Category Archives: Fat acceptance

Positive body image

I was getting ready for work one morning last week when I realised that I haven’t had negative body image for quite a while. Despite many things in my life being difficult & taking up a lot of mental space, my body is not one of those things I really dwell on at the moment, and it’s really quite freeing once you realise it.

Even on the approach to my last competition, when I usually fret for weeks about my weight and/or how I’m going to look in my singlet, I quite blithely drifted up to competition day without too much worry about my weight – until the last couple of days, at least (and even then I wasn’t too worried). Which was good, because I had a lot of other things to worry about – like the travel, the hotel and refereeing.

Back when I started this blog, one of the main themes I wrote about was this struggle I had between being happy with who I am and what I look like; and the pressure you get in lifting to be leaner, sexier, eat “right” etc. I’m not sure what changed or when, but I’m feeling a lot more zen about it all at the moment.

This weekend I ate more cake than I think I’ve ever eaten in one sitting, at my mum’s birthday celebration. We went to one of those posh hotel afternoon teas, where you pay a small fortune and they keep bringing cake until you explode. I thought I might feel guilty after eating so much (and not going to the gym) but I just…don’t? I don’t even feel the need to be all “Tee hee I was so naughty!” because cake has no moral value, it’s just cake.

I’m also toying with the idea of throwing all my (very expensive) protein powder out because I can’t remember the last time I had a protein shake. I think everyone who starts lifting goes through this stage where they try to eat a ton of protein & buy loads of powders & mixes etc, but almost all the older masters lifters I know don’t bother with them. I guess I’ve reached that stage!

I definitely think that stopping reading lifting blogs, and surrounding myself with positive role models, has helped. I very occasionally pop back in to lifting “spaces” online; but then I read something about abs being better than boobs or counting macros, and I pop out again.

Of course, all this might go to shit, and in a few months time I might be back to doubting myself, tying myself in knots about carrying so much bodyfat and how big my stomach looks from the side. But it’s nice to remember that right now, I am very happy in my body.

Advertisements

London Clubs championships (yes, I did it)

So that competition I’ve been dithering about? Dear reader, I did it. I very nearly didn’t though – I literally left my decision until the last minute.

I woke up on the morning of the competition, weighed myself, was within competition weight and still wasn’t sure. So I went down to the club, got weighed in, put in my openers and still wasn’t sure. Then I put on my singlet and knee sleeves and thought, OK maybe I’m doing it.

What really made me completely decide was my friend Orla looking at the openers for the other lifters in the 72kg class, and saying Hey Laura, you could actually win this! I have never won a competition and I really felt like I couldn’t pass up the chance, you know?

I decided to go in with no expectations (as much as I could); I can get very very stressed and anxious about competitions and I didn’t want to end up hating myself, like I often do if I don’t do as well as I’d hoped. I put in pretty conservative openers (90kg squat, 50kg bench, 110kg deadlift) and resolved to feel OK even if I only got my openers.

In the end, all the fears I had about the competition didn’t come true: it wasn’t hot; even though it was crowded and full of newbies, no-one dumped their bars on the spotters, and no-one sprayed talc everywhere (my pet hate!!); and even though a few newbies didn’t know the commands & forgot vital equipment (long socks!), everyone was very respectful of the officials. Phew. I am such a worst-case-scenario imaginateer.

As for my performace: I got my first two squats in (90 + 100kg) but once again I got ruled out on 102.5kg for depth; I set a new benchpress pb of 55kg (WHAAAT); and I finished with a 120kg deadlift. I was disappointed not to get a pb squat or a chance to equal my pb in the deadlift, BUT I set a new pb total of 275kg!

Honestly I was so surprised to get a 55kg bench – I’ve never benched that much in the gym without a pause, let alone in competition with a pause!

And the best thing was… Orla was right, I did have the opportunity to win:

1st!

Woohoo! My first (and, let’s face it, probably only) 1st place trophy! OK so the other 72kg lifters were all novices, but still… 🙂

The day ended up going on just as long as I predicted (I arrived at the gym at 8am, and left at 8.30pm) and honestly I was falling asleep while refereeing (oops) but the event was really fun. 5 ladies from my gym did their first competition and everyone was so suportive and fun to be around. The good days like that are probably worth some of the angst I feel around going to the gym.

Talking of angst (great segue there, Laura) I had intended my relatively new Instagram account to be pretty much lifting-free, only following fatshion and tattooist accounts; but it got found fairly quickly by my gym friends and over the last week or so I’ve found my IG account tagged in fitness memes (a massive pet hate of mine) and similar. Sadface.

I was also tagged in some pictures from the competition, and one of the commenters on the picture was an account called “leanerstrongeryou”. You can probably see where this is going. Yes, I ended up descending into a hate-reading spiral, looking at “lean” IG accounts and having all sorts of feelings around, well, if only I was leaner and ate vegetables and protein then maybe I might be a better lifter and maybe I might win things more often and maybe I would look “like a lifter” instead of a chubby nearly-40-year-old and blah blah blah. God.

Honestly, as you know I really struggle with this. I have followed back a few people from the gym on IG but I kind of wish I hadn’t, as I just don’t want to see posts with macros and tupperwares of food and stuff like that. It feels really incongruous to see stuff like that in between the awesome plus-sized fashionistas I want to follow. There’s so much fatphobia in the fitness industry and I try to keep it as far away from my life as possible.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about possibly having a career break fom programming & maybe trying out some work in the fitness industry, but if it means I’m going to be exposed to ~nutrition woo~ then honestly I don’t think my mental health would handle it. I spent the week before my competition eating all the stuff you “shouldn’t” (Domino’s twice, sausages, fish & chips, crisps – SO MANY crisps) and I don’t want to be in a place where I feel judged for eating like that.

But can you make it in the fitness industry if you’re both not lean and not a super-strong athlete like your Andy Boltons and Lulu Zhous? Who knows. Something to ponder on, for definite.

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.

A thing about food, and orthorexia, and some rage

I do get frustrated writing on here sometimes (ditto pretty much anywhere else I write) as I forget that unless I explicitly say something, it’s otherwise not implied. E.g. things like my intersectional feminism, my history of discovering fat acceptance & accepting myself before I started lifting. I feel as if what I’ve tried to say just hasn’t come across. So in the avoidance of doubt:

Posts like the previous one, and this one, are basically me saying: “Loads of lifting blogs out there are blogs about how the writer was unhappy with their body and/or had food issues before they started lifting, and how they fought and/or resolved those issues through lifting. For me, I have developed for the first time (admittedly quite mild) food issues and lost confidence in my body because of lifting and the culture surrounding it”.

I just want to put it out there, you know? In case anyone else has developed food issues or body confidence issues because of lifting. Just like I wanted to put my post about endometriosis out there, in case anyone was Googling “powerlifting endometriosis” like I was, and finding nothing.

I say I have food issues – but yes, they are very mild. It’s more like niggles and doubts, and inner conflicts as my FA conditioning causes me to push back against them. I’m not going to pretend those doubts don’t exist, but if I express them I don’t want people to rush in thinking I’m an ingenue or completely unschooled in self-positivity. I went through 6 years of pyschoanalytic psychotherapy, so one thing I’m really good at is self-reflection (sometimes too good).

I write about these things on here to show that having doubts and niggles about stuff you’re otherwise positive about is normal. I just can’t bring myself to be the sparkly fountain of advice and positivity that other bloggers often are.

(Melissa A Fabello basically nails it in this thread)

I read the recent glut of news stories about orthorexia with interest because I think it is a thing; that “healthy eating” is now such a bloated and disgusting monster that people argue about the kind of coconut oil you buy and is it good enough, not just IF you use coconut oil or not (hence my comment about KTC brand yesterday). Among many, many other examples. It has got utterly ridiculous, IMHO.

I am definitely not an orthorexic (although the head weasels love to tell me I should be) but probably more a rage-orexic, when people claim they only care about “health” eat foods that indirectly cause other people to live in poverty and hardship (I guess “health” doesn’t extend to people outside their circle). Or who endlessly go on about only eating pasture-raised animals while promoting the consumption of foods that contribute to the extinction of other animals.

Or maybe I’m a fuck-you-rexic, because every time I see someone going on about the evils of something I consume (like low-fat yogurt) I just want to eat more of it in a fuck-you gesture.

One thing that annoys me in particular is that I get a ton of fitness/nutrition followers on Twitter who seem to be all about leanness and paleo, which I never understand (I try to emphasise the “hello I’m fat” thing in my bio) and then they go & bloody favourite my photos of the kind of foods they themselves would never eat. Are they going “Oh wow yeah, yummy pizza”? If so, I really hate that falseness; you’d never eat that, so piss off, it’s not for you. It reminds me a bit of You Did Not Eat That, which I’m not going to pass any judgement on.

Incidentally, if you want a nice intersection of capital-P Paleo & orthorexia, this is pretty fantastic.

It's probably Obama's fault.

It’s probably Obama’s fault.

Whew, that was possibly my angriest post for a while, eh? Feels good to get it all out though.

Last night I went to Bethnal Green & met a new lady who just started lifting there while I was away. Exclamation point! She seems pretty good so far – can squat with ease & already squatting 40kg & benching 30kg. Many thumbs up! Unfortunately she asked me if I had any nutrition advice (hah) and all I could offer was my discount code for MyProtein & that she should probably ask someone else.

  • Squats: worked up to 5 sets of 3 @ 70kg. Still feeling so out of shape post-holiday!
  • Romanian deadlifts: 3 sets of 8 @ 50kg
  • Dimel deadlifts: 2 sets of 20 @ 40kg
  • Machine rows: 3 sets of 5 @ 20kg each hand; then 2 sets of 3 @ 25kg each hand
  • V-sit ups: 3 sets of 10
  • Glute & ham raises: 3 sets of 10

I had intended to go to my other gym for either a jog on the treadmill or a spin class today (I know!) but as per usual I ended up lunching at my desk.

Holiday in NYC

No post from me for a while because I’ve been on holiday in New York, which was fantastic. Sadly I’m back at work now, and I have a serious case of the post-holiday blues. Damn.

Yes please.

Yes please.

The main purpose of the holiday was to EAT DELICIOUS FOOD and we certainly achieved that. We had fantastic meals at – among other places – Cherche Midi, Bowery Meat Company, Pies ‘n’ Thighs, Tacombi and Mable’s Smokehouse.

Buuut, of course, there was a bit of taint there as – especially towards the beginning of the holiday – I felt some guilt about eating so much. The stupid, sad thing about it all is that I never felt food guilt before I started lifting and reading food/nutrition blogs. In a lot of ways I wish I’d never started reading food blogs, following fitness people online* etc. I wish sometimes I could lift in isolation to all the other bullshit that goes on around lifting (and I guess I could, if I wasn’t also committed to doing things like refereeing, for which I have to read things around powerlifting federations, which invariably brings with it talk of nutrition and leanness etc etc).

Don't mind if I do.

Don’t mind if I do.

Anyhow, my bad feelings did dissipate towards the end of the holiday. I think a change in my routine always gives me a bit of anxiety, even if it’s a nice change in routine, like a holiday.

Obviously I didn’t go lifting while I was away, but I did make use of the hotel’s fitness centre… once. It was just a small affair with cardio machines & some dumbbells (in pounds!). I decided to hop on the treadmill & see how far I could run; turns out I can run for 10 minutes non-stop at least – I would have gone on for longer but damn I was bored by that point. Running for 10 minutes probably doesn’t seem like much to people who run/jog regularly, but given I rarely do any cardio (save for short sprints every couple of weeks in conditioning class) I was kinda surprised. Maybe I should run regularly. Or maybe not!

If you insist.

If you insist.

We also walked miles every day we were there. Not particularly fast (who can walk fast in snow & ice anyway) and my joints did not thank me for it, but we walked. Sometimes I forget that walking counts as exercise.

I got back to the UK on Thursday & went to Bethnal Green on Saturday. I wasn’t sure what I’d be able to do, thanks to feeling massively out of shape + having jetlag, but I had a pretty good workout. I carried on with the competition prep everyone is doing for February 28th, but obviously not with my full weights.

  • Squats: worked up to 3 sets of 4 @ 65kg (was meant to be 85kg if I’d not been away). These felt dreadful
  • Stiff-legged deadlifts: 3 sets of 7 @ 40kg
  • Bench: 5 x 5 @ 40kg, then one monster set of 10 @ 40kg. I am coming to the conclusion that I’m a far better volume bencher than I am for singles, which is crap as obv volume doesn’t count for a whole lot!
  • Low incline dumbbell bench: 10kg, 5 reps; 12.5kg, 2 sets of 5 reps
  • Landmines, pullthroughs, other bits
Oh, go on then.

Oh, go on then.

Tonight it’s back to the gym again, probably for more squats. I am feeling kinda blah about it, though – I don’t like training when I have no competition in sight, it all seems a bit pointless.

That said, I’m back off on holiday in March and I want to be feeling fitter by then. March is another EATING holiday and I do not want to feel bad about what I’m eating there, so maybe I will feel better about eating everything in sight if I’m back to my normal fitness levels. Maybe.

I won’t deny, I do feel a bit like a Body Positivity traitor feeling this way, though. Urgh. These things are so hard sometimes, you know?

* Incidentally, apropos of reading fitness/nutrition blogs (although I try to avoid it), I was thinking the other day that I feel like an absolute rebel when I eat low-fat yogurt or cook with KTC brand coconut oil (as opposed to one of the expensive brands) because both those things are so demonised by some nutrition bloggers. God. What’s deemed “right” or “wrong” really does depend on who you read, doesn’t it? Hence my reluctance to read ANYONE. (You can pry my cheap KTC coconut oil from my cold, dead hands!)

Lifting and body positivity… again

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).

Tuesday

  • 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

Back in the saddle for 2015

I hadn’t been planning to get back on the scales so soon into 2015, especially since I’m currently visibly larger than I was a few months ago (and very few of my clothes fit properly!) but curiosity overcame me after my workout on Saturday. I was 72.0kg – i.e. exactly on my weight class. It’s a relief, but I’m not entirely pleased – if I’m the same weight but larger, I’ve obviously lost a lot of muscle/condition!

It’s funny, to look at me I (or someone else) would think I’ve “put on a few pounds”, but I haven’t. Weight & size are funny things.

I’m pleased to realise I’m secure enough in my body positivity that, when I realised my clothes & bras were too tight, I just pulled an old larger-band bra out of the cupboard & decided not to wear my smallest pair of jeans for a few weeks until I get my condition back. No drama, no biggie.

What I’m not doing well with, at the moment, is the aspects of my self-confidence which don’t hinge on my appearance/body; this is all a carry-over from my least-favourite time of the year (late October – Christmas) and I’m definitely Working On It(TM). Unfortunately most of the positivity-boosting stuff you read this time of year is about your weight/body/size etc, which I have no issues with.

(I’m going to call it “mind positivity” as a direct corollary to “body positivity”, and if that makes no sense to anyone except me then [shrugging lady emoji])

Friday 3rd January was another “play” gym session, but happily I should be starting a new program tonight. This is the program taking everyone up to either the Greater London competition on February 28th, or the British Masters Classic in March; I won’t be competing at either thanks to a holiday I have booked in January, but I’m still going to follow the program. Training without programs gets boring pretty quickly.

So on Saturday I just decided to take things easy & see how I felt after the break (and after the intense conditioning session & did on Friday!)

  • Squats: worked up to 5 sets of 3 @ 60kg. It appears I still remember how to squat.
  • Dimel deadlifts: 2 sets of 20 @ 40kg
  • Bench: worked up to 5 sets of 3 @ 40kg
  • Upright rows: 15kg, 3 sets of 10
  • Abs, stretching etc