Jamal is a graduate of Northeastern Seminary and writes on a broad range of topics. His writings are based on other points of view.
I’ve been going to the gym on a cycle of two to three times a week for the last few years. Though I took a year or two off because of financial reasons. For the most part I was ok with that. Even though I was 240 lbs., I wasn't obese, was regularly active in martial arts, walking, and travelling, and had been eating pretty healthy on the regular for a long time. Despite those positive aspects however, there was always something that bugged me every time I went to the gym, or every time I looked in a mirror, or every time I saw how intensely others were doing their workouts.
That thing that bugged me was that I always felt like it was never enough.
Fuck the Gods
I don't think this inferiority complex began with movies and it wasn’t out of desire to look like Thor. First off, six-pack men were so regular these days on screen compared to the 1980’s and 90’s, that it's lost its impact on me as something that I should aspire to. Secondly, for me there had to be a reason to be on that extreme level of physical shape. What was I doing that made such commitments necessary? I didn’t do MMA or any kind of physical labor. I wasn't a fashion model for sure. And I wasn't training to become any kind of athlete. So really, what was the point?
Third was that I’ve seen many people across the world who were not obese, but also didn't workout regularly. Yet they were content in where they were, living life by the day and enjoying what they could. Americans are notorious in many places overseas for placing a high demand on the image of physical perfection. The modern day Olympian gods if you will, spurred on by superhero movies. I had come across a Spanish saying some years ago that went, “Americans live to work. Spanish work to live.” It was something so forward thinking, simple, and profound that I took to heart as part of my own credo.
And lastly, I didn’t like the idea that how I saw myself was dependent on how good I looked in my mirror. It seemed more like an addiction to me than staying healthy: keep pumping that iron or otherwise your body is going to disintegrate into flab and you’ll become a pathetic human being.
At the same time however, there were reasons why I should stay fit as well. As much as I detested image worship, I equally detested being overweight to the point where you couldn’t see your feet and your ass didn’t even fit in a chair. The thought that goes through my head isn’t that this person is awful, but rather, “why?”
“How did you let yourself get to this point where you can barely physically function”?
This dovetails into the next reason, being that it was a fact that the body does physically react to the conditions we place upon it. And if those conditions are bad, then it can have a bad effect on our health. I mean I appreciate body-positivity and not being prejudiced against overweight people, but this is the realm of science here, not personal opinion. What you do to your body can kill you or make your life miserable.
My third reason was just that I wanted to stay in good condition enough to travel and live life. I’m personally driven to search the world for something and I can’t do that if my heart’s going to crash in five steps. So I had to find a balance between these aspects.
The closest I’ve gotten so far was that I don’t need to look like a Greek god to travel and do things. I need to be reasonably fit so that I can walk a ways, eat ok, and not worry about random health failures in the middle of the desert. I also needed to be fit enough to defend myself if the need arose. I didn’t want MMA fit because that was all for the purpose of destroying the body after building it up in fights. Nor did I want to be Bruce Lee fit because it was too extreme, too much pressure I would be placing on myself to match and maintain that image, on top of other responsibilities I had. It's a waste of life to me and extra work.
Now I’ve come across a new obstacle, one that looks similar to the other I’ve mentioned above, yet is entirely different. It’s that feeling of perfectionism, manifested in a thought that what I am doing isn’t enough. No I'm not going for god-tier, but I also don’t feel like I’m ‘there’ yet. Even when I do feel that way, then comes the fear that my position of personal comfortableness in my form is tenuous and will fall away the next day.
I don’t lose weight easily, but my skeletal frame is built in such a way that it handles it pretty well as long as I don’t go overboard on my diet. What has been happening is that it seems like my fat has been converting to muscle, so that in many ways I look more muscular, but still have not burned all the fat away from the sides as well. What annoys me about this is that for the most part I am at my goal.
I’m fit enough to do things and I can travel. Yet there’s always the part of me that is like it's never enough. I don’t want to spend my life in the gym as much as I don't want to spend it on the couch all day. I don't want to be so concerned about what I’m eating that half the time I'm supposed to be eating, I’m on a calculator counting my fucking calories.
There’s a joy in life, joy in the journey that I want to, strive to, continue to be a part of. And anything that hinders that for me, greatly irritates me.