Another week has past and it was another week that included another client arriving for her workout in tears because somebody had just casually commented about her body weight. It was clear to me immediately that her tears were born less of hurt and more of shame.

She was ashamed to have body fat.

And of course the punchline to the joke, which isn’t the least bit funny, is that she probably has less body fat than I do.  Soon we were both crying.

In case you’re not aware of this, having any noticeable body fat is something we should all be ashamed of. At least that’s how it seems.

If there’s one ideal I wish people could get beyond, it’s the idea that having any amount of body fat is a shameful thing.  At least I wish I could get beyond it. More so, that the idea of not having any body fat is a golden calf to be worshiped and danced around.

Most cultures, going back thousands of years, have done everything in their power to glorify those who possess low body fat. In doing so, that way of thinking has woven an unspoken disdain for even an average amount of body fat into our cultural DNA.  It’s not always unspoken though.

Whether we admit it or not, we dislike excess body fat — on everyone, our own selves included. Yet most everyone reading this, including the guy writing it, has more body fat than the Greek or Roman ideal. To have any more body fat than that, all these years later, is considered aesthetically unpleasing within our cultural norms.

Shame on every god damned one of us.

In my own case, I’ll confess that having visible excess fat on my belly, on my hips, and around my face, has presented me with the single biggest source of shame and anxiety I’ve ever known. Nothing has come close. I can’t remember a day in my life when I didn’t feel some amount of shame for how poorly I think I look in the eyes of others — due to my excess body fat. The only exception to this has been in those times when my focus has been on bodybuilding and my dieting was so strict and so severe that I was able to get to an aesthetically pleasing level of low body fat. Those times though never lasted, weren’t sustainable for the long-term, and getting there was the Siberia of eating.

Consider that — consider that I’m a guy who’s spent much of my adult life teaching exercise and the practice of making sound nutritional decisions. It’s my livelihood. Peripheral to that have been the countless hours I’ve spent in the weight room, running, trail hiking, and cycling.

I should be the leanest guy on earth, right…?

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But I’m not. I look okay in clothing, but I’ve declined a half-dozen invitations to pool parties this summer for a fear of taking my shirt off in front of others. I always joke when declining such invitations that I probably wouldn’t come close to people’s expectations of me in a swimsuit, and that it wouldn’t be a sight for kids.

Translation: I’m ashamed of my body, despite how hard I work at it. So ashamed, that I feel like a bad person just for my level of body fat.  So ashamed that it influences my social life.  So ashamed that it causes me anxiety.  So shamed that it causes me to hate myself.

So it’s never that far from my mind, that as a guy who bicycles between 170-190 miles every week, and who spends 6 hours or so in the weight room each week, who walks 2-miles every morning, and after all of that I hate what I look like. This keeps very cognizant of how others, who don’t work at it as hard as I do, might feel about their own bodies.

I often joke that the only people who wake up in the morning, run to the mirror scream….

Yeeeeeeeee Haw — look at me…!

are college football defensive backs and Navy pilots. The rest of us get to look in the mirror each day and wish we weren’t alive. Or at least that’s how I feel.

Some people might look at this and think I’m actually fishing for compliments. Others might admire that I’ve been so open about my inner feelings, while others still might call it brave. There might be a little truth in all of that. The main reason I’m sharing this though, is because I want most of the people reading it to know they are not alone.

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And the thing is, despite that I’ve thrown it all out there today and spilled my guts, I know I’ll still wake up tomorrow morning, look in the mirror, and hate what I see. And I will feel very bad for being that guy in the mirror.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes ridden: 5
187 miles
7,200’ climbing
15.3 mph avg
11,000 calories

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there is this from The Cardigans. Enjoy…

13 thoughts on “The UnFatted Calf…

  1. Man in the mirror I’m battling with starts with my Mental Health. Supposedly Out of love My Mom makes comments of how fat I am.Kills me every time to shame. The fight to reach a decrease in weight 60 lbs by age 60 is going very slow. Your writing gives me hope. I cry each day in pain with my failures.
    🙏🏼Thank You for today’s spokeandword.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry you go through it with your mom. With my dad it was always “son you look a little thick in the middle”. On some level, that was probably always a little bit true. The only time it really hurt me though, was when I was weighing 149 pounds at about 6% body fat. I think in a lot of ways I emotionally divorced myself for my father on that day. And of course, I regret it.

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  2. Shame is a very unpleasant feeling. I wish you as little as possible, Roy.
    Interestingly, I was watching a video of someone on YouTube yesterday who was concerned about his body fat percentage. He’s a nice guy, very involved with Judo, forty, Asian, and Canadian. His current percentage is probably around 9%!! His goal is 5%. As you would imagine, he looks perfect. I cautioned him on the dangers of too low body fat, adding that being Asian may allow him to go a little lower, but 3 – 5 is considered the minimum for survival. I added that if he really wanted to know his true body fat to have a Dex scan, “That sucker can find fat on a rock.” Funny world.
    For Brian, he should look into intermittent fasting. If he can do it 12 hours a day, it will make his quest for weight loss much easier.
    So far so good with Dorian. We are at the very edge of the cone to the West so presently, we are feeling very fortunate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing that, Doc. I’ve never had a Dex scan, But I’ve been weighed hydrostatically several times. Sadly, the only time I ever felt that I looked good enough to wear a swimsuit in public was when I had veins running across my lower abs. I know they’re down there somewhere but they’ve got a little padding right now.

      Something I truly don’t know, but Dorian bodes the question for me. Do you keep your plane in the hangar or outdoors?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Normally. I keep the plane under what they call a “Sunshade” at the airport. It’s a large, strong structure that shields small planes from most weather. As a courtesy, the airport will put the plane in a hanger if a coming storm has a name. The arrow went into a hanger on Friday. Thanks for asking!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I can’t believe we’ve all fallen for fat being some kind of disease. I can’t tell you since gaining weight after my accident, the whole world has changed for me. It was: “Are you expecting? You should lose some weight. The weight may be the problem as to why you have chronic pain in your ankle.” I can’t tell you how many things were said and with different people all across the board.

    And for a long while, it bothered me. Not so much my fat on me, but how disrespectful and insulting and degrading people were to body fat. I felt like I was on the other side of a prank. Or like I was some kind of disease. I used to love going to doctor appointments, up until the point when almost every doctor started to point out how overweight I became. And instead of helping me figure out things (since my hormones and shit are fucked up), they kept judging me on how quick I was losing it or not. And they also kept asking me if I wanted to do that stomach surgery to help me lose weight and tried to convince me to do it especially since my insurance will cover it.

    Nowadays, I just counter as many negative thoughts and stuff with a positive one. I love self-care. I love healing. I know that my body will shed it as it’s ready to especially with my journey on self-care. I shouldn’t love my body any less because I have fat on it or because of what perceptions people have of me. I love my body for all the things it can do and for all the things it allows me conquer.. Those people who judge me are projecting pieces of themselves that I don’t really need to hear or digest. I love my self just fine. I think we all should be focusing on that. Sorry, I’m rambling.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not rambling at all, Nez, and I get. I have a great deal of empathy for what you’ve been through these last couple years, and I know you know that I’ve followed you for a decade now, maybe longer.

      And I agree that one of the hardest parts of it, and I have lived this myself, is how glib and fundamentally uncaring people can be when attempting tube help you. Though their intentions may be good, their sensitivity and the ease with which they make backhanded comments, makes me shake my head every time.

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  4. So be honest…even in the greatest shape of your life thus far, could you still find fault with something about your body? I know I could back when I was in top form. Therefore I choose not to, and try to fight the inner bully inside my head. Low body fat does not equal happiness. Nor does shoving high fat empty calories into one’s self. Believe me, I’ve tried both. 😉 Connecting with others, connecting with nature, reading a thoughtful book, LAUGHING, resting, those are the things I know make me less anxious and happier.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As always, Heidi I appreciate your input and your perspective, a great deal. I think for many who are raised in fitness culture, competitive bodybuilding in particular, we have a different take on it. I’m not saying it’s right, but I’m saying that it runs deep.

      Having stood on a stage with nothing more than a speedo on, and having a room full of people scream and cheer for me, and knowing that type of shape is only sustainable for a few days, it means every day thereafter I’m not in the best shape of my life. That haunts me and will until the day I die.

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