Kiss Me Fat Boy: The Issue of Body Image

What do you see when YOU look in the mirror?

Do you see someone who is dedicated to being healthy, to changing their lives, to helping others, to being the best that they can possible be?

Or do you see the same Fat Slow Triathlete that stared back at you five years ago when you were over 300 pounds?

I still see the fat guy.

I know I am no longer that person. I currently weight 265 pounds. I am stronger, I am fitter, and I am healthier (and gosh darn it people LIKE me!), but body image is a nasty thing isn’t it? We never see what others see. I finish a triathlon thinking, yes I have accomplished something that I never thought I could, and then the race pictures are posted and my immediate reaction is negative.

“Do I REALLY look like that??”

Yes. I do.

But that’s the point I think. What I see and how I perceive it is much different from what others see, and to be honest, no one is looking at me and really giving a shit about what I look like. But all I can hear in my head while looking at the pictures is Pennywise grinning from ear to ear and saying “mmmm Kiss Me Fat Boy!!”

Google that if you don’t get the reference …

“You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.” ― Amy Bloom, Another Truth Moment

It’s just not acceptable for men to be concerned about these things. As a man (yes I AM a man!) I totally get the imbalance of expectations we have vs. a female. It is still socially acceptable for a man to be fat … or “big”. But women have another whole issue there (Melissa McCarthy not withstanding). But at the core we all have the issue don’t we? The “Barbie Syndrome” is not just a female issue. Much has been made about the unrealistic measurements of a Barbie compared to a real woman and if that representation is affecting the body image of young girls as they grow up. If expanded to real life a Barbie doll would have a waist measuring 16”. Not achievable by any means, and estimates are that your chances of finding a woman built like Barbie are 1 in 4.3 billion (yes, there are actual studies on this. I used the Google.). But is this really just a female issue? Ever take a look at a boy’s action figure? When I was growing up a GI Joe was 12” high and was built like a normal man, without the genitalia of course. Sometime in the 80’s this changed and GI Joe became a body builder, with arms that would measure in the 30” range for a full-grown person.

Does this equally affect a boy’s self image?

If it does you’d never find a man willing to admit it. Because men don’t admit things like this. Nope. We are accepting of who we are, how we are built, and if you don’t like how we are then to hell with you, someone else will be.

“That’s sad. How plastic and artificial life has become. It gets harder and harder to find something…real.” Nin interlocked his fingers, and stretched out his arms. “Real love, real friends, real body parts…” ― Jess C. Scott, The Other Side of Life

But that’s not really the case. Of course there are some men that are like this … those Type A “He Men” that are comfortable in their skin and walk around like you are blessed to have them around, but most of us, whether you want to admit it or not, have the same insecurities as everyone else. As I am stretched over my bike racing and can feel my belly hitting the crossbar I wonder how many people are seeing it and wondering what the hell I am doing out there.

Andrew and I were discussed this with the lovely Anna Vocino on the old Ironman: Year One podcast. They both offered insight from another perspective relating to their jobs, and Andrew, coming from a different background than I do, also had a different take on the “what it means to be a man” discussion. It was an interesting back and forth and I hope is still worth the listen. I may repost it on the Back of Pack Endurance site to get it back out there in the universe. I won’t get into what we discussed because I’d like you to hear it, but the conversation revolved heavily on expectations we have put on us by family and society. Anna is one of my all-time favorite people, and it’s fun to re-listen to this show since it was one of our firsts. Not saying that we have gotten better, though.

Fat Shaming does not work, and actually can have the opposite effect that is intended. But yet we see it, hear it, and allow it. Chip Wilson, the CEO of Lululemon, instead of taking ownership of faulty yoga pants, blames the large thighs of the women buying them … yet these women still shop in their store and send money to this man. Why?

Style over values I guess … 

Another example is Geoffrey Miller, a professor of Psychology at the University of New Mexico, sends a tweet out in August 2013 stating the following:

Dear Obese PhD candidates; if you didn’t have the willpower to stop eating carbs, you won’t have the willpower to do a dissertation. #truth

Luckily the University censored Dr. Miller (who stated that it was part of an “experiment”), as this was the most they could do to a tenured faculty. But it does show the attitude a lot of people have. The bombastic Durianrider (Harley Johnstone), in a podcast interview a few years ago, stated he was arguing with a person about weight while “poking him in his fat gut”.

Seriously? Is this how you treat people you are supposedly trying to help? Even if I don’t agree with a person’s stance I am always willing to listen, but to be disrespected and bullied in that manner would not only turn me off his message, no matter how valid, it would result in bodily harm to one or both of us. Poke me in my belly and you’ll pull back a nub. Fair warning.

To be fair, I heard Mr. Johnstone on another interview podcast, The Paleo Runner with Aaron Olson, and he was much calmer and made a more convincing argument. Maybe he’s mellowing a bit, but I doubt it. It was probably because Aaron is so calm that he didn’t feel threatened. He attacked Anna Vocino though, so he will never get a pass in my book. A bully is a bully.

So what are your thoughts, dear readers (and listeners)? Do you feel that body image is still a problem? Do you have an issue with it yourself or have you found a way to accept the person you are? If you did, how did you do it?

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