Friday, August 17, 2012

The 'Big' Lie

Yesterday morning, I opened up my Wall Street Journal at the Club Diner at oh-dark-thirty, and there was the headline: "NFL Players: Tired of Being Fat."

Given the increased number of passes used by most offenses, and the more 'spread-out' nature of their attacks (fewer blocking tight ends, fewer bruising fullbacks, fewer three yards-and-a-pile-of-dust plays) linemen are now looking to be a bit, uhh...sleeker.  This, of course, is an important reversal of a decades-long trend...when I was a boy watching the NFL on network television, 300-pounders were rare enough to be, well, special.  They would stand out.  Now, there are entire offensive lines that AVERAGE north of 300.  Even at the college level, you sometimes see that stuff...look at last year's Wisconsin Badgers, for example. 

This is probably a good move for these guys long-term, too: if you look at the post-NFL statistics for linemen, to include life expectancy, things aren't so good: The average NFL linemen has a life expectancy similar to what could be expected of men in some third-world countries. 

Of course, there are many reasons -- lots of repeated head trauma, for instance.  Another factor, though, is the weight those guys carry around, especially after they stop playing the game.  If they continue to eat and drink like invincible vikings, but without working out like invincible vikings, they are bound to blow up...just think, if your daily intake was 3500 calories more than your output, well that would be a pound gained right there.  Do some back-of-the-envelope math, and the pounds could add up, very quickly. 

I have ZERO scientific evidence to back this up, but I'm convinced that weight has a particular way of sneaking up on men who have some kind of muscle mass, particularly if they once lifted weights as members of a football, wrestling, or other sports club, or as members of any local or federal uniformed service. 


Because they tell themselves the Big Lie (pun intended) about "wearing it well."  Just yesterday, I stopped in to see a friend at work, and she mentioned that someone we both know, who is shorter than I am and weighs well over 300 pounds, told her that he's not really overweight because he "wears it well." 

Newsflash to that guy:  Unless you're Shaquille O'Neal and it's the late 1990s or early 2000s, you don't carry 300+ lbs. around "well." 

Much like an ex-con who then advises people about protecting themselves from scams, I feel well-placed to discuss this subject, because I am guilty of it myself.  I have also spent a lot of time around police, fire, and full-time military folks in the Guard who are very, very guilty of it, too. 

In my early- to mid-twenties, I had more of a "V" build, despite a terrible diet based primarily around fast food.  Because I had filled out so much *upstairs* I thought I was basically immune from any concerns about fat, because, well, it would just sort of balance out.  The proportions were what mattered, I said...and I was half-right.  Other things being equal, more muscle on the frame looks better than less, given a constant amount of bodyfat

The problem is, that only works for a few pounds here and there (which the guys with more skeletal type frames really can't hide anywhere).  Too many guys let themselves go too far when they buy into The Big Lie.  I'm convinced I could walk around the armory on a drill weekend at my old Guard unit and find at least two dozen guys who are more than 25% bodyfat (technically, that's obese) but who would never in a million years describe themselves as "fat" let alone "obese" on a survey. 

Why not?

Just ask them, and they'll tell you they're just 'big.'  Maybe they've got impressive powerlifting numbers.  Maybe they used to play on the O-Line back in high school, or even college.  Maybe they can even pass the 2-mile run portion of the PT test.  Maybe.  Still, a 40+" waist is what it is. 

Personally, at 5'10", 210, and a shade under 20% bodyfat, I've definitely got at least 10 lbs. of lard that I could stand to shed right off the bat (FYI: Most people would say 18-25% for guys is 'acceptable,' 14-17 is 'fit' and anything less than 14 is very athletic...oh, and anything in the single digits is where the abs start to show...Olympic sprinters might be around 5, and marathoners a shade under that).  I'm aware of what I gotta do (isn't that always the first step?), and also aware that the 168 lbs. of 'other' on my frame is substantial...I'm not concerned about total lbs. or the individually-useless BMI standard, just about the bodyfat percentage, mind you. 

...And perhaps with that last paragraph, I've broken my rule about no "Dear Diary" sort of entries.  If so, let me bring it back to the general point:  Guys, let's all stop lying to ourselves about being 'big' or 'husky' or 'robust' or whatever.  BF beyond 25% can't be hidden or masked by any amount of offsetting muscle or wide shoulders that we have, used to have, or think we have.  Even 20% is a few percentage points too high.  Just because we were once an [insert name of varsity athletic or other uniformed position] doesn't give us a lifetime pass on this. 

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