Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Life Spiral

Now is not then. It's a constant struggle to remember that.

For the first time in my life, I can see my 6-pack. This is a bucket list item. In addition to the abs, I have the V-shape, the 10 inch difference between  my chest and waist measurements, thick forearms, heart-shaped calves... all the things that bodybuilders covet. It's not easy to accept the image in the mirror as reality. I spent so much of my life rationalizing why the body I have now is not a body that I could ever have. Genetics. Rice. Friends. Rice. But this truth finally makes sense to me. It's been a long time coming.

I'm not a rookie. I've been working at changing my entire life since 2003. 8 years now. I did a half-marathon in a decent time with only 4 training runs. It's taken 8 years to carve out a 6-pack. Some things take more work than others. Perhaps it's the number of magazine covers promising 6-packs in 6 weeks, the number of youtube and TV specials on people who've made life changes (shouldn't I be included in that group?), but the reality of life transformation is that it takes time, and it is not a linear process.

If you've ever had any modicum of success with body transformation, you'll know what I mean. You'll be stuck at a certain weight for weeks and weeks, dieting, lifting, running, trying to move even half a pound, a tenth of an ounce. You'll say "to hell with this" one weekend, go out have 2 beers, a steak, french fries and an ice cream sundae and wake up the next morning 5 lbs. lighter. "This makes no sense." you tell yourself and shrug it off. The uncommitted will give up, happy with their modest progress and live life unchanged.

It makes perfect sense if you have the framework to understand it. Your body doesn't know what the hell a scale is. Roleplaying games have destroyed our concept of progress by giving us EXP bars. If you slay enough monsters, you'll just get better right? Run enough miles, eat few enough calories and weight should drop, right? Almost. But the difference between almost and correct is the difference between success and failure.

Physically, when you're doing all those things that you should do to lose weight, your body is trying to make sense of the world. Why are you doing this? How do you see this? If you are miserable when you run and eat right, your body will interpret the misery and do all it can to keep the weight on. This is my personal understanding of the process. But if you approach the process of life transformation as a gateway to the life you've always wanted, your body will do what you need it to do. It'll take some time. Be patient with your machine. It's subtly rewiring nerve pathways, experimenting with different combinations of body chemistry, doing a million things that don't show up on the scale.

Did you really think you have nearly the same body at 205 as you did at 210? Why do you think your body took so long to make the jump and skipped 209, 208, 207 and 206? The numbers are different for everybody, but everyone I've talked to has had thresholds, and not a single person has ever dropped weight by going on a steady decline of 1 pound at a time. I couldn't imagine the scientific experiment that can exist to verify this. The scientific method, as far as I understand it, is about isolating factors while the very hypothesis that I posit is about the interaction between innumerable micro-factors. Whatever. I'm not writing an academic paper on weight loss (though I secretly, and now, not-so-secretly hope that this blog post does inspire someone more scientifically educated than me to create the experiment that verifies or debunks my hypothesis). I want to speak to the person who feels trapped in their own life and the one who's just beginning to change their life.

You are not a unique and beautiful snowflake. You are not good enough as you are. If you were good enough as you are, would you hate your life as much as you do now? Change takes time. And it takes a strong heart that can suffer much. It's OK if you don't have that heart right now. I didn't when I first began. You acquire a heart that can endure by enduring. Ore does not purify itself. Purity needs fire.

Running hurts. Lifting hurts. Not seeing progress on the scale crushes. Can you deal with these realities? They will happen. They will absolutely happen. Grab any of those magazines. They promise shortcuts and quick fixes. Slap those authors if you ever meet them. Slap them once more on my behalf. Change is hard. Change will hurt. A real significant change will take more than 10 minutes a day for 6 weeks. Your body will take care of itself if you give it good food and good rest. It'll change the million things that the scale can't read. But you must have the heart to be patient while it figures out what it needs to do.

Don't delude yourself into thinking it will come easy. Use those magazine articles as glossy toilet paper so that they can be of some use to you. Don't look for shortcuts, pills and the easy way out. Embrace the difficulty. Challenges are a summons to the heroic within us. Is not the real reason you want to change because you see your current self as pathetic? You're probably right. You're pathetic compared to who you could be. I've done a hell of a lot, but I'm still only a shadow and a wisp of what I can become. I'm not afraid to say that. This mountain-conquering marathoner with the 300 lb. bench press and 450 deadlift isn't worth a brown bag of dog shit. Not when I hold him up to my tomorrow me. If anything pushes me through the hard days, it's that thought. Why would you accept anything less than the most you can get out of life? Become your potential.


  1. You're right, change is hard and it won't come easily. Your RPG example is a great one. It shows just how people feel things should work, in a nice orderly way. The truth is our bodies adapt quickly and need to be pushed beyond their limits on a regular basis. You can't just go around killing the same orc over and over. Eventually you will need to kill that metaphorical dragon.

    I once weighed in at 125lbs. On a five foot eight frame that’s not very appealing. My journey was hard and it took several years to get to 160lbs. The road was difficult and sometimes I saw no improvement for weeks at a time but I never gave up.

    Now, just as I've made it to one destination I have set another one in my sights. One can only remember the old adage, A rolling stone gathers no moss, with that said off I went.
    I can't wait to see how far I can push myself this time and maybe I might even end up next to Stan on that mountain laughing at our old selves.

  2. There is no shortcut to becoming Hokage ~ Naruto