Just Right

I was traveling in London 3 months ago and didn’t get the chance to go to gym. It was TORTUROUS. That’s all I wanted to do! I was able to get one workout in, but I spent most of the time going to our corporate office for training.

Near my hotel I saw a pretty brunette gal who was glancing at herself in her pocket mirror on my way to work. She was liberally applying makeup to look…just right. She glanced not 2 times…but 5 times! She almost walked right into traffic because she was so obsessed with her appearance. Ridiculous right?

The girl in London kind of looked like this. It’s stock photo.

Well, it reminded me of myself. No, not the makeup bit. The mirror glance and walking into traffic part. Everyday I look at myself in the mirror to make sure my clothes fit right in the arms, shoulders and butt..not just twice but many many times. Sometimes it feels like my jeans aren’t fitting, and I feel a strong urge to take them off and try on a new pair.

Then I notice my shirt isn’t fitting just right. It’s not tight enough, did I lose weight again? But I’ve been going to the gym all week! I ate 3 cookies at work yesterday, a bowl of teriyaki and then made 2 chicken breasts for dinner. Maybe it wasn’t enough. So I take off my shirt and I look in the mirror. I have to check if you can see my ribs.

I look to see if you can see any bones poking through, and I when a take a closer look, all I can see is a frail 14 year old boy. It’s been 15 minutes and I’ve missed the bus. I’ve always been self conscious about my weight.

Growing up I was teased quite a bit for my weight. I once had a kid in school ask me if I just got out of Auschwitz. What a dick.

I learned to accept the jokes and even laugh at myself, it was the best defense I could think of. I’d post pictures of me flexing with my rail thin arms on the now defunct MySpace, with the caption “I’m ripped!”. But at school I wore long sleeves under my t-shirts so no one would make fun of me. I stayed at home a lot. I didn’t want anyone to see me. My body didn’t look just right…

No filter, flexing photo…Mar 2006

On the last day of high school one of the football players wrote in my yearbook, ”Hoping to see you as a professional bodybuilder in 10 years.”

Of course he was joking, but wouldn’t it be funny if I proved him and everyone else WRONG. Thus began my journey of bodybuilding at 18 years old.

It was hard at first. I walked into the Bellingham Fitness club with long pants and surprisingly, a short sleeve shirt. Clearly everyone was looking at me. I couldn’t tell if the voices were from them or in my head.

“Oh, he shouldn’t be here.”
“Look at that kid”

I grabbed a black free weight, 20 lbs, and tried to do a curl. I couldn’t even do it. That left 15, 10, and 5 lb weights, which aren’t colored black. They are colored neon pink, green, and purple. They draw a lot of attention and I’m pretty sure they are marketed toward women. Guess I’d have to start somewhere.

Example weights I started with…yes these really exist

That summer of 2008, before college, I went to the gym 3 days a week for 1.5 hours a day and gained 10 lbs. My body began changing but I still didn’t feel just right. So when I got to college, I continued my tradition of lifting 3 days a week for 1.5 hours each.

I entered college at 110 lbs.
I left college at 125 lbs.

Freshman Year College (2008)  vs. Senior Year College (2012)

But even at 125 lbs I still wasn’t the ideal weight for my height of 5 foot 7. My body could improve more. I still didn’t feel just right.

After college I began aggressively going to the gym, skipping out of happy hours and events with friends, just to maintain 3 1.5 hour workouts a week. I’d weigh myself religiously, the scale, a gauge for how my day would go.

Down 3 lbs, I would feel like a internment camp prisoner.
Up 3lbs, I would feel like a professional bodybuilder.

The next day I’d get to work, feeling amazing, and then all it would take was an offhand comment to get me obsessing over my weight again. “Michael, you look really skinny in those jeans.”

After that I’d run to the restroom and look at myself in the mirror looking around the corner to see if anyone was coming in. I’d look at every part of my body to see if I really did look skinny. Then I’d get home, take all my clothes off and stand in the mirror, looking at my body, torturing myself.

Not much has changed since high school and I’m left thinking…

How much more will I have to eat…
How many more times will I have to stand on the scale…
How many more times will I have to look in the mirror…

Till I feel, just right.

How many more glances will that women take in her pocket mirror…till she feels just right?
How many more times will you glance at yourself…till you feel just right?

Why is it so hard to feel just right? Why do we torture ourselves this way? Trying to reach for the unattainable ideal. For what?

To get hit by car?
To miss the bus?

Just right doesn’t exist. It’s an illusion. It’s like trying to divide by 0. No matter how close you think you are getting…you won’t make it. So look up from the pocket mirror before you get hit by a bus. And get your loose fitting jeans back on before you miss the bus. There’s a whole lot of life out there. And if you are dead or late will it really matter what you look like?

When I had never heard of being “Just Right”…July 1999

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