Muscle Pudgy

Muscle pudgy is the term that came to me recently while I was at the gym looking at the other patrons and noticing that a lot of dudes, no matter how much they lift weights, still have a nice layer of fat over their big yet undefined muscles. Having made this observation, I have to be careful lest I become a hypocrite, as I am borderline muscle pudgy. I go to the gym, I lift weights, and I have a little bit of a gut. One thing, however, that currently saves me is that at 6 feet 4 inches, I tend to hide my extra 20 pounds moderately well. Of course, this will last only so long, since my aging metabolism is slowly working against me.

The thing about muscle pudgy is that I can’t help but read it as an expression of American decadence. We are a culture of abundance, and convenience, and in such a place discipline and self-control is not readily encouraged. Yes, regularly going to the gym can certainly be an expression of discipline, but somehow our gyms seem to fit all to nicely into our fast food landscape. It would not be too odd, in other words, to see somebody leave the gym and on the way home stop by a Starbucks drive-thru to order a vente (20 oz) vanilla latte, but hey, at least it would be served with lowfat milk.

Shooting from the hip, my guess is that the connection between the gym, Starbucks, and decadence is a kind of schizophrenic me-ism that is obsessed with giving the self all it wants while at the same time trying to achieve the ideal self. The problem is that achieving ideals often requires the opposite of indulgence: sacrifice, and this is what we Americans have a hard time accepting. Related to this is that both the indulgence and the achievement of the ideal are centered upon the self, and this is not how humans were made to function. To summarize the Christian tradition, our very being was made to spin in orbit around God, and thus when we are not in this orbit we become subject to all types of disorders and contradictions. So, in the end, muscle pudgy is just one expression of the contradiction that exists at the center of our common and individual humanity.

In saying all this, I have to acknowledge that some of those muscle pudgy dudes likely have the misfortune of a generally slow metabolism, and so, I don’t want to assume that all pudginess is directly correlated to a lack of discipline. In fact, I probably shouldn’t make any kind of personal judgment regarding muscle pudgy people, as I don’t have the full picture, and its really not my place. And yet, the prevalence of muscle pudgy does seem to be symptomatic of some kind of cultural disorder.

Oh well, the one thing I can do is work on the borderline muscle pudgy dude I see in the mirror, because I do happen to know that he struggles with discipline and indulgence.

4 Responses to “Muscle Pudgy”

  1. K.L.B.  

    I can wholeheartedly identify with your writing. And I understand exactly what you’ve written.

    My confession is that I too suffer from my own indulgences, having gained weight while in CA. Interestingly, I had lost over 100lbs (in three months) and had kept it off for quite nearly two years through moderate exercise. At the time of my departure from AL, I was preparing to participate in a 5k fun run. For me, that was a significant accomplishment, especially since I’ve never enjoyed running.

    Now, however, my physical appetite for that good California & West Coast beer, in combination with my lack of regular exercise has yielded the not-unexpected, yet certainly un-hoped for results of a larger waistline.

    Interestingly, I’ve always been a big fellow, for even when I was younger and thinner, I was big. Yet strangely, I’ve never looked at, or considered myself as “big.” I do recall, however, one time as a youth (slightly before body building had become so enormously popular) that while in a local gym, being encouraged to continue lifting weights because as the man said, “you already have a good natural build, and could get really big.”

    Then, while I briefly lifted weights because of his encouragement, I was quickly bored to tears with what I perceived at the time as the sheer drudgery of it. Now as an adult, however, I understand something which at that time I did not. It is called “Commitment, Dedication, and Persistence.”

    While to some extent I concur with your observations and conclusions, as a healthcare professional (I am a Registered Nurse), I also understand something even greater.

    Interestingly, and as you may well know, fat serves several purposes, among which are insulation (against temperature and physical shock), as a readily available source of energy (more than twice as calorically dense as protein and carbohydrate combined – neither which the body can store for extended periods), and as a repository for hormones.

    Further, regarding what appears to many to be an inordinate preoccupation with intake of “low fat” foods, I colloquially illustrate that Americans’ obesity epidemic didn’t occur significantly until after the introduction of such un-natural foods. Our dietary intake of fat is of great significance to our own health, and the vitamins A, D, E and K are only soluble in fat. Thus, any significant decrease in our body’s fat stores adversely affects our health, and in fact may be a precursor of disease.

    Additionally, the only sense of flavor is in fat (even in citrus fruits, flavor is only in the oil), and our consumption of fat serves as the Almighty’s biochemical messenger to our brains to “Stop eating! You’ve had enough already!” Recent findings validate that – even when we are unaware of foods’ fat content – we tend to eat twice as much non-fat food, as we do full-fat food, because our bodies do NOT get the message that it should be getting from our intake of food. How’s that for so-called “Franken-foods”?!

    Yet regarding the analogy of your term “muscle pudgy,” to a human tendency toward overindulgence, I must concur as an acknowledgment of our own shortcomings and failures.

    Each of us may take a different path, or route to where we eventually want to be, and some may arrive (or we perceive they do) at their journey’s destination more rapidly than others. However, we all eventually arrive.

    There is an element of discipline involved in every human endeavor.

  2. Simon Jones  

    When I first started going to the gym a few years ago I really hit it hard. I was there every day twice a day and within just a few weeks I was looking good! :-)

    My personal trainer said to me at the induction “So Simon, what do you want to get out of working out here at the gym?” I thought that was a puzzling question because the answer seemed so bleedin’ obvious to me and was surely the same for everybody there. “I want to look great naked!” I said. He laughed out loud and said “Well at least your honest.”

    After a few weeks of slamming the running machines, the rowing machines, and all those other machines my fitness was hugely improved and I felt fantastic. Then the test happened. My friend, and occasional lover, Steff called me. “Hey Simon, what you up to these days? Want to catch up some time.” Hell yeah! I thought to myself.

    Steff is an impressively slim tan girl with huge knockers! She’s a pinup girl looking for a place to be pinned and I knew that ‘catching up’ would be my opportunity to get out my new guns and show of the artillery. Sha-wing!

    Maybe this isn’t the place to say such things, but I tell you what, there are some moments you just know you’re going to be able to replay over and over until the day you die and the moment I took my shirt off as she lay on the bed was one such moment. She sat upright and put her hands on my chest and said “Damn! Have you been working out?!” Right then and there every drop of sweat, every pulled muscle, every next day ache was worth it. It was a fan-bloody-tastic feeling!

    Now what they don’t tell you when they’re selling you the gym dream, is that once you’re pounding the rowing machine, and pumping the iron, you need to keep doing so and that you’ll hit this kind of plato where no matter how hard you work you won’t seem to make any improvements.

    I became obsessed with my six-pack. I mean truly obsessed. I even went out and bought a copy of ‘Men’s Health’ magazine and a tub of that stuff you eat instead of meals. I absolutely thrashed the shit out of myself trying to get that rib-board chest that makes girls go gooey. It was a shallow motivation i know, but I’m not beyond being hopelessly shallow.

    The thing is, my motivation took a left turn into obsession when I couldn’t get the who six pack. I had 4, but the last two just weren’t forthcoming. I even considered going to the doctor and asking if maybe I simply didn’t have the last two bumps of my six pack. I wanted to know, am I ‘four pack man?’

    Eventually my enthusiasm for the gym began to fade a little. The early mornings were killing me and the plato was sapping my enthusiasm to “look great naked” because, in truth, if you’re already naked with a girl chances are you’re going to get the good stuff anyway, right?

    I think for a little while I had bought into illusion that ‘it’s all about me.’ That if I have a six pack or defined muscles then flocks of woowing girls will fall at my feet and I will be blissfully happy. I’m not sure that I ever knowingly cashed out of that game, and I’ll be honest, I’d still like to have a six pack (or even the defined muscles I had back then!), but I’m not overly afraid of the muscle pudge now. It’s a reality, and thankfully it would seem that the fairer sex are not as visually shallow as I am.

    I cancelled my gym membership and bought a bike. I got a TiVo at around the same time which hasn’t worked out so well for the bike, but this year I’ll do more cycling, really I will! :-)

  3. Anthony Velez  

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  4. Anthony Velez  

    I think if we are honest with ourselves, the bulk of us do what we do regarding exercise and diet because of our desire to be attractive to others. I am married, and the only woman I want to hook up with is my wife. That said, I still want to be attractive (as much as I can) to the opposite sex. It basically comes down to affirmation, and in some measure social power.

    For Xians there is a complicating factor regarding diet and exercise. The body is considered the temple of the Spirit, and the locus of God’s glory (we are indeed an incarnational religion), and so, we are called to health as an expression of faith and discipline. This means that though I am motivated by baser desires, I do have spiritually and ethically legitimate reasons for going to the gym and staying in shape. I think the trick is, as you say, not becoming obsessive about it. Establish some kind of reasonable regimen, as best as you can stick to it, and let the results be what they may.

    This said, I have a hard time not looking in the mirror to see if my gut is getting smaller.