Dude, Eat Carbs While You’re Out: The Struggle for Body Confidence

Editor’s Note: After three years in the game, this is my 100th blog post! To honor the occasion, I’m stepping outside my comfort zone of humor and posting a thoughtful essay on body image. I’m also doing this because I skipped the gym twice this week and I’m pissed at myself for being pissed at myself about it, which sounds redundant because it is.

A few years ago I had a boyfriend – let’s call him Lionel – who accused me of being unfaithful. I wasn’t, but our relationship was in the process of unraveling and I had more or less withdrawn from him at that point, so I can’t say I was surprised by his bout of paranoia.

One day it led him to Facebook-message my ex-boyfriend.

“When you and Nic were together,” Lionel asked, “did you ever suspect he was cheating on you?”

My ex replied, “Nic? LOL.”

I’m able to quote directly because I uncovered the message history on Lionel’s computer one weekend while he was away for his army reserve duties and I was staying at his apartment. By then Lionel had already caved into his guilt and told me about the exchange himself, so these initial findings were more or less expected.

But then there was something else.

“By the way,” Lionel wrote right before signing off. “Nic is in really great shape these days.

“He’s super toned.

“Hot.”

I felt like he was insecure for me.

Throughout the course of our relationship, Lionel had always answered my habitual laments of, “Ugh, I feel really fat,” with military-inspired suggestions as to how to get in better shape. “So you agree?” I’d usually snap back, channeling my inner Regina George. “You think I’m really fat?”

I was 6’3” and weighed 170 pounds – thin – but that didn’t change the fact that I had some flab on me where there could have been muscle.

“Shut up,” he’d laugh. “You know I love your body the way it is. I’m just saying that if you want to tone up, I can help you.”

I eventually accepted the offer.

I love your body the way it is. I had always believed Lionel when he said this, but his comment to my ex-boyfriend that day suggested that perhaps he loved it more after I adopted his pushup routine. I mean, the proof was in the transcript. “Ha! You had soft-bodied Nic,” he might as well have declared. “But my Nic is better. My Nic is the one worth having.”

Of course. The One Worth Having: In really great shape these days.

Super toned.

Hot.

***

I’d always known men could be shallow.

When I was eight and nine years old, a few members of my dad’s old-school Italian family violently chucked fat slurs at my mom like jagged rocks at an innocent duck after she filed for divorce from him. “That fat bitch,” I heard them say to each other. “You fat bitch,” I heard them say to her face. “You’re divorcing him?”

Sometimes I wondered how much more diplomatic their divorce could have been if she had just dropped twenty pounds before filing.

It wouldn’t be too long before my friends expressed similar attitudes, openly discussing how they could never even think about being attracted to “fat chicks.” This sentiment pervaded my small hometown. I remember being at a friend’s house one day after school and getting caught up in a conversation about baseball cards or some shit when we accidentally left the television on whatever station aired the Rosie O’Donnell Show. His dad got home from work a few minutes later and asked, “What are you guys watching this cow for?”

I was a significantly overweight kid myself while all of this was going down, so I took everything a little more personally than I probably should have.

But! I’d tell myself. This is a female problem. Sure, some kids teased me for my weight, but the teasing never suggested that my fatness made me unlovable. When it came to love, it was always the men who didn’t want their women to be fat. Overweight guys got beautiful girls to marry them all the time; they just had to endure being jocularly called a fatass by their friends sometimes.

I’m ashamed to say that this fucked up, misogynistic double standard actually gave me comfort for a few years of my adolescence.

That is, until I’d remember that I was gay. Until I’d remember that I, too, would eventually have to possess a body worthy of male desire.

***

“I’m finally starting to realize that a good ninety percent of my insecurities stem back to my being a fat kid,” I lamented to my mom over the phone earlier this week. “And I’m so sick. I’m so sick of reflexively sucking my stomach in when I look in the mirror. And I’m so sick of hating myself on the days when I skip the gym. I’m so fucking sick of having to give a shit about any of this.”

“Believe me, Nic,” she said. “I get it.”

The craziest thing? I’m in really great shape these days. Super toned. Hot. People tell me all the time. Co-workers tell me after I casually turn down the birthday cake. Friends tell me after I yell, “If I have a double chin, we’re deleting this!” when we pose for group pics. My mom tells me when I call her on the phone having typical emotional upsets like the one referenced above.

People tell me I’m too skinny. In text messages and voicemails and Instagram comments.

starvingEat carbs while you’re out. Statements like these shouldn’t feel like compliments, except they do. The validation swoops me up and flies me around for maybe a good three seconds, but then it lets go just as quickly, flinging me down into a pit where the words GET YOUR ASS BACK TO THE GYM are etched into the surrounding dirt.

If the validation is coming from a man with whom I’m sleeping, maybe the high lasts closer to six seconds. But, oh. Since Lionel and I broke up, I can’t even tell you the number of dudes I’ve gone home with only to soberly decide in the eleventh hour that we can’t go through with hooking up because I don’t feel comfortable getting undressed with someone new and contorting into sexual positions that I know would make my stomach look – oh, my God – not flat.

When I do allow myself to go there with guys, I avoid bringing up the subject of fatness altogether out of fear that if they knew how much I really cared – how anxious and conscious and aware I can sometimes be of my body – they’d scrutinize it that much more.

Plus these aren’t just any men I’m dealing with – these are men like me.

***

Insecurities make no sense, and yet they do. Depending on your mood and vantage point they can either be silly little clowns or great, intimidating monsters. Sometimes both.

Most days I’m able to just point and laugh at how utterly absurd and hilarious my fat issues are, acknowledging all the bullshit that called them into existence in the first place and saying to myself, Wow. I’m so glad none of this shit actually matters in the end.

But then catch me on a shitty day and I’m capable of breaking down under the weight of it all – sometimes even to the point of calling my mom in tears and/or writing self-pitying personal essays about the Struggle for Body Confidence.

Of course I’ve perused enough self-help to know that everything is just a choice. At any moment we can choose to stop caring about other peoples’ perceptions and start loving our bodies as they are. Right. Fucking. Now. We can claim our power. We can strip ourselves of our clothes – whatever their sizes – and stand proudly, flipping off anyone who’s ever made us feel like the shapes of our stomachs have anything at all to do with the worthiness of our spirits. We can stop letting wounds get in the way.

On my best days, I’m actually capable of this.

Because deep down I know I’m worthy and important and loved. Because I know I’m talented and empathetic and smart. Because I know just how much more than a body I am.

But also — and it fucking kills me to say this — because I’m in really great shape these days.

Super toned.

Hot.

 

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How to Make ANYTHING Healthy (Yes, this Post Contains All the Secrets)

(Alternate Title: True Life: I Use Healthy Substitutions to Rationalize My Binge Eating – Part Two)

Every Friday at my company is “Wing Day!”

It’s kind of like Casual Friday, except instead of wearing non-professional attire, employees come to work dressed up as winged creatures – bees, pterodactyls, slutty angels – anything, really, so long as it can fly.

(Side note: Can we talk about how I just managed to spell “pterodactyl” right on my very first try? I swear. This kind of thing never happens, and frankly, I think it means I’m brilliant.)

Okay, so actually, I’m lying. (About the dressing-up-as-creatures thing; the getting-pterodactyl-right-on-the-first-try thing is completely true, and I’m standing by my brilliance.)

Wing Day is, in reality, just an excuse for everyone in the company to pig out on Buffalo wings for lunch, as they are the Friday special in the cafeteria.

And so here’s a conversation that occurred in the lunch line between my coworker JaJa (this pseudonym was her choice, by the way, and that tells you pretty much everything you need to know about how much of a delight she is) and myself the last time I indulged in this obesity-fueling ritual:

  • Nic: I can’t believe I’m doing this. I have a date tonight. A date. I’m now forever going to be The Guy Who Ate Wings for Lunch On the Day of a Date.
  • JaJa: Oh, stop. It’s fine.
  • Nic: Hold on! [Dramatically sprints to the salad bar. Returns ten seconds later, panting.]
  • JaJa: What did you just do?
  • Nic: I had to grab some fresh baby spinach.
  • JaJa: OMG.
  • Nic: Yes. I am having my chicken wings on a bed of spinach.

In related news, I sometimes add broccoli to my macaroni and cheese:

IMG_20140302_134134

I also like to add about a third of a packet of additional shredded cheddar, but that’s neither here nor there.

Did I mention that the macaroni is made with fifty percent whole grain? I mean, this meal is basically a power smoothie. That is, if power smoothies were all carb-y and cheese-laden, which, aren’t they?

STOP LOOKING AT ME THAT WAY.

Am I doing power smoothies wrong?

P.S. In case you missed Part One of this series, because apparently my reprehensible eating habits are steadfastly becoming an epic trilogy similar to The Godfather and/or Star Wars (and/or the nineties horror gem The Leprechaun… that was a trilogy, right?) you can find it here.

P.P.S. The folks over at Kashi have actually read Part One, and they told me to eat their cookies “in moderation.”

Screen shot 2014-03-05 at 10.18.57 PM

FOOLS.

Initially I was super offended by this tweet, but then that wink-face changed the game. So I’m willing to brush it off. Also, does the wink mean that they’re asking me out on a date? Because… yes. Kashi, I’ll date you. I mean, I’m already in a borderline-sexual relationship with your cookies (PUN!) anyway, so everything about this scenario just feels right. And yet so wrong.

My Gym Playlist Indicates That I Might Be Into Hardcore, Kinky Sex (Which, Am I?)

The other morning I was working out intensely at the gym while listening to Beyoncé’s limousine-blowjob song “Partition” at full-blast on my headphones and envisioning myself as the male lead in my own mental remix music video.

This fact is funny in and of itself, because I’m a lanky white guy from Connecticut with a generally awkward demeanor and a wardrobe from Kohl’s comprised mostly of unassuming sweaters.

gymmemeOther songs that really get my juices flowing (pun totally intended) at the gym include the vulgar whips-and-chains anthem, “S&M” by Rihanna; the strip club hymn, “Pour It Up” by Rihanna; that song about penises called “Rude Boy” by Rihanna; aaand… “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel.

(Just kidding about that last one. What I really meant to say was “My Neck, My Back” by Khia.)

(Side note: If you’re unfamiliar with “My Neck, My Back,” then I highly suggest you look it up on YouTube right now. Actually, just click this link. Especially if you’re at work. In fact, take your headphones off and let it play aloud. It’s totally not NSFW… it’s SFW, if that’s a thing. Crank up the volume, too – the song’s uplifting lyrical content will motivate you and your coworkers to be your best selves, and then you’ll all be really productive, and then your company’s stock will go up, like, a lot of points, and then your boss will notice that this positive chain reaction all originated from your desk, and then you’ll get a raise. And you won’t even have to give me a cut, because I’m selfless. You’re welcome.)

(Side note again: I’m sorry if I just got you fired. I SWEAR I DIDN’T MEAN TO. I was just being a practical joker. And it’s not my fault your boss is such a douche canoe.)

(Side note again: I know this was like, two paragraphs ago and the moment has passed, but can we talk about how I referred to “Pour It Up” as a strip club hymn up there? What the fuck was I thinking with that choice of words? And am I going to hell?)

Anyway, I’m just writing this post because I think it’s interesting how it took me ten years of being a gym-goer to finally become aware of the fact that I’m essentially a classic example of a “lady in the street but a freak in the bedroom.”

Except replace “lady” with “wholesome gay man.” And also I guess by “bedroom” what I really mean is the in-my-head-while-I-have-motivational-daydreams-at-the-gym-of-myself-and-Nick-Jonas-dry-humping-on-the-elegant-chaise-lounge-that-I’m-sure-he-has-in-the-corner-of-his-real-life-bedroom-bedroom. In the actual bedroom, if I’m being totally honest, I’m more likely to watch the OWN Network, read a book, maybe do a Bioré pore strip if I’m feeling frisky, and go to sleep by eleven. But still.

Okay, I think I’ve revealed enough about myself and my inner demons for one post.

Now, what do YOUR favorite workout songs say about you? Feel free to get vulgar in the comments.

 

I Wore My Pedometer to the Club and Took 10,000 Steps in the Name of Love

My company participates in this program where we get paid little mini-bonuses for wearing work-sponsored pedometers and taking steps. Something about having healthy, active employees and saving on insurance costs? IDK, but I love free money – so I have of course been wearing it on the regular and taking all kinds of superfluous steps whenever possible because in the back of my mind I’m always like, Dude, you can wait for a parking spot that’s twenty feet closer to the Cheesecake Factory Vitamin Shoppe, or you can take the crappy space, burn some calories, and make a extra buck while you’re at it. WHAT’S IT GONNA BE, FATTY?

(Then I cancel that last thought out because calling myself fat is a result of fear-based thinking, and I’m so over fear-based thinking, and have I mentioned that I’m super fit?)

Anyway. This past Saturday, I strapped on my pedometer along with my favorite pair of Banana Republic khakis and attended a charity event at my alma mater thrown by my one of my best friends.

It was freakin’ awesome for three reasons.

  1. I love supporting good causes – especially when supporting a good cause involves going back to the school where I lost my virginity, thereby leading me into a whole self-reflective, forgiving, aware-of-my-incredible-growth-over-the-past-seven-years space. (So basically I love supporting good causes when I get to remove the cause itself from the equation and make the experience all about me… This could be the mark of a horrible person, but I’m not going to go down that road.)
  2. There was a MASHED PO-TINI BAR. This involves martini glasses, mashed potatoes, and a heart-unhealthy selection of toppings (sour cream, bacon, cheese, chili, shame, etc.) – like a salad bar only more delicious and with a corny pun. Mashed po-tinis are amazing, and can we make them a thing like, immediately? #mashedpotini.
  3. It was a loving, healing, and just plain ol’ fun time. I saw old college friends, danced to big band music, and witnessed an a cappella group sing the best song ever – “Always Be My Baby” by Mariah Carey, obviously – which was cosmically perfect because it just so happens that we’re about to have a cicada season in Connecticut.

If you don’t know about cicadas, then (one) I envy you, and (two) they are loud, gross-looking bugs that only emerge every 17 years and wreak havoc for two weeks until they die again.

The last time we had cicadas, I was eight years old. It was 1996 and I was obsessed with Mariah’s Daydream album. I distinctly remember watching the video for “Always Be My Baby” and wondering where all the cicadas were in the woodsy, marshy area she seemed to be so comfortably frolicking in. (I was pretty much an eight-year-old version of the Wendy’s “Wheeere’s the beef?” lady, except I was all “Wheeere’re the cicadas?!”)

So for the past week, in anticipation of the locust-like creatures, I’ve been going on nightly after-dinner walks reflecting on my early years and listening to “Always Be My Baby” while paying honor to my inner child. So when the a cappella group randomly chose to sing that song of ALL songs on Saturday, it was one of those incredible moments that would seem like no big deal to most people but to me was most definitely God being all like, “Whassup Nic?

In short, this event made me feel all kinds of love. And I’ve been feeling all kinds of love all the time lately. And when I’m feeling all kinds of love, I kind of just want to dance. So I did something crazy on my way home that night – I stopped at a gay club.

Alone.

I sat in the parking lot for two minutes before going in, telling myself that I was there for one reason only: to shake my groove thang. No expectations, no need to seek validation from anyone, no irrational ego-based fears of being judged – just me standing – make that dancing – in my truth.

And I did it! I held it down on the floor song after song, having my very own self-loving private party – except totally in public. It was kind of the best thing ever.

Interestingly enough, it seemed that my whole loving energy field actually drew people to me, most of whom I shared only a brief moment or two with until deciding that I wanted to keep rocking out on my own.

Then there was this one handsome gentleman who kept making his way back to me despite my noncommittal demeanor towards dance floor location. I finally just embraced his energy and we communicated in this crazy, wordless way that I kind of knew was probably only sexual on his part. Still, I was willing to overlook it in an effort to view him as the innocent child that he once was (this is a fun game I’ve been playing with everyone I meet lately… it’s especially effective with mean people). My mind wandered, and I found myself wondering where he was during the 1996 cicada invasion.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, he tried to kiss me. While the old Nic would have probably been like “Scooore! Maybe we can get married?” I decided to be the new Nic in this moment. [KEY CHANGE ALERT!]

I politely turned my head, coughed laughed, and yelled to him that I was “just here to dance, but you’re really cute!”

It was the truth. I wasn’t there to make out with random dudes; I was just there to dance – and, in a broader sense, to love myself.

And so that’s what I did – step by step, one step at a time, 10,000 pedometer-counted times. (Cha-ching!)

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*This is a photo I found on a bar’s website from many years ago. Look at baby Nic being all intense and dance-y! Also, the year was 2010. Do you love how warped my sense of time is?

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