Friday, July 10, 2009

Why I avoid the gym, and gym-goers

Written on the plane this morning.

I recently spoke with a friend about why I avoid the gym and why I even avoid gym-goers. I'm older than most of my readers, but I also started dating younger than most, so I have a long history of dating and follow-through. Since I am also friendly with all of my exes (save 2), I have a good ear for issues that come up in most relationships over time.

One of my biggest problems about my own taste in women has been physical shape. I'm not superficial about a beautiful face (of course I love them, but I also love women with aggressive features). I am superficial about a person's body type. Please note that I've dated, successfully, women who were a size 10 (which isn't large), but my smaller frame and height adapts better to women who are in the 2-6 size range. I've dated some 0's and 00's (they exist, and don't always look unhealthy), but I also prefer a little muscle and a tiny bit of surface fat rather than sheer boniness.

And yet, even though I prefer a tinier woman, I don't date health-club junkies. It's something many friends find odd when they try to set me up with women: "You'd really like Lisa, she's thin!" Does she work out? "5 days a week!" No, thanks. "???"

Here's the reason: through my entire life of being able to penetrate people's frustrations and get to the root of their relationship issues, the number one problem I have come across is "He's not the man that I first met" or "She's so different now than when we were dating." It doesn't always mean physical changes, but change that is significant in any way can be a real deal breaker.

We all change, some more than others. I've been told by women who knew me since my toddler years that I haven't changed much. Even photos of me as a child have the same facial expression, and I guess I've been Mr. Cool Cat since I was born. Still, I do see a lot of relationships fail due to significant changes in personality, emotional stability, financial comfort and physical well-being.

As I ventured into my 30s, I found a lot of my friends lost the drive to stay fit. The best looking and strong high school football quarterback who stayed fit through 23 looks like a pile of pudge and rolls at 29. There's no going back to his high school body, he's given up the strenuous exercise.

An ex-girlfriend of mine who had the body of a bikini model at 25 now looks like a poster child for Weight Watchers Extreme. She hasn't had kids but is 35 and lost the drive to hit the club 5 days a week for an hour at a time. She hates her body, and it affects her emotionally often.

There are many reasons for weight gain, but one of the primary ones is genetics. Some of us are pre-disposed to not handling certain foods well. When we're younger and more energetic, we can fight off the pudge and bulges with more energy expended, but as the body ages and the pancreas can no longer regulate fat storage, we gain weight.

Then there is me. In my 30s, I'm in great shape, without exercise. I live on a diet of pork and cheese, yet my cholesterol and blood pressure are below the average for my age. My doctor said, ignoring smoking, my body is in better shape than people who are 15 years my junior. Genetics, diet, lifestyle all play a major role.

But the lifestyle I've chosen is one I like. I love how I eat, I love the amount of energy I expel on a daily basis. No part of my daily routine is something I want to necessarily see changed. If I went to the health club, I'd probably have an incredibly sexy body, but I am happy with my body the way it is.

So when I date, I look for people who are in good shape, but don't go through huge daily routines to get there. I'd rather date a size 8 who is that way naturally than a size 2 who has to work her ass off and invest 1-2 hours a day traveling to and rigorously using a health club. What's going to happen when she hits 30? A body change that I may not be comfortable with.

I get my ass reamed by friends for seeming callous, but as I've talked to some mommy blogger and even a Facebook friend who just past the age of 70, I've realized that both men and women seem to be discouraged by not just their weight, but the weight of their significant others. It's a downer. It can destroy one's sex drive, confidence, ability to negotiate better terms when making deals, job raises and position climbing and even respect from people one meets for the first time.

It's not something I like to deal with. I especially don't do well with "Am I getting fat?" questions, because I am brutally honest. When a lady I was casually dating over 6 months went from a size 2 to a size 6, she asked me I had notice. Sure, I did. "Am I getting fat?" You're on your way. She hated me for weeks. The relationship failed over those 4 words she said, and my 4 words in response.

And now she's a size 12. We're still pals, especially on Facebook, and she asks me regularly why she didn't listen to my words rather than spitting them back in my face. I've explained to her, religiously, that she should accept it because her genetic predisposition is to being heavier rather than lighter, plus her diet and sedentary lifestyle add to the bulge. Yet she has no energy or desire to change it, so she's larger than she was when we dated over a decade ago. It's OK.

Then there was Kari, who was my friend-with-benefits in 2008. Her body is fantastic and she doesn't spend even 1 hour a month in a gym. She does do a little biking, but nothing aggressive. She ate well and wasn't on a particular diet. She kept herself active enough, but nothing out of control. I adored her body and couldn't keep my hands or mouth off of it when she prompted me with the signals that she needed some body worshiping attention.

My one time lover Celine has a body to die for, but her entire family is gorgeous, including her mother who birthed many kids. She eats healthy, does a little cardio at the club a few days a week, but can go months without working out and still stays fit. She used to be a model, so there is some genetics, some lifestyle, some diet, but nothing out of control. I highly doubt she'll get the pudge that she sometimes fears. I ask her what she does to control it and her answer is always "Nothing, but I'm fearful." I would be, too.

Liz, another fly-by-night lover from last year, has a crazy hot body that she hides because she had a fat spell before puberty. Her weight changes more frequently, varying from the small side of a size4 to the larger end of a size 6, but I prefer her body in the latter size because it fills out her hips and tits much nicer. She, too, doesn't work out or shove herself into crazy diet mode. It's that same combination: genetics, diet, lifestyle.

Stace, the last person I had sex with used to be fat. Not huge by any means, but obviously there are leftovers from her struggle with weight gain and loss. We're not currently speaking due to a mutual decision to part company, but her memories of being fat have caused her to close doors that should be left open. She has a predisposition to being heavier, plus her lifestyle and diet are under strict control to stay fit. If she doesn't stick to her guns, she'll get fat again in no time. I can't imagine being in a relationship with someone who has to be that careful, it seems like a great waste of mental space.

As we can see, I tend to navigate towards the gals who have the genetics, the lifestyle and the regular diet to stay thin. I don't like to waste time over someone who I am not compatible with in these areas. In terms of recent people I haven't necessarily dated but have gone out with, there's almost a consistency to why I stick with one over another. Delecta, my friend-with-food-benefits, is someone I've never seen naked or even a hint of it (no bikini or anything) but from what I can gather, she has an incredible body and she obviously doesn't exert herself trying to stay in shape. She's been on an emotional roller coaster, though, so that can contribute to weight loss. As time goes on, she may return to her "normal" weight, which I believe is still more than admirable for someone who stuffs her face with pork rinds and beer when she's with me.

So there's the problem, solved: I don't do well with gym-goers. I have no problem if someone needs to do it for their own sanity, or for weight control, or muscle growth, or heart-health, but in general I've seen way too many people be all hot-and-heavy to sweat with a machine in their 20s and then give up the drive in their 30s, with their body feeling the consequences.

It's peculiar, I'm sure, but it's how my mind works, it's even how my heart works. Compatibility and chemistry come from not just how someone looks now, but why they look that way. Too much makeup, obvious plastic surgery, overdosing on the stairmaster, keeping track of every calorie -- these things just don't work for me. I know what I like, and it's someone who leads a lifestyle and diet similar to mine. This means, if we should get serious, that things will likely stay a lot more stable, at least in one area that affects so many people I know.