Shoulding all over my happiness

This was week 135 of my Operation Melt journey that started with my goal to escape obesity and lose over 100 pounds in under a year. I launched the Operation Melt blog as a way to share my journey to both keep myself accountable and to help you as you work to crush your own goals. My hope is that something that I am doing will inspire you to try, will motivate you to keep going and will equip you to succeed in your own journey.

Shoulding all over my happiness

This was a big week in my journey. This was the week to check in on some big measurements: my body fat percentage and my bicep circumference. I started taking these measurements in August 2018 and have tried to remeasure them every 3-6 months ever since. But it has been about 7 months since my last measurement. So I was pretty anxious to see where I was.

The result: 13.5% body fat and 13+ inches bicep (though we have to redo that next week because that doesn’t seem right as it is smaller than last time). Just for record-keeping purposes my first body fat measurement just 17 months ago was 17% and bicep was 12 inches though likely impacted by some fat in the area that is now gone.

My trainer and I discussed my body fat percentage and agree that I probably won’t see much more decrease past this point. That is, of course, unless I tried to become a competitive body builder and I will not be doing that.

My 13.5% places me firmly in the “athlete” category and is called “lean” (significantly below “ideal” which is positive) on other charts for my age. It is a staggeringly great place to be and I am proud of it. My body fat percentage puts me in the top 6% of American men in my age group and the top 10% amongst those half my age. The average American man has a 28% body fat.

This is a great representation of all of the hard work I have done over the past 135 weeks and should be a reason to celebrate, right? For most people it would be a reason to celebrate but I made a big mistake. As I was looking for information about what 13.5% body fat means I decided to click on a suggested search.

“What does 13.5% body fat look like on men”

Seems innocent enough so why not. That is when I started seeing pictures of men with 13.5% body fat. They look like athletes. Well-sculpted abs. Clearly super fit. Very muscular bodies that any man would be happy to have.

Then I looked in the mirror… the man I saw looking back at me looked nothing like those photos of other people at my same body fat percentage. I don’t look how I should look.

Suddenly I wasn’t happy or proud of my accomplishment. I let one of the biggest happiness killing words in the English language bring me down. Should.

The world “should” is a way of undermining your accomplishments, achievements, status and happiness. It is a way of comparing yourself to others that suggests that you are broken or have failed if you aren’t meeting some expectation. It applies to all aspects of our lives including health, wealth, career, your car, your friend, your marriage and any other area where we are being told we aren’t good enough. It is a really dangerous word and one that we each need to keep in check.

In my case, despite 135 weeks of amazing effort resulting in an unbelievable transformation, I was suddenly disappointed because I was shoulding on my own happiness.

I also wasn’t being fair to myself when I took a big should on my accomplishment. You know why? I bet you that none of those other guys I was comparing myself to were obese for their whole life. I bet none of them got to their 13.5% body fat just 135 weeks after being 325 pounds. I bet none of them lost over 40% of their body weight in 14 months. So I am also guess that they don’t have to deal with the extra skin that comes with that rapid transformation.

Yes, I look just like those guys, but you can’t see it because I am carrying around a reminder of where I came from. Kind of a strange trophy that commemorates my accomplishments. Will that ever go away? Probably not without surgery and I don’t think I am willing to do that.

Even without the extra skin situation why do I care? Why do I need to look like somebody else? My journey is different. My accomplishments are different. My goal needs to be my own happiness and not Joe Fitness Model’s abs.

I need to start sporting more of a take no should attitude, even from myself.

Thanks so much for reading. I hope that my experiences and my tips can help you achieve your own big goals. If we work together we can build a world where goals never die of loneliness!

Quick note: I didn’t invent this concept of “shoulding on yourself” but I am super thankful for whoever did. I love the wordplay.