First World Problems

Foreward: Any and all decisions made here are about me, my body and my life and should in no way reflect on anyone else’s choices. My thoughts about this process and my body are also not reflective of anyone who lives with, is friends with, coaches, helps or assists me in any way. I make my own decisions about how I want my body to look and work and what I choose to do to those ends. I have good people helping me to achieve what I have told them I want to do. This is not about them (they’re fantastic support), it’s about what’s going on in my head when faced with dieting back down to the 72kg weight class.

After Worlds, I had a chance to look around and think, set some new goals, assess what I need to get to them, and do some things that I just haven’t had the right span of time to tackle over the past year. One of these was to take a look at my body composition and weight, which had crept up over the past year, and decide where I want that to be in terms of both composition and sheer mass. I used to compete in the 72kg class and had moved up to the 84 for a time. At first I wasn’t sure. I had heard 84kg lifters referred to as “fat 72s” (which I dismissed as it makes no sense when you think about it. Are 63s just “fat 57s”?), had another person say to me, “You don’t want to walk around looking like *that*, really, do you? All big and brawny?” (actually, you know, I kinda do) and found that being labelled with the word “super heavyweight” takes a certain amount of mental adjustment in a culture that tells women to be small. While I was able to rationally deal with each of these perspectives, the voices still niggled in the back of my mind.

But I gave it a shot, mainly to reduce stress after a crazily stressful year. Not worrying about making weight was a wonderful feeling and I really LOVED being able to worry just about how much I could lift. My lifetime goal is to see how much weight I can absolutely lift without a care about my Wilks score. Training for that goal is going to be fun.

While I competed during the past year in 84, it was my initial intention right from the get-go to hover between the two weight classes, giving myself the opportunity to pick which class I wanted to compete in at any particular meet. This, for me, means living at around 72-74kg (158-163lbs).

What had to happen after worlds should have been a no-brainer. I weighed almost 80kg (around 175lbs) when I came back from Texas (partially deliberate weight gain, partially salty Texas food, partially too much food, partially inattention). I had deliberately allowed myself to gain some weight so as not to weigh in too light and ate whatever I needed to recover really well from training. But 80 is too far from 72 to be easily accessible and I knew that if I wanted to be able reach 72 for a meet, I needed to live life a little lighter. I knew that I’d have to shift things a bit, probably this summer.

I’m not a woman who attaches any emotional significance to a particular weight. I really don’t mind the number 80kg/175lbs. I doesn’t “define” me any more or less than 72kg/158lbs would. Those are numbers. I’m a person and much more than three digits strung together. But a look in the mirror also showed me that I was chubbier in body than in my mind’s eye (and I like how I look in my mind’s eye), so a little trimming down wouldn’t hurt. Easy decision, right?

I was expecting a certain amount nuisance factor with tracking food, just because it’s another detail to do in the run of a day, but I’ve done it before and it really works. I don’t like to live my life accounting for every bite that I eat, but as a temporary tool, it’s invaluable both because it makes a nutrition plan quantifiable and therefore assessable in terms of effectiveness. If something isn’t working, what needs to be changed is identifiable. Also tracking makes me stop and think about what I’m fuelling my body with and eat mindfully. It was/is a necessary evil for me during certain periods of time.

So the parts involving the why and the how weren’t problematic for me from a logistic standpoint. I’m down to 167lbs or so over the past month and honestly, I’m eating a good amount of food. I’m generally not particularly hungry and when I am, I eat and I eat things that I like. I vowed not to starve myself to achieve this end and I wanted to still be able to eat and live a happy life. I’m hiking and walking a lot more to increase my ambient activity levels and that is really helping. My biggest change though has been to pay scrupulous attention to maximizing the nutrient density of what I’m eating, so that the quality of food keeps me fuller longer and my energy levels stay good. I’m eating a lot of good food and my body enjoys that. I’m also eating more carbs and that seems to be agreeing with me as well. It’s working. Thus far the only casualty has been my benchpress, which feels off lately, but I’m told by my coach will bounce back as time goes on and my body readjusts. I’m going to have to trust and just keep working.

The thing that completely surprised me was my emotional reaction to the process. I hadn’t realized how much I like being an 84 lifter. I wasn’t expecting it to fit so well.

I’m hating this shrinking thing. And that’s not a word I use lightly.

I’m really having a visceral resentment of getting smaller. I look in the mirror and see increased muscle definition, which I keep telling myself is cool, but when I move through the world I feel littler. I keep replacing this with more affirmative words like “more compact”, “higher Wilks”, and “denser”, but I’m not having a lot of luck changing how my heart handles this feeling. I keep looking in mirrors, trying to get used to the changes but it’s harder than I anticipated.

One of the unexpected things that I grew to absolutely love about lifting and moving up a weight class was owning my space in the world. I remember one day being constantly distracted by something out of the corner of my eye and realizing suddenly that it was my shoulders that had grown enough for me to see them.  I really have never been one for slimness, tininess or slenderness as a form of sexiness (your mileage may definitely vary), and I have never been a small woman, so finally being able to “own” my body shape and size and making it useful was a tremendous breakthrough for me as an adult.

I love walking up to the bar when lifting and knowing that throwing my body against it means that I’m hitting it with a fairly formidable weapon. I found out at Worlds that I love walking onto the platform and taking that space over. While I lift, it’s mine. The bar, the rack, the platform, all of it. I like being “big”. Over the past months I’ve come to understand why men enjoy that feeling of having muscle and bulk; it’s a powerful feeling to be able to walk into a space and dominate it. People think twice about pushing you around when you’re larger and that translates into increased confidence in your ability to handle your own life.

And I feel like I’m giving that up in some measure. Which is probably foolish, because I’ll only be dropping another seven pounds or so. I can live happily enough at 73 kg and make 72 very easily from there. But I feel less me, which is true in a sense (ultimately by 15 pounds), but it also isn’t. I’m not giving up muscle, I’m trimming off fat which should make muscle and the power it conveys more visible. And my squat and deadlift haven’t suffered at all. If anything my deadlift feels more powerful lately; Saturday’s pull of 160kg (350lbs) surprised me with the speed and relative ease with which it moved up. It only starts feeling heavy at around 165 now, which is a nice sensation.

But I am having to re-make a new kind of peace with my body (and mind) after a nice period in which we were finally getting along just fine (which I was rather enjoying). I had learned to listen to it during training and it was moving the way I wanted it to. It was a working alliance. The actual process of adjusting body comp is actually working really well – my body apparently knows how to get leaner and is willing to play this game for me. I’m eating according to the allotted numbers and I can see the expected changes. It’s my mind that’s having a hard time with this.  I sent a friend a text last night saying, “I should have just stayed fat,” and until I put it into words I didn’t realize how much this was bugging me. It’s not so much a question of, “Can I?” but, “Do I want to?” and I’m not entirely certain that I know the answer yet, but I’m giving this more of a chance to really find out.

Not really sure why I wrote this, other than as a roadmark in this strange journey I’m on. Also maybe in case there are other women are travelling a similar road and have suggestions or just wanted to know they aren’t the only ones.

“Of course it is happening inside your head… but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” –  J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows


One Comment Add yours

  1. Sarah Farr says:

    This was a powerful read. I’m constantly battling with myself to be smaller. It’s such a hellish ride to be constantly fighting with myself about it. I really appreciated this.

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