I was just a kid. Away from home for the first time. In some disorientating dormitory, rooming with a dude I’d never met before the day he walked into our room, hammered a nail into the wall and hung his lifting belt up.
I admit, I was worried about who the dweeb was who’d walk through that door but when Robert G walked in, said not a word before hanging his lifting belt up, I was relieved for sure.
“Yes, there is a God.,” I mumbled to myself.
It was our first year at Colorado State University. Everything was new but in the midst of all the orientation, all the finding our way around, Robert and I had found a gym and were already getting after it.
I’d been an athlete all my life, playing football and wrestling. I was better than good at both but football was my thing. I was a quick, strong, capable running back who loved playing hard and practicing harder.
I’d had visions of playing for CSU and intended to walk-on but in the months leading up to school, in an effort to pack on some muscle and strength for football, I caught it. Yep, the bug–the muscle bug.
By the time I hit school I’d packed on some pretty damn good size and lifting the iron was the only thing on my mind.
In the first year there was but one focus–one theme; size. Get a big as humanly possible as fast as possible. Robert and I live the credo without fail.
This meant training nearly every day. We’d meet and walk the two plus miles off campus to the Fitness Forum to engage in hours of gut wrenching training. Thinking back, no doubt we were over training. We loved it. Every session was a PR quest.
I recall one particular chest day. After multiple sets of bench press, incline press, dumbbell flys, cable cross-overs it was time to crank some heavy weighted dips. On set 3 I had a 120 lb dumbbell dangling from the chain belt, and as I thrusted down to the deep bottom my chest popped–like the largest chicken bone you’d ever heard.
Turns out I’d split my sternum like a doctor would do for open heart surgery. Just popped that breast plate. Needless to say it set me back for months. I could barely breathe let alone train.
As hard as we trained, as much as we focused, without question there was nothing we did in this massive muscle quest harder than the epic level of eating.
I know this may be foreign to most people. Perhaps even to some of the more recent muscle building athletes–as I don’t know if this level of eating is still the thing-but we ate.
We ate. And then we ate more. And we ate more.
Living the dorm life–with all its limitations it did offer the infinite food supply. Well, we had to stock up for when the kitchen was closed but for 3 solids a day we could go to town.
Robert and I were usually the first ones in and the last out. Our stated objective each day was to reach 10,000 calories consumed. (to be honest, I think we averaged in the 6-7k range, which is still epic) And let me tell you, it was the most brutal of chores.
If you’ve ever gone hungry, had to suffer a diet, this may sound like heaven but let me assure you it’s a whole different order of hell. Imagine the worst you’ve ever over served yourself at thanksgiving, the unbelievable bloated pain that you pray to leave your body.
You got it?
Okay, imagine this is how you felt every meal before you went for the last heaping plate. And I’m not talking about once a week or every now and then. I’m talking about every damn day.
We got up, we ate. Oatmeal, gallons of milk, plates and plates of eggs. Lunch it was sandwiches, and whatever we they were serving. Plate after plate. With glasses on glasses of milk.
Then came the whole chicken graveyard of dinner. At times we’d keep a plate in the middle of the table and just stack the chicken bones on it. By the time we were done one night the two of us had finished 6 whole chickens. In addition to the mashers, beans and all the pie and ice cream we could handle, times 3.
I know it may sound funny. I get it. But having lived through it I can tell you it was damned serious and it was an epic level of discipline. it was effort full on. We had to know and see our goal every meal and set to the act of eating without question, without listening to what your body’s wanted. We ate because we were on a mission.
Not eating, not giving out all in the dining hall as we did in the gym would have told us clearly that we were not serious. That this didn’t matter.
By our actions, our dedication, our commitment to the goal over the extreme discomfort we reinforced our desire. We anchored it at 3 major meals a day. And this made us train harder, sleep better, focus more. It worked.
Eating like NFL offensive linemen didn’t work overnight. Hell, nothing does. But along with our brutal training schedule, the gluttony began to pack on the pounds. We both grew much larger and stronger by the week. Stretch marks appeared and grew larger and more shocking by the week. Our clothes, especially jeans no longer fit but unable to afford new wardrobes we suffered through and spent more and more time in comfy sweats.
Looking back, one of the wildest things about this time–these memories–was there was zero supplements involved. We didn’t have a tub of protein we could lean on. It was years before the HeavyWeight Gainer 900 would arrive to bomb the guts of bodybuilders.
We did this with food, water and milk. That’s it. It was a ten years (B.C.) before creatine. At home, prior to school, I used to break a dozen eggs in a blender and drink them for protein and calories. But we didn’t have this option at school, so whatever was cooking was our indulgence.
If I wanted to think about this time more I am sure there are dozens of valuable lessons in this story, in these years. But the one experience I most wanted to share was the eating, the excess, the commitment.
It seems to me that all I ever hear these days is diets, dieting, eating less and all the various tricks and strategies to deal with cravings and hunger. I know diets. I’ve done a lot of crazy dieting and taken it to the extreme for months on end to get into single digit body fat.
But perhaps it was this three year period of eating to epic excess that expanded my capacity for dieting, for any sort of physical suffering. For after all the dieting and deprivation I’ve done I can honestly say that it never reach the level of struggle and difficulty that excess eating was.
People cut out the sugars, cut back on the calories by some small number and you’d like to think they were being drug down the street behind a horse and whipped, to hear them complain. Oh, they want their foods, their freedom. When I hear a person complaining about dieting, sometimes I hear myself inside saying, “I’ll get you some food and show you how to eat until you never want to eat again.”
Yet, ultimately it’s not about the excess or deprivation, the lesson is in the wanting. What do you really want bad enough to do whatever it takes? I mean really want.
What is it?
For when you really find this–and believe me, it’s there–the starvation or excess won’t matter for it’s all simply the price you choose to pay. For many of us the problem is it’s just been too long time since you’ve allowed yourself to really, truly, want something.
Find it. Allow it.
When you do. Take the step. Eat the food. Lift the weight. Do the the first thing. And feel how one action gives strength to the next action. And all actions begin to fall like dominoes in the direction of your goal and vision.
Now, go serve yourself a triple helping of want and get after manifesting your dreams real.