Saturday, September 6, 2008

Proud

Here I sit on a dull Saturday afternoon in Toronto... I've just come home from the gym, and my landlord is running his dishwasher -- meaning, it's sucking up all the hot water, and I can't take a shower. Yet. So, I've decided to spend a few moments reflecting on the past few weeks of my new journey in life.

I feel like I've made some breakthroughs along the way. I've gotten a lot more comfortable in the gym, so much so that I go almost every day. I'm not as moody and tired as I used to be. I can now leg press 450 pounds (roughly the weight of 1 and a half refrigerators!). I can bench-press 130 pounds (that's two big plates, a descriptor that is apparently supposed to feed my male, testosterone-driven ego... it's working). I've grown comfortable with myself as a 'sweater'... not the one you wear, but as in 'one who sweats'. And I've accepted the fact that after sweating for an hour in the gym, yes, I smell.

The biggest breakthrough of all I believe occurred to me today. I was in the middle of doing a full body workout, meaning I did a bit of cardio and then spent the bulk of my time lifting weights in various configurations using various equipment. It's amazing how much doing strength training actually keeps your heart pumping, and I'm feeling WAY more comfortable in that part of the gym. I remember the first few days when I used to just stick to the treadmill, my comfort zone, and look over to the weight area wondering what it was like over there. Well, I'm at home there. But today, I realized part of what made me uncomfortable there. Mirrors.

Now, I know very few people in my world who enjoy looking at themselves in the mirror. I am not the exception. When you get to a point in your life when you don't like the physical person you see in your reflection, a mirror quickly becomes your worst enemy. I have three mirrors in my house -- and rarely use them (except for the one in the bathroom to shave, etc.). I have mirrors in my car, and they serve a very utilitarian purpose. Occasionally, I'll catch my reflection in a window on campus, functioning as a mirror, and quickly turn my head away, not liking what I see.

But today, as I stood by the free weights, and finished of a set of something that involved 2 30-pound dumbbells and some mild grunting, I took a moment to catch my breath and look in the mirror. Now, you may wonder how I've managed to not look at my reflection at the gym all this time. It's quite easy. Very quickly after I get myself into position doing whatever exercise I need to do, I blur my eyes so that I see only the outline of the person before me. You know, kind of how you blur your eyes at those posters of weird patterns from which sub-visual images of dolphins are supposed to emerge. It's very easy. But today I caught myself. I didn't blur.

I was standing there, in a very unusual moment, realizing that I was taking a good close look at myself. Yep, that was sweat dripping down my neck. My yellow 'Long Island StickBall Team' baseball hat was soaked. So was my grey t-shirt. My legs were.... well, I've recently fallen in love with my legs... they're something special, I think... LOL!!!! I was starting to show definition in my quadricep muscle. I also noticed, in a very homo way, that my outfit matched... LOL!!!! I can't help it... colour coordination comes naturally. When God was giving out genes, all the other boys got the athletic one, and I got the gene to choose and coordinate colours. But I digress.

So, after scanning the sweaty beast before me, I took a long hard look at my face. And though to myself, 'Yes, I am shrinking.' I say this, because my friend Liza saw me yesterday for the first time in a few weeks, and she told me the same thing. I didn't totally believe it until today. I think my face looks thinner. My skin is clear as a bell. My eyes are brighter. And for the first time in a long time... staring at my reflection in a full-length mirror... sweat, stink and all... I smiled at myself.

I'm proud of me.

Those are tough words to write. They're even more difficult to say (haven't quite mastered that yet). But I am indeed proud of myself. I've already come a long way... and have a long way yet to go. But I think that the more often I take the time to look at myself in the mirror, smile, and enjoy the reflection I see before me, the easier the path ahead will be. Losing weight and getting in shape is by no means a simple game of caloric input and output. That's why I think so many people struggle and/or fail at doing it. I know that's why I did. There's a whole psychology to all of this that mainstream, popular (read: million-dollar making diet industry) programs don't address. They don't address the psychology of weight because if they did, they wouldn't get the return business. Think about it. I can count on two hands the number of times I have been a member of Weight Watchers. I can count the same number of times I failed at it. But their gig is a simple game of input and output. Count calories. Count points. Count whatever. But what they don't count is the number of times a person, who is suffering and sad on the inside, turns his/her head away from a mirror in disgust and fear... they don't count the number of breaths that same person has to take in order to build up the courage to head to the gym... they don't count the number of tears that roll down that person's cheek when they finally look in the mirror, smile and realize for the first time in a very long long time, that they're proud of themselves. That's why diets suck.

All that said, I know that this is THE path for me. Again, I've tried it all. Weight Watchers. Sure Slim. Nutri System. Jenny Craig. LA Weight Loss. 'Medical' clinics. Nutrionists at hospitals. But this is working. Healthy eating. Healthy exercise. And a growing healthy sense of self are all finally converging to work in synergy to help me overcome easily the most significant hurdle I've ever faced in my life. Coming out as a gay man is nothing compared to this, let me tell you. But the power of three are working in my favour... and I'm proud of me.

So, indulge me for another few minutes, and enjoy this video clip. As many of you know, I see and experience the world not only through my eyes, but also through my 'inner soundtrack'. Through music. I guess it's due to the fact that while a lot of other kids were out playing sports, I was playing piano, or listening to ABBA records and musical theatre soundtracks (I know... enjoy the stereotype). So, you'll understand why I wanted to share this video with you.

It's of a song that I first heard when the City of London was bidding for the 2012 Olympic Games. I remember hearing the lyrics and seeing the bid video and still very vividly recall the goosebumps that came over me. The same song has since become the opening theme song of the TV show, 'The Biggest Loser' (http://www.nbc.com/The_Biggest_Loser/), a reality show which, over the past three years, helped me get my butt of the couch and get this all started. Listen to the lyrics. Enjoy the music. The song has a powerful message. And ask yourself, 'what have you done today to make YOU feel proud?'. I know what I've done....

Kia kaha.

video