Focusing on Performance, not Aesthetics

I feel like I talk about this a lot, and you probably do too. It’s because I have to keep reminding myself. I have to keep telling myself that I care more about how well I perform than how I look. Maybe someday it will be something I believe and not just tell myself. Every time I work out, I wish that I could have done more reps or a heavier weight. I don’t think to myself that I wish I could look better. But, when I get home and I look in the mirror, thoughts of how I wish I could look differently come creeping back in, slowly, but surely. It’s like playing tug of war inside my head.

It is especially bad if I notice how wide my hips are which is pretty much any time I see them in the mirror. They are pretty much the reason these thoughts keep creeping back in. If I could split my body into two halves, upper and lower body, I’d happily keep my upper body (especially after I get top surgery), but I would gladly get rid of my lower body. But then I remember how strong my legs are, how they carry me through my day and my workouts. I’m now able to squat over my body weight in the back squat and front squat, and I can deadlift 1.5x my body weight. I like the weights that my legs are able to lift, and I want to be able to lift more.

But there’s always this nagging in the back of my mind about wanting to reduce my body fat. I won’t be able to perform better if I focus my diet on fat loss though. Argh! It’s like being pulled in two completely opposite directions. I want to throw away all the mirrors in my apartment (okay, I’d probably just cover them), but that seems unrealistic. I just need to be able to deal with what I see in the mirror. I need to decide what is more important to me. Who cares if I have wide hips if I am able to compete and better myself in other ways. My hips are one small aspect of me, and not a very important one in the grand scheme of things. So why do I keep focusing on them? They can completely turn my day around on really dysphoric days. I wish that our society wasn’t focused on aesthetics so much. It’s hard when we are constantly barraged with images of “beautiful” people. I’m also guilty of going around comparing myself to every guy I see. I look at other peoples’ transitions and wonder why I can’t have narrow hips like them. Or why their fat has redistributed with no effort while mine won’t budge with regular exercise.

Note: I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, but I wanted to give it time to sit since I was feeling really dysphoric when I wrote it. Some days are better than others. Sometimes, I look in the mirror and it seems as if my silhouette is straight down. Later in the day, I can look again and all I see is a really curvy body.

Since I wrote this, I measured my hips because I felt like my clothes were fitting differently, and I lost another quarter inch from my hips since the Whole30 ended. That ends up being 1.25 inches total from the beginning of February. I also decided to stop obsessively measuring myself with a tape measure (this is in addition to putting my scale away). It’s baby steps, but it’s progress. I also have made significant improvements in performance since I made changes to my diet. I intend to make this a lifestyle change. Hopefully, with time (and constant reminders to myself), the way I think about myself will also change. It’s been 28 years of feeling unhappy with my body. I shouldn’t expect the way I think about it to change instantly. Like all good things, it takes hard work and time. I hope in a year or two, I can look back on this and see how far I’ve come.

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One comment

  1. Nothing in life has a straight line trajectory; otherwise if we kept going to the gym we could lift infinity, or like Atlas, at least the whole world. I think you are making a good choice to focus on working out, it will allow you to do the best with what you have got, and wait for the T to redistribute the body fat or not. Dysphoria is a bitch to handle.
    One thing I like about the gym is that even if you can’t get another rep out, you can focus on your rhythm and your form. It is the only place for me where a “good fail” has real meaning.

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