Temporarily Beardless: “We practice self-love in this house.”

Beardless.

Partner: I want to cry.
Me: I want to cry too!
Partner: Wait, what? Why?

Me: Because I look like a troll! Why do you want to cry?
Partner: Because I love you even more. 

“It’s like your armor is gone, super vulnerable,” he says. 

Before I dive deeper into my new (and temporary) beardless state of being, I should admit something quite significant: I gained 30 lbs in 2015.

Yes, you read that right. Thirty.

I have since lost 5 of those lbs in the new year, however the truth remains – since moving back from China on December 2, 2014, I gained 30 full lbs. Needless to say, I was not kind to my body this past year. I’m now working on it.

Unrelated to the great weight gain of 2015, when I turned thirty back in September, I made a list of 30 goals, one of which was, “Shave my beard.” Not for any great cause necessarily – I mostly thought it would be a fun goal, one that would allow my face to breathe for a few days before going back to my beard-filled life.

Fast-forward to this weekend: I’m in the bathroom, post-haircut, using my new beard trimmer. I cut a chunk of hair out of my beard – an unfixable chunk. In a quick judgement call, I decided it would be the day to knock off, “Shave my beard,” from my list of goals. And so, I shaved.

As soon as the clean shave was complete, my eyes welled up and I looked into the mirror with angst and fear. I felt completely undesirable. I felt incredibly naked.

Cue the aforementioned conversation with my partner.

Partner: I want to cry.
Me: I want to cry too!
Partner: Wait, what? Why?

Me: Because I look like a troll! Why do you want to cry?
Partner: Because I love you even more. 

In a moment of, “I’m not worthy,” I realized so much of my pro-beard advocacy had come from 50% enjoying the beard and 50% enjoying the opportunity to hide any double chin(s) that existed under the surface.

I hadn’t seen a clean shave since March 2013.

An hour after the trimming of the beard, my partner and I walked to the grocery store, and over and over in my head, all I could do was repeat something he often says to me when I criticize myself or wade in a space of personal dissonance.

“We practice self-love in this house,” he says.

We practice self-love.

Self-love.

Last year, I wrote a post about my life of weight gain and loss, and reflected on the struggle I have consistently battled with food and self-worth. Here’s a snippet:

“If a cake pop falls in the forest, did the cake pop really ever exist at all?” Furthermore, if I fell down in a forest, what was I doing in that forest to begin with? Was I looking for cake pops? [Was I working out?] I digress. Years ago, I came to terms with the reality that what I saw in the mirror did not necessarily match up to what was actually happening with my body. And, at the center of this lack of congruence, existed a world of issues with control, self-confidence, and self love.

(June 16, 2015)

Whichever house you reside (figuratively and literally), I implore you to practice love. And to practice self-care. Rereading the piece above was particularly important for me last night. With my beardlessness comes great vulnerability.

Here’s to growing my beard back over the next few weeks, and not because I’m hiding behind it or need it to calm my nerves. Here’s to growing my beard back over the next few weeks, and constantly reminding myself that my beauty and worth are truly up to me. Here’s to growing my confidence, and marching onward toward a place of love and self-truth. Ultimately, here’s to resolve, and resolving beautifully.

Learning to love yourself in all forms, shapes, and sizes is one of the toughest and most rewarding fetes one can endure. I’m certainly well on my way.

So fresh and so clean-clean,

Michael

unnamed

 

Ain’t no party like a doughnut party, cause a doughnut party don’t (but probably should) stop.

IMG_4655

Let it be known, this post was almost titled, “When the doctor tells you you’re obese…”

Of course, coming off my, “Yes ogre,” post, I felt like it might be a bit aggressive to continue harassing myself with such strong speak (“Celebrate Every Body,” and all of that). But, yes. My doctor did tell me I was obese. Or, am obese, for that matter. And immediately after, all I could think was, Good thing he doesn’t know about all the doughnuts I consume on a weekly…er, daily, basis. Needless to say, I was instantly defensive following this exchange.

“But, I’m big-boned,” I argued.

He wasn’t having it.

“I have strong thighs and calves.”

“I hold a lot of water-weight.”

“Did I tell you I’m big-boned?”

“But food gets the most likes on my Instagram!”

“The doughnuts aren’t going to eat themselves!”

As a general FYI, “A doughnut a day keeps the doctor away,” is not actually a real thing.

Let’s pause here for a moment.

You should know, doughnuts are much more than just a sweet treat I like to parade on my Instagram. I grew up on doughnuts. I love doughnuts. I am one with doughnuts.

Aside from the step team I was on in my youth group, one of my more profound memories from the church where I grew up is what we called, “Fellowship Sunday.” On the third Sunday of every month, my church would turn our Fellowship Hall into a doughnut-smorgasbord. It was magical, and there were 5-10 tables covered in various kinds of doughnuts every single month. And the best part: I had no limit. I could eat as many doughnuts as I wanted on Fellowship Sunday.

And I usually did.

Long after my Fellowship Sunday sugar-highs, doughnuts have remained a big part of my life. I should also add, nowadays, not a week goes by without someone sending me some type of doughnut correspondence (found in the form of screen shots, doughnut shop highlights, doughnut paraphernalia, and the list goes on and on). I even had a friend pick me up from the airport once, and greeted me with a sign that, at first glance, appeared to read, “HEY MICHAEL, I HAVE DONUTS” (the word, “DON’T” was placed in tiny font between “I” and “HAVE” – she had jokes, apparently)!

This is not uncommon. And aside from my own doughnut-shenanigans, I kind of love the adventures I get to go on via social media and text (mine, and others’).

IMG_4721

When not my own doughnuts, I can always respect the doughnuts of others. And if Instagram tells you anything, it’s that my timeline will become immediately less appealing if doughnuts are no longer part of my weekly (daily) repertoire (or any kind of food, for that matter).

Let’s go back a few weeks to when my doctor called me, “obese.” Honoring my mother’s advice to a weight-struggling teenager (me), you can’t completely eliminate treats and sweets from your diet and remain happy. “Moderation,” she’d argue. And she was (is) right. Let’s be honest, there is a big difference between one doughnut per week and three doughnuts per day (I warned you, I’m a monster).

And my doctor is right, too. 

According to the Body Mass Index (BMI), I am actually around 50 lbs overweight.

Pause.

I know what you’re going to say – please save the, “But Michael, I’m a doctor [or medical student or nurse or someone who actively trolls WebMD].” The BMI is a product of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (or, “CDC,” as we call it on the street). These folks set the standard for nutrition, physical activity, and obesity. I understand your nutrition professor or life coach may have told you otherwise, but until this changes, doctors across America and insurance companies examining folks for the 40-year old price-break will continue to use this as a benchmark.

And, I’ll even half agree with you regarding the BMI BS – I really am big-boned.

Even while navigating my own issues with food, I was still very much like, eat whatever you want, live in whatever body you want, do you, be you, blah blah blah. But the truth is, you can’t actually eat whatever you want – without repercussions, of course. And through all my big-bone’edness, I, too, can’t eat whatever I want – and this goes well-beyond body image. I’m talking about health.

There are many truths in a commitment to living a bit more cautious with food. I love my daily doughnut(s), however as I am getting older, my body is starting to remind me that those little nuggets of joy aren’t what they use to be for me. I’m no nutritionist or life coach, but I know enough to understand that several doughnuts per day (even if they are my favorite food) is not the wisest decision – and on top of already living with a pretty unbalanced meal plan.

“Live your own life.”

“Celebrate every body.”

“Every body is different.”

“Let Michael have the doughnuts!”

“Go nuts for doughnuts!”

“Doughnut power!”

I appreciate your concern, but I’m cutting back. I have to be more responsible. And if I want to live a healthy and active (and long) life, I need to make some cuts as I draw closer to the one-month window of my 30th Birthday. This means no more calling myself, “Shrek.” And it means continuing to understand myself and my inner-workings (specifically, how to be more in-sync with a healthy body and healthy mind). We all have to be a bit more responsible.

And as one really important person in my life says, we have be kind to ourselves.

And this includes being kind to your body.

Doughnut-dreaming,

Michael

IMG_8127

12lbs

I would argue that 8/10 of my bad days are as a result of me starting the day feeling like an ogre-whale.

There is something about losing 12lbs, seeing a decent change in your face and body, and yet, still feeling like a complete fat ass. You see, if ever you’ve struggled with eating issues or body image stuff, you can almost always assume it’ll come back to revisit you at some point(s) in your life.

For me, the latest point occurred this month. There aren’t a lot of large people in China, and not just regarding height. I see very few “heavy-set” individuals, and I would argue, barely any who I would label as, “obese,” or anything near it. My body image stuff should be no surprise to those who are close to me, and to all those who read my blog, I have previously posted about my struggles as an ongoing life-barrier.

“Dudes deal too.”

This is something I have to repeat to myself quite frequently.

Dudes deal too.

Though, my issues with the scale, obsession with numbers, and my extreme relationship with food and working out are not the sole ways in which dudes deal. In fact, I have guy friends from many pockets of my life who deal in different ways (CrossFit addicts, extreme man-scaping, and manic tanning, to name a few). These are more socially acceptable, though, and these friends would assert that these things will still not ultimately cure them of their own struggles.

And I have benefited from this realization as well, all while intimately discovering that moving to China would not cure my obsession to be on a scale. Now, this was never an intended learning outcome for me, however the life goal has always existed deep within my being. To be honest, much of my self-conscious relapse has occurred via the scale I currently have in my room. Long ago I determined the scale to be pure evil, and that as long as one existed in my possession, I would curse it’s very existence.

But this hasn’t always been the case. I was a skinny kid. Lanky and skinny. I remember one time at my grandparents house, I stood on their scale and pushed up on the towel rack as hard as I could to see how high I could make the number. Seconds into my experiment, I let out one last large pump, only to push the rod right off the wall. My parents were embarrassed and I lied and said, “It just came right off the wall when I reached for the towel to dry my hands.” I was fooling no one.

Now days, I would give anything for that number to go down. And it has. I’m down around 12lbs over the last month and a half, and feeling better about myself than I typically did in the States. I get a lot of questions about the food here (which may mostly be because I’m still new to Instagram and like posting photos of my meals), and I’m certainly eating my fair share of culinary wins. I’m eating a ton. And the food quality seems to be much greater than anything I ever ate consistently in the States.

That is, except for the donuts. If you learn anything about me from this entire blog, you must first know that donuts are the way into my heart. I love donuts. So, it should be no surprise that when the local bakery I frequent had donuts in their case, I let out a cry of glee. I was pumped, and ordered one of each of the two kinds (I had to be modest, and also not reveal that I could have eaten a dozen right there on the spot).

Donut 1 had a mystery glaze on it, but also a few cranberry-like moments. It was glorious, and I would later go back inside and buy two more. But this follow-up purchase would occur after Donut 2.

Donut 2 on the other hand was a bit misleading. Aside from a Butterfinger-looking flake on top, it had a very neutral smell. I smell everything before I eat it, and a Butterfinger donut would have been a life-changing endeavor for me. Just as the first bite started to hit my tastebuds, I realized Donut 2 didn’t have Butterfinger flakes on top. Donut 2 was covered in a dried-up fish seasoning. I all but threw up and spit the hopeful bite back into the bag. This was a low moment for me, one which would ultimately lead me back inside for two additional purchases of Donut 1.

And three donuts later, I would walk away from the bakery in a pretty good place. You see, in China, I rarely have the obese-sigh moments I use to have after a one-night stand with Chipotle. Things are so fresh here, and incredibly satisfying. And even when I do feel full, I still feel pretty good. And although I started this post feeling like a -12lb whale, I would assert much of that to just be my self-conscious.

I am feeling good, and feeling fit. And more than both of these things, I’m feeling quite apologetic for the constant shame I put myself through regarding my weight. “Be shirtless,” was a mantra and a goal this year, and my friend Kay will often remind me of this desire. Needless to say, I’m working on building this confidence back up. It is a work in progress. I am a work in progress. But, aren’t we all?

It’s Fat Talk Free® Week back in the States, and this means an attempt to inspire change in the way we think and feel about our bodies (remember, body image and weight stuff affects us all in some way). Additionally, it’s about promoting a healthy lifestyle and balanced life in mind, body, and spirit. I’m down.

So, what does this mean? No more using, “ogre,” and, “fat ass,” to describe myself. I’m committing to doing better. Additionally, I’m going to work to support and embrace my friends of all shapes and sizes, and celebrate them with love and confidence. We are all on a journey, and no one should feel marginalized because of the way they feel or perceive themselves on any given day. Let us love, and show love by not using words to dig at our self our others.

Sleeveless, for now,

Michael

PS – The minute I come back to the States, I expect whichever special friend who picks me up to be standing at the gate, accompanied by a giant box full of donuts. I will eat one donut, and then give the biggest hug known to man! …then, of course, we will both take off our shirts in pride, and eat the rest of the box together.

IMG_9545