I might’ve said this elsewhere, but my struggles with disordered eating started after a bit of a mid-life course change in early 2016, where I decided I wanted to stop being obese and get fit and healthy. It wasn’t just for my own benefit (although let’s be honest, what guy doesn’t want to look good with his shirt off?) but also to set an example for my young child and be the best parent I can for as long as I can.
On reflection, over the past couple of years especially, there have been times where I’ve thought that life was so much easier before all this started, where I didn’t particularly care about my size and weight (indeed, I was oblivious) and ate whatever I felt like in a carefree way. Has all the pain and effort been worth it? What would I do differently?
The answer I came up with was that unequivocally, yes, it’s been worth it, even though I still have issues to work through. The only thing I would probably do differently is to take a more moderate approach and not immerse myself so deeply in the fitness and diet culture that I forget the real reason why I started doing this.
Having said that, I still want to change my body and have a decent physique, although I think my expectations are more realistic now than when I started. And unlike many in the HAES/anti-diet movement, I still believe that this is an attainable goal that’s worth striving for, so long as it’s done the right way, with the right attitude.
The trouble is, becoming the best physical version of yourself is no different than becoming the best intellectual and emotional version of yourself – it requires hard work, sacrifice and trade offs, and those trade offs need to be worth the effort. It’s also very easy to forget, as I did, that our physical selves are not a reflection of the person we are inside – and if we want to leave a legacy for our families and friends to remember us by, we’ll do that by the actions we take, not by the way we look.
This caused me to ponder – who DO I want to be? What sort of man, what sort of parent, and how do I want people to remember me? In many ways, it’s the direct opposite of the person I am when I’m restricting.
During periods of restriction I have been:
- Tired and sore all the darn time
- Very grumpy and quick to anger – regularly arguing and being short with people
- Unfocussed at work, and not very productive – not good for my career prospects!
- Unable to eat out with family without great anxiety
- Avoidant of any social occasion that might involve food, or even disrupt my meal schedule a little bit
- Generally not a very nice person to be around, and not a particularly good husband or parent
It’s only over the past six months or so as I’ve become more and more well-fed that I’ve started to realise I’d far prefer to be:
- Someone who is fit and strong and cares about their health
- A good provider for my family, who is supportive of our shared goals
- The strong, silent type – calm in a crisis. Firm, without needing to raise my voice
- Competent, analytical; not in a rush
- Empathetic and always capable of showing love, but serious when needed
- An example for my daughter of how a man should live and treat others
Notice that ‘having visible abs’ isn’t on that list? That doesn’t mean I don’t want it. It just means that I’ve shuffled it down the priority list to where if I can achieve it without turning into a monster then perhaps I’ll try one day. But right now, I’ll settle for just being strong and healthy and a decent guy. Because my family and my own wellness are far more important – and because I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I am enough.