so free and accessible in this day and age.

    First, so many of us buy into some form of what we should be. In fact, all of us do this to some extent. There isn’t a single area of acceptable society that isn’t targeted. If you have money in your pocket, there is someone who will market a lifestyle at you.

    Advertising is really one of the worst social pressures in our culture. For the last 20 years, we have seen an explosion of companies looking to see how they can take the next best thing and make money off of it. To do so, they fill ads with extremely attractive models, in well designed adds to get the most out of the money it costs to make these ads.

    And they work. We all buy into it. In commercial world, most people are highly attractive. Even for a service like Gamefly, the guy who changes costumes during his sales pitch, you can tell works out. They certainly don’t show someone that looks like the type of person that would be most likely to use Gamefly.

    And the advertising works, because we believe being hot is a gateway to happiness. None of the hot people I know are happy because they are hot. In fact, the ones I know have actually gotten a little bitter, because their hotness wasn’t enough to propel them in Hollywood and LA.

    So we are constantly hit up with advertising images of these people, who have amazing hair, teeth, bodies and the lifestyle we dream of. And of course, if you aren’t like this, you can’t possibly get the most out of life.

    That’s the new American Dream. Well one of several, I would say there is no longer just one kind of American Dream, but that’s a different discussion.

    So gays tend towards this kind of American Dream. Here’s the thing. Getting that type of body or at least close to, is possible. Providing you know what you are doing. And the fact is, many people won’t educate themselves, when information these days is like a free door prize.

    Those bodies didn’t come from an hour at the gym a day. They didn’t come from the average diet of people. They came from hours a day at the gym, probably between 3-6. They came from strict diets designed to increase maximum potential in muscle growth.

    In other words, working out and building up their body is basically what they do for a living. Arnold didn’t become Mr. Universe simply working out. He became Mr. Universe because he made working out a job.

    Unless you make that dedication, you won’t have that type of body if you don’t have the type of genetics that let you achieve those goals easily or quickly.

    I work out 3 days a week, in the morning before work for over a year now. I would say the first 6-9 months of that, I wasn’t achieving much results, because basically, I didn’t know what I was doing. Mostly I just wanted to get my body fat down. When the weather turned nice, I added riding my bike to work, 7.4 miles each way.

    This built up my cardio, and got my legs in great shape, but it never really did much to effect my body fat, because I wasn’t eating better. I’ve since then improved my daily diet. I’ve also improved my workouts.

    In the year that I’ve worked out, I’ve seen improvements in myself, nothing monumental. But they are greater then other guys who are at the gym regularly at the same time, who I know are going there just about every day.

    But I also don’t have any pictures taped up anywhere as a form of inspiration. The inspiration I have is simple. Lower my body fat, build some muscle, but in general, improve my health. I don’t have the time, or the inclination to make working out and obtaining a body like a model. It’s just not going to happen.

    That doesn’t mean that what I have isn’t attractive, or less or not right or gross or substandard.

    So do I like my body? Sure. Can I make my body better? Sure. Can I make it like what is shoved in our faces everyday, everywhere? Sure. Is it worth it? Probably not.

  • Hans Nelson said:

    A perfect body, in my opinion, is a sign of either great genes or a wasted life. It is important to be healthy, of course, but I find exercise so boring that I’ve never been able to do it regularly (well, aside from the fact that I’ve been a ballet dancer for almost 20 years–I guess I just need some nice music and beautiful movement). Anyway, my point is that if you’re in good shape, why spend all that time and energy on acquiring “perfect” abs instead of doing something important, meaningful, educational, &c? I’m not 100% happy with my body (so thin that XS is too big–it’s genetic) but it’s not so bad that I have to tape pictures inside my kitchen cabinets or that people visibly recoil when they look at me, so it doesn’t really bother me.

  • Jenny Miller said:

    Overheard yesterday at Results:

    Girl to Guy: “I don’t think I would love you if you were that muscley. I would think you were a douchebag.”