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Simon Says: Gay Men Don’t Get Fat

Simon Doonan is stylish and funny. The Barney window announced his book launch party at the store. How can I miss this after looking at the fabulous window? This book, Gay Men Don’t Get Fat, a take-off of French Women Don’t Get Fat, is full of Simon’s snarky humor as he imparts his wisdom on how to live a fabulous life. Don’t read this book expecting a guide to losing weight. This is neither a weight loss guide nor a fitness handbook. Instead, read it prepared to laugh out loud at Simon’s sense of humor as he laments the state of the wardrobes and lives of most straight women.

The book is just hilarious. “If you want the skinny on style, then ditch the diluted frogs and follow the gays,” says Doonan, who has no qualms about offending anyone standing in his sashaying way. “We, not the Françoises and Solanges, are the true oracles. We are the chosen people. We, and only we, know how to enhance your tawdry, lackluster lives.” “We” means the gays; the gays are the chosen mavens of style and food. Doonan does offer advice, but this is mingled with his own history, instead of some quick dietary pointers in bullets. He doesn’t linger on dietary suggestions, just enough to note the differences in eating habits between straight and gay men.

I nod my head off at the part how he makes fun of the ever-expanding sizes of men’s clothes in America. The small has just got bigger over the years to accommodate the bodies that fill them. At an all-heterosexual barbecue where the only designer duds to be seen were an ocean of Tommy Bahama, Doonan had to restrain himself from screaming, “Stop it, girls! Just stop it” as the tropically attired “slubberdegullions” (Simon’s own word) emptied calorie-laden bowls of guacamole. (Laugh Out Loud) It’s all fun raillery.

You Are What You Eat: Eat This, Not That!

EatThisLabor Day weekend is the final summer ritual before kids are returning to school. For some of us it’s the last long weekend until November. Whether you’re on a road trip or having a cookout in the backyard, those extra calories would be inevitable. On the road you will be taking more casual meals: the quick drive-thru, the roadside diners. How do you get the best (and the least fat) out of what Burger King’s menu has to offer? Americans spend more than $400 billion a year eating out, and behind each burger, turkey sandwich, gourmet salads, and ice cream sundae is a simple decision that could help you control your weight—and your life. I started reading Eat This, Not That! by David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding, which I venture to call as an eye-opening experience. Zinczenko is editor in chief of Men’s Health magazine, and Goulding is the food and nutrition editor of Men’s Health.

Slick and attractive, Eat This, Not That! is arranged by sections: individual restaurants, situation and occasions (i.e. 4th of July BBQ, Labor Day weekend cookout, Thanksgiving dinner), and grocery shopping. One section even dissects and decodes items on the menus at different cuisines that might lead to confusion and misunderstanding. For each restaurant (usually fast food and diner chain), a two-page section alerts a high-calorie, fat trap food on the right, and a healthier alternative on the left. The book lists lots of reasons for why one is a better choice than the other, as well as quick lists of other good alternatives(and not so good choices) on the left and right. As a general rule, for example, a salad can save you as much as 300 to 400 calories if you rid of Caesar dressing. That slice of pie could be worth three Big Macs!

Critics of the book emphasizes on the fact that it targets mostly at fast-food restaurants, and that it’s not useful for readers who are not consumer of fast food. True, but I have to say the scope of the book surpasses just the fast-food chain. The book is meant to educate consumers to make better choices in choosing what they put in the mouths. Zinczenko and Goulding walk readers through food that are absolutely to be avoided: fried food. Easy on pizza and high-cal pasta, ice cream and sweet treats. The book simply conveys a clear message: be extremely active with substituting off anything bad at restaurants. Splurge when it’s worth it – i.e., when you have the opportunity to eat something really good. It’s okay to go for dessert after a delicious meal at your favorite restaurant.  Seek out tons of healthier meals that you would honestly prefer eating over what you eat regularly now. An useful and practical companion.

[Read/Skim/Toss]

Muscle Dysmorphia

Phone conversation with a friend in Hong Kong nudged over to the subject of weight-lifting. At the California Fitness (the affiliate of 24 Hours Fitness), the weight machines are almost always taken whenever he goes workout after work. Recently he decides to switch his routine and heads over to the gym in early morning–he is somewhat taken aback that it’s just as busy at 6 in the morning.

“Some the guys are getting obsessed with pumping up.”

I tell him that the same thing happens here at the gym except that most of the muscle-building fanatics are gay men who literally live in the gym. Partly feeding the go, and partly building to attract, my friend asserts that many of the scrawny Chinese men are trying to build a barrel chest and bulging biceps–in order to stand out from the usual lot–in order to atrract the female sex. But little do they know that the girls in Hong Kong are grossed out by ripped able bodies. So once again, there you are, live prrof of men are from Mars, women from Venus! Men get it all wrong.

I can understand why gay men want to have a ripped hard body. Thanks to the hunky gay icon, the Colt image, and the ever shrinking athletic sizes of menswear catering toward them, gay men find its necessary to scuplt a chiseled body. I once overheard an exchange between two of the most ripped bodies at the gym and was appalled to hear how sometimes they still felt insecure about their much worshipped bodies. Not that I’m meant to talk bad of them but I can’t help thinking this is a condition known as muscle dysmorphia.

Muscle dysmorphia is a subtype of body dysmorphic disorder, which in itself is a variant of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Sometimes called bigorexia, muscle dysmorphia is the opposite of anorexia nervosa. People with this disorder obsess about being too small and frail and undeveloped. Even if they have good muscle mass, they believe their muscles are inadequate.

The consequences of muscle dysmorphia are physical and emotional.  People often avoid public situations because they feel embarrassed from being “too small.”  Their work and personal relationships suffer because they build their lives around the gym and their exercise routine.

Gym Daydream

gym.jpgAt 5 am this place is already bustling with sweaty bodies: the lifelong bodybuilders with veined biceps and transformer-like thighs, the bodybuilder wannabes at the bench press, the muscular cubs who look competent for Bare Chest calendar, and the guys who wish to buff up a bit for the next Atlantic cruise. I smell adrenaline as soon as Iwalked into the weights area, where guys in tank tops soaked with patches of sweat are frantically performing bicep curls, reverse curls, crunches, dips, and pull-ups.

As I stepped onto the treadmill, I couldn’t help checking out some of the hunky ones who unconsciously flex their well-toned muscles for a drooling audience. An unspoken sense of competition and vanity is lurking around among this pump-up crowd of men. I began to lose touch of what my iPod is playing, as I’m looking at few of the men very raptly. Just as each shell held to the ears roars with a different ocean timber, each of these bodies spoke to me with a different music, though all sounded to me unlike my own and only with the greatest effort could I remember I am longing after someone drastically from me.

There he is. Not too tall but muscular, like he has actively partaken in soccer and rugby, for he possesses a ruggedly brawniness only these sports could have cultivated. Those hairy, robust thighs thrusting out of the tight terry-cloth shorts, thick muscular legs like those you see in Michelangelo’s sculptures, and jaw darkened by a four- if not yet five o’clock shadow almost melt my own body. His incipient beer belly is ridged with muscle, stands out as a distinct zone, tucked in between the arc of his rib cage and cupped by his pelvic bones. His chest is hard and covered with swirling, soft, lustrous black hair from his stomach up to his shoulders.

My eyes almost never leave him during the entire 45 minutes of my cardio session. By the time I wrap up and get ready to leave, I know I cannot join this predominantly gay gym because there is too much distraction for me. I would finish using the complimentary day passes and have to shop for another gym.

On Muscle Gain

Weight lifters wanting to increase muscle require more protein-heavy selections before or after a workout. Broiled salmon with white beans is an example of a good choice for an after-exercise meal. In order to bulk up, I follow this two point plan especially when the trip is lurking over the horizon.

Training is the way to increase muscle mass. But in order to train one needs enough energy from the right foods. Instead of tucking away a load of steaks, I usually munch through foods high in starch and carbohydrate. I’ll put on an average of two pounds of lean body tissue each month by eating an extra 500 calories of carbohydrate a day.

My current diet plan:
Breakfast
A big bowl of cereal with toast

Mid morning snack
Banana with orange juice

Lunch
Large chicken baguette followed by a Mars bar

Mid afternoon snack
Fruit scone, with a portion of fruit.

Dinner
Big portion of chill or chicken or salmoni with a large portion of rice

I realize some exercises actually thwart putting on muscle. Running, rowing, or using step machines may trigger hormones that hinder weight gain, so keep them to a minimum. I maintain running at most twice a week for cardio. Training buddies at the gym tell me that one of the most effective methods of rapid muscle gain is eccentric training, which involves overloading the muscle while it?s in the lowering stage of the lift. So I count for two seconds on my lift but four as I lower.

I have been doing this for at least four weeks and I have seen significant muscle gain.

Muscle Talk

The weekend was laid back but it was not without the demand of life’s obligation. I spent almost all day Saturday preparing this week’s lesson, which will plunge into the meat of War and Peace, as the climate of politics tautens and the fortunes of key characters change. Then I spent some time with my friend Stephen with whom I hadn’t had a chance to catch up after he came back from a trip to the big apple. We took a stroll up to the Castro from his apartment in lower Hayes Valley under the glittering sun and decided to have noodle at Thai Noodle Express at Castro and 19th. We arrived just minutes before the neighborhood’s blend of yuppie-meets-grunge people poured in. The waitress seated us at the window which commands a view of the street. A couple of tank-topped macho daddies walked down the street holding hands, followed by a young lanky guy with the build of a gymnast. Then a flamy Asian queen donning a hunter green contour-fit T shirt and a striped tie busied himself kissing his partner while crossing Castro. Stephen and I were amused by the street sights and we almost voiced out the concurrent opinion about big muscle being a gay icon.

The aspiration to be big, macho and muscular sweeps through the gay community. Not that I’m into the porns but look at all the big posters and advertisement: they all have the appeal of big muscular men. Those thick pecs and bulging biceps that are barely confined under the tight fabrics of the skimpy muscle shirt give away a man’s sexual orientation. And even with a tinge of vanity does a man like to flaunt the fruit of his long hours of hard labor at the gym. I can relate to that. I remember when I first noticed my chest showing under my athletic ringer T shirt–I was so excited that I would want to show it despite the Mark Twain’s saying the coldest winter he ever had was San Francisco’s summer. I’ve never known the thrill and intrigue of flexing that muscle on my arm known as the bicep until I have my own! This is all vanity in the working. I first worked out for health reason, wanting to lose weight and get fit, but I’m sure if it was not for the purpose of looking good and attracting attention from other men, I wouldn’t have been able to accomplished this much–losing 50 pounds and then gaining the muscle that I could only have dreamed of having. I know many gay men don’t even sweat about the 6 pack but at the same time an invisible pressure–the pressure to look good and the pressure to conform–hangs over their head. Meanwhile I’m happy with my 41″. *g*

Anyway, enough of my babbling for the day.

Tonight I’m going to witness the postscript of Berkeley’s landmark Cody’s Books, which will close the door for good after being in business for 50 years. That would be something for me to blog about tomorrow. Until next time everyone.

Physical Self-Image

Tony at Life’s Colorful Brushstrokes has always provoked in me much effort of thoughts regarding my life. The letter that he dedicated to his mother on Mother’s Day inspires my own post to remember my mother. In a recent post he shares about his insecurity of his physical attribute that he used to feel so embarrassed of his scrawniness at the gym. I’m sure each and every one of us, at one point or another in life, feels insecure about something about ourselves that we so desperately wish to change or to cover, out of fear.

I had an overweight problem that had spun out of control in 1997. I weighed whopping 205 lbs in the picture taken in New York from this post. That was Christmas 1998. My friends Tony and Weizhu still make joke of my voracity: gobbling a plate of pineapple fried rice and six skewers of chicken satay at a Malaysian restaurant midtown. But seriously, it was around that time when a warning sign flagged about my health. I was short of breath walking up those hills which cable cars make their plunge. I couldn’t even do 5 ab crunches without feeling suffocated. Push-ups were out of the question. I could barely see my manhood when I looked down at my protruded belly in shower. I was a size XL for all shirts and waist 35 for pants. I was very self-coscious of my physical self-image.

So I kicked off a weight loss campaign that included a dietary plan and fitness program in spring 1999. I began to count my calories and read food labels, opted for the high-fiber, low-fat, low-calorie unprocessed food. I completely abstained from fast food and desserts while I went to the gym 5 times a week alternating cardio exercises and weight-lifting. I started doing something that I used to dread so badly in high school PE: running. I put on the headphone and ran berserk but that was not without pain during the first couple weeks. I wanted to give up after I ran for a block!

The first two months saw almost zero weight loss but I gradually felt that my body was getting attuned for the program. I carried snack bars, apples, cereals and bottle of water wherever I went and ate small meals whenever I needed it. By summer 1999, my weight dropped from 205 to 174 and by winter 160. Pant size shrank from 35 waist to an unprecedented 32! I felt I had gained the confidence about myself and my body that I never had in my life because I have grown up as the fat kid in the neighborhood. Obesity has incurred a quasi depression in me that somehow alienated me and suppressed the social being in me. I was afraid to meet anyone since a muscular, toned body is almost a default, an icon of the gay community. Shame was always at play when I think of body image and appearance.

Now I stick to the gym about 4-5 times a week and the workout alternates with swimming and running. I started a weight-training schedule about 2 years ago and I have scrupulously abided by it without a break. I weigh 162 lbs, waist 31 and chest 41 body fat 16%. My goal is to reach about 175 lbs, chest 43 and body fat 12%. The fear and insecurity that have captured me since my adolescence have slowly disbanded and healthwise, I have not even had a tincture of a cold for over a year (except for spring allergy) and I can negotiate those hills without even a gasp.

I attributed to my success to consistentcy and determination. Don’t ever give up. Anyone want to be my work-out partner?

Break From The Rain | Jogging

The sun finally cracks out of the crevice of clouds today after some heavy pour during the morning commute. I haven’t been a scrupulous runner lately due to the inclement weather. So I’ve decided to head out there and jog around. I jog like a beginner since I’ve skipped a couple weeks: start slowly again and build up. Lots of new runners get carried away and try to do too much too soon. This can easily lead to disappointment, loss of enthusiasm and possibly injury. If you want to be able to enjoy running for the rest of your life, start out slowly and build up. I’ll do 20 minutes of walking and another 20 minutes of slow jogging for the day.

For those who are completely new to running, I advise them to walk for three weeks. There is a statistically good chance that you will be becoming injured during the second month of running if you do not start with a period of walking. For us San Franciscans, we probably do more walking and negotiating up the hills around town. It takes time for the joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones to get used to the impact and mechanics of running.

The overall fitness tends to increase before your body has fully adapted, and that is when you get injured. Use the first three weeks of walking to get into the habit of exercise, and adjust your daily routine, and let your body get a head start on adapting to running. If you have jogged a little, but never run far, it is still advisable to begin a programme of mainly walking before you start running. Consider visiting a physiotherapist or podiatrist.