A Story about hazing and my most hated word.
Note: This was originally written in March of 2017. Slight edits have been made.
I knew ever since I started the blog that I wanted to write this one… but every time I felt like writing it, I would get a little too insecure. However, I think now is the time. I’m starting a 12 week nutrition program with Stronger U, and have already been getting a lot of questions from clients and friends. This post will be one of my longer ones, but should give you some insight about the struggles I have with nutrition. Here we go.
The image on this blog probably caught you by surprise. Yup, that’s me (apologies that it is so pixelated). I think this picture was taken in the summer of 2006 or 2007…just around 10 years ago. I was 6 feet tall, and a glorious 140 pounds soaking wet. I was so thin I had to run around in the shower just to get wet.
At this point, I had dropped out of contact sports, and put all of my focus into band, choir, and golf. You know, things that a rail thin kid can do without risking serious injury. The problem with that? I LOVED playing sports and missed it every second. I loved basketball, baseball, and football. I wanted to try my best to play all of these sports, or at least one of them… but the psychological test I went through the past few years had taken it’s toll on me. That psychological test had to deal with some bullying and body image issues in junior high and high school. It’s a test that I failed miserably at, and a test that I’m still trying to pass to this day.
Everyone knows junior high is a weird time. You’re going to a new school, you’re meeting new friends, and you’re having to get acclimated to this crazy thing called puberty and hormones. Not only that, you’re in a much different environment than elementary or middle school. You’re no longer under the watchful eye of your teacher for every class. You have different teachers every period, passing periods, and then… the worst thing of all…
You have gym class.
I was actually massively excited about gym class. I loved being active as a kid. My brothers and I would play outside all the time. Didn’t matter what sport or what the weather was like or how we were feeling… we just wanted to play. I enrolled in “Conditioning Class” rather than normal gym class. It fit my schedule better, and was highly recommended if you wanted to make a good impression on coaches for sports. I knew I wanted to play football and basketball, and possibly run track, so conditioning class was right up my ally. Conditioning class was going to be combined 7th and 8th grade boys.
I didn’t even entertain the thought of having trouble with the other guys in this class.
The first day of conditioning class isn’t a syllabus day… it’s a gut check day. “Alright boys. Go dress out. You have 5 minutes or you get 100 up downs.”
We run to the locker room, grab our clothes, and get changed. Fun fact — on day one, it’s customary for bigger stronger 8th graders to grab your clothes and throw them all over the locker room making it impossible to get to class on time. That sucks. I got 100 up downs on day one.
The conditioning class was fine once those up downs were done. Push, sit ups, jumping jacks… all the old school stuff. I did just fine. Then it was time to shower, change, and get on with the rest of our day.
Full disclosure… this gets a little weird and definitely disgusting.
There was an 8th grader who had already picked me out of the pack. He wasn’t particularly big or strong. In fact, he was a “B-team” athlete… one of those guys that could never really make it playing sports, so he had to take his internal conflict and frustrations out on someone smaller than him. He had issues. Still does today.
“Hey skinny bitch. I’m gonna give you a present.”
No idea what that meant, but I definitely wasn’t prepared for it. I got undressed, stood in line in the shower, and finally got my turn on the 7th grader side. I could hear laughing and snickering in the 8th grade side… but I just did my thing. You know, being all naked and what not in front of a bunch of peers. I was already super uncomfortable and just wanted to be done and fully clothed again.
“HEADS UP SKINNY BITCH.”
I looked up, and I got hit in the face by a day 1 tradition… a towel covered in that guys piss.
Yeah… a piss towel. I got knocked off my feet and fell buck naked on the shower floor. The 8th grader laughed and me. Everyone laughed at me.
Ever been laughed at while you’re lying on your back bare ass naked covered in someone else’s urine? It’s an experience, that’s for sure.
In the male sports world, you don’t snitch. You don’t tell the coaches what happen, and you DEFINITELY don’t tell your parents (because they’ll tell the school). You put your head down, take your hazing, and try to keep moving. That’s just the way it goes. I had to go into conditioning every day for the rest of that year just to be greeted by the words “skinny bitch” while simultaneously wondering when the next piss towel would hit me. I didn’t get hit with one again… but plenty of others did.
Junior high sucks when you’re considered the skinny kid.
I got to high school and knew I couldn’t play football. Too skinny.
I wasn’t particularly good at baseball. I didn’t have enough bat speed to be a good hitter and couldn’t throw hard enough. Too skinny.
I wanted to play basketball. I talked with coach before 9th grade tryouts and he said, “You should probably just be a little band boy. Basketball is a contact sport. You’ll get pushed around out here. Come back when you’ve beefed up a bit.” Too skinny.
I had a crush on a girl… she didn’t like me back. I wasn’t her type. Too skinny.
Worst of all? I had Spanish class with the guy who named me skinny bitch back in junior high. He flunked that class the year before so he was stuck with me. He kept calling me skinny bitch all year long. He had issues. (Fun fact – he called me a few days ago asking to come try out our gym. That was weird.)
Finally, around my sophomore year, an Anytime Fitness opened up close to my house. I went in and asked the owner if I could mop the floors in exchange for a membership. He said yes. Thus my career in fitness began.
At the same time, I was working at Smoothie King on Bay Area Blvd. I would sneak 2-3 1,000 calorie smoothies every single shift (Strawberry Hulk with Peanut Butter). I didn’t really know HOW to workout… but I had a lot of calories built up. A couple of YouTube videos later, I was on the path to getting big.
I wasn’t going to be too skinny ever again.
I wasn’t going to get picked on.
I wasn’t going to take a piss covered towel to the face and not feel like I could stand up for myself.
I was obsessed with getting bigger. I had a rule that anytime I was sitting down, I should be eating. All I did was go to school, eat, and workout. Anytime anyone said I looked bigger, that was a cue for me to keep eating. It was working. I wasn’t going to stop eating until I was over 225 pounds…. Nobody can call you skinny if you are 225 pounds.
Fast forward to the present. I spent the majority 2016 around 240 pounds. January of 2017 I topped the scales at 251 pounds. I felt terrible. Didn’t workout well, didn’t sleep well, didn’t feel my best. I wanted to get back to 225 pounds again.
My wife started working with Stronger U and counting her macros, so naturally I started to do it with her! I started losing the weight and began to feel a lot better. People always notice when you lose weight.
“Hey Clark. You’re looking good!”
“Nice man, leaning up?”
“Keep it up man. Looks good!”
And then this would inevitably happen.
“Wow, you look skinny!”
Gnashing my teeth, I would respond with a polite, “Thank you” as I was reaching for my phone. I was going to call Papa Johns and order a pizza. I’d eat that pizza that night. I’d probably eat another one the next day too. I’d have a dozen donuts for breakfast. I’d keep that up until… well… I was 240 again. Feeling terrible. But at least I wasn’t skinny, right?
Anytime I heard the word skinny, it was a cue that I was no longer big. It made me feel weak. It made me feel like I couldn’t stand up for myself… or worse, that I couldn’t protect my wife if I needed to (not that I really need to. Rachel would destroy any guy that tried to mess with her).
I know a simple word like “skinny” shouldn’t bother me. These people who call me skinny don’t do it to be malicious like the other kids were in junior high. They are trying to pay me a compliment most of the time. But there’s something about that word, about what myself and too many other kids went through in junior high and high school, that will set me off on a path to self destruction. I don’t want to work hard on this nutrition plan only to burn the house down.
I have a truly unhealthy relationship with food and the validation that it brings me to keep me from being “skinny.”
But where I’m at currently isn’t healthy either, and every single day I preach to people to prioritize their health and wellness.
What a hypocrite.
My blood pressure is a incredibly high for someone my age. I’m still not sleeping well, and I’m not feeling great during workouts. I’ve been prioritizing my own insecurities rather than what matters… my health.
That’s why I’m starting this program with Stronger U. I need to be healthy, and I know that with the Yellow Rose workouts and Stronger U nutrition, I can get to the best shape of my life. I won’t lie though, I’m massively worried about being called skinny. I think I’m in a good place where I can brush it off for the most part, but I won’t know until that test comes (and believe me, it WILL come). After writing this, I’m feeling a lot better about it all. So I got that going for me!
I know it probably sounds like I’m trying to play the victim card here. I’m not a victim. I can handle this. It’s just my story.
I’m not going to pretend like this has been some sort of battle, or that it’s massively inspirational. It’s NOT hard to gain weight. You just eat a bunch. Eating is fun. Gaining weight is fun, especially when you can still be relatively healthy while you do it (obviously I’ve gone too far, but it was fun while it lasted).
What’s inspirational to me is weight loss stories. THAT is a true battle for those folks. They have to make some difficult changes, and be consistent with them long enough to see the real results. I’ve never had to go through that, so I’ll never know. If you’re reading this and you’re trying to lose weight, I tip my hat to you. Keep it up. Don’t stop.
If you’re a guy that’s being called skinny on a daily basis and it’s really bothering you, reach out to me. We can get you set up for healthy weight gain. Do this so you won’t be in the same insecure position I am in today. I’ve been there, and you can lean on me for some support and advice. It can be tough to be thin in a world that glorifies big muscles and overly machismo feats of strength. I DO think it’s important to be strong, but I think it’s more important to be happy with who you are, and what you see in the mirror every day. It’s not bad to be thin, either. It’s important to be healthy.
I don’t want this post to scare people away from complimenting others on their progress. I’ve written before that we need to show unconditional support to our friends, families, and acquaintances when we see that they’re trying to improve themselves. Keep up the support, keep up the love. We all need it when we’re trying to improve ourselves.
As always, let me know if you need any help. I’m here for you.
Owner and Head Coach: CrossFit Yellow Rose