For most of my adult life I’ve walked around asking for signs from God, the Universe—whatever you’d like to name that “thing” that’s full of good juju. I don’t do this because I’m crazy—although some would argue that point. I just do it. Sometimes things happen. Once and a while, streetlamps go out above my head. One time I came to a stop at a stop sign. Written above the word STOP: DON’T. Written below it: BELIEVIN’.
I took that as a sign.
A few years ago, I asked for some guidance about becoming a published author—I’d been juggling two fiction projects for years. In time, I reconnected with my old high school chum, Maria, and through a series of curious events, we wound up collaborating on a health and wellness book that, we thought, would take on the advertising and dieting industries, which typically promote the idea that happiness can only arrive if and when you are “skinny.”
We called the book Shut Up, Skinny Bitches! and off we went, writing about such topics as eating disorders, body image disorders, the epic fail of “dieting” and more. We included a large chapter about how these issue affect the gay community because, we realized, those topics aren’t addressed much—if at all—within LGBT circles. (Actually, gay and bisexual men are more prone to develop these issues than straight men.)
About two months into the project, I noticed my irritation level had skyrocketed. Why, I thought, as I finished consuming an entire bag of Doritos in one sitting one evening, was I so stressed? I chalked it up to tight deadlines and immediately began searching for some cheese in the fridge. A lot of it.
Needless to say, I soon realized that the reason I was unsettled had everything to do with what we were writing about—it was rubbing up against my own issues, some unresolved, surrounding eating, binge-eating, body image and more. Not that I had full-blown “issues.” I experienced “seasons”—the yo-yo diets of summers, the binge-eating winters of my discontent. These unbalances typically happened whenever I wasn’t fully rested, centered or “going with the flow.”
And then there’s this fact: as gay men, we’re often told—through advertising and perhaps innocently via our genetically gifted cohorts—that unless we sport a buff bod (hello bulging biceps and rock-hard buttocks!) that we don’t quite “rise to the occasion.”
Given all these pressures, I’ve discovered that my internal dialogue/inner critic is best tempered by just noticing what the hell it’s saying—and not reacting to it. If I can just become curious about the negative stuff I’m telling myself about my body, I’ve found that that level of detachment actually gives me more room to just be in the present moment. A freedom occurs.
The same idea applies to my “seasonal” binge fests. When I can stand back and ask myself if I’m really hungry for something like Doritos, I ask myself what it is I am really wanting/needing? I often discover it’s not the food—in this case, an entire bag of it—at all. It’s something deeper—communication or connection with myself or others. Or even the simple act of giving back or creating.
At times, this can all feel like trying to ride a unicycle on the self-esteem tightrope in my mind, but the more I am willing to at least consider “going there,” I’ve actually arrived—halfway there.
The topic of gay men and body image continues to fascinate me. So do all the “signs” around me. I find it amusing that, after looking for clues on how to become a published author, somehow I was not only led to have that happen, but in a way that forced me to look at, and deal with, my own deeper issues. Now that … is delicious.