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Kumail Nanjiani’s new ‘superhero’ body is about more than those pecs

Kumail Nanjiani posted a photo on Instagram of his body transformation as the actor prepares to star in an upcoming Marvel film. Kumail Nanjiani/Instagram

There’s getting fit and then there’s getting Marvel-superhero ripped.

On Dec. 16, standup comedian and Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Kumail Nanjiani showed us what the latter can look like. He also managed to send social media, daytime talk shows, late-night TV and everyone in between into a tizzy after revealing his major body transformation in an Instagram post.

But it was his modest words, not just his chiselled body, that had us talking. In the accompanying caption, The Big Sick writer and Silicon Valley star confessed that while he didn’t imagine himself ever posting a shirtless, “thirsty” photo, he had worked too hard not to share the results of intense physical training to transform his physique into that of a samurai for his role in The Eternals.

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Nanjiani also detailed that his muscleman-makeover journey was not a walk in the park by any means and candidly expressed how unrealistic it is for most everyday people to place such expectations on themselves.

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“I’m glad I look like this, but I also understand why I never did before. It would have been impossible without these resources and time,” the actor said.

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I never thought I’d be one of those people who would post a thirsty shirtless, but I’ve worked way too hard for way too long so here we are. You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain. I found out a year ago I was going to be in Marvel’s Eternals and decided I wanted to transform how I looked. I would not have been able to do this if I didn’t have a full year with the best trainers and nutritionists paid for by the biggest studio in the world. I’m glad I look like this, but I also understand why I never did before. It would have been impossible without these resources and time. So big thanks to @grantrobertsfit who started working with me at the beginning of the year and made me understand true physical pain for months and months. Then, once we started shooting, a massive thanks to @davidhigginslondon and his team (@ellispartridge, @thebeardypt, @tomcheesemanfitness) for training me almost every day and making me strong, limber and injury free. I can almost touch my toes now. (And thank you for forcing me to do cheat meals David.) Matthews Street Catering for their delicious and healthy meals. And finally, the biggest thanks goes to @emilyvgordon for putting up with me complaining and talking about only working out and dieting for the last year. I promise I’ll be interesting again some day. #thirstyshirtless (Photo by @markupson.) (edit: I left off one very important person: @lancecallahan who trained me for 6 years and helped me build the foundation I could use to do this. Thank you!)

A post shared by Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) on

 

I’m not going to lie: I fell for the thirst trap. You can’t deny his body transformation is incredible. Oddly enough, seeing one of my favourite “everyday guys” hit such a fitness high actually inspired me to get into better shape and put my gym membership back to use again.

And unlike other times, when I have felt discouraged in seeing those “picture-perfect” Instagram model bodies, Nanjiani’s caption served as a great reality check. I’m not making a Marvel movie — and I sure as heck am not making Marvel-movie money, so my personal exercise and diet regime will have to fit within my confines of a full-time job and caring for two young children, sans a staff of trainers, chefs and nannies. I likely won’t look like an Avenger next year, and I’m OK with it.

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What I find most refreshing about Nanjiani’s post — and it’s something we don’t see enough of — is his brutal honesty about his body transformation and about how much time and money matter.

First, he was clear that it didn’t happen overnight; it took him a year of enormously hard work. And second, he had a full team of dedicated professionals supporting him (apparently five personal trainers, not to mention the nutrition staff) with the entire bill footed by Marvel.

Nanjiani said it himself in his post: “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain. I found out a year ago I was going to be in Marvel’s Eternals and decided I wanted to transform how I looked. I would not have been able to do this if I didn’t have a full year with the best trainers and nutritionists paid for by the biggest studio in the world.”

WATCH: (July 12, 2017) Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon talk about their film, ‘The Big Sick’

Click to play video: 'Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon talk their film, ‘The Big Sick’' Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon talk their film, ‘The Big Sick’
Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon talk their film, ‘The Big Sick’ – Jul 12, 2017

With body image issues continually on the rise for so many women, his realism about his new physique is much needed because it helps us keep things in perspective.

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Shortly after having my first child, I remember seeing a tabloid magazine with a headline reading something like “pre-baby body in just six weeks.” The cover image featured a gorgeous, bikini-clad actress that I could not relate to in any way, shape or form.

Meanwhile, six weeks post-partum, I looked like I was still pregnant, my newborn preemie baby was still in the NICU, my head and hormones were still spinning and sporting a bikini was the furthest thing from my mind.

I tuned out that cover and the many other celebrity “healthy body goals” stories that I came across because I simply could not relate. However, all those messages of “perfection” we are bombarded with still have an effect on our psyche.

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And it isn’t just women with these insecurities. More and more, men are suffering with body image issues, the pressure of the “superhero effect” partly to blame.

Ironically, as more of our favourite guy-next-door stars, from Paul Rudd to Zachary Levi and (not-so favourite) Chris Pratt, transform into superheroes with bulging biceps and pulsating pecs, more men are seeking ways to achieve the same.

That’s why sharing the full story behind such transformations, as Nanjiani did, reminds us that setting realistic standards and embracing our bodies and personal journeys is just as important as the images themselves.

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There is a divided camp on social media claiming that Nanjiani’s personality will also transform now that his body has, bemoaning the “loss” of the nerdy guy next door. But rest assured: his wife put up a post poking fun at him and his shirtless snap.

“He’s super buff but he’s also still super this guy.”

 

Hopefully, Nanjiani’s candid honesty will inspire more of us to pull back the curtain and share more of our #behindthescenes, too.

Meera Estrada is a cultural commentator and co-host of kultur’D! on Global News Radio 640 Toronto.

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