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'Twas the night before Christmas, or at least the late morning on the day before Christmas, and Randy and I were performing our sacred pre-workout ritual in the locker room. This one didn't involve cutting off any chicken heads, smoking peyote, or anything remotely like voodoo or Santeria - just the balance-beam scale in the bathroom.
Actually, let me correct that. Weighing ourselves each and every time before we trained did have an element of voodoo to it. If we weighed less than what we wanted to, it affected our attitudes and could sometimes bum us out for the whole workout.
Yes, that's right, I said we would get upset if we didn't weigh enough. This is in sharp contrast to someone like an anorexic, who forever believes she weighs too much, even though she may be a walking skeleton at 85 pounds soaking wet.
From various reports, this is what happened to one of those Olsen twins. Don't ask me which one, because even though one has curlier hair than the other, I still have no idea which one is Mary-Kate and which is Ashley.
Over a decade ago, a psychiatric disorder was identified and labeled "Body Image Dysmorphia," the layman's term for which was "Reverse Anorexia." This describes the way we many bodybuilders perceive themselves, which is that they are never big or heavy enough. I can attest to the legitimacy of this disorder, as myself and many lifters I have known have been classic cases.
I started out at 90 pounds and even when I got up to 240, which was just 30 pounds away from triple my original bodyweight, I was still not satisfied with what I saw in the mirror.
The late Trevor Smith, owner of Nuclear Nutrition, was ridiculed on the Internet because he never dieted down and competed. Even when he got up to 400 pounds at just over six feet tall (and when I saw him, his arms looked to be about 26 inches around, I kid you not), Trevor felt he needed a little bit more size before he was ready to do a show.
So, it was with great pride and a beaming countenance that young Randy announced to me in a most jovial tone, "210 pounds, brutha!" Don't ask why he was calling me "brutha." It's a Boston thing that I never understood, some kind of tough-guy way of calling someone your buddy that may have had its origins in pro wrestling.
Randy was wearing one of the many tank tops he owned, though he is still far from approaching the size of my collection - 34 at last count. Even in the dim lighting, something was different about Randy. Normally he was always showing clear muscle separations and a few veins in the upper body. Now it was all blurry and out-of-focus. I put on my a-hole face and got sarcastic on his ass.
"You're up ten pounds - just how much shit have you been eating lately??
Randy went into defense mode at once.
"I'm trying to gain size now, right?"
"Yes, muscle size, not a bunch of lard, jackass. Answer the question posed, just how much shit have you been eating?"
"Well," he stammered, "the dealership had its big party, and of course the sister dealership a few cities away had their Christmas party, and there were all kinds of desserts and drinks to be had if one were so inclined."
"Looks to me like you were quite inclined, smoothie."
"I wanted to bulk up to at least 225 before I had to diet down to 190 for the show."
"Look, I don't have a calculator handy but I'm gonna give this a try anyway. My best guess is that about eight pounds out of the ten you gained is just useless fat. At that rate, by the time you get to 225, you will have accumulated..." I looked off to one corner and tried to do the math.
"Twenty pounds," Randy offered.
"Right, I was just about to say that! Twenty pounds of fat and you were planning on dieting for how long?"
"Well, you said that because I was naturally lean, I could probably get by with ten weeks."
"I can tell you what would happen, because this was a mistake I made several times in my early competitive career. I would bulk up to some random number I thought sounded big, like 225 or 230, then diet down to about 200 pounds. But the funny thing was, I never ended up around 200 pounds. My contest weight in those days ranged from 170 to 180 pounds, and sometimes that wasn't even ripped.
Every time it happened, I was at a loss as to why. Then it dawned on me - I was getting so fat in the off-season and giving myself so little time to diet, that I was losing a significant amount of muscle every time. If I was 225 back then and my lean weight was 180, which I think is probably right, I was losing roughly twenty pounds of muscle and twenty pounds of fat to compete at a smooth 180.
Now I do compete at over 200 pounds, but that's because I actually have that much muscle now, and more importantly, because I don't bulk up anymore. I thought we went over this a few months ago when you started porking up."
"Yeah, but I was hoping it would help out with my arms and my calves, even my upper chest."
"Help them out how, by covering them with fat so you think they're bigger than they really are? Seriously, I used to believe that getting a bit fat was good for gaining muscle, but I no longer feel that way. I think it only slows you down, like a car with a trunk full of sand."
"Trunk full of sand, did you make that up?"
"Naw, that was good old Arthur Jones. Not only was he decades ahead of his time with those Nautilus machines, but he had a thousand crocodiles and alligators at his compound in Florida, and supposedly used to get Casey Viator to do a couple more reps on sets by pulling a .38 Special on him and threatening to bust a cap in his ass. Now that's a trainer!"
Arthur With His Crocs.
"Listen, that whole concept of bulking up and dieting down is one of the old-school tenets I think they were completely wrong on," I said. "In fact, I think that idea may have come not from the old-school, but from a school for really stupid kids."
We were getting way behind schedule in our workout here, which should have started about ten minutes ago. I thought I had gotten my point across.
"How many more of these parties do you have left?" I asked. Randy stopped to think, and started counting on his fingers.
"Four," he answered. I reached into my gym bag to give him the little gift I had planned on giving him anyway, before I realized he had been eating crap.
I handed over a plastic bag from Stop N' Shop, which he peered into. He pulled out one of the items.
"Parrillo has a low-carb bar now?"
"Yes, and I expect you to eat those instead of stuffing your piehole with cheesecake and those cookies with the glittery red and green sugar coatings. There's six in there, all I was willing to spare. I suggest you order some more."
"Huh, okay, thanks."
"You're welcome, and by the way, that's your Christmas present from me. Now where's that new 8-megapixel digital camera I told you I wanted?"
"Oh, that - um, they were all sold out when I went." I snorted in disbelief. Kids today are so ungrateful!
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