What Does Saisei Mean to You?

I still remember the day I first saw a Flex magazine I was 15.  The magazine was filled with pictures of monstrous dudes unlike any human I had ever yet encountered.  But I was inspired by more than just their physical might; it was more about their unapologetic and blatant freakishness.

As attractive as it was to look strong – to look impervious the way they did – I came to discover that I found a far greater fulfillment in the process of training.  It quieted my mind.  And from then on, I knew I could not live without implementing the process of getting bigger and stronger, of bettering myself.  So, from day one I buried myself in it, learning everything I could.  Reading articles from magazines and websites, trying different workouts.

But in spite of such a passionate beginning, my passion alone did not carry me through to where I dreamed of going.  I ended up taking a detour from training and from life for a number of years.  I was lost; purposeless, dysfunctional, homeless at times, and certainly broken. At one point my spiral got so bad that I was even diagnosed as malnourished and having scurvy. With a lot of work and a lot of help from others, I began to find my way back.

I began, what I would later realize, was my my Saisei.

When I started this new chapter in life, I was 6’3”, barely 150 lbs, and almost 20 years old.  It was difficult for me to shake the image of having a  slight, weak stature. No matter how much weight I gained, every time I looked in the mirror I saw a sickly scarecrow staring back at me. I overate – basically eating everything in sight – and trained like I was possessed.

Within a year I had ballooned up to 300 lbs and was wearing a size 38-40 waist.  And I came to another moment I will never forget: when I got dressed one morning and found that I couldn’t quite button up my shorts.  I recall having to tie the top of the zipper with a shoelace.  And while it was only a small moment of demoralization on the surface, it was significant enough for me to realize that my perception of myself did not align with reality.

I had no choice but to begin learning how to lose weight. And, with such a skinny past, I had never been confronted with a challenge like that.  After all, my main objective had always been to get bigger, not smaller. I had no clue where to begin.

Like many people, I figured if taking in way more seems the obvious way to gain weight, then taking in way less must be better to lose it.  So I severely restricted my calories, leading to terrible yo-yo dieting in which I would find myself with low energy, low willpower, and ravenous hunger.  This almost always led to binging. Binging almost always led to demoralizing guilt and shame and then more overly restrictive dieting to compensate. It was a vicious cycle that I had no clue how to break.

At this point I realized I had two choices, continue down this path, fumbling in the dark, or admit that I was totally out of my element and swallow my pride in order to ask for help. After admitting that I had an unhealthy relationship with food and body image, I found it easier to accept some guidance and practice humility. I knew I could never find success in bodybuilding if I was unable to control my weight. I utilized any resource I could, I read articles online and spoke with a physician about learning how to manage calories, and how to do so safely and manageably.

Around this time, I started getting it in my head that I wanted to work towards getting on stage. Someone had told me to ask the guys at our local supplement store what steps to take, since they promoted a natural bodybuilding show. The guys at a place near my home in Maine, Portland Nutrition Corner, were extremely helpful and supportive of my idea, and they were the ones that informed me of  a competition was in the fall. In the 12 months prior, I worked my ass off in preparation for the next year. I took up some boxing and other forms of cardio, ate cleaner and managed to get my weight from about 300lbs all the way down to 250 by the next summer. At this point I realized, I would have to go a lot further than I ever planned in order to be “stage ready”.

Like a lot of competitors I slipped into that addictive mindset, now I was on the opposite end of the spectrum from where I had started my journey. Instead of “bigger, bigger” my mind was telling me “leaner, leaner”. I’d like to say I had learned my lesson the first time and was able to recognize my dysfunctional behaviour but that is not the case. I closed out my support network, stopped going to therapy, swore off dating, friends, and any form of distraction, to proceed with a laser focus. This took me to a pretty isolated place. I was unprepared and I approached my prep with the mindset “me vs.” instead of taking into account the people who were there to support me. Of course, I was totally dissatisfied with myself regardless of the weight lost. About a month before the show, I broke into the low 190s. The guys at PNC told me I was ready, but again, I couldn’t see it.

I did well at the show, I won the men’s novice and took second in the open class but was left with that empty feeling competitors know so well. I had put so much into preparing for this event, both mentally and physically, and now it was over. Done. I was only left with the same life, and the same issues I had prior to beginning this prep, perhaps even more exacerbated since I had neglected any relationship or form of self care for the last 12 weeks.

The mathematical definition of a line is often referred to as an infinite series of points, much like our lives. At every point we are being sculpted by our experience and the world around us, our views and ideals are constantly being reborn. Our choice is whether or not we choose to be reborn better, or live the same over and over. My journey so far seems like a series of “days I will never forget.”  From a dreaming teenager staring at a magazine, to a compulsive habit I overlooked, to a moment in a store among friendly mentors, I can track each new beginning to a pivotal moment.  Each of those moments - each of those days – presented me with a choice; in fact, presented me with many choices.  Each choice is an opportunity to recreate our path, or be reborn into a new mode.  Each moment is a potential saisei, and all we have to do is keep watch for it.