After trying everything — including going through life with grab bag of low-calorie condiments — Kevin finally finds what he’s been hungry for…
The quickest glance in my direction will tell you that I love food. This means that the last time my abs were visible, Sonny and Cher were still a thing.
To clarify: in the course of my ups and downs, I’ve never been so chunky I couldn’t get my body to do the things I wanted it to do — that includes dancing until dawn and holding my own on a tennis court. But all the way back in college, I had a poster in my dorm room with The Peanuts’ Linus gazing down at his tummy, insisting, “I’m not fat. I just have a husky stomach.” For a few years, that became my mantra.
The first time I tried slimming down, I decided I would treat myself to my guiltiest pleasures less often — to allow myself a chocolate croissant once a week, pasta dinners only once a month. I also swore off cake, pie and ice cream (unless they were offered to me at a party). The only one who noticed the minimal results was me.
And then there was the summer I decided I would stop waddling through life by eating once every 48 hours. The up side to this was that — when I wasn’t fasting — I could enjoy pancakes, cheeseburgers and enchiladas. I had lost 20 lbs. by the time someone let me know this was the same eating disorder that took down Karen Carpenter.
My next strategy was to return to eating regularly but experiment with how many calories I could cut from each meal. I would show up to meet friends with a small tote bag in tow, the contents of which would change depending on the meal. For brunch, I’d produce a bottle of sugar-free syrup and a container of I Can’t Believe It’s not Butter.
“Zero calories and zero fat,” I’d announce as I revealed the latter as if I’d just pulled a rabbit out of a hat.
“If it doesn’t have fat and it doesn’t have calories, what the Hell is in it?” my ex once asked. “Plastic?”
When baked tortilla chips hit the market, I began sneaking them into Mexican eateries where I’d ask for a basket so that I could surreptitiously enjoy my chips with their salsa.
I also sought substitutions with abandon, investigating menus in search of ingredients that would pack the most flavor while inflicting the smallest penalty to my waistline. When eating Vietnamese my Pho would be faux — made with extra veggies; no noodles. When dining Italian, I asked for a three quarters sauce to pasta ratio. I made a thorough inventory of local Indian places — uncovering every dish made with low-calorie yogurt (yes, please) as opposed to high-calorie cream (how dare you).
As my marriage began to crumble beneath me, I resolved to boost my confidence by getting into the best shape of my life. You could find me on an elliptical machine twice a day for an hour at a time, meeting with a personal trainer every other day and lifting solo twice a week. I partook in steroids. I lost 30 pounds of fat, and proudly altered my wardrobe for my newly hunked up frame.
I liked what I saw in the mirror for the first time in decades. Unfortunately, my then-husband did not see it quite the same way. In his eyes, my menu manipulations had gone from cute to insufferable, and my dedication to exercise reeked of vanity. When our marriage dissolved I moved across the country and left my obsessively healthy habits behind. My workouts became erratic, my eating unpredictable. Soon, my old pals the love handles were back.
But this time — as my life started to stabilize — I realized that I was not going to do whatever it took to transform my body yet again. Yes, I would learn to watch what I eat and work out to the degree it would take to stay healthy, but I would no longer spend hours every day trying to figure out some way to hack my diet or squeeze in a few more minutes of exercise in pursuit of a goal which my metabolism was too stubborn to follow.
Instead, I went out and found a group of people within the gay community — many of whom identify as “bears” — who believe in celebrating the male body as it so often comes: with just a little extra on the side. It may not stop me from occasionally looking in the mirror and being critical of my “husky stomach,” but never underestimate the power of seeing yourself through the eyes of someone who likes you just the way you are.
What have you sacrificed in pursuit of a better body? share your story in our “Gay Voices” section.
Last modified: October 2, 2017