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#SkinnyTimIsDead #LongLiveSkinnyTim

June 5, 2019

Since I was a kid, I’ve struggled with weight and body image. Over the years, that struggle has taken on numerous forms. When I was in school, I was painfully thin, and during my youth in Alabama I was picked on and bullied pretty heavily. It taught me to run fast and how to fight when cornered.

I wasn’t garden variety skinny; I was 6′ tall before I was 100lbs. In a state like Alabama, where football is a religion, you can guess the level of popularity I enjoyed with either the girls or the boys my age. As my dad joked, and he grew up the same kind of skinny, “boy, if you were to turn sideways and stick out your tongue, you’d look just like a zipper.”

I can’t even begin to count the number of times I was called string bean, bean pole, chicken legs, or worse. Mostly, I was happy to be ignored. I was very shy- nobody believes me when I say I still am quite shy- and so I was happiest when I flew under the radar.

Photo; Mom

It wasn’t until I discovered cycling in 1982 that I found a home for my skinny body, and a way to excel at something. Being so skinny, I was able to go up hill faster than anybody I knew- even the adults who rode bikes. I couldn’t sprint to save my life, but I could ride ALL DAY and I could out climb anybody who rode with me at the time in Alabama. It was my first taste of being good at something … anything. The bike was freedom to roam, and finally an opportunity to NOT hate my body.

My hummingbird metabolism meant I couldn’t gain weight no matter what I did. I’d ride for hours and hours, every single chance I got, and then would eat anything that wasn’t nailed down or rotting. My appetite was ravenous, and I still feel bad for the way I destroyed the groceries my mother would buy.

But I was still freakishly skinny.

Photo; Chris Wimpey

Since those days of being a skinny and awkward kid, and into “adulthood”, I’ve continued to struggle with how I feel about my body- weight, composition, body fat versus muscle mass, all of it. I have a much better handle on things now, but I’m still me … and “still batshit crazy.”

Once I discovered track cycling, I really found my home, and then suddenly in 1993 as I got good at track racing, my metabolism began to change and I finally began to add muscle to my frame. By 1996, I was up to a whopping 185lbs (!) with a 29″ waist and 30″ quads. As a dear friend still refers to them- “the freak legs.” But at the time, I was an emerging Match Sprint racer here in SoCal, and was racing against guys who were the best of the best in the US and abroad. Guys who went on to World and Olympic medals. And I was still “too skinny” to be a proper sprinter, as the other top guys were well over 200lbs. So I was still ashamed of my body.

After injuries ended my pursuit of an elite career, I kept gaining weight. It really didn’t seem to matter how many miles I put in, I kept gaining weight … and now I began to feel too fat. Mind you, I didn’t do anything with my diet to fix the problem I felt I had. I still ate like I had the skinny metabolism, if not the skinny body. I was neurotic, but also lazy!

Photo; Nils Nilsen

In time, more than one period, I got up to an uncomfortable-to-me 225+lbs. I felt horrible. I was powerful. I was fast enough in sprints. I was winning races. But I felt disgusted with myself. I was pudgy, for me, and hated to see the roundness of my face. I felt fat. Regular old fat.

Photo; Steve Driscoll

But then, after the realization that my drinking had gotten out of control, I gave up alcohol completely. In sobriety, in only a few months, I dropped below 200lbs again. I got a little neurotic about riding and my weight again, and found myself at 165lbs … which was a little too light for me. But man, I was climbing again! That said, I saw that I was too skinny and let some weight back on. By January of 2016, I was in the best shape I’d been in for at least 20yrs. Not quite as good as those 1996 legs, but damn close.

And then I had a huge crash, thanks to the driver of a large pickup truck, while descending a local hill. Multiple bone fractures and a wrist surgery put weight back on me again, and killed that fitness I was building for Masters Track Worlds. So my dream of racing Worlds in Los Angeles died. But I didn’t.

And now, after getting reasonably fit and not feeling overly grossed out about my bodyweight and composition, I find myself recovering from the fateful fall down my father’s basement stairs on March 23rd. After again breaking a handful of bones, I am back on the bike and trying to lose weight and regain fitness over fatness.

And that’s where the neurotic brain comes back into play. I’m currently bouncing back and forth between upper 180’s and mid 190’s. Which, for a 49yr old dude with a list of injuries longer than a RiteAid receipt, isn’t bad.

But my lifelong athlete and cyclist brain keeps whispering, “you need to be lighter.”

The funny thing is, I’d be happy at 225lbs, if I was also less than 10% body fat too … but that’s not happening any time soon … because I’m practical enough to know that I’m too lazy to change my eating habits (I love food), or do the extra miles or exercises to get “skinny” again.

We humans, and especially us cyclists, are funny beings. I recognize that I’m not overweight. I know I’m not fat. But my brain says different.

All of this rambling is to say that I understand the battles so many people go through with body image issues, of all types and varieties. I know what it’s like to want to be “other”, different from what you are. I know what it’s like to be targeted for what you are, at least at a very superficial level.

Be kind to yourself. Love you for you. Be who you are and shine. I hate lots of things about myself, and have since I was a child. I’m slowly, very slowly, learning to like a few things too. I’m almost 50 and just getting to that point. But it can be done. I promise you, it can.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 6, 2019 7:42 AM

    Nice post sir. Bat-Shit crazy is not so bad.


  2. June 9, 2019 7:00 AM

    Preach, brudda, preach. I was a beanpole too (they called me “Hatrack”), then a fat bastard, then a beanpole, then … well, you know the story. At one point I was sweating actual gravy.

    Now, in my advanced decrepitude I go 6-0 and 160, which feels about right. I try to ride a hunnerd or so miles per week, and do a little running and lifting. I corked the popskull about six years back, and we don’t eat much beef or pork. Herself’s mantra is “beans and rice, rice and beans, beans and rice.” Also, and too, salad.

    I still try not to look in the mirror very often because, hey, it’s me in there. But if I happen to catch my reflection in a store window while cycling past I don’t burst into tears, either. My inner fat bastard grumbles a bit from time to time, and if the sniveling becomes unbearable I throw him a green chile cheeseburger and an order of fries.

    Liked by 1 person

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