Masculinity and Body Dysmorphia

Not too long ago, I reviewed a book by Lewis Howes titled The Mask of Masculinity.  This book was a look into the different masks men wear to hide themselves and give the impression of their idea of masculinity. It is a great read for both men and women, and it is a book I look forward to reading again, as it truly spoke to me.

Growing up, I was relentlessly picked on for being smaller or skinnier than everyone else. Even to this day, people comment on how skinny I am and how “lucky” I am that I can eat whatever I want  and never seem to gain weight. What they do not understand, is that for me, this is not a compliment. I struggle with this, just as someone who struggles to actually lose weight constantly feels every time they look in a mirror or step on  a scale.  After years and years of being picked on, never being able to gain weight, and personally thing sin my life, the last couple years it all came crashing down on me.

I was a high school and collegiate swimmer and was always in great shape. Sure I was skinny, but I was fit. Now I am a father of two and I workout most days of the week, but I do not feel the same. I SEE that when I step on the scale I am near the ideal weight I always wanted. But when I look in the mirror, I have trouble seeing what I am supposed to see. My arms are skinny, my tummy looks like pudge and I just do not like the overall look and form. Because I grew up playing sports and the athletic kids were always the popular ones, I somewhere along the way combined them together and now I struggle with untying my masculinity to strength, physique and athleticism. I often fight the urge to cry when I see myself in the mirror, and just hope that somebody notices how hard I have been working in the gym, or provides a genuine compliment that lifts me up.

I think it is strange for many people to think of body dysmorphia in this way, as for most, it is an issue with trying to lose weight and always seeing themselves as overweight. But the truth is, the ectomorphs (such as myself) struggle with this too. We struggle with how we look. We struggle with our masculinity. We just simply struggle with all aspects of weight gain, loss and muscle.

So the real question is: why am I sharing this. Where is this pointless narrative going and what does it have to do with who I am as a person and bettering myself. Well for one, as one of my daily struggles, I want to share with others that men struggle with this too. And not just overweight people, but skinny people too. Also, I am hoping to inspire others to work their system and find the truth in it all. I know that my masculinity is not tied to this (as hard as that is for me to believe), but more than anything I do not want my kids to feel the same way. My daughter is 6 and my son is 4 and I want them to always have a positive image of themselves and not let others get to them. I want to show them that even if lacking muscles, I am strong in my heart and strong in my head, and hope to lead by example for them too.

Do you or someone you know struggle with body images, or have a story similar to mine? I would love to hear how toy work on this and steps you take to keep a positive mind. Feel free to share below and help to inspire others who are struggling and want to better themselves too.

Have a great day!

Keeping Busy and Growing a Mustache

I know, I know, it has been a long time (again) since I last posted. I really am not good at this… haha… but hey, I warned you!

If you have actually been wondering where I have been, the truth is, life has just been busy. Work has been fairly busy as usual and the kids have also kept me busy. School has been a lot of fun but it has also been quite busy. I am holding around 100% in BOTH of my classes and actually have a final in my Personality Psych class this week. Because of the finals and classes, lots of studying is being done as well.

Outside of work, school and my kids, I truly do not have a legitimate excuse for not updating this, other than a touch of writers block, a touch of laziness and a whole lot of mustache growing. Yes, you read that correct, I am working on my MOVEMBER Mustache.

My family is not blessed with facial hair growing genes, so unfortunately, my mustache is sort of ‘pervy’ looking, but it draws attention and I guess that is the whole point of Movember. if you are not familiar with Movember, for the month of November, Men grow their mustaches to help raise awareness for Men’s Health issues such as Prostate and Testicular cancer. I myself lost an uncle to Prostate cancer a few years back and continue to fight on his behalf.

I normally do not like to go around and ask for money, however this cause is VERY dear to my heart and I would not be growing this ridiculous looking mustache if I truly did not believe.

I am not asking for much, I would honestly be happy if all you were able to donate was $5. Every little bit helps and I want to stand up and fight for all the men in our lives.

Please feel free to share your stories below or share my link with anyone you know.

Book Review: Bigger, Leaner, Stronger

To continue my summer of self improvement, I was able to read another book this summer, just before my vacation. The second book I read (after the School of Greatness) was titled ‘Bigger, Leaner, Stronger: The Simple Science of Building the Ultimate Male Body’ by Michael Matthews. I actually had a few reasons for reading so much this summer. The first reasons was there was not a whole lot on tv. Second, I wanted to start getting my mind ready for school. Third, I truly want to start improving my life as much as I can in different areas. And finally, I had a Google coupon for some cheaper books, and figured I would pick a few that stood out to me (one of which is the book I am reviewing now).

Growing up , I was always very active, playing with friends, running in the street, or playing sports. As I got into High School I focused on swimming as my only sport and did everything I could to better myself. That sort of mentality has always stuck with me, especially when it comes to being in shape and taking care of myself. Overall I am in fairly good shape, with the exception of being more on the thinner side. I have always been slim… almost as if it was a curse. For the life of me, I have always had a problem gaining weight (I know some of you wish you had this problem, but for me, it is frustrating, as just like overweight people, I have body issues as well). I eat and eat and work out and never seem to be able to change my look, and that is where this book comes in,

I had recently heard about this book as it helps to debunk a lot of myths we believe about weightlifting, and it helps to focus in on what you are trying to do, and without wasting time. I have tried different workout routines, followed advice from trainer and professionals alike, and never am able to stick to a routine that has shown me results. But for some reason, I feel this time will be different. I have recently started working out following this routine and have already felt a difference in my strength. The best part about this book too is he not only tells you the science behind everything, but explains why certain things will work and others do not. From there he actually provides you not only a workout plan that fits your schedule, but he also provides you a nutritional spreadsheet too to help you maximize your gains.

At the end of the day, for me it gives me a new reason to be excited about going to the gym as well as a way to focus on my lifting and eating habits, and hope to start feeling better about myself here soon.

If you are interested in reading this book, you can check it out here.

If you want to follow Michael Matthews, you can find his Instagram here (his other social media links are on his website), and his website here.

Have you check out this book before, or have another workout read that is worth exploring? Please share your findings and results below!

Please subscribe to my blog and follow me on Instagram. I hope to chronicle my journey in school and connect with like minded people. People who want to learn and grow and help others along the way.

Learning About Myself with 23andMe

Like many people, I have always had an interest in where I came from and what my ancestry was like. Growing up I knew some of the basics, such as that my entire Dad’s side of the family was Jewish and from Eastern Europe and that my Mom’s family was a mix of English and Norwegian. However I also knew that there was quite a bit else that was mixed in. When I got to college, I felt myself pulling away from the religious aspect of my Jewish heritage, and that didn’t leave me much left to identify with. My girlfriend (now wife) is 100% Portuguese, as she is actually a First generation. My best friend is Middle Easter as he was actually born in Iran. Me? I was born in Tucson Arizona, to parents born in the US, who were born to parents born in the US to parents who may or may not have been born here… we simply did not have good records of it.

With such great technology and advancements in DNA research, there are now a lot of great options for learning more about your ancestry and where you come from. So I decided to look into a few options and learn more about myself. I decided on 23andMe as I like the information they were providing and what they were looking to build with their own findings. In hindsight, Ancestry.com DNA may have been a better option as I have heard it is slightly more accurate, and I also have a lot of family that did it, and they will link you together. Either way, I wanted to share my experience with you and the whole process.

When I signed up for 23andMe, it was quite simple. I chose to pay a little extra and get the Health and Ancestry service, to not only know about my ancestors, but to also see if I have any genetic markers for things such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, etc. When my package arrived, the instructions were very simple to follow: essentially you spit in a tube and put it int he mail (that’s in a nutshell, as there are a few other steps). Once that is complete I also set up my online profile which consists of many optional surveys to provide the 23andMe company with information they can use to help enhance their database and provide more accurate findings of yourself. The questions are simple in regards to race and gender, to more interesting questions such as sleep patterns, anxiety and other health related items. Again, this is all used to help build profiles based on DNA submitted in hopes of learning more about what our DNA does and to better identify people through these means.

Once everything is sent in, the process takes about 6-8 weeks before you get your results. Once those results come in, you get an email that links you to all the reports they provide on you. I received my results last week and I could not wait to dive in. The reports were a very cool mixture of ancestry markers, health screenings as well as other markers (many of which I know already and of those, some they got right and some they got wrong). For me, the first thing I looked at was the Health markers. I am a bit of a hypochondriac so I had to make sure right away that I was ok. And thankfully, there was nothing that showed I would be at a higher risk for anything they would test for. After that, I had to dive into my ancestry.

Unsurprisingly, I was shown to be 99.9% European, with less than .1% being a mixture of East Asian and Yakut. of my European Ancestry, I was shown to be 47.3% Ashkenazi Jewish, which makes sense since I know my Jewish family came from Germany, Poland and Austria. The biggest category on my list however was Northwestern European, at 50.5%. This was a mixture of British and Irish (21.6%), Scandinavian (9.5%), French and German (7.7%), Finnish (<0.1%) and what was categorized as ‘Broadly Northwestern European’ (11.6% – which is likely my Norwegian heritage I know of). To me this was all very fascinating and gave me a better sense of belonging! Another cool part of this, is of all other users who use 23andMe, it shows me those who are related to me. Only one name I recognized (1st cousin once removed), but it found 1,233 DNA Relatives. It also was able to determine how many markers I have in common with Neanderthal Ancestry, which was surprisingly higher at 281 markers, which is more than 54% of all 23andMe users, and 1st among relatives I am connected to.

Beyond the Health and the Ancestry, 23andMe also provides a list of other features as well. Features they determine based on the surveys I answered as well as what other people have answered as well. They are not meant to be a diagnosis or even be accurate. But to tell you things that are likely to be true. From this information they did get a few things right: I am likely to not have red hair (I do not), I am likely to be average or below average weight (I am below average), likely to have darker eyes (this one is close, but mine are hazel, so I will confirm this) and likely to have straight hair (mine could not be any straighter).

However, for all the items this predicted accurately, I felt there were far more discrepancies that were not accurate. Again, this is based on people similar to me with my genetic makeup and is not meant to be 100% accurate. But my concern was with just how much they got wrong (makes me think what else is not accurate). According to this report I am unlikely to have dimples (I do), a widows peak (I have that too) and I am likely to have detached earlobes (sorry, wrong again).

Aside from these items, I found it all very interesting. The ancestry part felt very accurate to me, and that was ultimately what I was looking for. I am sure over time some of my other reports may change as more people provide information and the database for 23andMe grows. Until then, I will be satisfied with what I found.

Have any of you ever tried 23andMe, or perhaps another service such as Ancestry.com? I would love to hear about your experience! Please share your experience below or please let me know if you have any questions and I would be happy to share more!

Please subscribe to my blog and follow me on Instagram. I hope to chronicle my journey in school and connect with like minded people. People who want to learn and grow and help others along the way.