A Dainty Diary of Lifting

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PNLE week 15

Today was my measurement day for Precision Nutrition, and I had to take my 3-month progress photos. I don’t know what it is about the progress photos, but they always leave me feeling bummed out for the rest of the day.

I feel like my weight has yo-yo’d up and down so many times in my life that the number doesn’t even phase me. My weight is just an objective measurement, giving me feedback about whether I’m making progress towards my goal of one-day being not fat.

But then I take progress photos and I think, “Is there a difference? Or is that just the result of different posture, different lighting, different underwear, etc.?” And even if I think I see a difference, there are so many things left to fix. I feel like I am developing a huge disconnect between my mind and my body, and my progress photos are the reality check. I have been consistent enough in my diet and lifting over the past few months that I am starting to have this mental identity of looking and feeling fit and then and I see pictures of myself in my underwear and I just look really fat. And now I am starting to develop that beef-jerky stomach look that formerly fat people have. Ugh. Sad.

I am a little bit bummed out because I only lost 4lbs this month and my progress photos reflected that reality. I am bummed out because I still need to get my weight down another 9lbs before my meet in 5 weeks. I feel like I am already doing so many of the right things, and I don’t want to resort to a crazy diet or waterloading because I know it will end in a rebound. It always does. And Christmas is 2 months from today and I just want to go home and not be the fat sister in all of our family photos for once.

I am trying not to get too down on myself. I did treat myself after my meet last week – I ate an incredible Rouladen and a glass of Riesling for dinner on Saturday. I made chocolate chip protein pancakes on Monday. I ate a lot of dark chocolate. I mean, a lot. And on Wednesday I ate some milk chocolate, too. That is the only choice I somewhat regret this week, but I work for the federal government in Ottawa, so Wednesday was quite an exceptional day and a few squares of milk chocolate aren’t worth dwelling on.

I was also making the effort to eat vegetarian this week and I noticed that I was consuming a lot of beans, a lot of soy and more sodium than I normally do. Add in some hormonal chaos and I’ve felt painfully bloated and kind of foggy all week.

There is a part of me that really wants to move towards being vegan. Like, on my continuum of health, I see Twinkies on one end and raw paleo vegan at the other extreme. Maybe I will never reach that pinnacle of health but I would like to move closer towards it. Unfortunately, I really noticed that I was not feeling my best on a vegetarian diet. I am pretty sure that when I eat vegetarian, my macronutrients get all out of whack. I was doing okay on the protein front, but I just felt weighed down by all of the additional carbs.

My other issue with eating vegetarian is that I tend to rely heavily on dairy to meet my protein needs, and I know that I have issues with dairy. I feel like my weight loss is stalled and cutting out all of the cottage cheese and greek yogurt and whey that are staples in my diet seems like a logical way to move forward. I just need to go a couple of weeks without dairy and see if some of my digestive issues don’t resolve themselves. My new PNLE habit as of Monday is to document my meals, so this is a great time to monitor my dairy intake and see if anything else is sneaking into my diet.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been working on the meal planning habit. This is one of the easier or more natural habits for me because it’s already integrated into my life. I live alone so I don’t need to consider other people’s tastes or schedules. I’ve been doing a lot more cooking and a lot less eating out since starting the PNLE program and at this point the planning is second nature. Actually, I think the fact that there was no drop in my weight with this habit shows that it wasn’t a big departure from my normal routine.

Speaking of routines: let’s talk about lifting because apparently I am 5 weeks out from another meet. The good news is that the more distance I put between myself and my meet last week, the better I feel about the meet. When we went to World Pride in Toronto in June, I weighed over 200lbs. I weighed in somewhere in the ballpark of 165lbs. If weight loss is my priority at the moment, then I have no reason to feel disappointed in my body for not PRing and I can maybe even feel good about the level of strength that I have retained. But I’m still terrified that I won’t make weight in time for Provincials in November.

My goals November are simply to compete at 72kg and improve my wilks. So this week I was back in the gym because there is no time to lose. I am switching to Bulgarian style training for the next 5 weeks. I need something lower volume because any amount of volume was killing me while trying to lose weight. I want to focus on my big 3 lifts and not worry about a ton of finicky accessory work. And I need to practice squatting without a mirror in front of me, because that was a problem I had on the platform. Unfortunately there is literally no conceivable way to squat at my current gym without looking in the mirror.

And then on December 1st I am switching to some sort of Crossfit or bikini girl routine, because I am so sick of prepping for powerlifting meets and I just want to be lean. But first things first: I just need to take this one day at a time until the meet is over.



Post-meet write up: Gratitude edition

I did my meet. Here’s the summary: I didn’t make weight, which wasn’t a suprise. I went 6/9 and set no PRs. In fact, I missed weights I’ve hit more than once in the gym. As my last lift of the day, I missed a 380lb deadlift and then I had to go sit in the car and cry for a few minutes alone. And as much as I know that a big deadlift can leave me with a feeling of exploding happiness, missing that lift on Saturday left me with an extreme emotion at the opposite end of the spectrum. I was supposed to walk out of this meet, feeling prepared to tackle provincial championships in 6 weeks and instead, I walked out feeling so let down that I might never do a meet again.

There is a part of me that feels like a spoiled brat: the friend who lifted with me kept saying, “But you won GOLD in your weight class. You were at the bottom of your weight class and dominated. You even dominated the weight class above.” But I don’t even think that medal registered on my radar. Winning wasn’t my goal. My goal was to step off the platform, knowing that I put up the best numbers I am capable of, and I don’t feel like I came anywhere close to accomplishing that. I am way overdue for a deadlift PR. I haven’t set a deadlift PR since February 2013. February 2013. I was 23 the last time I set a deadlift PR, for crying out loud!

But before I went to the meet, I resolved to do my post meet analysis with an attitude of gratitude. This is actually an outlook of Thanksliving that I am trying to cultivate in general, after one of my yoga instructors said something that really resonated with me: People who practice gratitude are happier; they understand how to fill up their lives with what they have, instead of seeking to fill the holes with something external that might not even exist.

This outlook was like a revelation for me.There are all of these holes in my life that constantly leave me feeling inadequate: I am never strong enough or skinny enough or smart enough or confident enough or sociable enough or brave enough or rich enough or fashionable enough. And I’ve spent so much time feeling lost and unsatisfied and trying to find something that will make me stronger, skinnier, smarter, more confident, more brave, richer and more fashionable. And yet, a solution remains elusive: I am still me.

Lifting is definitely one of the areas where I struggle to feel satisfied: I can never enjoy how strong I am without wanting to be stronger and skinnier.So what if I made a deliberate attempt to accept that even if I’ve had better lifting days in the gym, today’s meet was good enough, just as it happened? And I do have lots of reasons to be grateful:

  • The powerlifting community is incredibly supportive. It’s a miracle that I made it on to the platform at all, given that I didn’t even own a proper-fitting singlet a week before the meet. After learning of my singlet debacle, my friend Tannis sent me two of her own singlets via XpressPost. I am incredibly grateful to her for being so helpful, as I would not have been allowed to lift without the appropriate attire – and she even let me keep the singlet that fits me the best, so I will have something to wear in the future.
  • I did a meet. I haven’t done a meet in two years, despite the fact that I’ve signed up and paid in full on at least 3 separate occasions. I have this MO of signing up and then withdrawing six weeks out because I don’t feel strong enough or consistent enough in my training. So by stepping on that platform, I was accepting that whatever I had done up to that point was good enough for now, perfect or imperfect as it may have been.
  • Accepting that I didn’t have to make weight was such a relief. I thought I would be really bummed out by having to compete at 84kg, when historically I’ve competed at 72kg. In reality, not having to worry about waterloading removed so much stress from my life and I actually felt pretty good about my weigh-in. I know that when I was a young, 23-year-old powerlifter who knew it all and felt indestructible, I thought the waterload was no big deal.Well, I was mistaken. The energy I could have invested in worrying about my salt, carb and water intake for a week was much better invested in making healthy choices consistently in the 12 weeks leading up to my meet.
  • I didn’t binge eat my way into a Powerlifting Meet Day pile of sickness. Historically, I have adopted what seems to be a prevailing attitude at powerlifting meets: 9 near-max lifts somehow justify eating loads and loads of processed crap and refined sugar. I really hate this mentality. I don’t feel good about it day-to-day and the day of a meet is not an exception. That’s just not the type of relationship I want to have with my diet, especially since that meet day is sometimes only the first step in a prolonged junk food bender that leaves every part of my body feeling abused. Instead, I was able to break the chain in this pattern of behaviour by skipping the waterload and focusing on a consistent diet leading up to the meet. I even planned meet-day food that didn’t leave me feeling gross or guilty afterwards.
  • I improved my total and my wilks score. Even if I know that I’ve had better days in the gym, my meet numbers have improved despite all of the bullshit and distraction and life that has happened in the past few years. I opened my deadlift with my third attempt from my last meet. I opened both my squat and bench higher than my third attempts from that same meet. While the cynical and ungrateful part of me feels like this accomplishment is undermined by the fact that I’ve gained a few pounds, my wilks score improved by 16 points. Even if I didn’t have a 380lb deadlift in me today, I am undeniably getting stronger.
  • I squatted through one of the longest, grindiest lifts of my life. I was a bit freaked out after I missed my second squat attempt. 303lbs just felt unbearably heavy and despite having hit 305lbs several times with confidence in the gym, I really felt like I was going to settle for a 275lb squat. Instead, I got under the bar again and pushed through. This puts a 300lb squat on the books, and even if it wasn’t a weight PR for me, this was definitely an endurance event in itself. I felt amazing after this lift, having spent such an unbelievable amount of time under tension. Moral of the story: if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again and stick with it.
  • I had a less-than perfect meet. They do happen but until now, they hadn’t happened to me. I’ve only done a couple of meets, after which someone commented that it was good that I had gotten some successful meets under my belt. I didn’t fully understand his words at the time, but now I do. If I had gone into my first-ever meet and put up this performance, I don’t think I would be interested in competing again. But, I know that I can have a meet where I go 9/9 and PR every lift because I’ve done it before, And just like it’s good to have the experience of a successful meet, I’m hoping that it’s good to have a less than stellar meet and learn that it’s not worth dwelling on.

My plan was to come out of this meet and start preparing for provincials in six weeks. As much as dinner after the meet felt like a gaping pit of despair where I would never do another competition again, a glass of wine has helped me to put things into perspective and be more grateful. The plan is still to stick with consistent eating and lifting, with provincials in view. Moral of the story: if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again and stick with it.

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PNLE week 13

I am officially one week out from my first meet in nearly two years. I can’t believe that at this time next week, it’ll be done.

I really hope that I am done, I feel some sort of relief. Because right now, I just feel like doing a meet is this constant pressure bearing down on me.

This week has been a bit insane. It’s like my body just fast-tracked right to PMS-land this week. I have been bloated and constipated and ravenous. I did that thing I do when I’m depressed, where I just randomly start weeping at my desk for no reason. I’ve found myself wide awake at 4 am on more than one occasion this week. And my weight loss has been flat out stalled for the past three weeks.

Thankfully, it’s a long weekend in Canadia. We are celebrating the arrival of Christopher Columbus in America. Actually, I’m not. I don’t have any family that live in town, so I will be foregoing the traditional turkey dinner. I did buy myself a homemade turkey dinner from the gourmet caterer down the street. It’s supposedly turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and veggies with cranberry and gravy for two, but I’m quite certain it would feed a family of four despite any claims made on the label. Anyway, I am saving that in my freezer until next week when my meet is done and I don’t need to worry about my weight.

This morning I weighed 76.7 kg so there is absolutely no chance I am going to weigh-in under 72kg. I can’t be bothered to waterload at this point. So right now my plan is to get a Class II total at 84kg on Saturday. Then I can continue trying to make weight for provincials at the end of November, but if I don’t make it, it’ll be fine.

Seriously, I am really annoyed with my body. I feel like I am making such good food choices and not overreating. I did have my first binge eating episode in months last weekend, but it was a cake made out of squash and coconut flour and blueberries. Which is basically 1 million pounds of fiber and the health binge eating I’ve ever done. How did this happen? I tried to “experiment” with a lower carb day on my rest day. Then I baked a spiced squash loaf. It was fucking incredible after 24 hours of low carb. I love carbs.

So apart from the squash loaf incident, I am eating well rounded meals – protein and veggies and a cupped handful of “smart carbs”. I have eaten so much spinach this week! I keep telling myself that if I eat like this for another 9 months, it would be physically impossible to stay fat – but I feel like my body is determined to prove me wrong on that count. Actually, I reached out to my coach this week because I felt frustrated. She told me I was not allowed to be annoyed because I’ve lost ~26lb since the start of the program. Then she asked me “On a scale of 1-10, how much do you believe that you can and will make the changes you desire?”

I’ve been thinking long and hard about this.

Belief that I can diet my way down to a weight that I consider “not fat”: 6/10

Belief that I can achieve that weight and feel comfortable in my own skin, more sociable and confident: 4/10

Belief that I can achieve that weight and maintain it for longer than 2 weeks: 2/10

I actually haven’t responded to my coach because those answers are depressing and I don’t really know how to deal with fixing my personality. Like, my brain just kind of shuts down when I try to think past of those things. At this point, even if I am not dropping weight, trying to eat healthy and hit the gym regularly seems way more manageable.

So, hitting the gym and eating healthy seems like a good way to spend my long weekend. I finished up my actual training for the meet. Yesterday I squatted up to 305 for two singles. The second rep felt really solid and I am leaning towards trying 313 for my third attempt. Today I did my last heavy bench and deadlift sets. I managed to pull 335×4 which was a huge and pleasant surprise. I had failed to pull 335×3 at least twice before, so this was a great way to end off my training and I am going to crush 380. I will go in tomorrow and work up to my openers on squat and bench, and then do a few reps of squat and bench at 50% on Wednesday, just so that I don’t forget how to lift.

I also tried on my singlet this morning. The singlet I own was bordering on being too small two years ago when I weighed 10lbs less. Despite the fact that I am in denial, it did not fit. It gave me great cleavage! But it was painfully tight in the butt and thighs and shoulders. So… Monday is a holiday and I travel on Friday. I ordered a new singlet via express shipping and then I sent out a Facebook SOS. Thank god for my powerlifting friends of similar shape and size who helped me come up with a back up plan so that I do not need to lift in my birthday suit.

After lifting and sorting out my singlet situation, I tackled some meal prep today. I am primarily grateful for Thanksgiving weekend because it means that I have three days to batch cook and freeze some meals. This afternoon I made a hippie stew  of lentils, quinoa and kale, and a harissa carrot soup. Tomorrow I am planning on making zucchini oatmeal and a cottage pie. I also need to figure out what I’m packing as PNLE-friendly meels for my meet next weekend.

Holy crap. I still can’t believe I’ll be doing a meet next week.

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PNLE week 12

So…. about 5 seconds after thinking that I might be able to make weight for my meet on October 18th, I apparently hit a weight loss plateau. Go figure.

I’ve lost less than 1lb in the past 2 weeks, which is kind of a bummer. But on the other hand, I feel like this is temporary. I might feel different if I continue losing weight at this pace, but for now I feel like my head is in a good space. I am making consistently good food choices. I am not overeating. I feel like even if I’m not seeing results right as this minute, I will see results in the long term because of the choices that I am making now. I don’t feel like I have in the past, where I’m running myself into the ground and getting nowhere.

Also: I discovered melt-in your mouth peppered salmon jerky this week. So that’s a great protein source to have on hand, buy that’s a huge sodium injection in my diet. I’m convinced that my weight didn’t move because I’m carrying around 10lbs of salt and water weight.

Since I’ve given up on making weight and I know I won’t hit my overly ambitious meet goals, I am at a point where there are no expectations… and it feels good. Like I can focus on the stuff that I am doing really well, without worrying about everything that is not happening right this instant.

For example: I am not going to squat 315lbs in two weeks time, but I will probably have a better handle on that in November. And in the meantime: I fit into all of my size 10 pants again, despite the fact that I’m 10lbs heavier than the last time I managed to squeeze myself into them. If my options are a 3 plate squat or walking around naked, then I stand by my decision.

Speaking of being naked! I may end up lifting naked at my meet in two weeks! I ordered a singlet from the Glamlet website 6 weeks ago. I am super disappointed, because it never arrived and the owner of the site has been pretty much non-responsive to my inquiries. So I’m out $100 and counting on the fact that I’m going to fit into my singlet… which was a bit too small two years ago, when I actually managed to make weight.

Basically I’m going to start my own sport, and it is going to be nudist powerlifting. Pretty much guaranteed to be an awesome meet even if I bomb.