[MAKE SURE TO READ THIS LINK FIRST IF THIS IS YOUR FIRST TIME VISITING ENGLISH MANIF.]
I had a great and robust discussion on Facebook with other guys and women, both straight and gay, about what gay men should think about, regarding their body image in straight life.
One camp of thinkers says it is important not to concern oneself with body image at all, since such concern is a gay way to think, and you all are trying to get away from gay thinking.
Another camp of thinking includes me. We say that realistically speaking, women do check guys out. And in fact, if you are competing against guys who do not have the added handicap of having to explain a gay past, you need a leg up on the competition.
It is true you are never going to be as body-conscious and torso-obsessed as you were in the gay scene. But you are trying to avoid the extremes of skinniness or obesity. And you should work out accordingly.
Look up the ideal body mass for your height. To be cleared for dating, you have to get to the point that you are no more than 5-10 pounds below your ideal body mass, or 30-35 pounds above your ideal body mass. Also, your chest should be greater than your waist. For instance, if you have a 40 chest and a 42 waist, that's bad.
To get out of Phase 3, of course, you should be demonstrating that you can do the 7 hours of sweaty exercise per week on a regular basis.
If you need to drop weight to get into the right range, then I suggest trying what worked for me when I dropped 50 pounds. Cut out rice, potatoes, and breads. Emphasize cardio more than weights but do strength training. Also, make sure you are sweating profusely when you work out. Don't go for low-intensity workouts.
If you need to gain weight, make sure you eat a lot of protein. Go to books or websites that help thin people gain; it is a very specific demographic. You should also shoot for the 7 hours per week of exercise but you want to make sure you are emphasizing weight training, and increasing the amount of weight for strength exercises. Do not neglect your legs, because that is where you have biggest muscles and can gain a lot of weight. Below the video I will also repost what I have written in the past about how to avoid temptation at the gym...
If you are ex-gay, no matter where you are on your journey, you have to develop clear ways to avoid temptation.
Ex-gay men have to be gym patrons because gyms are the venues for two important goals in our gay-to-straight programme: you have to exercise a lot and you have to have friendly conversations with straight men to ground yourself. Choosing a gym is an important strategic move because you want to be around guys who are serious about working out but you want the number of gays in the gym to be an absolute minimum.
Whatever gym you've joined, now you face the problem of gay cruising. Memories of your time in the gay community may haunt you and you may start getting homoerotic urges because the men around you are strong. There is no gym anywhere that has no gays in it so you then risk setting off gaydar and getting hit on. Yes, I trust you are a gentleman and won't do it, but you need a plan to minimize risk.
Have a routine that cuts out any time in the locker room. Only go into the locker room to use the toilets if there are no standalone toilet facilities elsewhere in the club. Change into your gym clothes at home, work out, and leave in the same gym clothes. This means in winter you will be rushing from your car to the gym in gym clothes and a jacket over you. (Stow the jacket in lockers on the workout floor if there are any, or find somewhere other than the locker room as a place to leave the jacket.) If there is nowhere to stow your jacket other than in the locker room, then leave your jacket in your car and rush into the gym.
The question might come up from you: No, there's no parking lot at the gym and I take the bus even in winter, or, I don't want to dump sweat all over the interior of the car on the way home. Okay, let's deal with this step by step. You are not going into the locker room. Cancel your membership at the gym that makes things too complicated, and join a gym that's close to your home so you don't have to ride sweaty too long. Also, don't join gyms that make it impossible for you to drive so you can leave your jacket in the car.
If you don't have a car but take a bus or train to the gym, then that's easy. Set out of the house with shorts and a T-shirt on under your other clothes. Bring a gym bag that's at least half empty. Find a corner of the gym that's wide open in the public, and take off the outer layers and stuff them in your gym bag and leave it somewhere while you work out.
Don't let yourself sell yourself out. You know you cannot afford to slip up. Avoid the locker room.
It goes without saying, no sauna or steamroom. If you absolutely have to swim, I suggest you only do so if you can walk into the gym with a towel and dry swim trunks, then leave the gym with a towel wrapped around your wet swim trunks.
No locker room. No locker room.
Even if you are totally out of shape at the beginning, eventually with time you are going to get muscles and start looking good. If you show off your looks and desperately look for attention, you are going to be approached by guys at the gym, and then you have nobody but yourself to blame if you get stalked or you slip up and backslide. If you have a cute face (something I don't have to worry about) you can't help your face, but be honest with yourself and check yourself. If you know you look like the barracks "candy man" you don't have to make things worse for yourself. Offset the fact that you tend to attract gay prowlers with other behavioral maneuvers that insulate you from gay flirtation.
Never wear tank tops or anything that exposes your biceps. Ever. T-shirts should be crew neck, not V-neck, and thick enough so your sweat doesn't make your torso visible. Wear it loose. At this point I assume you aren't stupid enough to wear fishnet or midriff shirts, but just in case you are that much of an airhead, do not wear fishnet shirts or midriff shirts or anything see-through.
Never wear anything that accentuates your buttocks. You are an ex-gay, you are not a newbie and you know what it means when you wear tight pants. Try to wear long sweatpants wherever possible and make sure they are loose enough that they aren't hugging your rear end. If you have a tendency to walk in a feminine manner, definitely choose loose workout pants so you don't draw attention to it. I say this not to make you feel ashamed of having a feminine walking style, but just to help you avoid drawing attention that can complicate your life.
Always go to the gym with headphones on and make sure your i-pod or phone (or whatever) is fully charged and you have hours of music to keep you busy. This way, you can just be in your own zone and choose who can talk to you, by talking off the headphones when you are okay talking to someone. Talk about whatever you want with whoever you want but put the headphones back on if the subject matter gets very personal or you feel like the tone drifts toward being flirty.
Aside from the towel desk, feel free to chat with guys on the weightfloor or the cardio deck, as long as the conversation is laid back and general. If guys want to talk to you in whispers or start making unusual facial gestures that feel flirtatious, politely say you have to get back to work and put the headphones on.
Any guy who touches you for any reason should be avoided. Don't do anything that leaves a guy an opening to do that. So don't flex in front of the mirrors or offer to show some other guy how your abs are doing. Keep a respectful distance as space permits. If a guy touches you, for instance commenting on how you are bulking up, don't make a big deal out of it. Say you gotta get back to work and put your headphones on, but avoid that guy. If you use some excuse like having to go to the bathroom or walking to a different machine he may follow you. He may or may not be cruising you, and you don't want to be rude or beclown yourself with the other guys at the gym. But you should avoid him.
Dealing with Impulses at the Gym
First, don't be a backslider. Remember that it is common for guys to get unexpected erections when they are doing physical activities. It is NOT because you really are gay and you will end up going back to homosexuality. They won't admit it but most of the other guys have at some point had erections on exercise equipment or during physical activities because of general body movements.
Sixth-grade rules apply; it you get an unwanted erection immediately think about something that turns you off (for me, it's driving through Nebraska). It will go away. You don't want to stop your workout over this and don't scramble to cover it up, since that might just draw people's attention to it more.
I think as you work out more and more you will start noticing muscularity less and less, because everyone around you will look average. Hopefully that is the case. If you find your eyes wandering or your thoughts drifting to bad places, learn to get into your zone. It would be great to be friendly and open for conversation, but avoiding temptation takes priority. If a specific guy or general area of the gym inspires homoerotic thoughts, put your headphones on and concentrate single-mindedly on what you are doing.
Common sense works best. You know yourself, I hope. Don't let yourself swindle yourself. You know if you are getting chatty with someone because you find him attractive. Knock it off and don't do that. You don't need to be rude but do not befriend or get personal with a guy who's attractive or visually stimulating to the point that you start feeling warm and fuzzy. You cannot afford the risk. Be cordial but detached and focus on making friends with other guys who pose less danger.
Meeting Girls at the Gym
Female gym-goers have a bad reputation among a lot of guys but it is really unfair. I have known quite a few great women who happened to love exercise and were not promiscuous in the slightest. If you are in the ex-gay hunting period, gym girls are completely valid candidates. But just be realistic about her character given what you can observe about a woman at the gym. If she wears skimpy clothes she seems desperate for attention, not a good sign. If she hits on you, that breaks English Manif's rule that you should not go out with girls who pursue you.
Fitness classes have a bad reputation but I find that also undeserved. They are female-dominated but that is okay, since you are trying to meet women. If you want to avoid doing something that is going to make you look extremely gay, then you want to go for the weight-training hybrid classes or stuff that combines strength exercises with aerobics. Often gays congregate to the fitness classes but that's not going to deter you necessarily. Just come in, set up or do whatever to get ready, and do not make small talk with guys in the fitness classes. Look serious and contemplative during downtime. And scan to see if there are women who do not have wedding rings.
Oh, and never take fitness classes with a guy instructor who wears tight or lascivious athletic gear. He's gay and will notice you.
Dealing with the Narcissus Effect
I have known a few guys who struggled with the Narcissus Effect.
Some men with homosexual tendencies begin to get aroused at seeing their own muscles. The problem is that this can trigger general gay arousal, because you have body memory from your years in gay life. It is pretty easy for your fascination with your own muscles to lead to you imagining how you look to other guys, which can produce homosexual fantasies and thoughts.
The Narcissus Effect is dangerous because it can follow you home. It is virtually impossible to avoid seeing yourself in the mirror. If you find yourself getting turned on by the sight of yourself, then quite simply, avoid being shirtless in front of mirrors. When you get out of the shower, dry yourself off and dress yourself before you get to your own bathroom mirror.
The minute you detect signs of the Narcissus Effect, cease and desist all selfies, even those of just your face. Your face will start showing traces of your muscular fitness.
If you are starting to feel the Narcissus Effect you must immediately heighten the masturbation ban to near-total abstinence. Once you start finding yourself capable of erotically triggering yourself, masturbation becomes extremely dangerous; this can easily escalate into the desire to seek out another male.
Avoid the fat safety response
I do not know if this is a common issue among ex-gays, but it did happen to me. When I came back from active duty with the Army, I was significantly more in shape than I had been in a while. A lot of gay men noticed me and propositioned me. At that time I was living in a different city from my wife and daughter (we had to live in different cities for work for several difficult years, but thank goodness we have been reunited as a household for a blissful stretch of years since.)
To keep myself from backsliding, I just wanted not to be noticed by gay men. So I intentionally got fat. It was this rough period, starting about 2011, when I shot up from 180 pounds to 275 pounds by the summer of 2017. The stress of my job in California added to it. I have lost half of this horrible weight since 2017, but I still want to get down to at least 200.
I was already well over 10 years into my marriage and a father when these events happened. But I just mention them in case you find yourself attracting a lot of gay men (or even women you can't deal with) and you feel the urge to protect yourself from this danger by hiding behind some shield of unattractiveness. Perhaps this might mean growing an unkempt beard or, as in my case, gaining almost 100 pounds.
There has to be a better way to solve the problem. Looking at my case, it was clear I needed to hurry toward reuniting with my wife. Solve the practical matters that keep you vulnerable. But also, maybe seek counseling. And generally find ways to strengthen your own resistance to temptation.