One discouraging photo.
I’ve been working out on a regular basis since the summer of 2015. I cleaned up my diet, so I’m not shoving sugary snacks into my face all day long (I was a junk food vegan for years, but that’s another story). I feel better and I’m in the best shape of my life. The ultimate goal of all this has been to become a big, strong dad for my little boy as my father was for me when I was growing up; to look like the shirtless heroes of my youth, like He-Man and Hulk Hogan; to get that “ideal male body” that I know is unnecessary, but dammit I want it anyway, if for no other reason than to get rid of my damn chicken legs.
I posted weekly progress pictures on my Instagram account for a year. I would flex and use lots of filters to look as lean and cut as possible. Nowadays I post the occasional picture on my social media feeds, and I always make those shots look as nice as I can. One day at the gym I asked my wife to take a few pictures of me working out. Anyone who’s been to a gym knows that the lighting there is spectacular, and in a moment of confidence I wanted to show off. She discreetly snapped a few pictures and sent them to me.
I was horrified.
My arms looked spindly and my legs were still those damn chicken legs I hate so much. My workout clothes looked baggy and shabby. It appeared like I had made zero progress in the year I had been so diligently trying to get bigger and stronger. I looked even scrawnier than before! Was this how I really looked without camera filters and ideal lighting? Was all my “progress” in my head? Is this how I truly looked to everyone, and whenever I spoke about my time at the gym were they shaking their heads or laughing behind my back? Was all this a waste of time? Was I just a joke?
Once I regained my mental composure, I considered a few things:
These were pictures taken at unflattering angles. No one is safe from a badly-angled photo.
My diet, while very healthy, is still plant-based and I don’t eat much during the day. I realize that most of the real work in bulking up is eating, and eating a lot. Steadily-paced meals and regular snacks will do the trick, because right now I’m more lean than I am big.
My horrified overreaction was fed by my infuriatingly brittle self-esteem, but I was able to get it under control this time. While I hate those damn photos, they provided me with some harsh but necessary reminders: I’m not as big as I want to be, I still have a long way to go on this journey, and if I want that “ideal male body” I have to work harder and harder to get it.
I want to be the kind of man that my son aspires to be like, both in mind and body. Both still need a lot of work… especially my damn chicken legs.