A martial arts teacher and bodybuilder wants to raise awareness of “fit-shaming” after overcoming abuse about his appearance which he said left him “cowering down to try and hide (himself)” in public.
Colin Wolf, now 45, who lives in Idaho, USA, explained that he was “always underweight” growing up and, in his teenage years, he was embarrassed to take his shirt off as he had “hardly any muscle”.
He said it was “virtually impossible” for him to gain weight, “no matter what (he) did”, and his peers at school would regularly comment on how “pale and skinny” he was.
Colin had always enjoyed martial arts but it was not until he saw a friend lifting weights and gaining muscle in his mid-20s that “everything changed for (him)”.
Now, Colin takes part in bodybuilding competitions, specifically Men’s Physique, and is “extremely lean”, but he said he is still criticised for how he looks despite living a healthy and disciplined lifestyle.
“Fit-shaming hurts people in shape just as much as anyone else,” Colin said.
“It can lead to body dysmorphia or other destructive practices.
“It doesn’t make sense how people justify abuse and hate and verbal statements just because of what we look like.
“Prejudice and discrimination apply to all groups, not just some.”
Colin said he “hated” how he looked as a teenager as he was “super skinny”, but even when he started to gain muscle and was “happy” with his progress, people would still make fun of him.
The personal trainer said he was often told he was “showing off” when he was not, and that he was only going to the gym for attention.
He said he would “cower down to try and hide (himself)” in public, as people would make “hurtful” comments.
Colin explained: “I realised that, if I wanted to (put on muscle), I would have to eat a certain amount of protein and not eat more sugary things, or carbohydrates, and restrict myself from that.
“But then I would get made fun of in public for not eating cake… or I would get told, ‘You don’t want to get in too good a shape’, or, ‘You don’t want to put on too much muscle’.
“One of the other popular things was, ‘you’re already in shape, why do you still go to the gym?’
“I’m not out here for attention, this is just how I look now, and so that still brings the same self-confidence issues as when I was super skinny.”
Before Colin started his fitness journey at 26, he said he weighed around 130lbs and was 5ft 10in tall.
He said he was “never good at sports and was never athletic”, but he started his fitness transformation when he met a friend who taught him the basics of weight training.
After completing hours of research and reading, learning about the “truth” and “science” behind fitness, Colin explained that he was “able to force his body” to achieve his desired results.
This included eating large amounts of calorie-rich food, such as “a giant bowl of pasta” with tuna and butter, as he often struggled with increasing his appetite.
“I started slowly, buying all the magazines and trying to read, and I finally figured out that for me to grow I had to force-feed myself until I felt sick, basically,” Colin explained.
“I would eat until I would get dizzy and then take a nap because I needed that amount of calories.
“The first month I put on five pounds, and the next month I put on another five pounds, and it was muscular weight, and when I saw that I was hooked.”
Within the first year of training, predominantly focusing on weight lifting and modifying his diet, Colin gained approximately 30lbs in muscle. He now weighs around 180lbs.
Colin said he “never thought (he) would gain weight” and he is “very proud” of his achievements.
He has since gone on to take part in Men’s Physique competitions, placing second in his very first show at 41-years-old, and he continues to do martial arts to this day as well as teaching others.
Colin said that “it’s so much about just believing you can and not giving up”, even when faced with setbacks and criticism such as “fit-shaming”.
He feels that muscular people are perceived incorrectly as “arrogant” and many think it is “acceptable” to say hurtful things, but in reality, those who are in shape still can have body confidence issues.
He added: “People think that someone who’s muscular almost deserves (the abuse).”
But Colin, who also has a degree in psychology and works in HR, has implemented his learnings in his own teaching and now runs a fitness company called Wolf Fitness Academy.
He continued: “It’s taken me years to figure out the science and, more importantly, the psychology of training to get my body to look the way it does.
“I go to the gym a lot less than people think I do, but it’s about being efficient and focus, rather than the amount of time training.
“I’ve studied psychology and I use that when I train someone as much as the physical part.”
Colin believes that one of the biggest fitness misconceptions is that “genetics completely control you” and he thinks that anyone can “make a drastic transformation” with self-belief and discipline.
He said he would urge anyone who has faced criticism, or who lacks self-belief, to focus on setting the right goals and being consistent and to follow instructors and influencers online who they trust.
“Regardless of your genetics or background you can make a drastic transformation,” he said.
“Find simple goals to reach, like one push-up or pull-up, and if you can do one, then you can build on that for easier goals.
“Everyone starts from scratch – Mike Tyson, Michael Jordan, they all started from one punch or one dribble.
“Once you see you can reach that goal, then if you maintain discipline to train, you can reach the higher goals.
“You can change anything if you have the proper knowledge and tools and the belief in yourself that you can reach that.”