September 16, 2021

Macho Macho Man

By Michael Ellis

We’ve all said it before, “you’ve got a bit of a belly,” or "they look thin,” or even “they’ve put on weight.” Unfortunately, it’s something that just slips out of people’s mouths fairly regularly.

I’m sure most people probably don’t mean any harm in what they’re saying, but when you’re on the receiving end of these comments, they can sting.

For anyone who knows me, you’d know that I love running. And although I may not be the best or quickest, I am still incredibly enthusiastic. And, if you follow me on social media, you’d have seen that during the winter lockdown of 2020/2021 I committed to running every day for two months straight. After the challenge, I had become relatively fit⁠ - I was able to run a 5k in under 20 minutes, and due to the amount of running, was fairly thin. 

My leaner physique led me to decide that I no longer wanted to focus on running. So, I invested in a personal trainer and started to spend several days each week in a home gym. I quickly saw an ‘improvement’ in my physique as I directed my efforts into personal conditioning. After 18 weeks, I had seen a significant increase in muscle as well as a buildup of fat around the waist.

At this point, lockdown started to ease, so I was able to meet with friends I hadn’t seen in a while who all started to comment on my change in physique. Some people were positive, while some were negative. But everyone has their own opinion. 

I’d like to say that the negative comments didn’t bother me, but I’d be lying to you. There would be comments made in passing or lighthearted laughs from the guys about my gut. Don’t get me wrong, not everyone was negative, but it was those comments that I felt the most. And what made these comments  worse, was that this was after 18 weeks of me focusing on building strength and getting ‘in shape’.

As a result, I ended up feeling like I’d wasted the last four months. Although I was physically stronger and still in good shape, mentally, I was most uncomfortable I’ve ever felt. I was nowhere near experiencing a condition like body dysmorphia, but my general day-to-day attitude towards my own body image became  negative. This led me into a cycle where I fell out of love with the gym and started to procrastinate.

It took me about 10 weeks before I decided I wanted to get back into fitness, and what did I start with? Running. Because that’s what makes me feel good. I realised that it doesn’t matter what I look like, and trying to achieve a physique that people deem to be more attractive wouldn’t lead me to happiness. Funnily enough, changing my mindset and focusing on feeling good led to an increased sense of fulfilment, which then improved my training.

Through my experience I’ve learned that, when it comes to training, it’s important to put what makes you happy first, and that training to feel validated by others isn’t the best mindset to have. Putting your focus on self-acceptance will help you find happiness a lot quicker than reaching goals based on other people’s opinions.

Lastly, I’d like to say that it’s important to enjoy the process of self improvement through training, but not to confuse it  with the path to happiness. The little voice inside your head that says “I will be happy when I lose this stone” or “when I’ve got bigger shoulder muscles…” won’t get you anywhere. Reaching those landmarks may make you feel satisfied for a short while, but happiness will come from self-love and self-acceptance.

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