Matt Forney
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Bodybuilding Isn’t for Everyone, Sports Is: My Story of Fatness and Redemption

This is a guest post by Kid Strangelove. Kid originally published this article at his own blog on January 13, 2014, but he deleted the site a while ago so he could focus on other projects. He asked me if I’d be willing to re-post some of his articles on my blog and I said yes.

Okay, loyal readers, I have a couple of shameful secrets to share with you. You might want to sit down for this. You ready?

  • I do not have what would be considered a hot physique: not even close. I have never had visible abs in my life. Not even when I played ice hockey at a high level.
  • I have been a gym rat for longer than I care to admit. Spending four days a week at my gym has been my routine for quite some time. I’m talking about years.

I struggled with my weight for most of my life. As a child, I was husky up until the point I started playing hockey. That more or less got my weight under control and kept it like that ’til the end of college. At that point, I had the hearty appetite of a guy who does exhausting athletic activity four or five times a week without the aforementioned athletic activity. I ballooned up almost immediately upon graduation.

Weight gain is surprisingly hard to notice. No matter how good or bad I looked, I always felt like I looked the exact same way. It wasn’t until I saw a few pictures of myself that I was shocked into the realization that I needed to lose weight. In every picture, my face was fat. I had a double chin. I had to un-tag myself from Facebook pictures and started taking MySpace angle shots.

I still remember my very first time in a gym. The bench press and treadmill terrified the shit out of me, since I was used to seeing people have spectacular accidents on them in Internet videos. I ended up hiring a trainer for 10-12 sessions. She was a former competitive female bodybuilder and current trainer to the pros. She was the first person to really teach me about training and nutrition. I followed her plans diligently and started seeing results, my very first.

This was the first time I discovered just how truly restrictive and boring bodybuilding is. I prepared all my own meals and consumed about six of them a day. All of a sudden, cooking (and the associated cleanup) was taking up a lot more of my day. After all, I needed to prepare five or six chicken breasts on my George Foreman grill at a time, then clean that mess up. Cleaning up a Foreman is not as simple as the commercial made it out to be, especially if it’s covered in chicken grease and hasn’t cooled off yet.

My social life took a hit, since this was the first time I had to socialize without alcohol. Bars became a nightmare. Dating became worse. I was still under the impression that ladies liked nice dinners (this just tells you how long ago this was) and drinks, and I felt like a sip of alcohol and a bite of a cookie would immediately undo all of the hard work that I had put in. I was that paranoid. I remembered freaking out at this girl’s apartment because she didn’t have any of the food that I needed.

Yes, a girl invited me over, wanted to fuck my sorry ass, and I was thinking about chicken.

I tried just about every workout style and diet imaginable. TV infomercial diet plans like P90X and Insanity? Tried ’em. They work.  You also draw the ire of your downstairs neighbors because your fat ass is doing a plyometrics workout. And yes, doing them in a small Manhattan apartment is as difficult as it sounds. I still remember when the door frame pull-up bar I purchased slipped out and I fell directly on my ass, injuring my tailbone and keeping me from walking straight for a week.

I tried a ketogenic diet and was sleepy and couldn’t think straight for a week. High carb, low carb, slow carb, the works. Did them all.

Some programs I stuck with longer than others, and I was seeing results. But it was never fun. I had to find new ways to amuse myself. Gym time also became podcast-listening time. I went through a lot. My gym had little monitors attached to the cardio machines so you could actually watch some TV. I have managed to see every single episode of Friends, How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men in this fashion. I hate Two and a Half Men. But I hated the boredom more.

At some point, I learned about the true role of steroids and other drugs in a bodybuilder’s life. I went to a show promoted as “natural,” and the people there were maybe a fourth of the size of the guys I was seeing on the covers of magazines. I didn’t want to do steroids and I didn’t want to compete in shows: I just wanted to look better. I also learned just how widespread steroids were and how popular they were with recreational lifters that had no interest in competition. That really made me feel like shit.

But by this point, I had discovered game and was starting to get laid a lot more. I knew my improved appearance had something to do with it, so I kept it up.

I remember, during my short run as a standup comedian, how I made a bunch of jokes about how weird time travel would be. Imagine telling a guy from a few centuries ago the realities of modern courtship.

Wait a minute, you mean to tell me that in your time, you have these places where you lift heavy things in various ways and run long distances? Don’t you have to do that in your everyday life? No? Oh my Lord, you live like a king! Why do you do these things? To attract women? Why? Aren’t they already impressed by the fact that your life is so good that you can choose to lift and run recreationally?

Ha, you’re a funny guy, past man. You’re a funny guy.

I more or less accepted this as a fact of life. You’re going to have to work out and it’s going to be boring, but you know, “suffer the pain of discipline or suffer the pain of regret” or some other inspirational shit people post on Facebook.

It was only this year that I discovered CrossFit and it completely changed my perspective on fitness.

It made it fun.

Something about it just clicked with me. Some of the movements I was already doing—deadlifts, bench presses, shoulder presses, kettlebell swings etc.—but every single workout I did gave me a new purpose:

  • Can I do this workout as it is described (RX in CrossFit terms)?
  • How fast can I do this workout?
  • Can I progress with this lift?

Every workout became an event, and I was hooked. I was also taken in by the social attitude of the classes. People cheered each other on and made new friends. I was no longer the mysterious solitary man that needs only his will and spirit to succeed, as the manosphere implied the perfect man should be.

Every workout had a goal, a plan, a result and an incredible feeling after you completed it.

And then the rest of my life seemingly started to fit together. I cut my drinking to nearly nothing, I stepped my nutrition game up, I was getting more sleep: all the other stuff that was either difficult or a chore became a part of my life.

And another thing that surprised me—and people often make fun of the fat acceptance movement for this—is that I stopped looking at the scale. I don’t keep up with my weight and body fat percentage like I used to, because I don’t need to.

It was no longer about my weight. It was no longer about abs, pecs, or biceps. It was about measurable athletic achievement. How much? How fast? And that made all the difference in the world.

And then I looked around me to see who else had some weight loss success stories or was in good shape/athletic. Two factors immediately brought everyone together: competition and socialization. Every single time. From the girl that ran marathons as a member of the New York Road Runners, to the guy that climbs rocks, to the girl that joined a roller derby club, to the guy that joined a BJJ club and is now sparring like a boss.

So what does that mean for you?

  1. Try everything to find your niche. Bodybuilding, fighting, cycling, swimming, DDR, roller derby, fencing, rock climbing, running, crossfit, soccer, basketball: the choices are endless. I bet you haven’t tried them all.
  2. Make a plan to compete in them (or at least compete against yourself).
  3. Socialize

That right there is the very definition of sports, and without it, you are just mindlessly lifting weights, running, doing yoga or whatever. More often than not, you’re doing them by yourself and isolated. Don’t focus on appearance: focus on performance. Appearance will come. Believe it.

Long live sports!

Read Next: How Six Months of CrossFit Changed My Life in Six Ways

  • Great article! I love the Time traveler joke! I would be the first to admit that lifting weights could be godDAMN boring to most people.