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A Few Concluding Thoughts on “150 Days to Gay”

 

Me and Shawn at the Atlantis Cruise White Party

Me and Shawn at the Atlantis Cruise White Party

– Walt Whitman, “ I exist as I am, that is enough. If no other in the world be aware I sit content, And if each and all be aware I sit content. “

                  – Walt Whitman, Song of Myself.

 

When I started this projected, I intended for it a deeply personal exercise in exploring what it means to transform towards what I crudely termed (and I suppose crudely defined) “the gay male ideal.” To put it bluntly, I wanted to explore what it was like to be more physically desired. I wanted to explore that narcissistic inner queen whose life is validated only by how they appear. At the end of the 150 days, I would board a gay cruise, where I would (among other things) see how the physical changes in my body would change the cruise experience for me. As self-indulgent as this seems (and believe me, it was!) I was truly curious about this other world of which I had never really felt a part. I realize that this speaks volumes to my own insecurities, and that’s fine. I wanted to be vulnerable, to open up a dialog with myself and also to share it with anyone who wittingly or not, clicked the link from my Facebook page.

I am not sure why I went into this body transformation experience with such a misguided approach and curiously, of all the people who knew about it, only one called bullshit on me. After all, I posed a question in my first blog post to which any halfwit would know the answer: Will changing my body for the sake of fitting in or being accepted make me feel better or worse about myself? In my defense, I will quote from David Foster Wallace’s 2005 Commencement speech delivered at Kenyon College:

“There are these 2 young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the 2 young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other one and goes, “What the hell is water?”

The purpose of this parable is to suggest “that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about.” Clichés such as “love yourself” or “accept yourself” are so obvious and pervasive, and yet they are the most easy to ignore. Clearly I was intentionally ignoring them.

Oooh, hello Dolphin! Curaçao!

Oooh, hello Dolphin! Curaçao!

As I began to make noticeable progress in my weight loss and the more and more people seemed to notice the change, a strange (at the time) thing began to happen. I actually began feeling worse about how I looked. My self-esteem was lower than it had been when I was 50 pounds heavier. I would compare my own body to those around me. I would be critical not just of my body, but also aspects about myself that I couldn’t change. I would walk into a room, or a bar and I couldn’t stop looking at everyone’s hair wondering what it was like to have a thick head of hair. While sunbathing on the gay cruise, I couldn’t help but notice the unblemished smooth skin all around me. Even though I was making progress, fitting into clothes I hadn’t in years and having people who wouldn’t have talked to me before chat me up, the fact of the matter is I had never felt worse about myself.

Entering this particular superficial mindset is like traveling to another planet. David Foster Wallace makes another point in his Kenyon College speech that echoed through my head daily during the 150 days that preceded the gay cruise:

“…in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you.”

Wallace is not exaggerating. Having visited this particular land of superficiality, I can say with certainty that worshiping sexual allure is direct ticket to your own personal Hell.

So why did I bother to lose weight with such a mindset? Looking back, maybe I thought that this was the only way to drill into my head that stability, happiness and security in oneself comes not from without but from within. As David Foster Wallace would point out, this is one of those petty clichés we hear all the time and yet so haplessly ignore. Hopefully any of you out there struggling with body image will have the good sense and awareness to follow such a trite suggestion. Happiness comes from within, not from without.

Dan and Shawn WP2

Going forward, I still have weight loss and fitness goals that I intend to blog about. But I intend on doing it to make myself happy and not to simply to try to be desired by those around me.

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And Your Very Flesh Shall Be a Great Poem!

walt-whitman

 

On the subject of how to conduct ones life, Walt Whitman is hardly short of ideas!

This excerpt from his 1855 printing of Leaves of Grass:

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.

Any thoughts?

Happy Saturday to Everyone!

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Big Boy Clothes

As I was losing all this weight for this project. I found myself throwing out old over-sized pairs of pants and shirts. Considering my history of losing weight and gaining it back in duplicate measure, this was probably a stupid idea. But hey, this time is different…right? Different.

Check out this awesome pair of pants…

20131116-IMG_9846

Not as dramatic as that guy who lost all the weight on the Subway sandwich diet, but it’s something.

In total, I must have thrown out at least 10 pairs of pants and 40 or so shirts. Go me!

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Day 30 – Body Progress Report

Today marks the 30th day since I’ve started this body transformation project. 1/5th of the way down. Numerically speaking, I am making progress. In fact this Day 30 stats aren’t looking too bad:

  • Weight: 191.8 lbs.
  • Waist: 40″

Total Change:

  • 12.2 lbs. of body mass
  • 2 inches of belly fat

Not terrible. My pants are feeling a little looser and my body is feeling stronger; however, the pictures aren’t particularly dramatic.

Front Left Side, Day 5, 201 Lbs. Right Side, Day 30 191.8 Lbs.

Front
Left Side, Day 5, 201 Lbs.
Right Side, Day 30, 191.8 Lbs.

Profile Left Side, Day 5, 201 Lbs. Right Side, Day 30 191.8 Lbs.

Profile
Left Side, Day 5, 201 Lbs.
Right Side, Day 30, 191.8 Lbs.

The most dramatic change in the photo appears to be that 30 days later, I am finally able to comb my hair. In the before and after profile shot, it is evident that my belly has shrank a little bit. As a result, I am able to wear a lot of shirts that I wasn’t able to before. That says a lot a right there, but we all know that nobody wears shirts on gay cruises, so for the purposes of my transformation, it’s not a particularly helpful indicator of achievement.

I can’t say I am disappointed with the visual results, but seeing these pictures only inspires me to keep working hard in hopes of a more dramatic difference.

Short Term Goals

Looking forward, my next Body Progress Report will be on day 50. My short term goal to achieve on that day is to lose 6 pounds of body mass and to lose 1 more inch of body fat. which will put me at around 185 pounds (generously rounding down.)

 

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Day 23 – Face Fat

Yesterday as I was trimming my beard, I made a common mistake and accidentally shaved off a huge chunk of hair. Normally, I would attempt to even out the rest of my beard  to match where I had botched. Instead of that, I decided to just trim the entire thing off and this is what I uncovered:

D26 Face pic

Shawn, my boyfriend, was the first one to notice that my clean shaven face revealed that I had lost a noticeable amount of face fat. (A quick note, the iPad camera does have a apply considerably favorable angular distortion in the above pic, making the results a little more dramatic than they are.)

In truth, I have to admit, the main reason why I have kept my beard is precisely to cover up my face fat. In addition to that, I thought a beard was fitting for the rest of my body. I am not saying that all larger guys should grow a beard, only that for me the hairy, bearded large male look seemed to work the best for me.

And looking back on some pictures, it seemed to be the right decision:

D26 Face Fat Shaved      D26 Face Fat Beard

Jolly red-beard Santa Clause is what seemed to work the best! What do you think?

Dan

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Day 20 – Body Progress Report

 

D20 Weight Graph D20_Waist_Graph

Day 1 Stats:

  • Weight: 204 Lbs.
  • Waist : 42″

Day 20 Stats:

  • Weight: 195.6 Lbs
  • Waist: 40.5″

I am quite happy with the progress that I have made. I have managed to keep to my workout regime, weight lifting 4 times a week and hiking 2 days a week.

I weighed myself a handful of times over the past 10 days and I fluctuated from about 192 right back up to around 197. This morning the wheel landed right on:

D20_Weight 9-23

 

I am happy that I am not losing fat too fast. The plan was to give myself reasonable goals and lose weight slowly, not “crash diet” and starve myself (too much) and I like to think I am sticking with that. I must admit, following a lower carb, intermittent fasting diet is quite a challenging shift from my previous no-limits, overindulgent eating habits. However, I have to keep reminding myself that in order to take up residence in the gay ideal body, I must subject myself to a considerable amount of self-denial.
Dan

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Day 16 – All Diets Work if You Follow Them

lettuce

It can be confusing navigating the sea of weight-loss diets available out there. There are seemingly hundreds of plans out there: the abs diet, the wine diet, the gluten free diet, the low-carb diet, the no-carb diet and everything in-between. Most overweight people such as myself tend to be experts on the subject mainly because we have tried them all, and as in my case, has also failed miserably at sticking to them. My friend Todd once pointed out one very obvious, yet fundamental rule of dieting: they all work…if you follow them.

The first diet I ever encountered was Weight Watchers. When I was younger, my mother was a member of that weight loss program. What I associated most with the diet were those bizarre Weight Watchers dehydrated packaged meals that the program offered. The meals would fill our pantry and mother never seemed to eat them, and looking back it’s hard for me to blame her. Even when I was young, they always look disgusting. Apparently my mother’s diet operated on the assumption that if you provide food so gross to a dieter, they will lose weight simply by preferring to starve themselves rather than eating the meals!

Years later, my friend Marc went on a pre-packaged frozen meal delivery diet. I noticed a similar phenomenon inside his freezer, piles and piles of uneaten BistroMD “meals.” I had the pleasure of sampling his frozen sweet potato pancakes and it immediately became clear to me why so many of his meals have remained untouched.

I am happy to report that Marc has returned back to a diet consisting of Fuddruckers burgers and Onion Rings

I am happy to report that Marc has returned back to a diet consisting of Fuddruckers’ burgers and onion rings

These days it seems there is a diet out there marketed to every type of person. Most recently these diets are variations of the low-carb/no-carb diet. Thanks to a man named Dr. Atkins, these carb-cutting diets have been come almost de rigueur for those looking to shed their spare tire or fifth wheel. Low- carb diets come in all forms. For women, there is the “South Beach Diet.”

Look at that South Beach Bod!

Look at that South Beach bod!

And its more masculinized form, the “paleo diet.” (For the record…I think almond flour should be banned! BANNED I TELL YOU!)

Take a look at this fantastic example of a typical meal consumed by our paleolithic ancestors!

Take a look at this fantastic example of a typical meal consumed by our paleolithic ancestors!

For myself, I once cooked out of a recipe book titled “The Wine Diet.” In that cookbook, the only permissible carbohydrates were those that contained no less than 10% alcohol.

A lot of recent diet trends regulate not just what you put in your body but how you put that food in your body. My favorite of these trends is Intermittent Fasting (IF in CrossFit-speak.) IF dictates that one it is limiting your food intake in a 24-hour cycle to just 4 to 8 hours a day. In addition to speeding up your body’s ability to oxidize fat, proponents of IF suggests that it can also prolong your lifespan. I personally am fond of IF because it means you only have to worry about your diet for 6 hours a day… The other 12 waking hours can be spent worrying about being hungry!

As it turns out, for the past few weeks I have been more or less following an IF diet, I just thought it was called skipping dinner. The only way I have ever been able to lose weight is by going to bed feeling a little hungry, and IF helps me accomplish this.

In addition to only eating between the hours of 9:00 AM and 3:00 PM, I am trying my best to avoid any overcomplicated fad diet, such as the one’s mentioned above. I much prefer a more basic “don’t eat crap” diet,  which mainly means limiting my consumption of sugary foods, processed foods and booze.

So there is my diet plan, 2 simple rules, eat a day’s worth of calories for breakfast and lunch, and make sure the food isn’t overly processed junk. I’ve been able to follow them for 16 days…only 134 to go.

Dan

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Day 8 – The Bod Pod

1) The Bod Pod Experience

After making an educated guess in my previous post as to my body fat percentage, I became curious to see if I could find a method that would offer me an accurate answer to this question. I did a little research and came to the conclusion that the BodPod would best suit my need. I am not sure exactly how it functions, but according to its website it is the “practical gold standard” of body composition analysis. That’s good enough for me!

The closest location that offers this service is at Cal State Northridge at the Marilyn Magaram Center. I decide to schedule an appointment for the following day at lunchtime.

I am excited as I arrive on the CSUN campus for my appointment, but finding parking was a bitch and I was afraid that I was going to be late. I fortunately found parking and made my way to the second floor of Sequoia Hall. I met an undergraduate nutrition student named Francesca, who I soon found out would be performing the analysis.
After paying the fee, I get changed behind the blue blinds.

BodPod2

I am instructed to get onto the scale.

IBodPod5

And then into the pod I go!

BodPod6

I am required to remain absolutely still while the pod is operating. Little thumps of air come from behind. I remain calm and don’t move a milimeter.

BodPod10

After getting out of the BodPod, Francesca prints out the results of my test. It says I am 21 percent body fat, way under my estimate. I am dumbfounded and confused. I ask Francesca if she is sure this is accurate. She assures me it is. I ask her if I look like someone who only has 21 percent body fat. She tells me that she normally performs these tests on athletic bodies and has no idea what the body fat percentage of someone with a body like mine might be. Okay, fine, fair enough. (I am silently jealous…she gets to work with college basketball players wearing only their underwear!)

I am still perplexed as I look at the results again.

BodPod13

I remain confused the entire ride home, trying to rationalize such a low percentage. Maybe my thighs and legs are all muscle. I get back to the office and look at the result sheet one more time. I notice a curious mistake. Francesca has accidentally entered my height as 28 inches. I called Marilyn Magaram Center immediately and asked if an incorrect height would affect my results. “It would,” said the man who answered the phone. Fortunately, this turned out to be an easy mistake to correct. He would recalculate my body fat percentage with my proper height and then send me the corrected results ASAP.

I open the e-mail and look at the PDF. My jaw drops as I read the results:

Screen shot 2013-09-11 at 11.05.55 PM

I was prepared for a number between 25% and 30%, but not 34.2%. It turns out I am much flabbier than I thought. To make matters worse, the bottom of the report reads:

Screen shot 2013-09-11 at 11.06.17 PM

I am temporarily alarmed and concerned by the negative health ramifications such a rating presents. I acknowledge them and then immediately forget them. I am, after all, not so interested in being healthy as I am in appearing healthy.

2) Reassessing my Goals

At this point, my previous goals seemed a little far fetched. This alarming news forces me to reassess my goals.

I weighed in at 198 today. 67.7 pounds of pure fat. 130.3 pounds of muscle, water, bones and organs. I am going to make it my goal to lose about 30 pounds of body fat and gain 5 pounds of lean mass. That puts me at 173 pounds with 21.8% body fat.

Bod Pod. We will meet again!

BodPod9