First, a confession. I worry about my weight, too. I’m no different in that respect than most other women (and plenty of men). It’s all fun and games eating as much as I like until I see a certain number on the scale and then I start to wonder — have I taken my lift big, eat big (thanks for the term, Brandon!) approach too far? That certain number for me is past 105, the weight class I compete in, and what I’ve always thought was kind of my ‘natural’ weight — a healthy and reasonable weight for a barely-over five-foot, small-framed woman.
I try, I really try, to not not focus on that, though. But just like learning to push my stomach out against my weight belt when I’m lifting goes against a lifetime habit of “sucking it in” to make my belly look flat, rewiring my brain to focus on the weights I can lift, not the weight that I am, just takes time. Most days though, wanting to be strong easily beats wanting an arbitrary number. Get to my squat goal this year of 100 kilos or walk around at 100 pounds even all the time? The squat by a LONG shot. No contest. I want to be strong.
But when I got stuck at 108 I gave in and asked my coach for the dreaded ‘pinch’ test. Why would I stand there and let a man literally pinch the fat on my tummy? To find out what I’m gaining — fat or muscle. The caliper test is probably the best way most of us have to measure our body fat percentage, and therefore determine how many pounds of lean body mass we have. (We didn’t test when I first started working out. It’s just as well, because based on what I know now and my extrapolations, I would have been crushed. Some things it’s better to not know.)
But several months in, last spring, we checked it, and a couple of times since. So there was a baseline, and this morning at the pinch test that I almost chickened out of, I learned that since last April I have [drumroll!] gained eight pounds of muscle! I happen to also weigh the same, which explains why clothes are bigger — have you ever seen one of those illustations of how much more room fat takes than muscle?
I am so freaking proud of that eight pounds, I can’t even tell you. I lost several pounds of muscle years ago in a horribly misguided attempt from a “trainer” at a women’s gym to help me lose the weight I packed on when I got out of college, got married and got a desk job. My normal 105 soared to almost 130 pounds with that trifecta and I promise NONE of it was muscle. I got down to 99 pounds through months of excessive cardio and starving myself. And I thought I’d never gain back the muscle I lost. But I have!
And with that eight pounds of muscle my “petite” (for some reason that’s how people that don’t know me refer to me — “that petite powerlifter”) body can move some serious weight. The mixed blessing of being so short is there’s not much room for weight to distribute. But that’s to my benefit when it’s muscle! Strong arms can bench press, strong legs can squat, strong back can deadlift. I can do most anything I want with that wonderful, wonderful eight pounds of new muscle. Here’s to making it 10!