The most common worry I hear from women, when starting a new regimen of physical fitness, goes something like:
“I have gained weight over the last couple years. I am afraid that building muscle under my fat will look bulky.”
As a woman, the statement resonates. What she means is that she doesn’t see her own beauty, and lacks confidence. Her thoughts follow these lines:
Body image is everything. Mine already affects me in my interactions with others, and I am afraid of what more change will look like. I just want to look slimmer so that I will be accepted and feel better about myself. If I lose weight I will have more friends; people will pay attention to me; my life will be easier; I will be happier.
Her focus is on looks and social value. Strength, endurance, and health are missing from her thinking, as she perceives the workout payoff to be two numbers: her pounds on the scale and a clothing size. The numbers translate into her total worth as a person. The lower the numbers, the higher the worth. That’s the prize.
What a misconception! Her toxic train of thought is that of a person with a fundamental body image problem, which manifests in general disfunction. Whether it be poor eating habits, social anxiety, low motivation in our careers or relationships, or direct self-destruction, low self-worth finds a way of coming out. What is inward becomes external.
The problem begins with our value system, when looks are placed above everything else.
Consider a young model:
She is judged by her appearance. In fact, it’s part of her job. She looks the way she does because she only eats until she is full. But she also doesn’t exercise. She is what doctors call Metabolically Obese Normal Weight, and she is at risk for Type 2 diabetes. She achieved the prize of the low numbers, but she is not healthy.
Even if you achieved her general appearance by dieting, you would still be unhealthy.
Let’s consider a woman who took time to focus on each muscle group over a long period of time. She has real power— a bodybuilder:
She is judged on her appearance. She doesn’t care how much she can deadlift, strict press, or squat. Neither do her judges. And since women don’t actually make enough testosterone to bulk like her, she is probably doing hormone therapy. That’s not healthy.
You will never look like her doing basic strength training.
Now, let’s look at a competitive Crossfitter:
She is judged on her ability. She is strong, and, without hormone therapy, she is healthy. What a difference!
She is my health and fitness model. I would love it if I looked like her. But no matter what I try, I still look like me. I am me.
My first step to a positive body image is to stop trying to be someone else. I can imitate a professional’s training and nutrition program, and I won’t look like them. What I can attain is the best version of me
Change Your Mind; Change Your Body; Change Your Mind Again
We need a psychological upheaval. We need to give up the images and numbers in our heads. Instead, we should focus on what is real-- we are real. Our health is real. So let’s make our prize health, vitality and rejuvenation through strength and conditioning.
Re-ordering our minds is not a simple task. Negative thoughts are habits. Replacing them with good ones can take time.
For me, the negative self-talk chimes in when I approach a move called the snatch. It’s an Olympic lift, in which you swing a weight from below your hips to above your head in one swift movement, driving with your hips and your arms.
My thoughts generally go like so:
You are not fast enough. You are not strong enough. You should be practicing more. What an embarrassment. I’m too old. I’ll never get the technique. My wrists hurt. My hips hurt. My elbow hurts. My shoulder hurts.
Are you getting the picture that everything hurts?
The list of complaints, fears, and self-accusations goes on and on. Yet just the act of walking up to the bar begins to build my confidence. By changing my mind, and willing to be vulnerable, I can embrace something new and difficult.
At the end of my snatches, no matter how well I did, or how poor I think I did, I have faced a fear. I have moved both physically and mentally.
Over time, I have felt my body change because I changed my mind, over and over, every time I worked when it was difficult. As my vitality continues to increase, my mind continues to heal. I realize I’m capable of amazing things.
So are you.
Weightlifting Changes Everything
Every session you challenge yourself and push through something hard, you change a little. You banish another negative thought and replace it with belief in yourself. The confidence that comes from weightlifting carries into the rest of your life.
Weightlifting truly changes everything.
Weightlifting involves more muscles than cardio. Extra muscle mass translates into strength, which decreases the risk of injury from accidents and falls. Your bone density improves, too, reducing the risk of fractures.
Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue and building muscles enables you to continue to burn more calories at rest, after your workouts. Since Olympic lifts involve nearly every muscle in the human body, your greatly improved metabolism could factor into significant weight loss.
First, you notice a little definition in your arms and shoulders. Then, you realize you can carry more groceries into the house. You have more energy throughout the day, and focus better at work. You begin to perceive a potential in you, and you want to see how far you can take it. You forget your preoccupations with numbers and models, as well as with weight loss or bulking up. You are strong. All around, strong. Because mental strength and emotional peace improve in tandem with the physical.
The best part is that you are still you. A healthier, stronger you. The best version of you.
Yes, this is me being coached on the snatch and the clean
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.