Monthly Archives: April 2015

Weighing in on the Protein World advert

Something that’s been depressing & frustrating me for the last couple of weeks is the whole Protein World advert debacle. In case you’ve missed it, it’s the backlash related to this Protein World advert for their weight loss range.

Other people elsewhere have been much more eloquent than I could be about the body image aspects of this advert, so I won’t bother to re-hash that aspect. Except to point out that I totally agree that everyone who feels “beach body ready” is beach body ready, whether they’re a size 4 or a size 32 or whatever. I’m not going to dispute whether or not this advert is promoting rigid body shape ideals – of course it is. I also completely don’t dispute that the lady in the advert looks great (but that doesn’t mean we all have to aspire to look like her).

What’s frustrating me most about this advert, and Protein World’s sneering reaction to it, is this sort of thing:

Statement from Protein World

(This is part of a statement from Protein World themselves in reaction to objection about the advert.)

Protein World say their advert is promoting being healthier, fitter and stronger. But let’s look at the advert copy:

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 3.43.08 PM

Sorry about the tiny picture; but it says “The Weight Loss Collection, meal replacement & supplements”.

And Protein World themselves are advocating replacing meals with tablets, in order to gain this “beach body” ideal:

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 3.45.45 PM

Stating the obvious, there’s a total conflict here – what has a “weight loss collection”, where meals are replaced with shakes and tablets, got to do with becoming “healthier, fitter and stronger”? Absolutely nothing. Protein World’s advert is promoting a crash diet, for the sole purpose of becoming thinner, so you can look “good” (for whatever definition of “good” you’re using) in a bikini. And moreover, do you really think the (fitness) model got her look from using this product? Nope.

And yet people are just too dim to see this, are lazily conflating “thinness” with “fitness”, and seeing the backlash as “fit-shaming” :

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 1.55.09 PM

No-one is “fit shaming” in the backlash to this advert. BECAUSE THE ADVERT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH FITNESS. You do not get fit and strong from swapping your meals for tablets.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 10.03.13 AM

And again, no-one is denigrating any hard work people do in the gym to look “good” (again, for whatever definition of “good” you’re using). Because this advert is NOT PROMOTING FITNESS. It is promoting a very low-calorie diet, a meal replacement diet.

Do you think the CEO of Protein World, Arjun Seth, got to look like this:

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 3.53.46 PM

… by replacing his meals WITH TABLETS?

Of course he fucking didn’t.

So seriously, if you’re reading the Protein World advert backlash as “fit shaming” or “lazy fatties” denigrating the hard work you’ve put in at the gym…stop. Stop and read the advert copy, for pity’s sake. You have fallen hook, line and sinker for Protein World’s cynical goading and you’re just denigrating yourself: because nobody who actually goes to the gym would touch Protein World’s “Weight Loss Collection” with a bargepole.

Not even Arjun Seth himself.


Comp -3 weeks

I haven’t talked much about my latest round of competition prep, probably because I’m not really looking forward to this competition & I don’t feel like my training has been going very well. I definitely don’t feel as fit as I did in previous run-ups (or when I was doing all that volume work before I went to Las Vegas).

But, surprisingly, I’ve had a really good week at the gym. On Monday I squatted 85kg (85%) for 4 sets of 3, which wasn’t very pretty or pleasant, but I did it. On Thursday I benched 50kg (95%) for 4 sets of 3, followed by 40kg for 10. I was meant to do 5 sets of 50kg, but the last set just wasn’t going to happen; however I’m amazed I even got one set, as I’ve never repped 50kg for a triple before.

Then on Saturday I deadlifted 110kg (91%) for 3 sets of 2! I’ve never repped anything over 100kg, so I was really pleased. Unfortunately I tore my hand again when deadlifting, so my planned drop set of 80kg for AMRAP didn’t happen – no-one wants blood on the bar. I hope it heals up enough for me to do my final deadlifts next weekend.

There was a new lady at the gym on Saturday so I squatted in with her & we talked a bit about competing. I told her about my first competition 4 years ago, where I got 67.5kg squat / 37.5kg bench / 105kg deadlift, and she was surprised I was allowed to compete with such low numbers. This makes me feel sad, like people think competing is only for the elite. If competing was only for the elite, I probably wouldn’t be competing even now. And people do tend to think there’s “no point” in competing when you’re not putting up big numbers, but fuck those people. I’ve sat in front of someone at a competition complaining that some lifters weren’t good enough to be there and I wish I’d had the wherewithal to tell them to piss off. Now that I’m a referee I’m tempted to reprimand anyone I hear saying that, although hopefully I won’t have to.

On this day…

That new “On This Day” feature on Facebook threw up a few photos the other day of me at my first full powerlifting competition. The photos had been put up on April 20th 2011 but the competition was actually on April 10th – and I only know what because my dad is the kind of person who leaves the date overlay on his photos.

55kg opening squat

55kg opening squat

I’d previously – in October 2010 – done a deadlift-only competition where I’d pulled 105kg (in the 75kg class – this was before the GBPF changed its weight classes to align with the IPF). This was my first 3-lift competition. If I recall correctly, I finished with a 67.5kg squat, 37.5kg bench & 105kg deadlift for a 210kg total.

It’s funny looking back at these pictures. On the one hand, I’ve come a long way in 4 years. On the other hand, my progress has been positively glacial if I compare myself to other lifters at the gym (or I see at competitions). A mere 15kg gain in my deadlift in 4 years? So s-l-o-w. And the less said about my bench, the better!

95kg deadlift

95kg deadlift

Ah, but things aren’t all bad. As much as I rue my relative lack of progress, I’m really glad I started competing early. I see so many people say they won’t compete until they’re “really strong” or until they can win, and I say why? Why put off learning the art & skill of competing? The more you compete, the better you’ll get at it. You can be the strongest person in the room but if you go to pieces the first time you get on the platform, it’s a bit wasted.

And I’m really glad I’m still going to the gym (it will be 6 years in May that I first walked in the door). As I may have mentioned (!) I’ve been in a bad way mental health-wise recently, and getting myself to the gym has been a struggle. I’ve not wanted to go, and when I’ve got there I’ve sat in the changing room dreading the session, not wanting anyone to talk to me, not wanting to talk to anyone.

But my sense of obligation to the gym gets me out onto the floor, and by the time I’ve finished the session I’m really glad I went. They might say that “routine is the enemy” but I think it’s one of the things that keeps me going & keeps me sane.

Yet another disclaimer that I’ve been meaning to write here for ages, but time and mood have combined to stop me. The embarassing thing is, on Good Friday I went to a (primarily) weightlifters’ session at Bethnal Green WLC (I usually go to the powerlifters’ sessions) where two people said to me “Are you the Laura who writes that blog?!” and I inwardly cringed at how seldom I update here (and how pedestrian the content is)

As I mentioned, my mood is conspiring against me at the moment. After my pretty terrible December I had been feeling OK-ish (with a few days a month where I felt terrible, which I could loosely tie to PMS), but things have slid away again. After weeks of umm-ing and aah-ing about it, I finally decided to do something about it after Easter, and the wheels are (slowly) in motion while I try to sort myself out.

You know, all in the same of being honest, which I appreciate in other bloggers. Life isn’t always idyllic snaps of Yoga handstands on the beach, or gluten-free chocolate balls perfectly photographed on a rustic kitchen workbench. Not that my blog was ever any of those things….

I’m keeping it together enough to still be going to the gym, though. I want to do well at my competition on May 16th, but I’m also a bit wary of not putting too much pressure on myself, and driving myself crazy making weight/hating myself forever if I don’t get the numbers I want. I try to keep reminding myself that I’ve already qualified for the 2015 British Classic, so I don’t need to get any particular result this time. But oh how I want a 280kg total……..

In my training, bench is going appallingly. I feel even feebler on the bench than I did before I went on holiday. The last two weeks I’ve done bench press off pins (a.k.a. dead bench press) and only managed a measly 52.5kg single at most (50kg x 3 eluded me last night). I’ve managed 60kg before, and 52.5kg is my best bench press off my chest, so not being able to dead press more is depressing me.

Tore my hand up real good, too

However, on Monday night I did reduced-ROM deadlifts (lifting the bar from two plates) and managed a 125kg single, which is 5kg more than my best off the floor. This is huge for me. I even managed to hang onto the bar for a second or two at the top, despite my arms feeling like they would pull out of their sockets. I’ve had so many problems with my grip in the past, so this is great.

Squat-wise, I’ve ditched the Adidas Powerlift2.0 shoes. I was just not hitting depth in them! So it’s back to my Gola flat shoes, and the Adidas will be for bench only. I know people rave about squatting in heeled shoes, but it simply does not work for me. I have no idea why – I don’t read up on femur lengths and knee travel and all that technical lifting stuff. I’m just going back to doing what helped me squat 100kg.

I continue to feel jealous of other people in the gym, and I was heartened after my my last post to know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Is this one of those things that people daren’t mention? I know jealousy gets a bad rap, but we’re only human. I just have to keep on keepin’ on with reminding myself how far I’ve come, oh and I’m not exactly a spring chicken etc etc.

One thing that was nice was my coach saying he doesn’t see why I can’t eventually hit a 300kg total. I have to admit, I don’t think the chances are high – I’m 40 in 21 months (argh!) and I tend to think my lifting will only go backwards from then onwards (since 40 = Masters in GBPF parlance, and all the qualifying totals are reduced). But that’s not a given, really – loads of lifters keep making gains after 40. It might yet happen to me.

(I need to get that 280kg total first, though!)

I’m back to the gym but to be honest I’m feeling quite down about it. I know that after a break I’m going to be comparatively feeble, and I know that everyone else won’t be, and I know I’m not supposed to compare myself to others (but let’s face it, when you compete how can you noti?!) but I still felt bad when I went on Monday.

Of course, I haven’t even lost that much strength – I did the prescribed squats at the prescribed weight (paused squats, 3 sets of 5 @ 70%/70kg) and I did some fairly decent rack pulls (3 sets of 3 @ 90kg, then singles up to 115kg) but of course I can’t help but compare myself to the new-ish girl who was rack pulling 140kg. I’ve rack pulled 135kg before, and I’m probably 10 years older than her, so I ought not to be comparing… but how often do our brains do what they ought to do?

A giant irony, given my last post, is that I managed to lose 2kg in Las Vegas. Not from lack of food (I ate mostly fast food on holiday, because the USA is the only place that has Popeye’s and In-n-Out Burger), but from lack of training. Therefore the conclusions I can draw from the 6 weeks of volume training I did before my holiday are that volume work does indeed give me a ton (or a couple of kg) of extra muscle weight. Plus, given I can still pause squat 70kg after 2 weeks off, it appears to have preserved a decent amount of my strength when I wasn’t training.

One thing that’s definitely fallen by the wayside is my flexibility. I went to Pilates today and hah, I could barely do any of it.

Ah, talking here about my envy of other lifters at the gym definitely helps. I know alllll the rhetoric about how we’re not supposed to compare ourselves to others, but it’s a thing that’s easier said than done.

I’ve been back from Las Vegas for 3 days and have not yet made it to the gym. I had planned to go back tomorrow, but the jetlag (8 hours difference between London & LV) has completely kicked my butt. Happily, I managed to sleep past 4am today, so I think I’ll go lifting tonight. I’ll probably have to take it easy, though, as 8 days in Las Vegas was not kind to my body (or my skin for that matter!)

I have 6 weeks to prep for my next competition, which means getting my strength back and also (argh) sorting out my weight. I haven’t dared step on a scale since I got back, but I know my strength has pretty much g-o-n-e and my knees are super-sore (the left one especially).

Having to think about (and manipulate) my weight means I have to slip out of the “body positivity” mantle for a while. I read a really good discussion on Twitter the other day on what body positivity *is*, and for me a fundamental aspect of it is accepting & loving your body as it is and not trying to manipulate it to make it smaller to fit societal norms.

I have to make myself lighter to fit weight classes (because I’m not a good enough lifter to qualify for the British standard at 84kg – and I want to be a British standard lifter) but I absolutely will not deny that I feel happier seeing that lower number on the scale. And that makes me sad because it means I’m not over that societal pressure to be thin(ner). But then who is, completely?

Obviously this does not mean that making yourself lighter or thinner is “bad” – as with everything in life, you have to do what makes you happy; but I don’t think you can disguise any form of reducing your weight/size under the banner of “body positivity”. It’s like the good fatty/bad fatty dichotomy – if you only think people can be larger if they also fit some narrow definition of “healthy” then that’s not body positivity either.

Anyway, you should go read the thread – it’s good, and it features some of my favourite people! I am always learning.

Of course, just because I’m having to manipulate my body to make it smaller doesn’t mean I don’t support body positivity full stop – I just can’t call what I do “body positive”, you know? It’s not my place to appropriate it.