Confessions of a Skinny Kid: How To Get in Shape and Change Self-Image

(The secret to fitness hasn’t changed since the beginning of time. So what is it?)

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I have a leather jacket that I don’t wear too often. The other day when I tried to put it on I had a tough time getting both arms in it. What the hell? It couldn’t have shrunk. The only other explanation then was I was getting bigger; I was getting too built to fit my jacket.

I realize how douchey that statement sounds but trust me I was never that guy. I was never the jock in high school and I was never naturally built like a linebacker. In fact, I was chronically under weight for most of my life. My freshman year at UCLA I weighed 125 pounds. I’m probably the only person on the planet that gained the “freshman fifteen” and was happy about it. Now years later, I’m up to 185 and still growing.

Since I started doing Crossfit two years ago I’m in the best shape of my life and my brain wasn’t sure how to process that information for a very long time. I always saw myself as a skinny kid so I never put two and two together and realized the reason I was ripping holes in my shirts at the gym, isn’t because they are old, it’s because I’m getting too big for them. And I’m definitely not ripped, I’m just getting big enough that my clothes aren’t fitting me anymore.

Here’s the odd thing about it. Not only did it take me about a year of Crossfit until I started to actively notice results, it took me an additional year for me to accept that I’m not that skinny kid anymore. My brain was actively fighting evidence that would threaten its self-image. It took that much extra time for me to then change my frame and mental picture of myself. I’m not a skinny kid any more. And though I’m not yet anywhere near where I want to be, I’m still progressing and that feeling is amazing.

So how does this apply to you? Well, if you’re trying to gain weight then you can empathize with my story, but if you’re trying to lose weight then just flip the adjectives. As hard as it was for me to gain weight, it’s going to be just as hard for you to lose weight. When it comes to fitness there are no shortcuts.

The secret to getting in shape is the same since the beginning of time, diet and exercise.

That’s it. There’s no one or the other. You can’t work out hard and eat horribly every day. And you also can’t never work out and then eat a super healthy diet. There are no shortcuts. It’s going to take a long time of steady hard work and commitment for you to get in the Hollywood Oscar shape you want to be in. There is no magical powder you can sprinkle on your food to lose weight, there is no special diet pill that’s going to melt fat, and there is no juice cleanse that’s going to make you drop real weight that’s isn’t going to rush back as soon as you start eating again. All of that is marketing propaganda from the supplement and pharmaceutical industry.

As a paramedic I saw the wrath of obesity on a daily basis, and as a society we always try to treat the symptoms instead of the problem. We take blood pressure pills to lessen the workload on the heart instead of exercising to get in shape. Type II diabetics (those that get diabetes later in life usually form prolonged obesity) take “sugar pills” to regulate their blood glucose levels instead of just exercising. We are treating the symptoms and not the root problem. So what if you took all that money you spend on supplements, pills, and that baggy, form hiding wardrobe and instead invested all of that money in to a proper gym. Crossfit worked for me and I would recommend it to anyone in a heartbeat. But maybe bootcamp, pilates, or spin class is what’s going to work for you. It really doesn’t matter what exercise you do as long as you enjoy doing it enough to keep going, because then you will see results.

There are no shortcuts to getting in shape. There are no powders, there are no pills, and there are no magic clothes. When it comes to your physique the only thing you need to know is that the method hasn’t changed since the beginning of time, it’s diet and exercise and nothing else.

[Photo: On duty in 2008 (twenty pounds lighter) at the city of New Haven St. Patrick’s Day Parade.]

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