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pull ups

For the last three years I have been working hard at changing my body and my mind. I CrossFit at least four times a week, I eat well (for the most part), and work daily at getting stronger. I have made huge changes in my physical and mental abilities in the last several years. I have written here, and other places, about how women should view their bodies. I have talked endlessly about embracing strength and reminded women countlessly to stop worrying about the scale. I know these things. However, it turns out that practicing it is a lot more difficult that just saying it.

Recently our box completed a nutrition challenge. I love these! It gives me a chance to refocus, and correct any bad habits that have crept in. Well, it turns out this time around I had created a lot of bad habits. I completed my “before” DEXA scan and learned that weight I had gained was not muscle as I had thought, but actually body fat. I had a lot to loose. So, I took my numbers, calculated my zone blocks and started my plan. Here was where I failed, despite speaking with our gym owners and listening to their advice of 11 blocks a day, I went for 10. What was one right? When I did the calculations my total ended up at 10.4. I rounded down. I remember good mathematics (kind of). This was my first mistake. I went through my first two weeks feeling great! I was loosing weight, which was exciting, and really feeling good. However, by the third week I was feeling really weak. I didn’t seem to have a lot of energy during strenuous workouts, but cardio is a weak spot for me anyway, so I trudged along. By the fourth week I felt like I was run over by a bus during each trip to the box. I couldn’t complete 20 wall ball shots without needing to sit down. I was not in good condition. I knew something needed to be switched around with my nutrition. I just wasn’t ready to admit that I had messed up. So, I went for my “after” DEXA scan and was shocked by the numbers. I walked in feeling like I was going to rock this scan. I had lost 8 pounds. Everyone was complimenting how great I looked. I was on top of the world, certain I was about to knock out some serious fat loss! False. While my scan showed a 1% fat loss, I had lost 6 pounds of muscle. Crap.

So, I left my scan feeling deflated, literally. I knew I hadn’t eaten enough. I talked with our owners, and knew what I needed to do, but it wasn’t until I spoke with a fellow athlete, who is also a nutritionist, that I really understood. He explained what physiologically happened. My body was in starvation mode. I have worked for the last three years to build muscle and be strong. I had not weighed myself, other than doctors appointments, in a year. (I used to weigh myself daily).I have preached endlessly about embracing strength, no matter your size, and I was starving myself.

Here’s where this turns in to true confessions. It has been two weeks since I have learned this, and I am struggling. I am trying to free myself from the mindset of the world. My 20 year old self keeps screaming in my head, “But you lost weight!!! Isn’t that the point!!! People think you are skinny!!” I am fighting all of my womanly instincts on this. I am eating more, and I feel tremendously better during my workouts. But, my inner society-conforming voice is terrified. What if I gain weight? What if I stop getting compliments? It’s ridiculous and my rational side understands that; nonetheless, I have spent 35 years listening to the magazines. I’ve been told, “don’t get too bulky.” So, here I sit. I’ve just completed dinner. It was healthy, zone portioned correctly, and satisfying, but I’m still concerned.

Women, we have to change our minds. We have to stop worrying about numbers and images. We have to focus on strength and progress. We have to worry about how we feel. Health is most important. Performance is most important. The rest will come. At what point do we stop caring about the Victoria Secrets models? When will we stop saying women with muscles are too “manly”? It’s not about size. It’s about health. So, help me. Join me in changing how we view women. Strength is beautiful, and athleticism is beautiful. When we all change our minds, the world changes with us.