For most of my adulthood, my weight has been an unwavering 158 pounds.
Recently, the number has begun to creep higher, presumably due to my slowing metabolism and not any changes to my diet or fitness routine. After all, altering those things never had an impact before. Lord knows I tried.
In my mid-twenties, I decided to bulk up with the help of a personal trainer at the gym. This plan was—much like the war on drugs—expensive, ineffectual, and a killer of good times.
My muscle-seeking phase followed a skeletal period during college and just after. I wasted away as a result of 1.) being put in charge, for the first time in my life, of feeding myself, and 2.) a notion I had, if you want the whole truth, that thinness was a prerequisite to entering the ranks of desirable young homosexuals.
I guess I wanted to be a twink. But that role requires something beyond youth and malnutrition. True twinks have either a sexy playful quality or a sad-eyed innocence. I had crippling anxiety and unmanageable hair. I was basically Shaggy from Scooby-Doo.
My later foray into weightlifting was also motivated by a wish to look a certain way. My trainer, Gordon, would ask me what my “fitness goals” were, but the options he gave—”to get healthy,” “to feel stronger in my everyday life”—sounded like euphemisms for the only legitimate reason, it seemed to me then (and kind of now), why anybody would go to the gym: to transform one’s body to such an extent that the removal of one’s shirt sparks joy in others.
But getting to that point requires more commitment—or different genes?—than what I had to offer, so the weightlifting never really took. Maybe I would have thrown myself wholeheartedly into the project if I hadn’t found it so mortifying. But Gordon was always making me assume vulnerable, belly-up positions on bouncy yoga balls or squat with my butt pushed out or attempt to bench-press beyond my abilities, causing my face to screw up in comical constipated expressions. There was a lot of splaying on mats and trying to figure out scary-looking equipment. It was like a very long, very unsatisfying BDSM scenario.
All the other worker-outers, meanwhile, seemed so capable and, what’s more, sculpted to an extent that the removal of their shirts would have definitely sparked joy in me, had I not been cringing with embarrassment and grimacing from exertion.
I did like the parts, though, where Gordon would demonstrate the exercises before it was my turn. He’d show me how to do a proper bicep curl or whatever, and in place of my wobbly form, he’d exhibit this graceful precision that, combined with his piercing gaze, very straight nose, and curly hair, made him look like my idea of an ancient Greek warrior. Plus, you got to see his biceps.
But I was disappointed in the negligible results I was getting from training, so I eventually went freelance, ensuring I’d get no results whatsoever.
I still belong to a gym. I try to go three times a week, carrying out some of the less embarrassing exercises that Gordon taught me. My weight tends to fall in the range of 161–163 pounds. Since I am 5 feet, 10 inches tall, that makes my body mass index (BMI) 23.4, according to a BMI calculator I found on the website of the National Institutes of Health. Evidently, that puts me in the “normal weight” category.
Now and then, I’ll want more. I’ll think, Maybe I should take another stab at getting in ridiculously good shape. I could join one of those CrossFit cults, for example. Or add a third entry to the abs-workout journal I started four months ago.
But I’m starting to think, here at age 40, that I look like what I’m going to look like. Well, until things decline even further.
So there you have my fitness regimen: feelings of inadequacy, followed by halfhearted effort, then resignation.
As many reps as it takes.