Tuesday, October 17, 2023

It's Time: A Few Honest Words about Body Dysmorphia

I thought and prayed a lot about whether or not I should publish this post about body dysmorphia, but I'm going to do it in hopes that maybe some reader will find it helpful. Here I am on Jan. 21, 2022. 

And here I am just before going to bed last night. 

My original goal in lifting was to get massive, but like so many people I am an ectomorph and so I am not genetically disposed to have great bodybuilding potential. I have a long way to go, but I have come so far. I think many in the bodybuilding industry have distorted the meaning of "fit." Being physically fit means that you have endurance, flexibility, stamina, and strength. It doesn't matter how much you can bench lift if you can't walk to the mailbox without hyperventilating. My ultimate goal in weight training is to be able to take care of myself when I am in my 80s and 90s, to be able to drive a car, to pick up my great-grandkids, to unload the groceries from the car, and to still mow the yard. Sometimes I feel down on myself for making such little progress in two years, but then I look at a picture of myself from a couple of years ago and realize how far the Lord has allowed me to come. If I have never suffered from body dysmorphia, it's only because I have learned to ALWAYS compare myself to my former self and not to others. My body is the only body I've got. It will never be Zane's or Arnold's, but everyone is beautiful in their own unique way. No one should ever cast judgment on another just because they are not as genetically gifted. What everyone SHOULD do is just go and put in the work. Yours is the only body you've got. The attitude you have will create the perception you have of your body. 

All I am asking you to do is give yourself the best chance to be the best you can be. We owe it to our Creator and to our families to do that. I can honestly say that lifting has had a tremendously positive effect on my mental health, but it does involve ripping off the bandaid approach and getting rid of it completely. I realize it's going to take me a very long time to build the kind of muscle that I'd like to have, but the benefits I get from working out week after week far exceed the "get bigger" mantra. I still feel fat and not lean enough when I look at myself in the mirror. But sometimes you have to just sit back, relax, and be content with what you have accomplished thus far. The thing about getting leaner is that when you start losing body fat in certain parts of your body (face, neck, arms, etc.) your stubborn areas (like your stomach) can seem more magnified. At certain points in your journey this can happen and make you think that you look worse than before. Don't buy into it. Understand that consistency is your best friend. There's always going to be someone who looks better than you and there will always be someone you look better than. That's life. Get used to it. My strategy is not to spend too much time looking into the mirror, but when I do, I want to be sure to say something nice about myself. Basic psychology states that your discontentment is created only when you perceive that someone else is better than you. Don't go there. For me, the journey is about a lifestyle transformation. I feel so blessed that God opened my eyes to see the cold, harsh reality of having realistic goals and a realistic body. I love my fitness hobby for a big reason. It's not only a way to deal with stress but it's a life improvement platform. As my health improves, I am becoming less and less concerned about appearances. I'm not at the gym to flex or lift heavier than someone else. I'm there to build my body the way I think the Lord wants me to. I am never going to stick with the kind of workouts that totally optimize the way I look, but I can eat healthily permanently and I can work out three times a week in order to keep toned and fit. I owe it to God and to my family to do this. 

I know this is a very sensitive topic to some people, and the last thing I would ever want to do is to engage in body shaming. I'm old enough to be thankful just for the ability to get out of bed in the morning. If this is TMI, I hope you will forgive me. I really care a lot about how strong you are and how well you can move. Yes, it's very easy to feel insecure about the whole process, but I am gradually learning to care less about what others think of me and that has really helped me in the past two years. If you're not very careful, social media will leave you feeling depressed and unmotivated. Instead, use social media as a time to learn from others or to develop your own thought processes about health and fitness. If you need to, delete your Instagram account. Occasionally take a break from all social media. Focus on pursuing your personal limits to challenge yourselves and become a role model for others. Have a really high standard of yourself. Kill it at the gym, and in life generally. But DON'T be too hard on yourself. No one is perfect. Learn from your mistakes in life and become a stronger human being and Christian. 

Stay safe out there y'all. God bless,