“The struggle is real,” as we hear all too often from girls the Saturday morning following their ladies' night out. Although it sounds like a superficial complaint 99% of the time, everybody has something they struggle with that most people would consider completely trivial. We all have our insecurities and facets of our lives that we feel could be improved. It’s human nature.
Good looking people may wish they were smarter, rich people are often the most lonely, and I am sure it would be nice for talented athletes to be valued beyond their on-field capabilities. Truth is, nobody and no situation is perfect. We always think we know what we want until we find out it’s not it’s all cracked up to be.
As long as our motives are aligned with personal improvement and continuous strides toward inner happiness, the struggles we face to reach our optimal goals are worth it in the end.
So, ALL ABOARD THE STRUGGLE BUS as we showcase the obstacles that large and in charge meatheads face despite being an object of envy and intimidation for those surrounding them.
An XXL dress shirt will almost fit me. The arms are always too tight, shoulders too close, the collar will barely fit my 21" neck...and at this size, the shirt is designed for someone with a 50-inch waist, not my 32-inch one. I either have to get my dress clothes taken in by my tailor, or custom made.
Casual clothes are much easier, though I hate this trend of "skinny pants." My selection is limited to cargo, baggy, loose-fit, and anything with 3% lycra in the fabric blend.
I always opt for the disabled person stall. Going into anything smaller is like funneling a bull into a kennel. My shoulders graze the stall walls, I turn to sit and my thighs fight for room with the toilet paper dispenser; the ordeal leaves me winded and frustrated.
Airplane seats are no better. Not that I've ever heard anyone say they enjoy sitting in an airplane seat, but watching the pained expressions of people as I explain I'm sitting beside them, that's rough. I might as well be telling them we're sharing a seat for a trans-continental flight. I tuck my arms in and try to make myself as small as possible, not because I want to, but I sympathize with the other passengers. Nobody wants my arm taking up both arm rests and half their seat.
When I can afford it, I fly first class.
In order to gain weight, I have to consume 8,000-10,000 calories a day. Enough to comfortably feed a family of four. I have a gross amount of supplements and vitamins I'm convinced I need to take daily to grow. I have a collection at home and one at work, which has grown so large it has started to encroach upon my coworker's desk.
Unless I'm bulking (a 4-6 month phase where my diet allows for carbs so I can gain more weight) eating out is prohibitively difficult. Most meals come with carbs, ask for something without carbs and you get half a meal, then double the price for extra meat. I prepare my meals for the week on Sunday, bulk cooking dozens of chicken breasts, steaks, and carb-neutral sides so that I don't have to guess what I eat.
I'm usually able to travel with my protein powder but recently ran into issues while visiting Singapore. Protein prices are much higher outside America; I paid nearly $200 USD for a two week supply of whey protein.
At the time of writing, I have three gym memberships; I joke that I collect them, but some gyms just have better equipment for different things. Equinox has the best pool, 24-hour has locations everywhere (great when I travel), Golds has better leg equipment... each membership has a purpose.
Monetary expenses aside, bodybuilding is a huge time commitment. I eat every two hours, workout for my lunch break, and sleep promptly at 10 p.m. to ensure adequate recovery time. I don't go out to bars or stay out late because I worry it will derail my training regime and hinder progress. As a result, I rarely socialize with coworkers and have few friends... but, that might also be because I'm an introvert.
I've had mixed reactions to my physique at work. While some people have been (apparently) intimidated by me, most of my coworkers ask me for fitness or diet advice (like my body is a resume to my success). Watercooler discussions quickly devolve into the best technique for getting abs, what to eat to gain muscle, etc. When my answers seem too mundane, I've had coworkers escalate the conversation, suddenly asking me if I take growth hormone or steroids. This is immensely flattering, as I'm nowhere near that big, but disturbing they think I would succumb to such an unhealthy shortcut.
At least once a week I'll be stopped on the street by a complete stranger who will ask me how much I bench or squat or something. Some people are more aggressive. I was shopping at a hardware store with a friend when a random fella ran up and groped my bicep, asking me if I've ever done MMA.
I seem to get a much more dramatic response when I'm traveling outside America. I've been called everything from the Hulk to Mr T by street vendors. While in Hong Kong I made a store clerk gasp at me when I walked in, she struggled to explain how very large I was, it was adorably flattering. I've had foreigners ask to take their photo with me; it's weird, I feel like an animal on display.
My pre-bodybuilding dates consisted of going to the movies, hiking, grabbing coffee, the usual...but as I've gained weight, I started going on more and more gym dates. In the past few years, the majority of dates I've been on have been at the gym. While I feel working out with a partner is a very personal and intimate exchange of physicality, I feel more like a personal trainer than a romantic interest when this is all they're interested in doing.
I feel like the number of romantic and physical encounters I've had has increased since I've started bodybuilding. It's hard to measure because I'm a serial monogamist and don't spend much time single between relationships.
Acquaintances (not even friends) have asked me to help them move; I appreciate the thought, but I am more than how much I can lift.
I've highlighted a lot of negatives to being a bodybuilder, and you might be wondering why I even bother with it.
Being bigger makes me happy.
I don't think this is the reason why most people bodybuild, but for me it's very simple: I was miserable when I was smaller. I felt so weak, tiny, and undesirable that I once attempted suicide over my perceived inadequacies. I still have a long ways to grow before I'm happy with my body, but I feel better about myself now than when I was skinnier, and my depressive episodes aren't triggered as easily.
With my size, I've gained confidence, and (I've been told) a very powerful presence. I stand out in a crowd and people listen when I speak, it's nice.
I was bullied a lot when I was smaller, but nobody bothers me now. I used to worry about being gay bashed walking alone, and while I still brandish my rape whistle after sunset, I've never had problems. Though, people will walk very fast to get away from me when I lumber down the sidewalk at night...I must look scary to people who don't know me.