It’s Not a Craze It’s a Lifestyle

The difference between me at 236 and 181 pounds
Which is more attractive? The left is the “dad bod” in the mid-40s. The right is well on its way to ripped.

I am tired about writing about my back. My last four blogs have been all about my back problems. I have had more good days than bad days since back surgery. The last 18 hours haven’t been so good. Pain makes me angry. You know what else makes me angry? Excuses.

I think one of the greatest days of my life was the day I stopped making excuses about my weight and lack of desire to exercise. From 2009-10 I tried to exercise some. I lost 20 pounds. But I have to be honest here. I made every excuse I could come up with to NOT exercise. ‘Oh, I have too much work, I have to skip today.’ ‘Oh, I pulled a muscle, I’m not up to it.’ ‘I’m kind of sore, I think I’ll skip today.’

In December 2012 I finally stopped making excuses and made a plan. My plan got derailed almost immediately but I got back on track quickly and got moving in the right direction.

When I started this blog I made the conscious decision to have it be about me. No unsolicited advice. No judgment. I had a hard time with the latter in the beginning. I have gone through the entire cycle. As I started to lose weight I condemned the morbidly obese I saw in my daily life. I thought, “if I can lose weight, why can’t they?” I lost my mind when I started to read that medical science is actually considering classifying obesity as a disease.

My condemnation morphed into a kind of understanding and commiseration. I started watching programs on TV like Heavy, Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition, to shows now like My 600-pound Life. I began to make my peace with the fact that everyone is different and everyone is on a journey of their own. Who was I to judge, who was I to criticize?

I was the skinny kid. This is me at 11.
I was the skinny kid. This is me at 11.

I have written many times that I was skinny well into my 30s. I was the one everyone hated. I could eat whatever I wanted and not gain a pound. Eventually my metabolism slowed down, I quit smoking and my bad diet caught up with me. There were no fat kids in my neighborhood. If there was, we teased that kid mercilessly. Hell, I was tormented for being skinny. If our friends’ parents were overweight, it wasn’t by all that much, not by today’s standards anyway. I didn’t touch soda until I was approximately 12, rarely ate fast food and played and played and played.

You would think this progression is labeled the wrong way, but it is correct. These were taken at the same NFL stadium roughly a year apart.
You would think this progression is labeled the wrong way, but it is correct. These were taken at the same NFL stadium roughly a year apart. Which is more attractive to you?

Now I know that many sedentary jobs, fast-faced lifestyles, physiology, lack of time to exercise and stress all contribute to many adults carrying extra pounds. Alcohol consumption contributes. Processed food contributes. Having children contributes. I get it. But what we don’t do, and what I didn’t do, is plan for all of this. We also have no self-discipline or commitment to healthy lifestyles. Sure, we commit to our jobs and families, but we don’t commit to ourselves. I wrote in a recent blog that I spent the better part of 16 years neglecting my body. Oh, if I could have a do over. This 5’10” frame would’ve never carried 236 pounds. Hell, I probably wouldn’t have ever gotten to the 180 pounds I am now.

For some reason the obesity problem in the United States is glossed over, ignored or is what I suspect is really the case, ACCEPTED. When did it become acceptable to be fat? When did this happen?

I am no conspiracy theorist. But I do believe there is something wrong with our food. I am no politico but I do believe a fat, lazy, over-entertained electorate is easier to govern.

The fitness "craze" of the 1970s and 1980s - aerobics.
The fitness “craze” of the 1970s and 1980s – aerobics.

I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s. We ate white bread, white rice, home baked chocolate chip cookies and brownies, baloney sandwiches, ice cream from “Skippy,” Little Debbie snack cakes, Twinkies and Ho Hos. We had meat, potatoes and bread. We ate spaghetti and meatballs. We had bacon and eggs and toast for breakfast. We ate all manner of cereals. We ate Pop Tarts. We ate real butter. WE DIDN’T GET FAT.

Now, you may be asking why I am violating one of the basic tenets of this blog. I have seen and read some things lately that have absolutely pissed me off.

  1. The “dad bod” phenomenon.

According to Vox Culture (www.vox.com), a “19-year-old Clemson sophomore named Mackenzie Pearson penned a story in the Clemson Odyssey titled Why Girls Love the Dad Bod.” Pearson wrote: “The dad bod is a nice balance between a beer gut and working out. The dad bod says, ‘I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink heavily on the weekends and enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time.’ It’s not an overweight guy, but it isn’t one with washboard abs, either.”

Pearson goes on to add: “We know what we are getting into when he’s got the same exact body type at the age of 22 that he’s going to have at 45.” Are you kidding me? If that’s what you have at 22, you do not want to know what it’ll look like at 45.

Peter Holley of the Washington Post defended the “dad bod” in a piece that included scientific research about what attracts women. Anna Pulley of Alternet penned The 7 Weirdest Things That Turn Women On, According to Science . Unfortunately, Pulley’s article seems to back up the “dad bod” argument.

I’m just not buying it. I would much rather be ripped and defined – and strong – than pudgy and squishy.

The United Kingdom’s Daily Mail hit back hard calling the “Dad Bod” an insult to the mothers of the world. Charlie Lankston writes, “Men cannot glorify beer bellies and demand trophy wives.”

I guess after all of the work I have put in over the last two years (which is well-documented in this blog below) that’s what I have achieved – the “dad bod.” I’m a dad. I’ll be damned if I am going to be saddled with the bod.

I will not defend the “dad bod.” Nor will I criticize the “mom bod.” Having children, creating life – greatest power in the history of ever. But there are resources for busy moms who want to find time.

What I do know is healthy eating and regular, vigorous, challenging exercise is the only way to live.

What I take umbrage with is laziness. Complacency. EXCUSES. If Pearson thinks that a 22-year-old with a “dad bod” today will have that same body at 45 she’s sadly mistaken. And her article is doing a disservice to the expectations of any young woman who reads it and takes it to heart. That 22-year-old with the “dad bod” will be overweight, dare I say obese, and a candidate for heart disease, diabetes and a host of other health problems, the least of which will be a rotten libido, at 45.

I’m a heterosexual male who is becoming more and more secure in my masculinity and sexuality the older I get. (Needed a qualifier for my next point). I can tell you this. An in-shape man with muscular definition is infinitely more attractive than a man with a gut and moobs. A guy does not have to look like Arnold in his heyday. Muscle looks better than flab. Flab doesn’t scream “success.” It shouts “IDGAF.” What did Seinfeld’s George Costanza say about wearing sweatpants in public? Maybe you like that in your man. Maybe you like a man who just doesn’t care anymore. I always had a fast enough metabolism that I didn’t have to care.

  1. Criticizing the Fit

I have written about fat and fit shaming before. I don’t believe in either one. But I’ll be damned that I’ll be criticized for being in any kind of good shape. I’m not done. I’m not where I want to be. I’m injured. As much as I’ve indulged in comfort food as I recover from back surgery, I know enough to not overeat. I know enough to balance my indulgences with healthy, protein rich entrees.

Buzzfeed recently did an experiment. Four people did P90X3 and they measured their results. Each person experienced positive results. One’s numbers went the wrong way but there were positive visual results for that guy. The experiment confirmed that a program such as P90X3 can produce results. Yes, 90 days in a row is a helluva commitment. I have done Shortcut to Shred (6 days a week for 6 weeks) all the way through just once even though I have attempted it three times. The most recent resulted in my back injury. What was disturbing about this involved the comments on Buzzfeed’s Facebook post about the experiment. Everything from expecting better results, calling this OCD and a fitness obsession to complaining about how the body fat was measured. According to the comments, the participants didn’t follow the meal plan. Bad on them.

My point is this. Instead of looking in a mirror and deciding they could adopt a healthier lifestyle, the majority of commenters did nothing but bitch, moan and complain and make excuses.

All you have to do to confirm that there is an obesity problem in this country is to spend a day at Disneyland. Take a minute and people watch. Count how many people who walk by and just look obese. I don’t mean a few pounds overweight, I mean obese. You’d be alarmed.

The founder of Crossfit, Greg Glassman, just did a 60 Minutes interview. I just watched it, and from what I have seen of the guy, he’s certifiable. But, you know what? He did something and he believes in it. I don’t agree with the Paleo diet. I think it’s a fad.

It was called jogging in the 1970s, we call it "running" now.
It was called jogging in the 1970s, we call it “running” now.

Ever since I can remember, even as a kid, fitness has always been described as a “craze.” Jogging. Aerobics. Now Crossfit. Why isn’t it ever described as a lifestyle or the correct way to live?

Again, I reiterate, I know everyone has a story. If you are morbidly obese, I am sure there is a backstory about how you got there. Childhood trauma, abuse, depression, food addiction. I hope you get the help you need so you don’t blink out early, I really do. But for the folks who are overweight because of excuses and laziness, just stop. Find the time. Find the program. Eat clean and healthy. I found a way. I turned my office into a gym. I don’t have time to go to 24 Hour Fitness so I created my own. I took up running.

I spent years making excuses. I’m tired. I work too much. My commute is too long. I like food. I don’t have time. There’s a commercial for a new piece of workout gear for the home made by Bowflex, NordicTrac, or somesuch and it promises results with 14-minute workouts. They ask, “who doesn’t have 14 minutes?”

I ask when did it become acceptable to be fat? Hell, I’m sure I’m going to be vilified just for using the word. Call someone fat and watch what happens. All hell will break loose. I was fat. I admit it. Look at the picture. I posted it for a reason. Any time I feel like losing I’m losing my motivation, I look at my “before” picture. I’m mortified. That’s all I need to jumpstart my dedication.

I have found “want-to,” self-discipline, and dedication I didn’t know I had. I bet you have it too.

For those of you who are fighting the good fight, I salute you. I know it’s hard. I know how easy it is to get off track. I applaud those of you who have been knocked down and get right back up again.

For those of you who are overweight, stop making excuses, quit eating junk and start exercising. Can’t? Don’t want to? Refuse to? Fine. Quit trying to find reasons to describe those of us who have found a way as abnormal or crazy or obsessed.

We are the normal.

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One thought on “It’s Not a Craze It’s a Lifestyle

  1. Melting Diamond

    Hi Jerry,
    This post was FABULOUS! I’m going to report it to facebook because I think all the men I know will benefit from reading this kind of a blog 🙂

    Keep writing!!

    PS: I’m 28, I have a similar story, I was always lean and muscular because I was a swimmer, athlete and basketball player, but somewhere in my mid twenties, PCOS caught up with me and I became huge. I was 205 pounds at 25.
    And I too felt disgusted at myself and embarked on a 180 degree lifestyle turnaround and today I am athletic once more and giving advice to others on how they can be fit too!!
    My blog is very new, and its mostly for Girls but do stop by and have a look when you can 🙂

    Cheers!

    http://www.fitgirlsindia.wordpress.com

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