Monday, June 4, 2012

Skinny on skinny - Confessions of a skinny dad

This should probably be MOASB #11, but I'm not a bitch. I'm whatever the male equivalent of a bitch is (a sire? a dog?), but probably not even that. Maybe sire is the right word, because so much of my identity is wrapped up in my kids now. I have always been skinny, really skinny. At 6'3" the most I've ever weighed was probably 163 in the MTC after having all-you-can-eat food for 3 months straight, a culinary experience never duplicated in my life. When I take a BMI test I end up off the chart skinny.

I don't remember being too concerned with my appearance until high school after my freshman year, when I gained lots of height but not lots of weight and then realized that puberty was leaving me with those conditions. I was especially concerned that my arms and chest were much smaller than those of my other highly-athletic friends. I took a weight training class almost every semester after my freshman year and bulked up a little, but not much and in those classes I was often paired with the only girl in class to do lifts, because we were lifting the lowest amount of weight.

In high school, girls talk about their bodies a lot, but guys do too. Muscles or lack there of are definitely status symbols for guys, and some of my good friends were some of the most "ripped" guys in school.  Just like it is for most girls, I imagine, part of my desire to improve my body was to become more attractive to girls (didn't happen) and part of it was to become more accepted in my social group (kind of happened). I don't remember any girls ever making comments about my physique, but I remember plenty of comments from my fellow guys, who used me as the definition of "lurpy" and acted astounded by how bony my shoulders and elbows were. I also felt very self-concious when the all-too-frequent comparison of muscles started up.

My big turning point (or at least as big of a turning point as I've had so far) was when I took up distance running. While I was never great, I was among the best and eventually the best in my school. It was great to join in an activity where my body type was well-suited, and it makes me glad that I never made the basketball or baseball teams, where I would have always been back of the pack due an average set of general athletic skills. Running became a lot of my identity (and it still is). I still took weight-lifting classes, but I focused on doing lifts that helped me run better. While I still couldn't out-lift anyone in the class on most lifts, I could do more box-jumps than anyone else, and when it came to running the mile (which we did infrequently) no one came even close. I still had body issues, but valuing my body as a great running tool led to a more general acceptance of my body.

Since then, I've still struggled to accept my body. Continuing to run has helped me appreciate my body, but I still find myself often wishing that I wasn't so skinny, and I wonder how well I would do if I didn't have running to help me accept my body. I still try to make exercise about being more fit and not fitting a fixed image, but I still feel that having a stronger back, shoulders and chest would do me a world of good and disconnecting that from my desire to fit a mold is difficult. I've shifted my clothing style to one that works with my body more and tries to mimic fashion less. I realize that there is a long way to go to full acceptance of my body, buy I've also realized that I've come a long way.

Two keys that I've learned: 1) Realize that I can't accept my own imperfect body without accepting the imperfect bodies of others. Skinny people like me who have never had to work to be skinny almost always have an innate prejudice against heavy or obese people, because we don't understand how it is possible to get there. But I know that I will never come to terms with my own body if I can't allow others to come to terms with their own bodies without spoken or unspoken judgement by me. 2) Realize that almost everyone wishes their body looked different, too skinny or too fat, even those who appear to have perfect bodies. My experience has been that those with great bodies have had to work hard to get them and even if they're great by other standards, all the work they've put in has given them unreasonable expectations for what that work should bring. In fact, often those with the best bodies are the most uncomfortable with them.

There's lots more about body issues from a guys perspective that I'd like to talk about and have discussed here on the blog, but hopefully I'll be able to get them in other posts.

Here are photos for reference:

Hiking in Oregon last summer

At my skinniest in Alexandria Egypt

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting! My little brother is 6'6 and 16 years old, and hasn't gained much muscle mass while his body was elongating. He won an award in an assembly this school year for being "most like a tree". I sometimes wonder if that made him feel stupid. I'm not sure how he feels about himself because he is a boy and he doesn't show it to us girls.

    He has taken up tennis and running too. It works for him. Everyone is mad that he won't play basketball (they think he'll be a dunker), but he hates basketball and isn't very good at it.

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  2. Hey, you are pretty attractive in those pics. Want to chat? Email me.

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  3. I always preferred skinny guys. Must run in the family.

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