Before I went to the spa on Saturday I had an idea of writing a blog post about body image (again – I’m sure I’ve written about that a few times!) because I was fretting a bit about getting into my bikini. Like most people I’m feeling a bit out of shape after Christmas and I wasn’t looking forward to wearing a bikini (I don’t appear to own a swimsuit at the moment!) in front of others.
But in the end it was fine. Yes, I have a big B-shaped tummy (you know what I mean, when you look at it from the side it looks like a B!) but one of the great things about going to a ladies-only session at a spa is that you see ladies of ALL shapes & sizes, all just doing their thing in their swimwear. No-one cares what you look like.
Plus I’m sure the other two ladies I went with wouldn’t mind me saying that none of us look like the fitness-model or Crossfit-babe types you’d believe women who lift look like – if you read the media. All three of us are at the medium-to-larger end of straight sizes (I’m a small plus/”inbetweenie” myself). I have copious belly rolls even when I’m at competition weight (and I feel “skinny”). The main difference between us & the other ladies in the spa was that we all have traps, whereas regular women don’t 🙂
After saying all that it probably seems counterintuitive to say that lifting definitely hasn’t had that much of a body-positive effect on me. Before I started lifting I was pretty much ignorant of body image issues – I knew I was fat, but I was OK with it. Not just because I discovered the fat acceptance/body positive movement before I started lifting, but also because I’ve always been chubby and I just accepted it. I didn’t wear bikinis when I was at my smallest (aged 18 I was probably a size 12/14) because I just knew I was bigger than my friends and bikinis “weren’t for me”. Obviously I know now that bikinis are for everyone regardless of size, but back then I didn’t feel sad that I “couldn’t” wear a bikini. It just… was.
But when I started lifting, that was when I started learning about body fat percentages and weight and leanness etc, and then I started feeling worse about my body. It was as if I’d just been blithely going through life beforehand not realising that being fat was “bad”, and now a veil had been lifted – suddenly weight mattered, and there was this thing called leanness I hadn’t noticed before.
When I was initially lifting I admit I was suckered in to the idea of lifting for weight loss and trying to get more lean, even though leanness is counterintuitive to the things I’ve always liked about my body (like having larger boobs!). I guess I thought that lifting and leanness/weight loss/wanting to look certain way went hand-in-hand. It was almost as if I had to learn all about body positivity again after I started lifting, even though I had been perfectly content in my body before.
So no, lifting weights has not been a conduit for body positivity for me, as it seems to be for so many others. In fact it was quite the opposite. I avoid many lifting blogs as I just can’t tolerate the weight loss/leanness talk. Even the trope about enjoying being bigger/bulkier from lifting on those blogs annoys me, as it’s often still a celebration of being “bigger” that’s simultaneously fatphobic (ie. there’s only one right way to be “big”, and it’s not being fat).
Today I’d say I was so-so about my body image. I have days where I look at my tummy and think “argh”, but it doesn’t bother me enough that I want to do anything about it. I only seem to care about my weight (or, my muscle-to-fat ratio, as my overall weight stays mostly the same) when I am running up to a competition. Right now I’m at least 4 months away from a competition, so I just can’t bring myself to care about cutting back on bread, or eating eggs cooked in coconut oil every morning etc (these being things I do to bring my body to “competition size”). Once I have a competition in my sights, those habits tend to come a lot easier. I think I need concrete goals to kick myself into action. I definitely couldn’t lift if I was only doing it for fun (YMMV, of course – I know plenty of people just do it for overall wellness and/or fun).
- Squats: worked up to 5 x 5 @ 70kg, with 2-second pause on each rep. I was meant to do 2 sets of 5 @ 70kg, then 3 sets of 5 @ 75kg, but this cold is really kicking my ass. In fact, I’m so snotty that I was having trouble breathing on some of the sets!
- Stiff-legged deadlifts: 3 sets of 5 @ 60kg
- Good mornings: 3 sets of 10 @ 20kg
- Machine rows: 3 sets of 5, 20kg each hand with a pause on each rep. I’m so much stronger on machine rows than I used to be!
- Shrugs: 22.5kg dumbbells, 3 sets of 5
- V sit-ups, hyperextensions etc