body image

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.

Remembering Where I Came From

Sometimes, I find myself comparing my body to guys around me and/or the amount of weight I can lift in the various lifts I practice. When I do this, I get discouraged because I’m not as muscular or strong as the guys around me.

Then, I take a look at my old PRs and photos from before or the beginning of my transition.

 

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This is a picture of my doing front squat for 3 (@ 155 lbs) above my previous one rep max (150 lbs) at the competition on February 22nd. Then, last weekend, I did 165 lbs for one. When I first started CrossFit, I couldn’t even do a proper squat. My mobility was so bad, that I couldn’t squat beneath parallel. The first time I did, I was only able to squat up to 125 lbs. In a little less than 6 months, I was able to increase my front squat by 40 lbs. My other lifts have increased considerably as well. This is where I’m glad I’ve been keeping track of my progress. When I get discouraged because I’m not as strong as I’d like to be, I remind myself of where I came from.

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   Pre-T

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10 months on T

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Along those same lines, when I think I’m not as muscular as some guys. I look back on my pre-T photo and see such a huge difference.

It’s just a good reminder to keep perspective. I’ll be interested to see what I look like and how my performance is in another 10 months or so.

 

Battle with the Scale

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always considered myself overweight. I was always a little “chubby.”

My obsession with attaining a certain number on the scale didn’t start until I joined the Marine Corps though. One of the first things that happens when you talk to a recruiter is they pull a scale out and weigh you. In my case, I was 7 or 8 pounds over my max allowed for me height. This should have been okay since I had a few months before I’d be heading out to boot camp. I could easily lose that weight with a bit of exercise and eating. (Note: I ate atrociously as a child/teenager).

However, one day, I was at home playing on my computer, and the phone rang. It was my recruiter. He asked me if I wanted to leave in two days. I wasn’t doing anything, and I wanted to get out of my house. I jumped on the opportunity. I was still overweight though. For the next two days, I ate next to nothing and sipped on water to “quench” my thirst. My recruiter took me to the gym to exercise (i.e. do lots of cardio) and sit in the sauna. I remember wearing plastic bags underneath sweat pants and shirts to lose as much water as possible. At the time, I didn’t know any better. I just did whatever my recruiter said. I managed to squeak by for my weigh-in at MEPS.

For the next five years, I struggled with the number that appeared on the scale. For every weigh-in, I stressed about what the number would be. In the Marine Corps, there were harsh repercussions to being even a pound or two over your max weight. If you were over, they would then pull out a tape measure and measure the circumference of your neck, waist, and hips if you were female, and your neck and waist if you were male. These measurements, along with your height, were plugged into a formula, and out popped your body fat percentage. Anyone who had to go through these knows that they are horribly inaccurate, especially for females who have what would be called “child-bearing hips.” For me, if I had to get tape measured, there was no hope of passing.

I would do everything in my power to make weight. I would not eat, drink fluids (or drink very little), and exercise for the days leading up to a weigh-in, sometimes even a week before depending on how far away I was from making weight. Despite my efforts, I’d sometimes be over my weight. I got punished by having to do two PTs a day, one in the morning with the “fat bodies” and then again in the afternoon with my platoon. I’d get talked to about going on calorie restricted diets. I’d get yelled at, made to feel ashamed because I was two pounds overweight. I took supplements that were supposed to burn fat. I obsessed. It had a huge psychological impact on my sense of self worth.

In the years after I got out of the Marine Corps, it still affected me. I still obsessed about my weight. I went up to 160 pounds and freaked out. I fluctuated a bit, but then finally ended up settling at around 145 pounds. This was an okay weight for me; it was only 3 pounds over my max as if I were still in the Marine Corps.

Then, I began taking testosterone. Within three months, I gained 15-20 pounds. But, this didn’t have the same psychological effect it would have had in the past. I saw my body composition change. As I put on more weight, I saw my body become more muscular. But even then, I still wished I could weigh less, but not because I wanted the number to go down, but because I wanted to lose the fat that I had before I started transitioning.

I think testosterone has broken a lot of the negative associations I’ve had with the number that appears on my scale, but I’d like to break away from relying on my scale as a measure of self-worth at all. It still nags at me from time to time. Last weekend, Stephanie from stupideasypaleo.com came to my gym and talked about nutrition. Later that night, she posted an article about how to love yourself instantly (which basically involves throwing out your scale). I’ve known for a long time that the number I see on the scale doesn’t reflect anything about my health, but I’ve never been able to take that step of throwing out my scale.

Starting tomorrow, I will begin the Whole30 challenge. I measured my weight this morning, and I will measure my weight again at the end of the challenge. I’m hoping by doing this, I will finally be able to convince myself that it reflects nothing about how I look or feel and especially not about my value as a person.

I started a blog on Tumblr to kind of document my Whole30 experience to not flood this blog with complaining about how I want to eat a certain food but can’t, etc. Please check it out if you get a chance!