Its well known amongst people who follow me on social media that I pretty much only wear a shirt only when required by weather or law. People jokingly nudge when I post a picture with a shirt on asking if everything is ok with me.
People have their opinions as to why I do this, some think I am cocky or over confident, or being a show off. Truth is I usually don’t like what is looking back in the mirror, but I have learned to appreciate what is looking back. I realize that I never will be happy with what I have, its part of human nature and a strong personality train of perfectionists.I don’t want to look back at wonder why I didn’t enjoy what I had. Plus the sun in on my skin and I am having the time of my life. The sun on my skin instantly makes me happy.
I remember talking to a woman in her early 40s when I first started Crossfit. She was in average shape at best, but training in a sports bra and short shorts was a little assaulting to the eyes. Lots of pale white skin jiggling. She held her head up high and moved with confidence. It was inspiring. I sure as hell wouldn't be training shirtless if I looked like her I thought to myself. As our discussion wandered towards her workout attire she stated "I used to be 300 pounds diabetic and close to death in my early 30s, this is the best shape I have ever been in, and at my age, it might be the best shape I will ever be in, so I am enjoying what I have". Carpe Diem
Ironically, this is from a guy who used to wear a t-shirt when getting in the pool while a young teenager because I was so self concious about my weight and what my body looked like. I graduated high school at 230 pounds of never touched a weight fat kid, to 145 pound deathly looking “body builder” who thought that starvation and massive amounts of cardio with light weights and high reps was the solution to the perfect body, then to body building up to 230 pounds with visible abs and a chest so big that I could barely get my seatbelt on. I felt horrible but everywhere I went guys would ask me to flex or ask me what protein I was taking. I just wanted to get as big as I could. I even pondered if I could get to 300 pounds on my frame.
At every point of these extremes, and everywhere in between. I never was satisfied with what I had achieved. I looked in the mirror and saw the chubby teenager trying to get jacked. I would look back at pictures and couldn’t believe how lean I was when I thought I still had to get leaner, or how big I truly was until I look at my old measurements and numbers.
The words to a song really struck true to me one day while listening to the radio. In 1997 Wear Sunscreen, by Baz Luhrmann
“Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth, oh, never mind
You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth
Until they've faded, but trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back
At photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now
How much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked
You are not as fat as you imagine”
“Enjoy your body, use it every way you can
Don't be afraid of it or what other people think of it
It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own”
Its very mental. its partly wanting to constantly tinker. Thinking that I need to change something, or something isn’t perfect. Its definitely not healthy.
what changed? I just stopped caring about what I thought I saw in the mirror. I would try and make the best decisions I could for long term health. Performance and aesthetics was a distant second. I started caring more about how I feel, both mentally and physically, and how I move.
I don’t do any direct strength work anymore. Just some heavy strongman workouts in the early morning then usually some gymnastic skill. I find gymnastics offsets the brute strength work of the strongman with balance and skill work. I don’t do any direct barbell strength or skill training anymore. Im “strong enough” for what I need to do. What are my numbers, I don’t know and I don’t care. My number is whatever I can do right now. Which will vary every day. I don’t measure my well being by how much weight I can move. I have been jumping in with the classes recently. While travelling I forgot how fun it is doing a metcon with the group. Back to the foundations.
I took a dive and did a ketogenic diet. Knowing that my glycolytic (pretty much Crossfit) performance would suffer. I choose to eat like this because mentally, it makes me feel amazing. I have many issues with food digestion and allergies, the ketogenic diet eliminates almost all of them. Hunger is under control. I remember eating 6-8 meals a day, and walking around with 1 gallon containers of protein shakes to try and keep my calories and blood sugar up.
Now, I usually only eat when hungry. I don’t let the clock tell me its time to eat. Why eat at 12 if I’m not hungry. Its very instinctive and you better be in tune with your bodies signals. Usually I have a big supper and a snack before bed that contains a ton of fat (its very hard to get my fat intake high enough)
I am leaner than I was even when I last stepped on stage for a body building show, without even trying to get lean. My muscles feels great. I am almost never sore from a workout despite the volume I do at my age. My joints are the most pain free I can ever think of.
I am lighter and feel better than I ever have, I am starting to be satisfied with what I see in the mirror. I only weight myself and have to keep a little modesty in my late night snacking because I compete in several weight class sports and need to stay within certain ranges. But even for that, I try to not care anymore. I don’t look at the numbers. I have a fancy scale hooked up to the internet that has plotted my morning weigh ins since 2004. All nicely plotted on online chart. I wrote a little script that if my weight moves more than 5 kilos either direction of my weight class then it sends me a note. Time to start paying attention to late night snacking. That’s all I have to do. No extra training, no starvation, or food restriction. Just 5 spoons of peanut butter instead of 9.
I am even debating not competing in weight class sports anymore because I hate the obsessing over food and weight. I am good at making weight, but I don't like to play the game. I could choose to always walk around lighter and not have to drop weight, but there is a definite advantage to dropping a couple pounds to make weight to be stronger at the lighter weight. There is a big difference in my strength from walking around at 175 pounds to dropping from 185 to 175, plus walking around at 175 my wife hates how I look at 175. Which is ironic as according to the health statistics I would have an average body mass index (BMI) at 145 pounds.
I love the foods I eat, steak covered in butter and cheese almost daily, asparagus fried in butter, and snack on peanut butter mixed with protein powder and coconut oil every night. I don’t feel restricted in my diet, my training feels stable and strong, I’m learning new skills every week, I look feel and perform better than I ever have, despite being in the game for over 20 years. I get yearly physicals and my blood work actually gets better year to year. Definitely not the norm for a man quickly approaching middle age.
So, if you have made it this far through my ramblings, the moral of the story is; don’t care what others think of your body, you will look back and miss what you have now, so use it, but take care of it so you can use it a for a long time. Logically try different exercise and diets, check your results, and find what works for you. In the end all that matters is your personal health.
Yours in Health,