About eight years ago, I came off of a massive medical ordeal. My body was a wreck. I had no muscle and looked flabby, rocking the muffin top. I felt awful and avoided looking in the mirrors. I wasn’t fat, per se, but I had a lot of extra baggage and a rounder face.
I wanted to do something about my body.
Prior to my medical trials, I had never thought much about fitness. Being a stereotypical gay or same-sex attracted (SSA) guy, I had no interest in sports or athletics.
I seemed not to care very much about how my body looked either. I ate what I wanted and didn’t care how my body turned out.
However, my medical problems gave me a new perspective on how I treated my body. I was tired of being an awkward, flabby, doughy guy. So, I joined a gym.
After getting the grand tour of the facility, I definitely felt intimidated. Walking past the free weights, I couldn’t help being a bit terrified of the super built guys with the tattooed spikes and barbed wire lines around their massive biceps.
After the tour, the gym manager asked if I’d be interested in personal training. I thought about it for a bit and figured why not?
I got assigned a trainer named Steve, a slightly older, decidedly good-looking “masculine” guy, as one would expect. After my initial intimidation, he turned out to be a super friendly and personable guy. We had virtually nothing in common, though, apart from a mutually mild interest in Batman (shrug).
My trainer really kicked my butt from the start. I got so exhausted, sweating bullets at his workout pace, and while it was hard, I did actually enjoy it.
I really liked being encouraged by a guy who felt like an encouraging big brother. He never got angry, giving me persistent encouragement to keep pressing forward.
After a break from one exhausting legs routine, he asked me to do another set.
“Alright, let’s do it,” I said enthusiastically.
“…really?” he asked, surprised. “You’re actually agreeing to do it?”
“Okay, great. I’m the guy notorious for making trainees throw up, so I’m just a little surprised to see you actually throwing yourself into it.”
I guess this was the part when trainees usually whine, complain, and try not to do the next set.
A new diet was admittedly the hardest part, and I didn’t take it seriously at first. My trainer seemed genuinely disappointed when I said I’d eaten pancakes and ice cream for supper the night before. I felt bad and threw myself into this new diet. It was low-carb (cutting out breads, sugars, anything with flour), and high-protein.
After a year of steady progress, I gained muscle and lost 30 pounds. Gone was my muffin top, and seeing my trainer proud of me was such a delight. My arms gained muscle definition, and I could actually feel my hip bones and jawline!
That whole year gave me so much confidence and a better body image. To this day, I still try to stay in shape and work out as much as possible.
I’ve noticed a vast majority of SSA/gay guys I meet aren’t the most in shape men in the world. I don’t say this to body-shame anyone. There’s nothing wrong with being slim, nothing wrong with being big or having some extra baggage, as long as your body is in a healthy range.
That said, I am a firm believer that our bodies are gifts from God. We are to care for them and use them the best way we can. They are not just biological machines to get our souls from one place to another like an AT-AT walker from Star Wars.
We reflect the beauty of God’s design by caring for our bodies.
I hear many reasons for SSA/gay guys not joining a gym or getting in shape:
“I’m afraid I’ll look like an idiot on the machines.”
“I’m scared of the muscle-bound jocks at the gym.”
“I’m just not good at sports.”
Frankly, I had the exact same feelings before I got fit. Sometimes gyms offer a set of free personal training sessions to new members. Personal training is otherwise pricey, but the free set can do well to help you learn the machines. The muscle-bound jocks at the gym really don’t care what you’re doing.
And you don’t have to be good at sports to get in shape. I still suck at sports.
If you can’t join a gym or get personal training, at least make an effort to stay healthy by biking, hiking, jogging, or improving your diet. The former options at least make for good introvert-time!
Not everyone needs to look like Chris Hemsworth. Heck, I’ve found Hollywood’s preoccupation with super overbuilt musclemen to be rather off-putting. I actually find such physique less attractive because it seems rather fake to me.
At the same time, you’ll find that no one has the perfect body. I’m not THAT fit, and I promise I’m not being modest. I have plenty of flaws:
My muscles have shape, but I’m not “cut.” I wish my pecs were bigger with more definition. I have no visible abs. I have a little too much jiggliness and squishiness in my stomach and lower back than I care to admit.
But I’m proud of my body despite these realities, and I don’t mind having it seen at the Korean spa.
If you ever venture into a gym, take a closer look at those scary muscle-bound jocks. Yes, their upper bodies will be muscle tanks. But take a look at their legs. More often than not, their legs suffer from “chicken leg” syndrome because they never work on them.
They’re too preoccupied trying to impress the ladies by looking like Chris Hemsworth that they neglect working their legs. They look like tanks on stilts.
You see? Even the scary jocks don’t have the most perfect bodies.
Regardless your fitness journey, try to stay healthy and honor the body God gave you. Be proud of yourself!
Do you make an effort to stay in shape? Do you have insecurities about going to the gym? Do you struggle with body image issues?
I had a spare tire all my life and always had a had a difficult time getting rid of it. Multiple times I attempted to go to my little apartment complex gym, walking/jogging on the treadmill, bike on the elliptical and lift some dumbbells but at some point I stop and if I lost any weight it comes back. Any low point or disappointment in my life leads me back to my bad habits of fast food and overeating then turning to pornography looking at the buff images of guys with bodies that I don’t have but would like to have (one at least that’s in shape if not chiseled and buff) but on the other hand fearful to have. This might sound odd, but I’m afraid of being in shape because I wonder what I would look like. Would I still have a hard time looking at myself in a mirror like I do now? Would it change my attitude? Would I become addicted to obtaining that perfect elusive body? I want to be healthy, live a long life, be comfortable in my own skin, and feel comfortable in my clothes but sometimes I even find this elusive.
Well Brian, I would say the goal shouldn’t be to get a buff body. You should at least get your body into the healthy zone and that you feel better. There’s always going to be more buff men out there no matter how hard you work. You should mainly focus on being healthy and getting into a good mental state. That alone could do wonders!
Your comment sparked an insecurity in me, Brian. Getting in shape, looking objectively better, these are things I constantly want but constantly second-guess: will I ever be satisfied? Will I only ever want to get hotter? Will I always compare myself to someone further along in fitness or sheer attraction than me? Will I lose any level of humility I have now? Would I look down on others who aren’t as fit? Would I this, would I that…
Ultimately, I want to look to Jesus as my true measure of a man. As someone to humble myself before regardless of my physical state or season. Easier said than done. But it’s refreshing to have a never-changing benchmark to be shooting for.
Tom, I believe the only way to keep those worrying thoughts, questions, and pride at bay is to abide in Christ, constantly reading His Word, and obeying it. I’m not saying those questions will cease to pop in our heads but if we fix our eyes on Christ continually, they will dwindle instead of rearing their ugly heads when they come.
I’m glad to know that I am not alone in thinking this way! It’s like having a trail in my mind: I often propose myself to look good naked, but then I counter myself with the possibility of not being satisfied with my fitness plan or of wanting an elusive hot bod. Then, I – as a judge – order myself to make up my mind. Well, this trail can go on and on.
Brian, it is apparently that you know the answer. That is, we can always turn to Jesus whenever we experience having a hot bod, chasing after slippery, hotter bod, or stuck in this same body, which always has been bestowed by our Everlasting Father.
I also believe that having a community supporting you is a great way to keep you getting strong and checked whether or not your mind and heart are in line with Christ. Do you have a community? If so, tell me what stops you? If you are with God, nobody can stop you! Life is not simply a journey, but is a journal of many journeys. Fitness and body images are one of them!
By inspiration of my straight Christian friend, I challenged myself to do 100 pushups everyday. I have been doing this since February, and I have been building up to at least three times of 20 repetitions consistently. For past three days, I succeeded doing 100 push-ups three days in a row! I can feel my pecs getting slightly bigger, and I think my manhood is getting sturdy now!
I think I’ve mentioned it a couple times before but my body image issues were (I find) different than most girls I know. I mean yeah, I’d love to have abs, but it’s not something that bothers me a ton. Anyway, as I hit my mid 20s and my metabolism slowed down and I moved back to the States with more processed foods, my body and my weight definitely took a hit. I knew I needed to get back in shape and all that, but working out has always given me slight anxiety and extreme boredom. I gain muscle pretty easy for a girl even though as you said I am nowhere near cut. My muscles and build made me self conscious so I wouldn’t work out. I don’t get very lean I guess you could say, plus I absolutely HATE cardio and running with a passion and that mostly all most chicks do. lots of running and crunches and some aerobics with tiny dumbbells – that bores me to death. I like working with weights and shaping my upper body, but I thought that because I’m a girl I’m not really supposed to or something. So I got over that and decided my health was more important joined a gym and changed my diet last year. I fumbled around for a few months until I got a feel for my own body and how different things work and got on an actual fitness program. And I have learned to love my body and my muscles. I’ve always loved being strong, but I just never wanted to look too butch. As I get older the more I realize that I need to be comfortable in the body God gave me and that people will always think whatever they want and I can’t stop them no matter how I look or what I do or how much lettuce I eat. Am I where I want to be? Not yet – I have my goals set. But for the first time in my life I am enjoying my fitness journey
Again always so great to hear from you Ashely. Interesting to hear your perspective because I know working on a female body to be fit has its own challenges different from a male trying to make his boy fit. I agree, I’m not a big cardio fan either. Never liked jogging or using a treadmill, just winds me too much. Yeah I know they keep saying to pace yourself and you’ll get used to it but I never can. Now biking on the other hand I do like. Burns fat and you get some nice change of scenery without getting too winded. But I’m glad you’re at a point where you are happy with your body. I haven’t hardly been to the gym at all since the start of this year. Combination of work being busy and bro trips sprinkled in there. Hoping to reduce my work hours so I have more time. And great, keep traveling well on your fitness journey! Rooting for you all the way.
Hello, Eugene, I am cheering you on enthusiastically. I share in your journey. In September this year, I was 240, by January I was 178. The journey was hard, but my fellow-pilgrim made all the difference. Much like your Steve, my trainer was equally patient and eminently qualified, if not intimidating…big swallow. Along the way, I have been able to encourage many of the young men in the gym who have not often met a grandfatherly figure working out alongside of them. Many good talks have resulted. May your article and the story of your journey inspire many to recognize the significance of being stewards of our bodies as “temples of the Holy Spirit.” I’m not ready to arm-wrestle you yet, but I think I would enjoy a very long and engaging walk…and then tea…must have tea.
Hiya Paul! Thanks for the cheering on and I will cheer you on as well. Especially since you went through an even more extreme fitness journey than me! I was just a little over 200 and lost 30 pounds to 170. But sheesh you had way more work than me so I offer your sincere congratulations on your hard work! And how about we arm wrestle while having an engaging walk with tea? Just a thought.
Oof, the body image stuff. Yeah, i’ve never been good with that. I’ve always wanted to be far more in shape but I cannot stand exercising. I fought through this though for quite awhile. But I still couldn’t get my body to look the way I wanted it to. I finally decided to work on loving my body and its physical shape before I made a lot of effort to change it.
That’s just my journey in it. But it’s now made me realize the importance of loving your body, even if it needs to grow/change/develop/etc.
Absolutely. Learning to love your body probably is the most important step beyond any physical exercise. And if you’re not interested in changing the physical shape, I’d say its more important to make sure you are at least in the healthy zone. That’s far more important than abs.
I’m just gonna throw a little pity party right here because I know I could do better. I have always hated lifting weights even though I threw myself into it in high school. I don’t have much ability to do cardio because I have narcolepsy. Yet, I have this huge fear of getting overweight. The idea that I could give myself more health problems from something I can somewhat control is very disturbing to me. I do think getting in better shape would help my self-image and maybe even curb the jealous tension I feel between myself and other, more fit guys.
Well even if you didn’t do much physical exercise you can still watch your diet. Drinking green tea helps keep weight off. Yeah weightlifting isn’t for everyone. It can get tedious even for me. At the very least go on walks. They help so much. Plus you get the fresh air!
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