You're an actor who doesn't like the way he looks. This means you've got some work to do.
You start with a cup of coffee and probably the news and thus probably some rage and after a few minutes of that, you put on some music and step away from the computer. You can't get enough summer jams and girly pop lately – you're into autotune, into synthetic drums, into treacly lyrics about modern western courtship rituals. Twenty year old you would be ashamed but twenty year old you wasn't any fun. These Ke$ha songs are fantastic and that's why millions of people love them. Do some yoga.
Your room is small but arranged in a clever fashion. You have exactly enough floor space to lay your body flat and expand at least partway. Therefore, you have enough space to change your body. The window stays open because it gets too hot otherwise and if the neighborhood doesn't like Ke$ha there's only so much to be done because you're pretty sure she's helping save your life right now. You do a sun salutation and thread in some extra poses where they fit. If you skip a day, your back and legs will complain of that now. You stretch slow and listen to your limbs and, in time, they settle down and straighten out. There's a Robbie Fulks song on now. It isn't a summer jam but it is about courtship rituals and the fiddling is just wonderful. Do some cardio.
This shit is the worst because it involves sweat and when there's too much sweat on you, you're at risk of feeling here in your room the way you often feel about your body out there in the reality. Too much fat clings to it, hangs off of it, jiggles around it. It fucks up your shape and the way your clothes fit and makes it harder to move through the world. Your body has converted a lifetime of poor dietary choices into a surplus of this squishy, useless flesh that no one, you most of all, ever wants to touch or look at. When you move your body, it converts this fat and this fear into sweat and those first few moments of it running all over you can lead to despair because you're skinned in this liquid reminder of how far you have to go.
When a fellow is round and sweaty on TV, he is never the hero. He is some jerkoff that's in over his head and probably fucking up. His absurd corpulence is there to provide contrast for the hero's square jaw and flat stomach. The upshot is that he usually gets funnier lines. It's the whole Falstaff thing and you hate your place in that equation like poison. You're beyond tired of being a chubby goofball for anyone. You're a comedian but you hate being the punchline.
Anyhow, sometimes you do some burpees til you heart pounds then you go just a little longer. More often, you just dance around to whatever dumb shit your Grooveshark station feeds you. This is less efficient than the burpees but you seem to stop hating yourself and start having fun much quicker this way. A day may come when you dance this freely in public, around people even. Not in 2013, obviously, but maybe once the rest of this gut is gone and you're sure you won't be the spectacle of the dancing slob. For now, do some strength training.
You like this part a lot. The same genetics that make you so apt to gather fat also mean you build muscle like a maniac if your body is given the proper inputs. You can input fifty pushups like it's nothing nowadays, so long as you divide it into two sets. Fifty is your minimum - you stop counting when you hit it and just concentrate on completing the motion over and over. Likewise situps – you don't count these at all anymore, you just go for a couple songs or until your upper abs finally get tired. Then it's leg lifts or pullups or squats or planks or some compound motion like that. The only weights you own are these little twenty pound dumbbells that you don't use anymore because they really only get the arms and buddy, you've got problems all over. The upshot of being heavy is that your body itself is a challenging weight to lift and if you lift it and resist it enough, some of that fat weight becomes muscle weight and thus helps you hoist the rest of it. Sometimes, while doing plank or pushups, you'll look down and see your gut and hairy man tits hanging off you. They're all smaller than they used to be and beneath them, you can see the shape you want to take beginning to form. Nonetheless, you do a lot of this strength training with your eyes closed. When your form or endurance begins to falter, you picture Kirby Crackle enveloping your arms, legs, hips and spine to pull you back into alignment. You imagine the life of a loved one depending on the completion of the set you're on. This usually does the trick.
Some days you finish all your sets and do a little extra on account of being so jacked up. Your Grooveshark feed is easily 75% funk and soul which, combined with testosterone and endorphins, makes you feel like you're made of light and sexy saxophone. Other days you do most of your sets but get tired or bored or distracted and wander away. Yet other days there's too much shit to handle and not enough time so you try to at least walk up some steep hills inbetween errands and and appointments. When feeling especially ambitious and powerful, you take these hills at a sprint and imagine the Crackle propelling each stride.
You eat lean protein cooked in coconut oil. You eat salad and make your own vinaigrette because the stuff at the store is just a bunch of corn derivatives mixed up in a bottle. Last time you checked labels, the phrase “maltodextrin suck my dick” came flying out of your mouth before you knew you were getting upset. Cargill and ConAgra and Anheiser-Busch and Yum Brands and Pepsico and Mars and Hershey and Monsanto and all those evil fucks have been attacking your mind, body and soul from birth. Sugar and pleasure and reward are powerfully bound in your brain – the knotwork of synapses began tangling when you were still very small, when colorful cartoon characters offered you salts and sweets and you would get so angry at your parents for protecting you from these treats. General Mills sent Lucky the Leprechaun and Captain Crunch to turn you against your parents and since you were a toddler who didn't understand what these multinationals were up to, you fell into the trap and played along. You grew up a fat kid and assumed that everyone hated you for it. Today you know that your parents love you and that Monsanto recently began working closely with Acadami, formerly known as Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater, which is a company that fields armies of killers for money. The thought makes you want to do more pushups for some reason.
You avoid beer and bread. You try to eat almonds instead of salty stuff and fruits instead of candy. Your ice cream habit is still pretty bad but it's the last bad habit you haven't trimmed back yet. The clothes you wore on a different body look absurd on this one so you bought a new wardrobe, almost all of it in black. The image in the mirror is changing – you can tell because you're not blind and looking right at it. Your jaw is squaring up, your shoulders expanding, your man boobs now B cups at worst. You know this because you can look right at it and compare it to photographic evidence from before you started your program. The image in the mirror is different. The image in your mind has barely changed at all. When you're out dealing with the world and lack the psychic resources to keep your brain attuned to reality, you default back to this idea of yourself as a big sweaty bag of fat and shit and gross. You still feel like apologizing to everyone who has to look at you. Your reflexive posture is still that of someone trying to hide his squishy middle. You know that your body has changed but you also know that when women talk of the men who catch their eye, those guys never, ever, ever look like you. If you stay on your program though, someday you might look like those guys.
Courtship anxiety is of course a terrible driver for a health program so you try not to think about that stuff too much. There was a time not so long ago where you had to get damn near black out drunk to not know or not care that you were really gross. You can still remember one such night more than ten years gone when a woman you knew tried to introduce you to a friend of hers and before you could say a word, her friend made a face and a noise and walked away. It made you feel the way those games of “You Germs” tag did back in grade school. You can't remember a year or even a week of your life without that feeling but you do pretty good at evading and managing it nowadays. You don't think about dating or intimacy very much because your job and your art are vast enough to fill your whole head up if you let them. You hate being looked at or photographed but you love being in plays and doing standup comedy. You love putting on shows. It doesn't make any damned sense but you're going with it in the same way a drowning man will lunge for even the illusion dry land. Keep this up and you might survive.
Seven months ago you realized you were dying and were paying corporations for the privilege. The booze and the food were killing you and you were broke because you thought you needed them. And of course, the drinking you did because you were ashamed of being fat was in part keeping you fat which is just fucking perfect, right? Seven months ago you decided to try something other than slow, pathetic death. You're close to escaping now, closer than you've ever been. You like when people notice but you don't like to talk about it too much because you've been close before and you don't want to jinx it this time. You're in your thirties and might not have another chance to escape if you don't seize this one.
You didn't have comedy and theater helping you last time you got close, you had mere health and courtship anxiety. Not enough to do the job, turns out. Now part of you thinks that Shakespeare is counting on your strong quads and it's working so you don't question it. In the real world you disgust yourself but you've played characters who thought they looked okay. You've played characters who have flirted as if it could go somewhere; you've played characters who don't mind taking off their shirt somewhere they might be seen. You've played with the concept of being acceptable and attractive in imaginary – that is to say, safe – settings and some of that seems to have bled into your real life. You've accepted that the training of your mind will lag behind the training of your body but you know that it can be trained.
You don't try to bury the way you feel under food or drown it in booze anymore. Indeed, you can't recall the appeal of drinking yourself blind or eating yourself sick any longer. It stopped making sense and you thank god for that. These thoughts, these ideas that have been with you for decades, you know them now for the injuries they are. You train against them sure as you train against the stiffness of your limbs, with patience and resolve. You like being strong for its own sake – to leap, to climb, to smash! It feels good to know you can lift most stuff; it changes the way you move through the world. You know that this feeling isn't available to everyone and you try to live in awareness of that.
You had to drop off the face of the earth for awhile to get this ball rolling. When you run into friends, they ask what you've been up to and you give a glib answer (“living the dream!” or something equally dumb) because the real answer is not compatible with small talk. The real answer is that you're spending part of every day making art and teaching yourself a new idea of yourself. You're learning to like you and everything is changing because of that. You don't know why it's working but for now it's enough to know that it is.