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.

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!

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!

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

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

Day 5 – Where am I and where am I going?

In the previous post, I talked a great deal about the “mythological” concept of a gay ideal. In this post, I would like to define, in more measurable terms, what I believe the gay ideal to be, as well as to establish a reasonable goal for me to work towards.

First, let’s talk about my body weight. In fact, body weight doesn’t tell us very much, unless we think of it as a function of height. This function of height and weight is usually referred to as the “Body Mass Index,” or BMI. Now, let’s calculate my BMI and see where I stand! My height is 5’11” and I am currently weight 201 pounds. Using the BMI Calculator at the NIH website, my BMI is 28. According to the NIH, a BMI between 25 and 29.9 means that a person is “overweight.” A more “normal” range would be 18.5–24.9. I would also suggest that a gay ideal body sits within this “normal” BMI range. In order to make it to the “normal” range, I would have to lose 23 pounds. To be safe, I am going to make it my goal to slim down to 170 pounds, which I believe is a healthy and achievable goal that will represent considerable progress towards achieving a gay ideal body weight.

So, I bet you’re all curious! What does my overweight body look like right now? Here goes!

D5 D5-Profile

The BMI is a helpful instrument for people like me who have a high amount of body fat. However, there are limitations to this metric because it doesn’t take into account body fat percentage. So what is my body fat percentage? According to my fancy Weight Watchers scale, I have 28% body fat. However, according to Steve at Nerdfitness, scales such as mine can be very inaccurate. Fortunately, Steve has a nice images showing examples of what people look like at certain body fat percentages:

malebodyfat11 menbodyfat2

Using the examples above as my guide, I appear to be closer to the 30-32 percent picture than I am to the 20-22 picture. If I will make a rough estimation that my body fat is 25 to 28. What does having a body fat of 25 to 28 actually mean? According to Marc at Builtlean and the American Council on Exercise, a Body fat percentage above 25 constitutes “obesity.” Using the above pictures, I would define the gay ideal as being somewhere between 6 and 10%. I don’t think it’s at all possible to for me to get my body fat percentage down to 10%, so I will aim for 17% which is what the American Council on Exercise describes as “fitness” body fat percentage.

So how much fat would I have to lose to be 170 pounds and 17 percent body fat? After crunching a few numbers, I found out I would have to lose 27 pounds of pure fat and lose 4 pounds of muscle mass.

To summarize my goals: by the time of the cruise I want to be 170 pounds with 17 percent body fat.

Dan

Day 1 – 150 Days to a Gay Ideal

In 150 days, on February 1st, I will be flying to Ft. Lauderdale, the Cruise Capital of the Caribbean. The following day, I will be boarding the 2014 Atlantis winter cruise through the Caribbean. That means I have only 150 days to prepare for the cruise.

This is not my first gay cruise. I went on the Halloween Mexico cruise in 2012. To prepare for that I managed to lose 25 pounds and get my body weight close to 200 pounds.

20130904-120131.jpg
Me and my friend Marc on the Carnival Splendor as we departed the Long Beach Port.

Almost a year after the cruise, I am taking this gay-cruising experience to the next level and continue my quest for a healthier, more fit and, yes, more attractive body. However, on top of just merely documenting what I am doing to my body and how I am changing it, I am also interested exploring why I am doing this to myself in the first place.

  1. Is it okay to be vain, to appreciate the stereotypical, athletic male body; and to desire to be that?
  2. Or is that sort of reverence and desire for the toned male body an intrinsically negative thing only causing self-hatred and low self-esteem?

I am not so much interested in answering those two questions for the world and making a uniform prescription to solve the problem of gay male body image, as I am in exploring those two sides of the coin as they pertain to me and my unique gay male body. This blog is intended to be utterly self-indulgent (a bodyblog by its very nature must be!) When I make a statement or comment, I am not speaking for any community, but only for myself. I am not looking to solve any personal problem or societal problem, but simply explore my own relationship with my body as I transform it into what I perceive to be a gay ideal body.

Before I go any further, I should clarify what I mean by a gay ideal. I chose the phrase “gay ideal” deliberately. It is not meant to suggest a standard that one must meet or surpass, so much as an almost mythological physique; unattainable, or at least perceived as unattainable. Everyone has their own idea of what is sexy and attractive ideal. Some people are attracted to those that are really big, really skinny, hairy, smooth, etc. I am going to go out on a limb and say that myself, like what I believe to be a majority of gay men think of a lean, yet muscular well-coiffed body to be an ideal aesthetic. I believe most men wish to make themselves sexually appealing to other men by achieving such a body. Put another way, if given the option for a man to change his body type to one of the following types:

  1. overweight
  2. skinny
  3. athletic

I am guessing the majority would pick 3. And I would like to move from 1 to 3.

It’s utterly unscientific, presumptuous and offensive to suggest that the majority of gay men find this body type to be the ideal. I believe it is at least reasonable to suggest that is the reality, even if it is not a popular thing to say.

So there, I said it, I want to be one of the lean, well-coiffed men. 150 days may not be enough time to transform my body completely, but I want to see how close I can get to this ideal. I want to exercise the discipline and restraint it takes to have a lean physique. What is it worth? What will it give me? How will I feel about myself in the end? Will it be worth the pain and sacrifice? Or will I even experience even cause me any sort of pain? How will I feel on the cruise? Will I be more self-confident? Will the positives outweigh the negatives?

And so I begin 150 Days to see just how close I can get to this gay ideal.

Dan