Guilty, I am…

Now what…

So you did it.  You finally got there.  Congratulations!  You are lean – in the best aesthetic shape of your life.  You ate clean.   You worked out like a person possessed.  You sacrificed, you pushed, and it shows.  You have abs, you have obliques, and you now have the ass of 12-year old boy.  Now what…?

You might not have considered this on your way to the heart of Nude Jacked City, but getting lean means more than just being in the best aesthetic shape of your life.  As you stand down from your quest, add calories back into your diet, cut back on your exercise, and allow body fat to increase, take note that, “the best shape of your life” was then, not now. 

Less than your best…

At any given moment, unless you choose to be in peak form once again, you will forever more be in less than your best shape – aesthetically speaking.  How you will you be able to handle that, emotionally speaking…?   

Be warned: no longer being in your best shape may not be a comfortable place to dwell for the rest of your life, though different folks do handle this in different ways. 

Some I know have dealt with this extremely well – they are not driven nor motivated by the Madison Avenue body garbage we have been fed for so many years in TV and magazine ads. They don’t bow to ill-conceived social pressure.  They recognize that being that lean didn’t come naturally or easily for them, and thus they had no expectations of a long-term lean status.

Many realize their body, and brain function better with a few more calories added in, and a little more body fat evenly distributed about their frame – even if that translates to a size or two increase with their clothing.  Yes, they miss the definition, but they LOVE the energy.  They still workout, they still eat better than 99% of the nation, and they appreciate what they have, rather than long for what they don’t have.

For others though, for most I’ll suggest, not being in their all-time best condition is a hard pill to swallow, ongoing.  As their clothes become a bit snug, as their faces round out a bit, and as the compliments from others that often go with being lean minimize, their self-esteem gets cloudy if not stormy.  Guilty I am. 

Some will go as far as to alter their social settings for fear of judgment that they are not at their best any longer, despite that they are still ahead of the game.  They may avoid the beach, pool parties, or any place that might require one to wear minimal clothing.  They will wear larger, and baggier clothing to hide behind.  Guilty I am.

A fine line that ain't so easy to navigate...

A fine line that ain’t so easy to navigate…


Some modify the activities they choose to participate in, for similar reasons.  They change the patterns of their life; when they go to the gym, the grocery store, or they do errands at different times of the day so they’re not seen in such poor condition.  This is all due to a self-generated perception which most outsiders never notice or even are aware of.  Guilty I am.

All of this due to just a few extra pounds, when most of the world still sees them as being in excellent shape.  Guilty I am.

Face it, we seek our flaws first.  When one has spent months seeing those “flaws” minimize, and ultimately disappear, seeing them return, and getting good with them is no easy experience.  Guilty I am.

Sustainability in condition…

Make the distinction between getting lean, and staying lean.  I will argue that most people have it in them to get lean.  However, being in peak condition with single digit body fat, for most, is not sustainable in the long-term.  Those you know, or know of, who are that lean year round, are fortunate, but I’ll suggest they are also rare.  People who are that lean year round are likely the product of a superior genetic predisposition, though this not to suggest they don’t work at it also. 

The guilt of failure…

It isn’t really failure though, it’s realism.  I have been unlean much more than I have been lean in my life, but again, this is a relative term.  Unlean doesn’t mean unfit.  It means balanced.  Dieting to get extremely lean is the Siberia of living; it’s a cold, bleak place, and there little joy there.

I will close this with a quote from an online friend who is also a fitness professional.  This was her response to a question I posed to her regarding being lean:

“As a fitness professional I’ll be honest with you. When I was at 12% body fat my cardiologist was so proud of me for being in shape, but I was crying out to her for help. I had not had my cycle in over 6 months. I told her this and she only advised me to take a pregnancy test. I knew that was NOT the issue! Shredded for women is just not a healthy, sustainable look for the woman who wants to be a vibrant member of the community, an active mother, a loving wife etc.

I don’t know how you can get to that stage and keep the energy levels adequate for living life. I want to be strong, vibrant, energetic, and healthy. I like my muscle “tone” ugh, hate that word! But I have decided that I’m not ready at this point to drain all my energy into a temporary look.”

My advice…

I have spent years telling people who truly desire to be lean, and who are willing to put in the work that they have a responsibility to get there at least once, just to experience the feeling of being there.  These days I’m more cautious about that suggestion.  For some, it may do more long-term damage than good.  Guilty I am…  Be well.  rc


Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is little piece of ambient love from Yo  La Tengo.  Enjoy!

15 responses

  1. I’m so less than perfect it’s funny. I’ve learned to live with it. If I can see my shoes & tie them, if I can carry my own groceries, if I can run for 2 minutes & not fall over, if I can put on a bathing suit and not hide in the pool house, I’m good. Guess you could say I’ve lowered my expectations. I just think I don’t have that much time to worry about it anymore & I want to have fun, so I do. I am in no way saying that there’s anything wrong with those who love to work out and have the bodies that show they do. I love looking at you all. I’ve learned to accept me where I am & stop beating myself up about it. (Psst…btw…do these shorts make my butt look fat?)

  2. Such a wise post. Great perspective for those who either think they want to get leaner OR are lamenting their loss of leanness (a word?). Health is so important and fitness is much more than being in the single digits with respect to body fat! Happy weekend, Roy!

    • I do like to visit the low body fat from time to time Tamara, and I won’t lie, I LOVE BEING THERE. The problem for me, honestly, is that I truly hate myself when I’m not there. Hard to let go. No easy answers…

  3. Maybe the best answer is a “there” that one can stay at for a long time without physical or mental damage.

    “Find Your Best There” fridge magnets and bumper stickers available at Dr. J Warehouse.

  4. Roy, as you know I have been working on my I AM ENOUGH posts. I never expected to stay as lean as when I competed. I knew based on what I had to do to get there that it was not possible. Not saying it was a hard pill to swallow but I knew it.. I did learn that I wanted to stay leaner & learned how to do that while still enjoying foods I liked but making CHOICES about what I will & will not eat as much.. 🙂

    I admit as I hot the late 40s & especially 50s, the hardest pill to swallow was that I was just not going to be able to look pretty dang good without some of the stuff that happens, happens.. like yes, my upper body is staying decent BUT very hard to keep the butt & legs as well wit the aging woman hormones… my I am Enough work is helping me thru that along with a lot of other crap too! 🙂

    I agree – getting to your best – it can be bad for those that can’t handle going back to normal or even better than normal but not that best lean self.

    I will say that even at my best when I did the bodybuilding & won, I still had my period so…. I guess I could have been leaner & “better” but I am glad I never went there! 🙂

    Did you compete? Are you still going to?

    • To the point of competitive bodybuilding Jody: When one stands in a room full of hundreds or thousands of people, and everyone in there is cheering for you — for how you look, nothing in your life will ever feel as good. It’s hard to let go.

      I had planned to compete in September, but a slight tear of my right biceps tendon has me sidelined for a few weeks. Hoping to compete in Nov. or Dec., we shall see. I will compete in 2013, and probably not again until I’m in my 60s. One show every decade seems reasonable…

  5. I think the key word here is: sustainable.

    I have been slightly leaner than I am now, and am frustrated that I am not there anymore, but 1) nobody else but me notices and 2) it might not have been a sustainable weight and fat percentage for me.

    Very nice post, well written.

  6. Yes. I am finally to the place where I am happy with myself even though there is ‘more’ of me. Heck, a woman can’t take over the world when she has to tell her feet to move and her eyes to blink. Yes, I would like to be more ‘beautiful’ but it just isn’t going to happen without sacrificing relationships and dreams and having a size 2 arse just isn’t worth the price. 🙂

  7. It also applies to extreme weight gain as well as the small changes from extra lean to lean. I changed my social habits when I gained weight, skipped my best friend’s wedding, and avoided people I used to hang out with. I was ashamed.

    • Agree Diane, completely, on the extreme weight gain. The irony here is that very fit looking (and functioning) people feel as thought they are extremely obese. Sad, very sad. Guilty I am…

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