“Hey Jason! Don’t stand sideways or you’ll disappear!”
I have been hearing variations of lines like this for most of my life.
When I was younger, some time around Jackson’s age or so, it wasn’t the comments of how skinny I was. It was more the fact that I didn’t have much of an athletic flair or good hand/eye coordination. So, I would frequently be the last one picked for most sports teams and events. I never developed much confidence with sports despite trying at soccer, basketball and tennis.
Tennis was at least something I was okay at. However, it wasn’t because I was the most skilled. It was because I was willing to sacrifice myself to get to the ball. I remember attending a tennis camp in Texas where I was awarded most outstanding of my respective group. Mind you, it wasn’t because I was the best. There were two other guys in my group who could wipe the floor up with me on the court.
I won the award because I didn’t give up. The other two were so naturally gifted that they barely had to try to win matches. I knew that wasn’t going to be me. So, I’d be the one flailing around trying to get every damn ball back over the net. While the “Most Outstanding” trophy was nice to receive, I knew there were better players than me.
As I got older and distanced myself more from sports, my build would plague me when it came to buying clothes. Most stores carry clothes for a broader build. Shirts would be too wide and too boxy. Pants would be too relaxed and not form fitting.
I recall a time back when I started RevFit. I spent a few months as a judge in amateur boxing. The attire was a white polo with black slacks. Fortunately, places like Express carried slacks that worked for me. Express had started to adopt a European cut to many of their clothes and I was able to find a sufficient cut for my pants. I walked into a department store and over to the Polo section. The sales rep came up to me and asked what he could help me with.
“I need a white polo, size small, slim fit.”
He handed me a shirt that had been folded up neatly on the table.
I unfolded it and held it up against me. It looked like I could fit at least two of me into it.
“This is a small?” I asked.
“Yes. That’s a small, slim fit.” He responded.
“What do you have that fits ME?”
He paused for a moment and said “You might want to check the youth section.”
So, there I went.
32 years of age, shopping for a youth XL that wouldn’t look like I was swimming in it. Suffice to say, it was embarrassing.
As I write these words, I try to remain mindful that I’m not looking for sympathy. I can give a lengthy list of people who are reading this thinking “Poor you” with layers upon layers of sarcasm.
I write this because many of my clients think that happiness comes in a smaller package.
I have been small-framed for nearly 43 years. My happiness is not related to my size and I’ve spent much of those years tearing myself to shreds because I wasn’t more muscular or able to fit into more clothes.
I have nit-picked and critiqued my body just as savagely as any client I’ve ever had who berates themselves for being on the opposite end of the spectrum.
We just have a different deck of cards we’re playing with.
I think at certain points as I’ve gotten older, I’ve just tried to accept that I may not put in the work to gain pounds upon pounds of lean muscle and fill my frame out more. There is a mental block that I get when I start to see the scale creep up. I remind myself that I generally like my clothes and I don’t really want to buy a new wardrobe.
That mental block then forces me back into a reality where there are only one or two clothing companies I can buy clothes from that fit me right off the rack. Anything else has to be tailored and altered (which is, of course, an additional expense.)
When I was at The Fitness Summit in Kansas City earlier this year, it was not lost on me that even though I wasn’t the shortest guy there by any means, I was probably outweighed by at least 30 pounds by any other guy there. It shows up in pictures for sure and then I remind myself: “Damn, you’re really skinny.” (Eat a f*cking burger why don’t you?)
But I did have to get to a point where I could at least feel sufficient. I have a beautiful wife who is still attracted to me, so that’s an upside. I feel good most days and don’t feel as if being smaller is affecting my ability to train or move well (although being bigger would have some correlation with being stronger.)
There’s another harsh reality that is, sometimes people watch how I eat. If I’m at a restaurant I can put back a lot food with little difficulty. Some could rationalize that and assume that since I can do it and be the size that I am now, perhaps they could do the same.
But they can’t.
What many people fail to realize is that how I might eat at a restaurant is not how I eat every meal of every day. I try to estimate where my calories are on a given day so that I know if I can splurge or not. I also am extremely active. On a typical day of work, not only am I demoing exercises and training myself, but I walk somewhere between 12,000 and 17,000 steps. That is my normal.
And no, it isn’t because my metabolism is faster than yours. It stands to reason that if you weigh significantly more than me, your metabolism is faster because there is simply more of you. It takes more energy to run a larger body. Many people forget this principle when they start to lose weight that a smaller body requires fewer calories. This is why it’s important to know your goals for what would be considered surplus (to gain weight), maintenance (to stay the same weight) and deficit (to lose weight.)
I wanted to write this as something of a reminder that everyone (really, everyone) is dealing with some level of dissatisfaction with themselves. To be bigger or smaller, more cut, more defined, less flab, less this, more that, etc.
My definition of a perfect body may not align with yours and even if we agreed, the person who inhabits that body knows their relative imperfections. Or maybe it’s just a case of “perfect” on the outside and “imperfect” on the inside.
We all carry our shame differently. If I can impress anything, it’s to ask that you respect whatever baggage we all bring to the table. If the years of owning this business have taught me anything, it’s that we’re ALL trying to get a little bit better than we were when we started.
I think that’s a good place to be.
(Below is a picture of me with Coach Matt Gary who was our instructor this weekend for the USA Powerlifting Coaching Clinic. He was exceptional, as was the course. There is only a slight difference in our sizes…or maybe my hoodie makes me look buff. I’ll let you decide that.)
“We Make Great People Greater”