In preparation for my recent post on body dysmorphia I asked my friend Chris Kenny, of The Kenny Corner, a few questions about his own experience struggling with body image – he has undergone a fitness journey in recent years so it’s approaching the issue from the opposite end of the spectrum!
The common conception with body dysmorphia is that it affects overweight people who are unhappy with their bodies. Can you describe how it felt for you to be the inverse – aware you had a “small” body that you considered “weedy”?
It’s not just something that was limited to the past, indeed it’s something I and many others within the fitness industry struggle with. We strive for perfection, always spotting flaws that need to be adjusted. Some rounder delts, thicker traps etc. To your question, in the past I was aware of my skinny frame and indeed made aware of it by work colleagues (“work place banter”) and it hurt. I’d always wanted to look better, initially to be more appealing to girls – is the brutal answer. It was demoralising certainly, when you’d see the kind of guys that most girls go for, I felt like I had to reach that level of aesthetic.
What can you recall about the impetus you had from feeling unhappy about your body to actively doing something about it – what was that “something” that made you make that first step, and what was your “burning motivation” to take that step when you did?
As above, it was derived initially from a desire to be noticed by members of the opposite sex. I’d had enough of getting nowhere with girls, being “friendzoned” constantly and just generally being someone who wasn’t doing anything about it.
How do you manage your expectations, as progress is very gradual and not instantaneous.
Be realistic. Your body won’t change overnight, it’s a long term goal that needs to be recognised as such.
Recently you posted “transformation” photos on your Instagram comparing yourself to a year ago to where you are now. How would you describe that experience – does being aware of fitness and what it takes to maintain make you more critical of yourself?
It’s difficult. Preparing for a bodybuilding show is a unique experience, all consuming and wreaks havoc on your mind and body. You can’t walk around every day that lean, so naturally after the show, you eat more, gain some fat. It’s very difficult seeing it happen though, as you know what you can look like, only a few short months ago. But changing the body is an ongoing process, you need to embrace the “bulk” and realise that when you next cut, you’ll look even better.
Posting photographs on your Instagram must take a lot of confidence – what made you decide to put yourself out there in a very public, pictoral way? Was there a big moment for posting your first “fitness” photo on Instagram?
Ha that could well be it! Essentially, you start seeing yourself differently. Going to the gym breeds confidence in other areas of your life, and you notice that it allows you to do things you never thought you would, such as posting a topless selfie. As for the progression of posts, as time has gone on, I’ve changed and looked better, therefore proud of myself, hence the further posts.
Is this a solo journey for you or are there people who have had a material impact on building your confidence?
The journey is definitely not a solo one, especially when competing. You need a coach, understanding friends and family. They do the hard work of keeping you sane whilst you spiral into a maddening hole of chasing perfection for show day.
What do you think about potentially being self-conscious because you may suffer from Body Dysmorphic Disorder (or in general have low body confidence) but not being a stereotypical (of the condition, and indeed my approach) overweight sufferer?
I don’t take compliments well at the moment, because I know I’m not at my best. In addition, social media plays a part, as I’m comparing myself to top athletes around the world, so all I see is areas that need improvement.
Has your fitness journey resulted in an overall increase in confidence in yourself? What overall impacts on your life as a whole has this had on you?
As above, yes, undoubtedly. It enabled me to get multiple promotions, because I was more confident, become more outgoing, and generally enjoy life much more. However, during prep, all those factors become affected negatively, as you’re moody (lack of food/energy, yet output of exercise is very high) and also very singular minded, which can strain relationships, both romantic and otherwise.
A big thanks to Chris for taking the time to answer these questions – please be sure to follow him on Instagram and Facebook, and consider purchasing his ebook The Prep Diaries – it’s a really compelling, honest and frank account of a particular fitness journey he underwent!