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Pickett Fences: Phat

March/April 2004

Jim Pickett

Gym bunnies, nipple ponies, steroid sissies, muscle Marys.

Pumping it up, posing and strutting, perking them out, lifting and separating, working it, feeling the burn, getting ripped, making it hurt for Daddy ...

The poor dears. I used to find enormous pleasure making fun of these body-obsessed queers. Having not stepped hoof into a health club or gymateria for something like a decade, and with the growing America's Dairyland waistline to prove my disdain -- the proof was in the pudding for real -- I felt sorry, pity really, for the hordes addicted to the Pec Decks and Stairmistresses and all the other devices of narcissistic torture that swelled ones titty titty bang bangs and emptied their heads of reason.

Of course, prior to my fitness ban, I was one of them, or rather, trying my gosh durndest to be one of them. I worked out every day. I pushed and I pulled, I grunted, heaved and strained, gettin' physical, physical, wantin' to feel my body, wantin' to get a body to feel. I even got a trainer who worked me out so hard, I couldn't get up, or down, the stairs on the Broadway bus. Grannies in Blue-Blockers were poking me in the back with their seeing-eye canes, growling, "move your ass, skinny."

And that's just it. All that hard work, all that limping and crying, and I was still, still a skinny dork. Sure, it was a firm skinny, but I continued to disappear if I turned sideways. I was still, still but a sparrow, flap, flap, flapping my bony wings against the wintry winds that gust through the greater Cowtopolis, getting blown over by octogenarians in a hurry.

So, when I got a day job that not only messed with my workout schedule but required continuous pot smoking and enforced breaks (state mandate) to eat boxes of chocolate Entemanns and hit the Indian buffet across the street, I left my dreams of muscular pulchritude behind without a second thought. Ballys no longer received its buck two fifty a month, and maybe some of the boys in the steamroom missed me, but to be honest, I didn't miss them. I was liberated, I was free. The madness was gratefully over.

Then I tested positive, then I turned 30 a couple of years after that. And lo and behold, I started to get fat. Baby started to get some back and ya know what? I loved it. I loved being called "big guy" and it not being a snide swipe at my wispiness. I really was a "big and tall man" with a big, fat, juicy ass shake shake shaking and it all just kept getting bigger. By 37, that eensy weensy 31 waist had become a 36. There were a pair of short pants that were, clutch the rolls, a size 38. That's plumped my darlings, not pumped.

Part of me, okay, a big part, felt like this large living was insurance. When the HIV started to work its evil magic, I had plenty of raw material, which I embraced. I was not going to waste away into a skeleton anytime soon. And the plump cheeks on my moonface just kept expanding. Fat and happy. Mootastic, mootacular, moorific, moopendous ...

Then 2003 came along. Sometime in mid-January, before my 37th birthday, I ran out of mowiewowie, and was too fat and lazy to go get some more. No more pot meant no more cans of Pringles and no more double orders of fetuccini alfredo with cheesy garlic bread wolfed down with a couple of cokes at midnight. And lo and behold, I started to lose weight.

By April, I was buying a whole new wardrobe with waistlines at the 34 marker, and some sluttier 33's even for the occasional hot date.

A few months after that, I met someone, a triathlete someone, who would inspire me, unbeknownst to him, to start becoming physically active again. His lifestyle integrates physical fitness and working out in a way that is not manic or looks-obsessed. He's in great shape so his body can do the many things he enjoys, not to stand and model in too-tight clothing.

Being pretty quick on the uptake, I sensed this. And one day, out of the moo, I was walking into the neighborhood gym and asking for a tour. Ching-ching and I was a member. Soon I was swimming, lifting weights, and yes, even running (something I had always detested) on a regular basis. The whole new wardrobe was soon obsolete, and for the first time in my life, I could actually touch my toes. I can't tell you how much joy touching my toes brings me. What can I say, I'm a simple gal ...

I've found that I love the gym and exercising, like I never did in my twenties. My perspective has changed, and the reasons I am doing this are different from the herd mentality I was subscribing to. While there have been some improvements in my body appearance -- though the slimming did come with clucks from worried hens in my coop who thought I was getting sick cuz I no longer sported that hearty Scandinavian farmer look -- that is not why I relish my daily physical exertions. Okay, I do like being phat, not fat, but it's all about the endorphins, babe, the natural high, the stress reduction, the way my rollercoaster emotional and mental states are managed, and it's the oodles and tons and bundles of newfound energy. My job has become increasingly demanding and I could never keep up if I didn't have this new source of vim and vigor that gets me up at the crack, leaping out of bed excited to face the day, and keeps me going, going, going til I crawl back under the covers, and fall asleep in seconds. Interestingly, I crave only healthy food now, fruits (go figure) and vegetables. Before it was an apple a year ... Now I munch them like I used to munch Milky Ways, without trying, without feeling like I am giving anything up. Dig them apples.

Several months into this new regimen I went in for my quarterly T-cell and viral load tests. I was sure that my T's would have skyrocketed with all this healthy granola cardiovascular protein-conscious living. I was wrong. They came back the same, though the percentage figure had gone up one point. Big whoop. I wanted something to show for all this hard work and all I get is one lousy percentage point?

Alas, lassies, some things tests can't measure. My overall state of emotional bliss, the increased ability to manage stress, and the thrill of touching my toes and being able to swim a mile again, will never show up in hard numbers on a blood chemistry panel. Though I'd argue they play a crucial role in those measurements, visible or not.

My next T-cell count is coming soon. I'm hoping for a dramatic increase, cuz that's just how I am.

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To read more of Jim Pickett's columns, click here.

This article was provided by Positively Aware. It is a part of the publication Positively Aware. Visit Positively Aware's website to find out more about the publication.
See Also
Ask a Question About Exercise at The Body's "Ask the Experts" Forums
Ten Things You Can Do to Improve Your Physical Fitness
More Personal Accounts on Exercise and HIV/AIDS

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