One of the things that I have struggled with the most over the past 5 years is my body and fitness constantly yo-yo-ing backwards and forwards as travel and work take away my time and energy for six months each year. I don’t have a regular nine to five job. I work really hard on a project or contract for about 6-8 months and then take time off to freelance and work on personal projects. It’s a lifestyle that is very flexible and suits me well except that when I am travelling and under contract I go from working out 5 times a week to maybe twice if I’m lucky. My diet and sleep patterns also take a big hit.
In the beginning it was a source of great anxiety not to be able to consistently maintain my health and physical fitness. I struggle with feelings of frustration that come with the loss of condition, strength and size. All the hard work I put in during my “summer break” is being wasted and these feelings only heighten my unhappiness with my body.
My sense of self worth has always been attached to how I look in both negative and positive ways. As a teenager I suffered from awful acne. Some nights my face would be too sore to sleep on my side. It devastated my confidence and left me feeling ugly until the miracle of Roacutane finally gave me a chance to beat it. Then I had a chance meeting with a Photographer named William and I began to feel comfortable in my own skin.
Fast forward to 2013 and having overcome some of my confidence issues my body image was firmly rooted in what others thought of me and how often I was getting to the gym. I was up when I was lifting and down when I was comparing myself to others. I dreamed of having a perfect waist, abs and pecs. I was Twinky at the time and Bel Ami was my goal. I had no self awareness of what my own sense of body image, the media, porn and the attention I was getting were doing to me.
Now its 2018 and the last four years have taught me to care a lot less about being buff and a lot more about being healthy.
It’s been an involuntary experience but if things had just continued on like they were I’d still be here today living for the likes but a lot less aware of why and the damage it was doing to my mental health. Being constantly frustrated about moving forwards and backwards had the surprising side effect of making me think a lot more about what was important to me and what my body and fitness goals were. Being forced to constantly compromise and prune back my goals to what is really important is having some interesting results.
This process moved my body image from being firmly attached to my looks towards goals like maintaining my strength and flexibility, keeping my cardio fitness at a reasonable level and staying fit. The things that I used to associate with desirability I now also associate with longevity. Thick thighs might make the dicks rise but they also help me climb mountain sides.
To me healthy now means I’m better equipped for the cold English winters, healthy means my mental state is more resilient when I hit my inevitable lows, healthy means taking care of my body during a hard work schedule and healthy means I’m better equipped to deal with stress. It’s about how my body feels now a lot more than how it looks.
So what does this actually mean for how I see my body? Well now a trim stomach is the result of a good diet, clear skin is a result of limiting the amount of crap I eat and drinking enough water, a clear scalp means I’m taking better care of myself, and all of this care for myself means that my mental health is strong too.
I’m not 100% there yet and I don’t think I will ever be. I still look at my love handles, receding hairline and my disappearing abs and feel my heart sink and I’m still living for the likes, but it all comes with a much healthier sense of self awareness now and thats made the biggest difference. I beat myself up less and I recognise when I’m looking at hot guys and making myself feel like shit. It’s true when they say comparison will kill you. Now my body image is becoming more and more focussed inwards and I like it.