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Muscle growth was out of the question for me – why is that okay?



  Big muscles were not in the cards for me - here's why That's OK <! – Illustration by Bianca Dunn

It was the day I called a "strong day" in my college gym: a two-hour marathon session that pushed me to lift more weight, than I ever had before. In fact, I had just been through a week of heavy days in 19459021, and I felt confident in my progress – I finally put on the muscle mass that took me from a skinny guy to a jacked-up giant.

But as my sweat dripped down the scales in the men's locker room, all this confidence disappeared immediately. After going to the gym three to five times a week, increasing my healthy calorie intake by almost double (19459021) and taking endless portions of protein powder and creatine supplements, I had gained almost no weight.

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At that moment, I knew that the creeping suspicion that I had given my best to be true was true: I probably would never be one of the "yoke" boys who are squatting around the dumbbells, probably not even close.

At 145 pounds with a 6-inch frame, I've always been what you would call thin.

Or thin. Or boring – I already heard it all. As long as I can remember, I was taller than most of my colleagues and definitely thinner than almost anyone. Strangely, as it sounds now, I remember that I strangely felt proud of my thinness when I was younger-it meant I was not the stigmatized "fat." Ah, children.

Over time, my body remained largely in the same shape, even as the onset of puberty left me eating like a horse. In middle school, we did not think (or understand) about the "body image," and although my friends and I were angry at everything we could imagine, I still thought of myself and my body as healthy. At that time I was a pretty good footballer and some girls even thought I was cute. My mother too – and that was good enough for me.

But when the Gymnasium rolled around, it seemed as if someone had turned the pressure on on everything .

. Suddenly, all of us became painfully aware of their bodies. At that point in time, we all had consumed enough movies and television to internalize what a "beautiful" body should look like, and began to compare ourselves endlessly with these absurd scales. Girls wanted to be thin and curvy at the same time, and the boys wanted to be tall, strong and muscular. Consciously or not, we wanted to look desperate like the athletes, actors, and sturdy boys in the shaving cream movies that made the men more attractive.

For the first time, I felt a bit self-conscious about my thinness. Weightlifting was part of our football training, and we worked tirelessly to keep track of what the world (and mostly girls) expects of us. Some of my teammates showed results quickly and put on slightly noticeable muscle mass. And me? I was a bit stronger! Did it show? Not really.

At the end of high school, it was clear that puberty did not give me magically massive muscles and defined triceps.

But that was fine! Another principle of masculinity that I had learned to internalize was the attitude "No pain, no gain". I just had to double, work harder, and focus more on my goals.

I moved into my dorm, a determined man. Like any other rookie on campus (and probably every campus) who was clumsily trying to reinvent themselves in some way, I was sure that my goal would happen. When I can grow up, I thought I will be the man. I have all the confidence in the world. Andrew McMaster Weight Gain Essay Andrew McMaster Weight Gain Essay 19456541 [!- Illustration by Bianca Dunn

For a year and a half I've lost my ass. I did weightlifting, spent hours in the gym for several days a week, and forced myself to eat a lot more chicken and rice than any sensible person should. And frankly, I never really enjoyed it. I found the weightlifting so damn boring and I always had the feeling that there were better ways to spend my time. Did I mention how much chicken and rice I ate?

These feelings, along with a constant lack of tangible results, would convince me to give up every few months. It was just too hard to force myself to do things I hated, when it seemed I could not get closer to the body I wanted.

When I stood on that scale for the last time, after a recent devotion, it was a really heavy pill that I could swallow.

I did not grow up. I did not swell. Even with a few hard-earned pounds, my body was forever away from looking like the main character of a Marvel movie. It just would not happen to me and it felt like I accepted that.

That night I went home and searched the internet for stories of people like me, the hopeful words of thin men looking at how impossible it was to gain weight. And while I had found some such things in there were blog posts and articles about people with my body type who ended up with a lot of muscle. For most of them, it took years of intense daily training and strict diets – and I suddenly realized how ridiculous my six months at the gym were each week.

I wondered what it would mean to engage in this lifestyle me . For starters, I would have to sacrifice a lot to make it possible: a few extra hours a day, a ton money for supplements, the freedom to eat whatever I wanted … and all of this I enjoyed with On the other I also seriously started thinking about what I would gain from it.

Well, I would of course be completely ripped up.

But what did that do? Matter? How would my life be measurably different? If I really thought about it, I could not find a good answer. Although I was not completely in my body, I never found it problematic to get appointments. I sometimes wished I would look different, but I still had a lot of self-confidence because a nice, thoughtful person with diverse interests and a lot of ambition was doing good things in the world.

Turns I thought I should be tall because … well, that's exactly what we should believe as men. And that's really shit.

When it became clear to me that things changed quickly. It was as if a weight were lifted from my chest (pun intended). I stopped going to the gym and went cycling, climbing, yoga and surfing. I put down the chicken and rice and ate the foods I really liked – and I realized that I loved it so much to work as a cook.

It was easy to stay physically active and do things that I enjoyed, and pretty soon I've seen serious improvements in my flexibility, strength and agility. For the first time I felt in my own body by my own standards – and it felt fantastic.

I know that this fight is not an isolated case – most people at some point their lives will compare to a fantasy body planted by a culture in their mind that promises a very close attractiveness. What gives me hope, however, is that if we resist the standards of the same-looking Kardashians and Hemsworths, we give more room to see the true beauty in the differences of the others.

Nowadays I am still thin. But I can climb a wall, run a six-minute mile, and overcome 200 miles of wilderness with a 50-pound backpack on my back. Besides, my mother still thinks she is cute. That's healthy for me.

Andrew McMaster is a freelance writer. His work covers food culture and politics as well as anything that is random, interesting and important.


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