So I had a conversation with one of my fit friends the other day about body issues. The past 3-4 months I’ve been eating like crazy to put on size for my recent strongman competition, I’m 20 pounds heavier than usual but still relatively lean compared to the average person. However, to myself I’m a fucking whale, seriously I hate what I see in the mirror. Yes I’m muscular, yes I’m the strongest I’ve ever been, but I don’t like the things I had to eat get there. Because of this I brought it up to my buddy who agreed that I got a ton bigger but disagreed with the whole fat thing, which isn’t surprising. They then proceeded to tell me a story about what happened when they had this conversation with their mom:
“Dang I got fat on this bulk mom, I feel gigantic I think I need to lose some weight”
“Shut the hell up you inconsiderate shit head! People would kill to look like you and your fit friends, it’s rude for you to think of yourself as fat. How do you think that makes normal people feel?” (Not kidding this is what she said)
Originally this pissed me off, seriously it’s my body let me feel how I want about it. I’m not “normal people” I’m a strength athlete, I deadlift over 500 pounds, “normal people” don’t get an opinion on my body. I’m being super honest with you guys right now because this is an issue that keeps coming up from different people everywhere. Fitness is a huge part of my life and I’ve come to expect more from myself than the average person, so when an average person tells me to be “happy” with what I have it just doesn’t make sense to me. I’m striving to do things I’ve never done before, so how am I supposed to be “happy” with where I am when I’m chasing something bigger? Sure to them I’m in great shape but to me I’m trying to catch up to the guys at the national level, which means I’m still weak shit! It feels like they don’t understand the sacrifice that goes into training through pain, discomfort and about once a month ripped callouses and nose bleeds. At first my thought was well they can fuck right the fuck off because they don’t understand what I do. I pulled the typical fit guy thing where I literally had this exact thought, “Well if how I look when I feel fat makes normal people feel bad then maybe they should man up and start lifting heavy.” I had no sympathy and until yesterday I still didn’t.
Now I’m going to explain the shift in mindset that occurred to me. Normal people look up to strong guys/girls, so when we feel inadequate it makes them feel even more inadequate. Walking around at a relatively lean (below 20% body fat) 220 is a pretty rare thing and it makes people mad when you aren’t happy with it. What made it make sense was when I realized that people constantly ask for advice at the gym, or people always look at me when I’m minding my own business lifting heavy. As a fit community we are allowed to bitch to the high heavens about our physiques to EACHOTHER and only to eachother. Once we step outside of the fit community we should only be putting positivity out into the world about body image. I’m obviously not the pinnacle of fitness, but I’ve had guys at the gym tell me I have their dream physique and ask for advice (an honor no doubt). However, to me I’m nowhere near where I want to be, but guess what? I need to keep that shit to myself and say thank you. If you are a fit person then you need to understand that people look at you more positively than you look at yourself. I’m not saying you can’t strive for more because you should, but what you need to do is lead by example through actions and not words.
Be humble and gracious when you aren’t in the fit community. When someone says they want to look like you just say thank you and give some advice. When someone asks for help during your workout finish your exercise and help them. Yes it’s annoying as hell when someone asks for help mid-workout, but guess what? It was terrifying for that person to ask for your help so don’t be a dick! I’ve been guilty of both of these things and I feel terribly about it. Is striving for more inconsiderate? No it’s not, but putting your issues on someone who just wants help is. Trust me I understand that you think your 16 inch arms are small, but to that 15 year old kid you might as well be Arnold. Just understand that you should be expanding the fitness community not shrinking it by having bigorexia.
I also understand that as a normal person you think fit people are amazing, but they’re people too. Cut us some slack, most of us are struggling with the same issues you are, the only difference is we’ve been working at for a lot longer than you. If you want to ask for help most of us are more than willing to lend a hand because we’ve been where you are, we understand you only want to get better. However, understand that we’re also there to get better, so if we’re in the middle of some heavy squats ask if we can help you after we’re done squatting. We don’t want to be rude but we’re here to workout out too, so please respect that. I would love to help you with your form and I would love to shoot the shit with you, but wait until my set is over please.
Also as a side note if you actually want some substantial help then try and befriend us because odds are you’ll become our training partner. Yes I’m being serious, as long as you work hard and can push me, I’m willing to help push and teach you. Who knows maybe we’ll become good friends and have some good times. I promise I don’t actually live in the gym, I like to have fun too!