It's amazing how one small battery powered device can either make or break your day. No, not that battery operated device.
Most of my life I fought to gain weight. Secretly, it thrilled me I had this problem. Even though it was partly due to genetics as well as a royally screwed up intestinal tract, I loved the fact that I stayed so thin. Every bit of stress and drama threw my gut into a tailspin. Oh, I forgot to mention I’ve struggled with body image most of my life.
At 46 years old, I decided I wanted to be fit. I wanted to look good naked. I wanted that cut, defined, abs-popping body. So, I started weight lifting. At 47, I decided to compete. I was told I would have to eat almost double what I was currently eating. There was no way I was going to do that. I would get fat. Period.
I honestly thought I could limit food my intake and still achieve my goals. That didn’t happen. Sure, I was lean and defined, but I had no growth.
If you want to compete or you want to gain muscle, you have to eat. You have to eat a lot more than these calorie counting sites tell you. And the number on the scale goes up. Whether it’s from gaining muscle, taking creatine, or gaining fat during off season, it goes up. Oh, that issue with body image? Eating a lot of food will really mess with your head.
I was sick of hearing “it’s just a number”. When I’d get on that scale and that “number” kept going up, it depressed the hell out of me. I’m supposed to be lean, toned and muscular.
After a year of trying to do it my way, I decided to commit and do off season right. I ate exactly what my coach told me to. I got big (in my mind). I hated my body. I hated looking in the mirror. I refused to put a 2 piece suit on vacation. I completely despised the way I looked and longed for competition prep when I could lean out. But, I did it. I was 100% compliant. It went against every single thing in me to eat like I was supposed to.
The majority of medical care providers don’t help our mindset either. At the height of my off season, I went to one of those clinics in the store for my bi-annual sinus infection. The clinic doctor told me "you’re not that much overweight”. Gee. That helped. Most doctors rely on an antiquated, outdated BMI chart. Body Mass. Height to weight ratio. How about body fat? How about visually assessing someone to see if they look remotely overweight? Her response when I told her I’m a weightlifter was “that’s nice”. Muscle, lady. Muscle.
Fast forward through one year and 4 competitions. Finally, I had some gains.
Something happens between my eyes, my brain and that reflective piece of bits of sand pressed together. However, when I see a picture of me, I see something different. I see curves, wider back and rounder shoulders to a smaller waist. Rounded glutes, full quads, bigger biceps. I see a different image of me in a photo than I do when I look in the mirror. My mirror and I have a dysfunctional relationship. I don’t like that bitch much. I am in off season training again. I am 9 pounds heavier than stage weight. So, help deal with my body image issues, I take progress pictures for my coach and use those as a guideline - rather than trusting my eyes and the mirror.
Now, I get on the scale and shrug. It really is only a number. The scale is nothing more than a tool to gauge my progress. It doesn’t speak to the fact that the weight I was on stage was because of a competition prep diet, peak week, dehydrated and depleted. I can honestly look at the scale now and know that it’s up because I’m not dehydrated, I’m eating salt, I’m eating food, I’m drinking water, I’ve added creatine and glutamine to my supplements. I’m not sitting in a sauna daily to get water off. But more importantly, I WILL NOT make muscle gains without the fuel. I won’t get the delts, lats, glutes, ham and quad gains without the food. You cannot build muscle without feeding it.
For the first time in my life, I can get on that scale, and it really is only a number. It’s not reflective of anything. Because of quad and glute gains, I rid my closet of clothes that won't fit them. Trying to put on clothes that don't fit is a surefire way to feel fat.My answer so that it doesn’t f* with my head – leggings and long sweaters. Voila. I longer try to squeeze my growing butt and quads in a pair of jeans I wore before I started lifting.
I've taken my coach's advice and worked hard at "getting out of my own head".
I decided to find a life balance. I now have the energy to give my workouts my all. I have time for other activities. After doing four competitions this last year, I realized I am more than just a competitor. My life is not, nor should it be centered around competing. Competing is something I love to do, but it’s not who I am. This last year, I missed out on cycling, mountain biking, kayaking, hiking, camping, visiting friends and family because I couldn’t miss gym time or go off my meal plan. I realized competing is something I do, not who I am. And, if I want to progress in competing, I need to eat and get over the need to be rail thin.
It’s time for me to live life, to stop worrying and obsessing over food, the scale, the mirror, how tight or loose my clothes fit. It’s time to stop being my own worst enemy and critic.
It took bodybuilding and competing for me to finally get over that number on the scale. I am finally enjoying life and food, as well as the gym. So bring on the leggings, bring on the food, and screw the number on the scale.
By the way, it really is just a number.