A Dainty Diary of Lifting

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10 weeks out / Difficult – difficult

I’ve spent the past 3 days trying to draft a blog post to explain why I’m not feeling excited about my upcoming meet. I’m 4 weeks out, and when I think about the meet, I just feel an overwhelming sense of apathy. I want to pull my usual modus operandi which is to withdraw ~3 weeks before a scheduled meet. I’ve been sinking money into meets for the past two years and yet I haven’t actually participated in one. I just seem to hit this hump where I realize I might not hit my overly ambitious goals and give up.

I tried to make a list outlining all of the reasons I’m feeling this sense of ennui. I was convinced it was a pretty good list and I even had 2000 words of justification laid out for all to see.

Then I weighed myself this morning and I saw a very optimistic number on the scale. Briefly, I was convinced that I might actually make it down to 72kg in time for my meet in 4 weeks. Even though I’m back to doubting possibility, I looked at my list of excuses in a new light and I realized that they all boil down to: “I might fail.”

That’s a pretty shitty reason to avoid doing a meet. Yes, the possibility exists that I might fail really, really hard. And I might be disappointed and angry and embarrassed. But I would get over it. Not to mention that there’s always the possibility that I might actually succeed. In fact, that seems pretty likely given the fact that I’ve done successful meets in the past.

I started thinking back to some of my PNLE lessons. I think I should feel excited about doing a meet. Except, I’m trying to act less on the noise in my life. Instead of doing things because I should do them, I am trying to rely on noticing and naming how things actually are. Objectively, there is no reaI reason to feel excited. Instead, I can simply recognize that I’m not feeling totally psyched up about competing, but there is no reason for me to act on that feeling.

I keep thinking back to the concept of difficult-difficult. Going to the gym and even going through the motions to prepare for a meet is my “difficult-easy”. It makes me feel like I’m doing something. Actually showing up to participate in the meet seems to be a lot harder for me. Why? Because putting myself out there is terrifying. I might fail.

This is actually a big deal. I avoid social situations because I might fail. Being anti-social is my difficult-easy. It’s lonely, but there is zero risk that anyone will reject me for being terribly uninteresting and fat. See also: my dating life. I am lonely but again, too afraid of being rejected. See also: nonexistent applications to grad school. Because I would really like to go, but what if I don’t get in? What if I’m not smart enough? And if we’re being completely honest, losing weight is difficult-difficult because I self-sabotage time and time again – and I tell myself it doesn’t matter because I was bound to fail anyway.

Self-confidence? Apparently I have none. (Which is actually nothing new. A guy I was seeing once told me I was “just fine, except I had no self-confidence” and the intervening years don’t seem to have countered that ringing endorsement.)

The task of finding my self-assurance seems a little insurmountable at the moment, so where else can I start? Well, in explaining difficult-difficult, PNLE uses the analogy of shoveling snow: If you’re just shoveling for the sake of moving snow around, that’s difficult-easy. It’s hard work but it achieves no real purpose and allows you to avoid doing more productive tasks. So how can I shovel a clear path through the snow and do what is actually difficult-difficult for me?

The answer is obvious: I said I would do North Bay in 4 weeks. I said I would lift at Provincials in order to qualify for Nationals. And I said I would go to Nationals. That’s a full year of powerlifting to correspond with my nutritional journey on PNLE. And if stepping on to the platform is difficult-difficult for me, then just getting there will be good enough.

So: I signed up for Provincials. I reserved a hotel room. I’m 10 weeks out. I don’t feel worried. I don’t feel excited. I just feel normal. And why should I feel any differently?


Weekly Review: Trip to Yellowknife

I spent most of the week in Yellowknife, so it was not the greatest week for meet prep. I did manage to get in all of my workouts – Monday I got up early enough to go lift before flying, and Wednesday I did a workout in the “fitness centre” at the gym. (The workout was 80% goblet squats but whatever. It counts.) The best part was by far on Thursday morning when my “active recovery” consisted of a trail walk through the boreal forest. It was so relaxing, which was exactly what I needed.

Now that I am back, I can focus on rest and recovery, which I know have been on the back burner the past few weeks. Yesterday I had a 6 hour nap after my workout, and I still slept through the night. It’s going to be a lazy weekend and I’m looking forward to working regular hours and sleeping regular hours and just generally getting back into my routine this week.

Despite the fact that I was travelling and totally out of my routine, I really feel good about the nutritional choices that I made while I was away. When I went to Pride for 4 days in June, I came back 10lbs heavier! Mentally, I told myself I wasn’t able to deal with a repeat of that entire episode. This time, I told myself that if I ate until 80% full and had a protein every time I ate, I would consider it a success.

I wasn’t perfect: there were a couple of times where I ate to “comfortably full” instead of 80%. But I did avoid snacking between meals – the meeting was catered and there were more than enough opportunities to eat muffins and cookies and bread. I ate a reasonable meal for breakfast every day, despite the fact that it was a buffet with french toast and pancakes! I brought some Quest bars along and ate them when there wasn’t a full serving of protein being served. And I was quite happy to order fresh Arctic Char every time a menu was placed in front of me.

I will say that I am glad that my nutrition habit was protein while visiting the Arctic. Fish was always an option, but veggies and fruit were a bit harder to come by. My insides were painfully backed up after 4 days, and one of my first orders of business yesterday was to make “Detox soup” aka cabbage and lentils.

Now that it’s all said and done, I am down 3.2 lbs this week. I ate restaurant food all week, enjoyed myself and still lost weight! I am so happy I could do a victory dance in celebration.

I consider this week a huge victory, and a key example of where having a minimum really helped my attitude towards food.  Eating to 80% and eating protein at every meal was relatively easy. I still got to eat a nanaimo bar for dessert one day, and I still got to eat the tiny chocolates they leave on your pillow without feeling guilty. But being away from home didn’t mean that I just fell off the deep end and ate whatever was put in front me, just because it was there and this was a “special occasion”. Instead, I kept a level head: when faced with airplane food on Thursday evening, I tasted everything on my plate, and concluded that it was all too bland and not worth eating. I can’t even say I feel deprived about passing on airplane food.

I was even a bit shocked on Wednesday night. We walked into Old Town, ate a massive dinner at one of the local landmarks and then walked up to the Bush Pilot monument. My boss took a picture of me and back at the hotel when I looked at it, my reaction was simply “I don’t look fat.”  Just having that thought pass through my head came as a bit of a shock. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a picture of myself and had that reaction.

Of course, coming back to reality, I was confronted with my reflection in the fun house mirrors of the gym yesterday. I can’t say I felt very positively towards my body then. But I do feel like my perception of myself and the actual fact of how I look are slowly converging, which has not always been the case. I swing wildly between thinking that I look morbidly obese (because my BMI is morbidly obese) and thinking that I look quite fit (because ate salad for lunch two days in a row). But I think that as I’ve been losing weight over the past couple of months, I’ve also noticed a shift in my attitude and identity: I’ve stopped counting how long it’s been since my last binge eating episode, because I am not someone who eats well in public all week, and then scarfs down junk food all weekend long. I am a person who orders salad at a restaurant, not always fries. I am a person who finds the time to workout, even when I’m away from home. And I don’t have to do these things because I’m the fat friend who perpetually needs to lose weight, but I do them because I feel good about these choices, in the moment and afterwards too.


Week in review

This week’s recap is mostly a gastro-intestinal overshare. My weight was actually up for my weekly weigh-in yesterday, despite the fact that my nutrition has been on point. But I’ve been walked around feeling bloated and gassy and backed up all week. On Wednesday I even joked that I was 5 months pregnant because my stomach was just that distended.

After talking to my coach, I am going to try cutting back on dairy and moderating my bean intake. Although… I am travelling up North all this week. I am bringing a suitcase full of protein bars, but who knows what my nutrition will end up looking like. When I get back I might attempt the “strictly no dairy, including whey” experiment, but I’m not willing to commit to that while I’m away. I’ve switched over to a vegan protein powder for now, at least and we’ll see if that helps.

When I get back I’d also like to play around with my meal and lifting schedule. I’m eating 4 meals a day, but I think with some adjustments I could happily get by on three. Right now I feel like I’m bordering on overeating everyday. 

Preparing to travel has also totally screwed up my lifting. I am so stressed out. I stayed late at work every day this week, and only had 45 minutes at the gym on Friday. I hit 280×3 on squats but it was basically a “Oh, I’m in the hole? Better use some leg drive to get back up.” kind of day and then I failed my final OHP workset. Poop. (And I don’t even want to talk about deadlifting yesterday.)

I am really excited for my trip. I’ve worked for this program for three years and I’ve never been up North, so this is going to be a great experience for sure. I just feel like my training has suffered as a result, and six weeks out from a competition I’m not feel quite as confident as I’d like to feel. I’m hoping that I will more mentally invested when I get back on Friday.

I will say that mentally, I am totally okay with where I’m at. Despite the fact that shit is crazzzzzy, I’ve been making decent nutrition choices. Even if they’re not perfect, I am exceeding my minimums. Maybe it’s not my main focus at the moment, but it’s not being neglected either. Probably the first time in my life I’ve ever felt this way, because normally when everything goes to shit I find myself at Harvey’s / A&W / MacDonald’s / Burgers ‘n Fries Forever. 

One thing I think is helping is that I’ve started taking 5-HTP on the recommendation of one of the PN coaches. She gave me a solid scientific explanation of how it helps increase serotonin production. I’ve been reading about how this is an alternative SSRIs although instead of preventing reuptake they actually increase serotonin and melatonin production, but since it’s not patentable, there is not a ton of interest in research / prescribing it. I have noticed that my mood is more stable. I am still feeling anxious about my meetings next week and the fact that I am bloated and got a terrible haircut this week. But I haven’t felt the need to cry about any of it, and that’s a big freakin’ deal for a cry baby like myself.

And I feel like my head space is good enough to see that even if I didn’t lose weight this week, even if I had a crappy week in the gym and even if I’m so bloated that my fat pants are tight, if I just keep doing what I am doing, I will get to where I want to be soon enough.

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6 week PNLE update + deadlifting

After max testing last week, this week was pretty quiet. While max testing, I managed to drop a 45lb plate on my left foot, so I’ve working around some discomfort all week. Even if I hadn’t managed to injure myself, I think max testing would have left me feeling wiped on its own. And work has really been killing me. 

I am supposed to travel for work next week and I am really excited for the trip: I have worked for an Arctic research program for over three years and I’ve never been up North. Well, now I’m finally going. But I’ve been concious of the fact that getting ready for the trip has been incredibly stressful and my recovery has suffered as a result. Friday, I worked late, went to the gym for an hour and then came home only to fall asleep at 7:30, before I could find the energy to cook some dinner.

And squatting on Friday was hard. A single set of 275×3 looked so measly on paper, but I really struggled. The second rep had a huge pause because I got down into the hole, and then had to find the energy to stand back up.  

Yesterday was probably my best session of the week: I pulled 335×2. When I tried for 335 four weeks ago, all I got was one really shaky rep and that left me feeling like shit.

While I was doubtful about my ability to pull 335×2 and happy to prove myself wrong, watching the video is kind of frustrating. My deadlift has two very distinct and separate phases: Phase 1 is the pull and Phase 2 is the lockout. And man, that lockout is painful. This is not a new discovery by any means, but I swear it’s getting worse. And if I miss a competition PR because I can’t lockout, or get called for hitching because I have to think about pulling my hips through then I might lose my god damn mind. 

I know that I struggle with glute activation on all of my lifts and this is where it really starts to become a factor. It is a mystery to me that my glutes can be so huge and yet so useless. I am debating hitting the gym this afternoon, just to punish my glutes with approximately 1 million angry hip thrusts.

On the other hand, there are several parts of my body saying that recovery would be a good idea, especially since I’m already running a recovery deficit and anticipating that this week will be even crazier than last week.

Lifting and recovery aside: this weekend was my 6-week check-in for PNLE. I was absolutely shocked by my progress pictures. Even though I don’t feel like I’ve really been restricting myself or “dieting” and I don’t really notice any changes in my body day to day, those pictures showed quite unmistakable proof that my stomach is shrinking. *Fist pump*

Crazy statistic: I’ve lost more weight in the past 4 weeks than I lost in 7 months of following the program last year. This is honestly the difference between 80% compliance and 90% compliance, which has come from trying to be more engaged in the program.

One of the coaches also proposed a strategy that has really resonated with me: the idea of setting a minimum. For me, that minimum has been to avoid overeating. So instead of fixating on how I didn’t meet an overly ambitious goal on any given day or week, I have felt like I am successful and on track because I’m able to easily meet that minimum, even if other circumstances were less than ideal. It’s been 6 weeks since I’ve had a true binge eating episode, which I consider a bigger accomplishment than any lifting goal.

I’m still a bit nervous about how travelling will affect my food choices, but I think I can cope. I know that I can eat to 80% full regardless of where I am or what food options I have available. I think that I’m anticipating the situation enough that I won’t use it as an excuse to eat chicken fingers and fries at every meal. I’ve got some good momentum built up so I want to keep moving forward. Right after I get some rest.

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8 weeks out: Max testing

I am 8 weeks out from my meet! Eep! This is normally around the time when I decide my training isn’t going well and I should probably withdraw and do another meet later, when I feel more ready. (Spoiler alert: I won’t feel ready later, either.

After failing my squats and bench on Friday, I considered just resetting but I wasn’t really sure by how much, and I figured that it didn’t really make sense to do a minor reset, max test 2 weeks after resetting. Plus, I had no energy yesterday and deadlifting wasn’t going to happen so I needed to justify my sloth somehow.

So today, I max tested.


Got: 305lbs x 1. Missed 320×1.

I got 320 out of the hole but just couldn’t fight to get it up the rest of the way. However, I feel like 319 is totally plausible by the time my meet rolls around.

I am going to reset and start working with triples tomorrow. Intensity day this week will be 280, which should get me to 305×3 the week before my meet.


Got 140×1. Missed: 145×1

Since 140 felt really solid, I’m tempted to aim for 148lbs at the meet, but even if I get 143, I will be happy. Going to continue running 5×5 and 3×5 until I stall, and then reset 10%. This should get me two full cycles before the meet. I need to work on holding the pause both cycles. 


Got: 360×1 Missed 375×1

This video was hard to watch. WHY COULDN’T I JUST LOCKOUT THE BAR?

Ugh. I will have this in 8 weeks no problem. Meet goal is 380lbs.

So, all in all, I am totally ok with this. None of these lifts were PRs, but my absolute strength is back to where it was when I kind of gave up on training. I just have to keep progressing and it will be easy PRs in 8 weeks when I actually step on to the platform. And, even if I just maintain my strength: my total today was 805lbs. That more than qualifies me to compete at provincials even if I lift at 84kg. So even if I’m the weakest person in my weight class, I will still be able to achieve my personal goal.

Furthermore, despite the fact that I’ve spent the past 2 days subsisting off chocolate covered pretzels, my weight has been under 180 and that means that my wilks was higher than my last meet.

I think I still need to do a bit of thinking about what my attempts will be. It’s tempting to just open with the numbers I successfully hit today, but I’m not sure that’s the best strategy. I will have to see what my weight does and how the next six weeks of training progress. But overall, I have to say I’m feeling good. I know where I want to go, I feel optimistic that I can get there, and I don’t need to postpone doing a meet any longer.

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Weekly squat update: 295×3


That is a video of me squatting 295×1 in a pink belt and then 295×3 in my black belt. Not shown: I attempted 315 to try and make myself feel better but instead I just got stapled.

Then I failed on bench!

I think part of this is mental. This week should have been my worst week of the month, although I haven’t felt hormonal and I am late, so who the fuck knows what my body is doing. Plus, my belt changes in between sets because the pink one wasn’t feeling tight enough, but it was also digging into my side, and all in all I just lost the head game before anything else.

And, I kind of knew all week that I wasn’t feeling it. I booked my hotel for the meet on Thursday and then said, “Well, even if I fail my squats tomorrow, I’m still doing the meet.” And the thought of bailing did cross my mind after my attempt at 315, but too bad. I’m committed.

The problem is that I’m not quite sure how to proceed, because I’m at that point where I could just fuck around for months, feel frustrated and give up. (That’s what happened the last time I hit this point.)

I am debating whether I should re-attempt 295×5 next week. I could max test on Sunday (give myself Saturday to recover), and then fully reset on Monday. Or I could just reset and start triples on Monday without max testing.

One factor that I’m trying to take into account is the fact that I’ve lost some weight since starting PNLE. I am down 12lbs since my first weigh in 4 weeks ago. I am starting to see my waist and fit into my clothes again! Yay! That’s totally on track. But if I continue to lose weight at this pace (which the vain part of my mind if kind of hoping for) then max testing 8 weeks before a meet serves no real purpose.

On the other hand, I helped someone with their deadlift form and they repaid me with a massive bag of chocolate covered pretzels. So there is no way I will be losing weight while those are in my possession (although, they probably won’t last very long, given my past track record for chocolate-covered pretzel consumption).


Being eighty four

This morning I weighed in at 83.4 kg.

That’s a really big freakin’ deal. I signed up to compete in a meet at 72kg, which has historically been my weight class. And yet… I’ve spent my first month of PNLE just hoping to get down into the 84kg weight class.

Well, now I’m under 84kg and I’m exactly 2 months out from my meet.

I am giving myself permission not to aim for 72kg. Actually, that’s not so much permission as an order.

There is a very loud voice that is currently occupying my head and it’s screaming “You can do it. Losing 12kg in two months is far from impossible. Just lose 10kg and then waterload the rest of the way! You’re going to show up weighing 65kg and feel totally bummed out about competing in a fat girl class. You’re going to feel really disappointed in yourself when your wilks is lower than your last meet because you gained weight. Just skip breakfast. And lunch. And carbs. And basically every food you enjoy and you’ll get there.”

Dear voice: you are being totally unreasonable. Please shut up.

I keep forcing my rational voice to pipe up:

I could cut to 72kg in 2 months, but I’d probably be embarrassingly weak by the time I got there.  I probably will not hit a 315lb squat if I step on to the platform weighing 72kg, and that squat is my only real goal for the meet apart from qualifying for provincials.

I could waterload before the meet, but I’ve got to take the Greyhound to the meet on Friday. Do I really want to be waterloading when I’m trapped on a bus for several hours? That is a pretty firm “no” in my mind. That sounds even worse than waterloading during final exams, and I’ve done that.

Plus, I paid a ton of money to PNLE so that I could stop repeating all of these futile exercises in dieting! I could take ephedrine or I could starve myself or I could go super low carb… but that just seems like a whole lot of wasted energy. To be honest, I just feel tired every time I think about trying to make weight. If I really wanted to participate in competitive dieting, I’d do bikini competitions. And I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Besides – what am I going to do if I hit the platform at 72kg? I’ve been there before and I know exactly how it goes: starve myself down to competition weight, knock out some modest PRs on the platform and then spend several weeks binging on burgers and ice cream and generally feeling very unwell and hitting awful numbers in the gym. Can’t say I’m terribly interested in falling down that hole again.

So this is a letter to myself, specifically the version of myself that will have to compete on October 18


You are probably not going to make weight. It’s ok. You can compete in 84kg and you might weigh 81kg and you might weight 75kg. You might even way 72.1kg, but whatever you weigh, you’ll do just fine.

Remember where you were six months ago? You’ve lost a ton of weight since then. You actually leave your house. You aren’t binge eating weekly. You’re cooking and eating vegetables regularly. Six months spent ignoring your life isn’t undone overnight, but you’ve already made great progress.

You’ll have an awesome meet, because you’ve been doing so many awesome things to prepare. You’ve been going to the gym regularly for months now! You’ve been following actual programming WITH ACCESSORY WORK! You’ve been making good food choice >90% of the time. You’ve been eating slowly and you stop eating when you’re no longer hungry. You don’t buy lunch twice a week because you actually plan what you’re going to eat and do some meal prep.

Most importantly: You will keep doing all of those things once this meet is over. And if you keep doing all of those things, you will eventually get your weight below 72kg. Best of all, you won’t have a massive rebound like you’ve had in the past, because you didn’t have to starve yourself to get there. You deserve to cut yourself some slack, by giving yourself the time and the credit to get where you want to be.

So here’s what you need to focus on: Squat 315lbs. Maybe squat more if you’re feeling ambitious. Don’t bomb out. Don’t accidentally poop in your singlet while deadlifting. Get a total of 352.5kg and qualify for provincials. Maybe in six weeks you’ll be ready to compete at 72kg. Maybe you won’t be. It really doesn’t matter to anyone but you, and as long as you keep lifting, recovering and eating well, you’ll be a rockstar today and in the future.


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