The true life tale of my lost reflection…


What to do if you have no one to turn to….

This isn’t a normal type of conversation that would come up at work or with friends, so I’m outing it on here as it might turn into an interesting read for some. This is a long one by the by, so you may want to get a warm brew and enough food to hibernate up to this bad boy…

I encourage most people that don’t feel they have people to talk to about certain things to still try and find an outlet. Personally, I believe it’s best to just write it and put it out there into the universe. Even if it is never meant to be read by another living soul.

Simply  print it off, fold it up and set fire to it and you”ll be amazed at how such a trivial act can have a profound  symbolic impact on you going forward.

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On with the main event…

Now, all my life, I’ve never really been sure of whether what I’ve been seeing in the mirror is actually true or not.

To be honest, I can’t remember when but somewhere deep down I must have realised that I was on the scale of some sort of body dysmorphia syndrome as I watched a programme about it happening and thought to myself ‘aha, that sounds quite a bit like me’.

I always find it appealing when I notice someone else sharing a trait I do or finding out something has a ‘name’, rather than going  ‘Oh ,Novembre is going doolally again’.

Allow me to divulge my own personal tale with this under four main premises;

  1. Changes to my Bodyshape and weight
  2. My relationship with food and dieting
  3. How I ultimately see myself (or don’t see myself as the case may be)
  4. How the whole thing makes me feel

Now because I’ll be talking about bodyshape, there will be some selfies thrown in so get those sick buckets at the ready.

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Weight a second…

A long time ago I realised I stopped weighing myself regularly. For some reason I align this with when I was around 14 which was right about the last time I sat on a toilet to take a dump as well (you’ll notice there’s not alot of normal things I do in the bathroom these days).

I think it boiled down to the fact I wasn’t necessarily happy with what I was seeing on the scales so I chose to ignore it as often as possible.

Infact, I think I can actually remember the last time I weighed myself at all and I think I was around 20 years old and I came out at 15 1/2 stone. It was in the Third year of university around about exam time and at 5 ft 10 1/2 inches (the half bloody counts). I had really let myself go with the daily boozing and munch stops at my takeaway of choice, the infamous Broomhill Friery

Over the three years I lived around Broomhill in Sheffield, I had become a slave to their

  1. Pork sandwiches and chips (£1.40)
  2. Battered sausage and chips (£2.00)
  3. Cajun chicken sandwich and chips (£1.50)
  4. Small chicken kebab and chips (£3.50)
  5. Chilli chips and cheese (£2.50)

which was all coated in hot sweet chilli sauce which was kept in a 5 litre container back home. Yum Yum.

To be fair, I should have just invested in shares in the place with the amount I shelled out there.

Oh man, thinking about it is making me ongwwwwyyy 😦

I also got addicted to secretly perving on the previous owner’s wife  (the owner ended up being my landlord in my third year)  who was I thought an asian version of Louise Rednapp. She was very sweet and polite to me over my tenure there. Incredibly pretty eyes too….

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More often then not, I would order a meal to also eat on the tiny two minute walk home as well just because I was a greedy bastard. I would even do the same with pizzas and don’t get me started on the two curry challenge I helped instigate as well. The extra meal for the walk home is a bad habit I still indulge in to this day.

I wasn’t the only one who was affected by their culinary delights of this shop. If you don’t believe me, check out this random queue for the place below. This was during the day as well, imagine it on a night out with the beer munchies on the go.

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The body is actually nothing more than a glorified survival kit and actually rewards you with acts of gluttony as it stores these food reserves on you as fat (in the same way you store money in the bank) to be utilised in a time when external food sources are slim. Unfortunately natural selection has yet to catch up with the human advances of farming, settlement and readily available fast food/high fat nutrition sources, so we keep being rewarded even when over indulgence is actually being detrimental. This is probably one of the few instances when I think instinctively listening to what your body wants rather than giving it what it needs is a big boo boo.

At the beginning of Uni, I also started to eat just about once a day. I disguised this under the notion I was just trying to save some money but in reality I did it so I could go all out and get that ‘super super full feeling’ you normally only get when you plan on stuffing yourself during Christmas day. That feeling of satiety you feel when you’re completely stuffed to the brim and require a food nap is somewhat unparalleled in life, especially when faced with an insurmountable amount of rich food infront of you.

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While everyone was stating  the one meal diet was doing was crazy, I didn’t realise at the time that I was actually indirectly taking part in an intermittent fasting process which was the only thing stopping me from truly ballooning out of control. Go figure

Before this, I had always set a random target to try and get myself back down to….under 12 stone I think but of course I’ll never knew if  I made it down there (cause I stopped weighting myself) but that is a mute point.

After realising I was well on my way to nearly 100kg (225 lbs) and seeing pictures of my cheeks looking like they were stuffed with illegal immigrant hamsters, I knew I would eventually have to do something to curb this gluttonous behaviour.

This is when I thought I would put myself on a fitness regime…and on another diet 😦 .

I’ll jump back on this story but I’ll take you on a detour through me and diets first. If you don’t want that faff, go straight to ‘The Final Round Comeback’

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Little Pleut, the fatty

Up till then I was never particularly fond of dieting. I guess this goes waaaay back to when I was young and my mother decided that I was growing faster sideways than upwards.

I still remember dutifully at the age of seven odd, I was wearing clothing sized for children 11 or higher. I guess I was always a big kid. Here’s me at three month’s old and my poor limbs are just incapable of supporting my size. Heck, it looks like my neck has gone on strike in that picture, HA

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Infact, I still have a t-shirt that I used to have when I was about…11 that I can still fit into now. I don’t know whether this is now a good or bad thing but you know how guys tend to be with old clothes

My appetite has always been somewhat insatiable from when I was a young child and it is only matched by my ability to consume large quantities of liquids in a short period of time.I didn’t quickly click that the soft drinks were adding a significant amount to my calorific intake, some ways just as badly as the food was.

Back then, this usually contained the joys of coke and then evolved into Bitter Lemon, which was my dad’s favourite drink at the time.This has been replaced with many other things including:

  • Apple Tango
  • Fanta
  • Still Fanta, (my mcdonalds special drink)
  • 7 up
  • Fanta Chapman
  • Rio
  • Orange juice
  • Apple Juice
  • Schloer (OMFG, if I was rich, I’d drink this all day)
  • Tonic water
  • Milk
  • Pale Rider

I’m talking anywhere up to about 4 litres a day of this stuff at its prime. I remember my dad coning back home from M & S with a 2 litres bottle of orange juice and he had quickly gone to the bog to relieve himself. By the time he had gotten back, I had already finished the bottle. Haha, that’s when I started realising he was hiding food from me. I also realised his first name was Joey.

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When I used to come home for holidays and it was just me and my brothers around, my eldest would always get in a strop at just how much food I was eating as he’d see his day’s worth of cooking (which supposed to last a week) normally finish within a few hours.

My family (especially the males it seems) are all abit strange about food and the ownership of it, so much so that could fill an entire blog on it, let alone another post. So I’ll leave that one there for now.

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My First Diet

So one summer, in an attempt to avert me from becoming the new michellin man, my mom eventually  decided to put me on a diet.

This diet consisted of smaller meals and instead of drinking regular coke, I would drink a mixture of coke half mixed with water (which was her drink of choice before she switched to diet coke). Anyone interested in trying this delicious cocktail go right ahead, it goes down as smoothly as Gordon Ramsey’s forehead, I can assure you.

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It also consisted of this fucking horrendous herbal tea she used to get from Holland and Barratt that tasted like goat testicles. She’d make me drink it without any milk and low and behold that thing would make me shit out any food I’d ever dared dream about in the last 24 hours plus a little bit extra for putting it through the trouble.

Man I remember the shivers and the roaring poos it used to give me. It was like a nightly exorcism. My mom used to call it a ‘POJ’ at the time, which  I thought was the brand. Now I understand she was saying ‘Purge’, as in it’ll smoke your bowels out, of any remnants of food, like an SAS team in an Iranian embassy.

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The Diet was torture but Low and  behold, it worked. As is with  everything though, its success was only temporarily.

Soon I returned back to a Chubby state which I would stay in unless I was considerably ill (i.e. when I had chicken pox at 14 which was when I was probably stopped weighing myself regularly).

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Mirror Mirror on the Wall…

Now considering my weird relationship with the scales came relatively later on in life, I’ve always had a funny relationship with the mirror, I was a beautiful baby and child (which I never noticed or took advantage of at the time) but felt particularly minging during puberty.

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This was linked to a growing chubby butt and also a trip abroad which scorched my face and made me stick out in a family of relatively light complexioned individuals. Infact, I still have the tan lines from that trip around my neck…..or so I think….

I think I actually remember staring at the mirror when I was around 14 and being quite repulsed by the way I looked in general. I was quite vicious in my thoughts to myself, while I never truly contemplated it, I did remember trying to goad myself into suicide because I felt I was this decrepit waste that just needed to be flushed down the toilet. It definitely wasn’t healthy.

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This mirror image wasn’t purely due to my size but other physical attributes I have.

I’ve got a gap tooth which I was ‘told’ was genetic but after recently reading up on it is due to an incorrect tongue position in my mouth due to tongue thrusting and never being taught how to use it properly (not in that department at least). The end result is going through most of my teenage years without wanting to smile or speak to people because of their reaction to it. This was pretty toss. In hindsight, it is frustrating to find this all out now since something could have been done about it at the time if my parents weren’t so ignorant to the whole ordeal. Oh well. What doesn’t kill ya

Also, for the longest time, I thought I had severe gynocomastia (that’s man boobs to everyone at home not paying attention 🙂 ) and thought about surgery for it. I’m genetically predisposed to store fat not only on my stomach and obliques but also on my chest. Having a naturally pidgeon chest made them more prominent than they actually are in hindsight. At one point, I could lick my own nipples with my tongue which was an odd mixture of a long neck and tongue and way too much fat on my chest. In fact, as far as I can remember, I’ve always had permanently erect nipples which probably comes from pressure of an enlarged mammory gland pushing the nipple up through the skin. which isn’t the type of thing you think gets the ladies queuing up outside your door.

Oh and as a freebie, I recently started noticing that eating salad cream makes my nipples tingle. Go figure. I’m sure there’s some divine evolutionary explanation for all that jazz and it’ll will be beamed to me in due course..

So with all this hit going on,  my self image growing up wasn’t the best, especially when it seemed I hit my  beauty peak around the age of  4.. To this day, my sister still looks at me and goes

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‘God, you’re ugly, what happened to you?’

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You have to love the character building attributes you have to develop due to random comments like that 🙂

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And with that, I made a decision that I would limit the amount of time I spent looking in the mirror or seeing my own image. I saw my perception of myself to be the issue and since I could not do anything with the way I looked, I would limit the symptom inducing effects instead.

And that was simply how I contained that dilemma.

Actually now that I think about it, you’ll be hard pressed to find a picture of me between the ages of 12 and about 17 as I literally hated getting my picture taken by anyone, that’s how much I hated seeing myself.

If I was being honest, this is probably the point where I started to have a disassociation with what I saw in the mirror for the most part. My last definitive memories of what I thought I looked like were left there with my suicide goading to remain as a distant but harmless constant.

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Who IS that guy????

So for some reason I decided at 15 to start doing martial arts on a regular basis (three times a week) and I also started doing some basic sprint training alongside some cross country training when I could. An incident happened to me when I was young that made me decide I wasn’t going to join a gym, so I relied pretty much on bodyweight exercises to help my performance in those areas. . I genuinely didn’t think anything of  any of it. I also didn’t do anything major to control my diet at the time.

That wasn’t until one day, when I was 17, I decided to relax my hair to grow out an afro. I had put the relaxing product in my hair and combed it through and people at the time were saying I looked like Sisqo, so one of my friends had decided to take a picture. So I got him to take one on my camera too just for the fun of it.

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That was probably in September and then I went home for a break  and one of my brothers saw me working out and he commented on the size of my back. I took no real meaning from it but he said I should tense up so that I could have a look. So I did a little pose and again that was that.

It wasn’t until perhaps Easter the following year  that I had finished  that roll of film and went to get it developed. Now remember, this was the time before digital cameras so I had totally forgotten about this for months and needed the majority of pictures on it for something else, more than likely my ‘piss poor’ geography course work.

When I went to collect my developed film, I was scanning through the pictures when I came across this picture below.

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It took me a good seven seconds to realise it was myself that I was actually staring at. Not only my hair, facial expression and the colour of my eyes thrown me off but at the time, I thought I looked huuuuuge and had the ‘potential’ to be thought of as physically attractive by others (at least on paper).

Still though, I had completely no association with myself and the person in the picture. I had literally transformed into someone else before my very eyes and I had no idea where this person had come from, or more importantly where they’d gone.

On the same roll of film, I came across the pose I took while I was at home with my bro.

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This picture still haunts me till this day. I have absolutely no idea have I can have that kinda back when I never trained back ever. I only ever really did press ups with my feet elevated but that was supposed to be for my arms and pidgeon chest,which never seemed to grow, probably know why now..,.

It was on this day that I started to realise that the association I had with the reflection I  caught at irregular intervals wasn’t necessarily a true one because I would go and look at myself in the mirror and I couldn’t find the physiques I had seen in the pictures. I could never find it and still haven’t managed to find this back one.

These transformations were also occurring to my face . I noticed later on that one of the main changes in my shape during any fitness/diet phase would come in my face. My face is one of the main indicators of my general weight and like most males, when I shed the weight on my face and reveal some decent jaw cuts, I look more in line with what is stereotypically attractive.  ( this is regardless of whether I believed it or not but  I’ll elaborate on my face later).

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Where am I hiding me?

At the time, I didn’t realise but I belong to a group of bodies that are claimed to be Mesomorphs. These are bodies that generally lose/gain fat relatively quickly and retain muscle reasonably well.

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In essence, being part of this magical group boils down to having the power to sculpt your body into relatively anything you want it to look like. You are not genetically predisposed to be skinny or fat (or at least not as a young adult) and you are open to the full range of shapes and sizes on the spectrum.

However the mind isn’t so susceptible and can’t adapt to the change, which is where the problem ultimately lies. This is very much like the way you wouldn’t notice a Carbon monoxide leak and just snooze away or how someone with leprosy can’t notice their hand burning on the stove.

In my case the benefits of my somatotype figure comes with a certain price and that is a continually changing  (very often daily) variation in how my body looks, which doesn’t allow myself time to come to terms with a given body size/shape.

I also have the ability to obtain a decent ‘muscle pump’ after a workout which makes me look say, 35% bigger than I actually am. at any given point in time. When it comes to body weight exercises, this would fade within 30 minutes of a workout but as you can see above, the picture image stays forever which never really helped in maintaining any sort of stable body image of one’s self.

Lastly, I also have the addition of looking very different depending on how much water  and salt I retain on my body as well and can go from looking very bloated to bone dry in a matter of hours.

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Kodak Moment of clarity

Even though my body fluctuates readily, I used these pictures as a staple benchmark to confirm I existed within a certain range of fitness and this allowed me to gain some better confidence in the way I looked. As I started getting more pictures of myself, I would become more accepting that their perspective were more likely to reflect what I looked like rather than looking in the mirror.

But the pictures only referenced a past stable point of what I looked liked and never how I looked at a given point in time, even if taken five minutes prior. They were always ghost portraits of someone else, someone who had the same name as me, someone I could objectively critique and transpose that critique to myself. However, they were never what I thought of myself.

I still never felt like the images I was seeing belonged to me though, I could never look like that.

In any case, I stayed in what I guess was relatively good shape until the end of school and up until the beginning of university.This is when I discovered booze and takeaways and laziness. I no longer had the room or motivation to exercise.

Which now takes me right back to the end of the ‘Weight a second’ paragraph.

This  15 1/2 stone shock came across in exactly the same way, I had gained a considerable amount of weight and didn’t recognise the larger person in the picture taken by a friend. I had known I was getting bigger but I never realised how big. I thought I was still relatively fit but clearly after 3 odd years of what I can only consider self abuse, most of my previous efforts had worn off and 2.5 stone (35 lbs) of blubber had replaced it.

The same mirror that was lying to me  about being out of shape previously had now come round to telling me I was doing fine when I clearly wasn’t. I find the duality of both experiences completely bizarre.

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The final round Comeback

So it was in the December of 2004, (which had generally been quite a crap year for me but it ended in some relative promise) that I decided that I would go balls to the wall with alot of things in 2005. With regards to fitness, I would try and get in shape again after a 3 year hiatus and I used the same basic techniques I had used before.

Now to motivate myself I utilised the pictures of myself I had taken 3 1/2 years previously in order to have something to strive for and no matter how much I tried, I never thought I would get back to where I was. I just kept feeling incredibly inferior and the closer I got to my goals, the more my mind would keep me from accepting it.

My reflection again had started going wayword and even though I recognised my fitness going up due to increased performance, I regressed back to my previous predicament of just not seeing the fruits of my labour in the mirror.

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Thankfully I was well aware of the way my mind works and I decided to just keep going even if I would never get back to where I was, I’d still be better off.

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And the verdict is…

A few things worked in my favour

I took up cycling while on a short trip back home where I cycled hard for about 30 minute daily for about 9 days and I managed to shed  1 1/2 stone just off that. (Probably the actual last time I weighed myself in all fairness)

Next was the fact I was going out very regularly, about three times a week and most of the time I was staying up dancing till god knows what burning thousands of extra calories.

I also adopted this notion of ‘eating was cheating’ and would limit my one meal a day to nadda if I was drinking thinking I could get most of my nutrition from the alcohol I was consuming. Since I never really needed that much to get drunk, my overall calorie intake was low. To be fair, it wasn’t really the eating is cheating notion that stirred this on, more to the fact that I could get drunk for cheaper on an empty stomach. I’m such a tight arse.

Lastly, during the three weeks of the final exams, I pretty much lived in the library when I wasn’t out, with many complete overnighters spent there with little to no sleep while I was cramming in a whole bunch of information I can no longer recall. My only subsistence was the odd bottle of tonic water and also 2 pieces of chicken and chips on the way home from you know where..

SO with that, I got real lean, coupled with the diuretic affect of the drinking, I was probably vastly dehydrated for the majority of the time.

The next picture shows me at my leanest which was the morning after my last ever exam in May 2005.

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Aftermath shape.

I think the day after I took this, I ‘believed’ I saw my first ever full six pack reflection in the mirror. As you can probably appreciate, this is me flat and you can see the difference in the size in my arms with respect to the earlier picture, even though in this one, I would say I got to the fittest I had ever been.

But the realisation of the reflection still alluded me. I think my mom came to see me earlier in the year and she was worried about my health because she said my face had never been that hollow before. I couldn’t grasp what she was on about.

If it wasn’t me taking the picture, I would argue that is the body of a stranger. When I’d look at the mirror, all I would see is acres of fat, crap abs and love handles. More importantly, I still felt I was out of shape in comparison to my previous pics.

And so I stayed in what the pictures showed as relatively fitcondition but my mind couldn’t get round the concept for some time,I kept up the exercise till about 2007. I also threw in some ten mile runs once a week for good measure (you can see how I feel about running here), I didn’t take any pics of me in this phase because I didn’t think I was particularly fit but I was probably in a better shape than I was in the photo above in hindsight.

Soon after though, the relative need to stay in shape had lessened as I was in a stable relationship and not going out so much. I also found myself without the time to exercise.

It wasn’t until I moved into a totally different body phase that I could appreciate my shape then and come to the realisation I was in a decent condition. By that time of course, I couldn’t enjoy it.

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Solemn Victory

About a year later I was running behind with the submission of my PhD. So in order to bribe myself into finishing, I withdrew from many of my general loves.

This came down to

  • no holidays
  • no nights out
  • no drinking
  • no dieting
  • no exercise
  • no comic purchases
  • no hair cutting

Not that any of it helped in the slightest with getting me finished, haha

In this regime, I just let myself truly go. The pictures below are me after five years of neglect and I am just about to embark to start in Scotland back in November 2011.

These were taken at the dead sea, the reason for it being dead is probably because I jumped in it and killed everything with the subsequent tsunami that ensued.

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Now again, time has a different perspective on a lot of things, Some people will look at this and think I’m not that big and that is precisely what I thought at the time, to be fair, my cheeks aren’t even that full but when I saw these pictures recently, I was genuinely shocked by the size I had reached. I hadn’t taken many pictures of me over the hiatus so this came as quite a blow to me as well.

Not that I was particularly sure why though, as I was feeding myself  with a portion of doner meat, two portion of chips and a chip butty. And that was for dinner, if I was doing good, I’d walk and get a fishcake buttie and two large portion of chips and cover the chips in beans, yum yum.

I would arguably say I was probably at my heaviest at this point in time, at least on film. Even if not shown in this particular set of pictures, perhaps this phase in my adult life.

Again now it’s hard to tell as I can remember it feeling and not feeling big at the time, in the same way I can appreciate I look big for me but not big in the grand scheme of things either.

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Glutton for punishment

In order to motivate me to do something about it, I wanted to enroll into the bullrun in 2012 for my birthday, so this kicked me to try and get back into shape, That and the fact, I was running out of rungs on my belt and my suit waistcoat now felt like a straightjacket. I’d also been on holiday with a friend and we both were almost harpooned by icelandic fishermen when we were on the beach so we took it upon ourselves to try and get fit again.

I also started living with a cat which meant I subconsciously and involuntarily gave up smoking. Plus there were some people in my office that seemed to be into their fitness so I thought I would get to  30 being in the best shape of my life, just for the hell of it.

So with the universe aligning with everything I needed to get off my arse again, I whipped out the old pictures and impossibly strived to reach a level my mind wouldn’t let me obtain.

And so I started training again with nothing other than body weight, a pull up bar, some ankle weights, skipping rope and a six seconds ab machine (lethal).

Preliminary results are shown below after a full body morning workout (perhaps with a lack of water from the night before as well). So I’m somewhat more flared and less bloaty than normal.

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The top pic in this set is actually an interesting moment  of my mirror relationship caught on tape. Even though retrospectively I have very miniscule fat on me, I still am trying to pull down what I considered to be grotesque amounts of fat  in order to reveal my ab definition fully. No happy transformation pictures for me.

At this point in life I was still eating a portion of doner meat with salad pretty much everynight and again, I didn’t realise how big my arms were until I got these pics to upload now. Again these are post exercise and make me seem bigger than I actually was at the time but meh

Again probably overall in better shape than I’ve ever been however, because I wasn’t as lean as I was before and I couldn’t really notice the same level of stomach definition, I felt huge and this is what was stirring me on to continue.

I also never felt  as fit as the other guys in the office, when I clearly was. Don’t get me wrong, it was never to compete out of a sense of physical inferiority, rather to try and somewhat find at least some common ground to discuss things.  I had started reading more about fitness related topics and just wanted to share my thoughts with genuine gym goers. You know me and my random meandering mind etc..

Based on the pictures above, I felt like a fraud even trying to bring fitness up in conversation.

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Now we’re cooking with gas…

Now at this point, I had started watching the Insanity dvds as a friend of mine had given me a copy.

This was after years and years of watching the information late at night. Mostly for Rachel,

I fucking bet it’s a struggle to keep the clothes on her, humina humina huminaa. anyway back on topic…

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I had a real study of the nutrition guide, took some of the exercises they used and incoporate it into what I was doing. I decided to pretty much dump the rest as it wasn’t really going to add anything and was of superficial benefit. I’ll write another article about how I feel on Insanity another time.

So with cleaner eating and some updated exercises, I got down to below…

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Pretty much same shit, different day, I could notice the change from when I was in my brazilian themed underwear but because I ‘knew’ I’d had a six pack before, I felt fatter than I was in my 2005 picture. If anything, I felt I was going a little bit backwards. I think these pictures show me trying to use my left arm to block the sides of my love handles to avert them from the camera.

I get the impression that getting ride of love handles is kinda like emptying a balloon full of water. When taught, it blends in but when there is less water inside, it sticks out abit more as it sags, especially against the leaner cross section.

The whole thing just sounds like pure nonesense but that was the reality I saw at the time.

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Something smells fishy

Then bam, I found the secret ingredient that was rich omega 3 fish oil supplements with high EPA/DHA content and these bad boys carved me up over night!!! This was the first time I noticed my love handles had pretty much had gone. This is probably the first time I was able to appreciate a change in my body over a relatively short period of time. It was hard not to, I could literally feel the lipid deposits on my body churning over night as they were being dislodged and passed into my blood system to be used as energy, or passed out as waste. It’s good stuff.

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So I had managed to reach another plateau or so I thought. I was so adamant that I had ‘seen’ a six pack on me when I was younger that I was still in complete denial I was in my best shape.

I couldn’t figure out if I was doing anything to deny my lower abs growing, so I put my feelings down to additional fat gains.

Again in retrospect, probably very fit and solid but on reflection, all I can take from these pictures is how flat i’m looking and the amount of lower belly flat coming out of my sides and also no visibility of my lower abs (aka not worthy). One step forward, two steps back.

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At my fittest

I soon realised that the exercise element wasn’t really doing anything additional for me and I had mastered the weight loss emphasis of it all. You see the thing about body weight exercises is that they only provide a certain amount of resistance and as your weight drops, so does the resistance, so in a sense, you end up growing pretty lean  and strong but will never get bigger muscles. Exercises that were hard before are now very easy and your body doesnt grow against the level of natural resistance as it did before. So you kinda reach a lean body mass plateau.

So I back off my training and let nature take its course. This picture was taken in January 2013 after about a week and a helf without exercise, so my body is less inflated (notice the smaller arms  and chestin comparison to other pictures etc.)

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Now the one thing I had noticed throughout this whole process was I’m incapable of not replicating my ‘POJ ingesting face’  when tensing infront of the mirror. Probably a good job I don’t ever want to get onto a stage and pose. Even when I’m going for it, my poor excuse for cheeks have no impact on making my head anything less than a glorified lollipop replica.

Again the lack of lower abs that I’m sure I noticed in my youth elude me in this picture and regardless of the obliques I have, it looks like I’ve still got the old love handles in this one.

It is also clearly evident that my chest is completely inadequate and doesn’t balance the rest of me out

It was a this point that I started to realise that the six pack I thought I had seen as a man in my young twenties was a fabricated lie in my mind. Genetically, I am predisposed to only have four stomach muscles in a set. I thought everyone had the six but one of the fitness channels I used to watched educated me our physical potentials are all predetermined by genetics and there is fuck all We can do about it.

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Again, in a world where seeing was believing, my mind’s eye had lied to me for well over a decade, pretty amazing when you think about it. Just what is real about anything I see about myself when something that simple could be overlooked?

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Back to reality

So with this, I thought I was peaking way too early for my 30th so I took my foot off the break and started eating again.

I discovered KFC gravy and also had a trip offshore where essentially you have open realm to eat when ever you want and as much as you want.

And so we’re all the way back at square one.  I turned 30 in reasonable shape but nothing special as expected. This roller coaster never seems to get old.

So now after a lifetime without, I’m now not taking pics and not weighing myself and not too bothered about how I look. I’ve started using weights and I’m working towards some pretty optimistic performance related goals. This will retrospectively keep me in a decent shape, whatever that may be but I’m not going to be too focused on the looks for say….maybe another year in all honesty.

So I wil lose my reflection for some time again.

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What I didn’t expect to see?

Here are a couple of weird observations about being super lean (I would guestimate that I was probably around 9% body fat in those pics,).

Regardless of any bodyshape I’ve ever been in, I’ve pretty much always loved my legs. This might have something to do with the fact I can see them with my own two eyes. I am also very happy accepting what my legs look like in the mirror and never really have a good enough mirror to get a decent critique of the lower half of my body but this has ‘never’ been an issue for me at all.

Again, I’m more likely to be able to get an overall picture of what my body is like in clothing, say perhaps skin tight clothing as baggy is likely to hide detail. So clothed reflections of me are likely to be more representative of me than topless ones. This is probably as the garments tend to sit on you differently which is more noticeable if say your clothes go through a 3 week cycle or so.

Probably at my lowest body percentage of fat, I genuinely thought I was at my fattest for a long period of time. Not only that but I became quite conscious about not only what I was putting in my mouth but what everyone else was.

I secretly became quite righteous about diet and nutrition and wondered why everyone would throw poison into themselves.

I was regularly monitoring my pee to make sure it was clear and also my stools to make sure they were dark and rabbit like with minimal wipe (sign the body has properly digested the food and extracted all the required nutrients from it).

I was also slightly tired and more confussed thought wise on regards to my eating, nutrition, diet and exercise routines. I had no real way to monitor my progress except for the way I looked.  Because of this I would also find myself checking out my progress in any long mirror i could find but because all mirrors reflect light differently, I had no true constant. Currently, there are 4 good sized mirrors in my place and I look entirely different in every single one of them, which doesn’t help. So I would pic the worst one to try and work with which again, doesn’t really help.

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Who IS that Guy?

Then one day, I looked in the toilet mirror after a pee and I think I stared at myself for about half an hour because I couldn’t literally recognise the person infront of me.

I had hollowed my cheeks anyway, and when I sucked them in,   I could literally see the contour of my skull around my face and the skin on my forehead stretch to compensate.

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I just kinda looked lifeless in the face as if I had been ridden with some disease. I had noticed the same thing happen to a work colleague and instead of look fitter, I just started to look and feel notoriously skinny instead.

I had always associated myself as having a decent amount of muscle on me but it was clear I was carrying far more fat than I expected and I amounted to nothing more than skin and bone when stripped of the majority of it. It was very odd seeing myself as skinny for the first time in forever, I’m not sure I liked it. Very bizzare.

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Lost Perception of my Reflection

The funny thing is that even now, with the pictures up infront of me,  I can’t remember being any real other size than the one I am presently, which in all honesty, I couldn’t even describe to you.

I would say I was alright, a bit fat and not as big as I’d like to be and definitely not in any of the good shapes that are shown in the pictures above, even though to some extent, I probably am. Then again, I probably would’ve used the same description of myself throughout most of my life.

I never get to enjoy being in a certain body phase because I don’t realise I’m there when I have it. The fitness path is a asymptotic journey with your goal posts forever changing, especially if you don’t have any quantifiable criteria to record it with (i.e. reaching a certain body weight with a strength/performance related indicator or a desired body fat percentage).

Since I don’t use the basic measure of weight ,all I keep seeing is I’m not in the shape I want to be in but what I’m measuring myself against keeps shifting out as my research into fitness has re-acclimatised what I consider to be in good shape.

Take this, a few years ago, I thought D’Angelo was massive in this video and would have been happy to have a physique like his. Now I just see him as pretty small and not even that lean, he just comes across as having a good shape but  just normal sized. The same could be said of pretty much every single celebrity physique (bar some) I used to like back in the day,  it’s crazy how your mind can do that..

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So with all that’s said and done, I need to accept the notion, I may never get my mind to acknowledge my true shape at any given point in time.

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Attention Whore Disclaimer

Now I understand that this dysmorphia may not be as extreme as anyone else’s but one of the reasons I decided to post it was because of this.

Body dysmorphia doesn’t have to be associated with people who happen to be skinny (ectomorphs) or large (endomorphs) to start off with, it can affect anyone of any size, both male and female. My dysmorphia is just as legitimate as anyone else’s and I believe far more people may sit on this side of the spectrum than you realise.

Some may think even when I was at my heaviest, I wasn’t particularly ‘heavy’ or that I’ve always been fit, or that I’m not necessarily fit enough yet, or my grasp and control of this is enough so it doesn’t affect how I go about everyday life. I think that is all fine but nevertheless, regardless of the looks of the exterior, my perception of it is not what it seems and that will always be the case.

Like I’ve said to many other people, we tend to forge our own reality and that’s what seems to count at the end of the day.

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I also don’t want to be in a position where some may think I am grasping at straws in order to try and relate to others or to even go on a ‘poor me’ rant. I am merely trying to explain a situation that occurs to me in an open forum and I hope if other people are going through the same thing, they can realise that they are not alone, especially if they fall into more of the normal physiological bracket.

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How does not seeing me affect how I see me?

Now don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t ever disturb any of my daily functions. I accept the fact that I can’t really see or appreciate what I look like physically, until I either see myself in a picture or if my body has changed significantly and I can reflect on my previous size/shape retrospectively.

Regardless of how I’ve looked, my body has stopped affecting my overall confidence per say and throughout all my body changes, I’m always still at my most confident when butt nekkid (it’s the secret nudist in me, I swear).

To be fair, I have bigger fish to fry and have always believed, even though I’m not particularly religious, I am just as I intended to be (within a certain range limit), with enough intelligence and will power to obtain any bodyshape I desire. I guess that is one of the lucky parts of being a mesomorph. This also means I’m not incapable of changing things so I can’t feel victimised by it.

To compensate for this fortune, I just needed to accept I can’t accept what I see to be reality

I also see the physical entity as being just a vessel. Because it is a vessel, it has no real impact on how I view me, in the same way you can’t judge a beverage by the receptacle its held in or a book by its cover.

Infact for the longest time, I believed I had an old soul and in my mind’s eye, when I conjured up images of myself, I would be around 60 odd. I suppose this is a symptom of avoiding mirrors and pictures for a long periods of my life. My imagination had filled in the blanks to match my persona.

To be honest, I have been waiting for quite some time for my outsides to catch up with my insides. So even if I did see my shape for its real worth, it wouldn’t align with my mind’s vision of myself, so I still wouldn’t be looking at ‘me’ per say when glazing at my reflection.

That I suppose is a completely different type of dysmorphia altogether, probably more attune with the gender misalignment type dysmorphia.

In any case, the only perception of myself that I feel is relevant is the one I project in my mind’s eye and that is myself as a concept. Fortunately, this is the vision of myself that provides the layers to my inner confidence and manages to flow through my physical being, so even when I don’t particularly think I am physically charming, I allow my inner charm to shine out which I think affects how people view the physical anyway.

Like I’ve always said to  people who consider certain body types to be sexy,  the reason is because they were initially attracted to someone’s personality who had that body. Now the mind makes the connection every time they see it. I’m going to try and illustrate this in the piece below (specifically looking at males).

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Cultural Diversity in the perception of your body

In certain parts of Africa, having an overweight stature is considered a status symbol. It means you have made it and you have an abundance of food, which is a status of wealth. You have people to run around and do work for you so you can relax and enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Skinny is associated with the poor and the fact they can’t feed themselves. They are anxious because they don’t know where their next meal is coming from and are not seen as capable of being able to provide for themselves, let alone others.

In the west, Fitness is more linked to the natural order of virility, natural selection, mating and all that jazz. Our negative association with overweight figures come from health issues, reduction in the quality of life and reduced life expectancy.

So with some African cultures, the physical traits manifests the social wellbeing of an individual and it is their social status that people find attractive. The culture  is somewhat indifferent to the natural order of things or at the very least, it is a secondary thought.

In western societies, the physical manifests the natural wellbeing of an individiual and it is their natural status that people find attractive. Their social status is now the secondary thought.

However, if you were to take an attractive person from each of these cultures, you’ll find similar personality traits and universal triggers within that attract other people towards them.

So the physical actually plays less of a role than people realise (if it sits within a socially acceptable norm boundary).

So I believe if you were to take two twins and brought them up in contrasting parts of the world and they have the same charisma levels, they will both be considered attractive in their respective cultures and even feel and react the same way to others, even though they look physically completely different.

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Just Love the skin you’re in folks

So to summarize ,  Most of the time a confident person can be sexy when fit or fat. However alot of people use the external as a catalyst to set off their inner confidence. In the same way you may put on a particular top/dress to feel confident on a first date while it’s actually yourself that makes said attire look stunning. It’s this real weird chicken and egg situation.

Saying this though, I believe clothes do not make the man and neither does flesh and bone.

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Find and embody all the abstract qualities that make you great and wear them instead. When you look at yourselves in your mind’s eye, they will provide you with all the warmth and protection from the wilderness that you will ever need to survive in this lifetime

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