How Hypertrophy Training Taught Me to Stop Hiding and Start Being Myself

Confession: I am sometimes still 200 lbs in my head.

I have a hard time seeing myself as I am when I look in the mirror and I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the camera for as long as I can remember. There are actually NO photos of me at 200 lbs because I just could not bear to see myself.

It’s been 3 years since I started making major changes which ultimately changed my life in a multitude of ways, including losing weight and eliminating my dependence on the pharmaceuticals managing my PCOS symptoms. It was just the beginning though.

Last year at about this time, Kourtney Thomas and Jen Sinkler released a strength training program designed to encourage hypertrophy for women. Hypertrophy is specifically intended to build muscle mass, something that many women have been taught to shun. We’ve spent our whole lives taught we must be smaller, why would we want to train our bodies to be bigger?! Why would we want to take up space?!

I liked the idea of it, adding muscle mass to my body. I wanted to LOOK like all the work I was putting in. But it also messed with me. Taking up space isn’t just a physical thing, it’s a mental thing. I’ve expended a great deal of energy making myself small throughout my life, and not just physically.

Because it scared me, I put off actually starting the program for MONTHS. I didn’t actually start it until the end of August. I hadn’t even joined a gym yet, something that is a requirement for the program (unless you have a well-equipped home gym, which I do not).

My only goal was to see what my body could do. There was no “I want to drop a certain percentage of body fat” though that was definitely on my mind, nor were there any strength goals. I wanted to fall back in love with the process. I wanted to see what my body would do with consistent training.

Even though there is talk of the positive psychological effects of this type of training written into the program (which is really well written, by the way), I didn’t expect what has ultimately happened.

Yes, my body has changed, pretty dramatically. Yes, I’m stronger physically. Yes, I’ve fallen back in love with training my body much the same way I did while I was in high school. Yes, I’m a little addicted to watching the numbers climb as I move heavier and heavier weights and the accompanying endorphin rush.

I didn’t expect this program would create an opening for me to find confidence in my voice. I didn’t expect that finding my confidence would open up a path for me to explore the things I’m passionate about. I didn’t expect that it would completely alter the way I walk, the way I speak, the way I see myself, and the way I occur to the people around me.

I didn’t expect that it would be a key contributor in teaching me to fly.

Underneath everything that I do and am, I am a writer. I probably have been my whole life even though I’ve spent most of it hiding it from people. It has only been very recently that “I’m a writer and I teach people how to heal themselves through the written word” came rolling off my tongue of its own accord, unbidden, free as a bird.

You see, in August, just as I was starting Bigness Project, I enrolled in a mentoring program and was matched up with an art therapist as my mentor. It was an instant heart connection. Within the first hour of meeting with her, she’d planted this little seed in my creative mind that I could teach. By October, right as I was completing Phase 1 and entering Phase 2, I actually started to believe that I could. By the time I finished the program, I had a name for the course I’ll be teaching at a local community center here and the encouragement of my teenaged son to create a teen version. I’m also working on creating a virtual version of the course.

Somewhere in the middle of the program “no more hiding” became my mantra. Even though you haven’t seen much of me here in this space, I’ve nearly completed my second book of poetry and begun a poetry podcast. I plan to do a wellness podcast as well. Interestingly, the first time I tried to record I lost the recording because I didn’t fully understand the software I was using. I thought it was great what I’d recorded, but in hindsight, I’m glad I lost it. It wasn’t my voice. It was my “please don’t see me voice”.

Since completing the program, I’ve had several interactions with people that allowed me to show my passion, all bright eyes, huge grin, hands and arms gesticulating and they weren’t scared off. Better, they were drawn in! It was a major aha moment for me to realize that the me that I’ve been hiding is so much more enthralling than the me I’ve been walking around as for 30 years. The me I’ve been hiding ISN’T overwhelming or too much, contrary to what I believed.

Make no mistake, being seen and heard is still scary for me. Correction: the IDEA of being seen and heard is still scary for me. Actually BEING seen and heard is a revelation, a thermal updraft in my wings. Every time I allow it, it gets easier. Every time I allow it, the space between allowances becomes smaller.

Ultimately, training my body to be bigger has shown me the path that leads back to the me I was before the world told me I had to be smaller, quieter, to cross my legs, that men were dangerous, that it’s too scary out there for a woman. The genie cannot be stuffed back in the bottle. And even if it could, living out loud is too much fun for me to allow it.

Without further ado, the particulars:

I’ll admit that I didn’t do a very good job with the numbers. I didn’t take the measurements called for before I started, so I’ll give you the overall changes for 2017, most of which occurred during the program:

Lbs lost: 13 Body fat % decrease: 5% Waist inches lost: 3.5 Chest inches lost: 2.5 Hips inches lost: 1.5

And here are the photos:

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Things I’m Pondering Volume 2

I’ve been bouncing around a lot this month, mostly in my head, some out of it. What can I say, I really enjoy THINKING, which not to be confused with RUMINATING. Ruminating is bad, m’kay?

I’ve mentioned previously that I’m participating in a 10-month mentorship program. I’m getting immense value from my relationship with my mentor. In the last few weeks, the switch finally flipped and things are starting to snowball for me, which is amazing. I’m lighter, free-er, and oh so much more open. Like WIDE open. While I originally thought I’d be working on my business acumen, I’ve shifted to getting back in touch with my creativity and the ways in which that creativity strengthens me. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.

I’m wrapping up Week 13 of Bigness Project, a hypertrophy program written by Kourtney Thomas and Jen Sinkler (who is one my favorite people I’ve never met…one day), and with only one week left I’m beyond proud of myself. I’m actually FINISHING! This has been about rewriting my story about being a quitter (I’m NOT) and really just seeing what my body can do. I cannot wait to show you the before and after pics because WOW. Suffice it to say my body LOVES training this way. I’ve fallen back in love with the gym and it’s a boatload of fun.

One of the byproducts of the changes in my body has been noticing how others see (with their eyes) me. This is often a double-edged sword for women. We’re told so many conflicting things about how we should view ourselves, how others are allowed to view us, we’ve experienced so much negative and positive around our appearances that sometimes we aren’t sure what to do. Here’s what I’ve decided for myself: your value isn’t in your appearance. But there is nothing wrong with valuing your appearance or wanting it to be valued by others. This came to me after not once, but twice, men opened the door for me just so they could watch me walk away. And I LIKED it. Note that this wasn’t done in a way that I felt threatening or sleazy. They were simply appreciative. I guess the bottom line is that I get to choose. I get to choose to feel empowered by being appreciated for my appearance, even though I’m so much more than that. After nearly 30 years of hiding, this is a MASSIVE shift for me.

Another thing I’m pondering is around where the line is between compassionate self-improvement and the self-hatred of obsessively striving for better. I don’t have any solid thoughts here yet, only that I’m reaping the benefits of compassionate self-improvement as I write this. As Brené Brown has written, at any given moment we are all doing the best we can. Compassionate self-improvement comes more from acknowledging that making changes is about feeling good whereas obsessive self-improvement is about perfection. It’s letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. It comes at the expense of various things in our lives, such as our relationships. This line may or may not be indelible and its position will vary by person. All I can say with any certainty is that fighting myself has not yielded nearly the results that loving myself has.

Permission Granted

“Help me decide,” I said.

I don’t often ask for help. Very, VERY rarely do I outsource decision-making. I can’t actually remember the last time I asked someone to help me decide anything. These are not things I’m particularly proud of but are actually things I’m working on, so for me to ask for help deciding something is pretty monumental.

I’ve spent the past 3 months in complete overdrive. My decision to make a change in one area of my life has had a domino-like effect on the rest and not positively. You know the saying that goes sometimes things get worse before they get better? That’s the pickle I put myself in. And sure enough, pretty immediately my body started pumping out cortisol at the perceived threat.

Stress is the catalyst for my PCOS. The second my cortisol levels start to rise, I start to have symptoms again. The simplified explanation for this is:

Cortisol and Insulin are the two BIG hormones in the body. The production of both must be balanced and when one goes off kilter, so does the other. And these two master hormones have a cascading effect on all the other hormones in the body. This is so regardless of gender.

This is why people say stress kills. Ultimately, it does.

So when a very positive experience occurred last week, one that I believe will ultimately put me where I want to be, I started wondering if maybe I could slow down. Except that I could come up with a million and one reasons why I shouldn’t, even though my body was begging me to. I knew I was going to over-think this and make myself feel even worse. So I asked for help.

“I think you need a break,” he said. That was followed by a gentle plea to not make myself sick (interesting that this is something I hear often from people who love me: don’t make yourself sick, which is code for I love you, please slow down).

The decision made, I suddenly felt 50 lbs lighter. I might just be taking a break. I might have to start all over again in a month or so. But for now, I can breathe and allow my body to go back into homeostasis.

For now, I have time.

Things I’m Pondering

I’ve been MIA here of late and I apologize. My priorities are being pulled in multiple directions at the moment and stopping to write hasn’t been something I’ve been able to do.
While I usually come to you with fully formed ideas and solutions, today I’m going to share with you things I’m cogitating on.
I’ve recently subscribed to The Daily Stoic. A few days ago this quote landed in my inbox:
“He heard the warning of Marcus Aurelius; cease to be whirled about; and of Baudelaire: ‘Pleasure consumes us, work strengthens us. Let us choose.’”
It’s from Budd Schulberg’s novel about his time with F. Scott Fitzgerald. I keep coming back to it a couple times a day, turning it over and over in my mind. The rebel in me immediately said “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” but I KNOW that the point of the warning contained in that quote isn’t to abstain from pleasure, it’s to not be LED by it.
Time has been a serious pain point for me of late. Without going into too much detail, I’m in a spot where I need to stop doing some things so that I have time to do other things, except that I cannot stop doing said things because I don’t have what doing the things I want to do would bring me. Time has become something so elusive and precious. The reality is that it is THE only non-renewable resource we have. And when we don’t have enough of it, we suffer. One of the things I’ve finally realized though is that instead of reinforcing that I don’t have time, I’m reminding myself that I DO have time. I have enough time.
I have enough of everything I need. And so do you. We always do and always will.

Where Did Spring Go (and other bits and bobs)

Thursday it was in the 60s on Cape Cod. Friday we had a Nor’Easter. And we have another one forecasted for Tuesday of this week. Welcome to spring in New England 😂

Things that are going really remarkably well right now: my experiment with decisiveness and Jen Sinkler’s #30daysofKBs. Me being decisive has tapped into my natural resiliency and shown me that I’m more flexible than I give myself credit for. This reminds me of this meme:

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Kettlebells have been my favorite training tool since I was introduced to them 5+ years ago so when Jen Sinkler announced her latest challenge, I instantly committed. Even the muscles between my ribs are sore. If kettlebells are also your favorite, head over to her site and sign up for her emails.

Since this week holds Saint Patrick’s day, I’m making corned beef from scratch using this recipe. I’m starting the brine tonight. And because I also have boneless short ribs to use, I’m making this Curried Beef Stew as well, which I’m very much looking forward to. The short ribs and the brisket came in my Butcher Box subscription, which I’m finding to be very much worth the investment.

That’s about all I have for you today. I hope you enjoy your Sunday and have a great week!!

All About That App

This week I’m sharing apps that I use that have been beneficial in habit formation and my overall wellbeing. Most of them are free with upgrade potential and all are available via iTunes. I don’t know about Android compatibility, unfortunately.

  1. Momentum: this is a habit tracker. Well, you can track anything in it, but I use it for three specific habits: meditation, writing, and movement. It’s free for up to 3 habits, upgrading gives you an unlimited amount of items to track. What I particularly love about this app is the reminders. I have it set to remind me at 8 PM if I haven’t done my three habits. It actually saved me last night as I’d forgotten to get my movement quota in.
  2. Calm: this is my meditation app. I only use it as a timer which is free. The guided meditations are a paid upgrade. What I like about it is that you can set a theme which has background noise (I like rain). This is beneficial for those of us auditorially hyperactive as it masks life noises such as dryer buzzers, cars driving past with loud music, or the neighbor’s dog barking incessantly.
  3. MyFlo: a friend of mine just introduced me to this app, which is menstrual cycle tracker. This was $1.99 and it’s been totally worth the cost. It was designed by a fellow health coach and the insights have been really interesting, even for someone who studies hormone balance. One of the neat functions is that you can add your partner to it so that he is alerted to how you’re doing. If you have a super supportive partner, this could be really nice. Did you know that ALL women once they hit 35 are considered to be perimenopausal? I didn’t.
  4. Fitocracy: this one is a free fitness app with an accompanying website. I use both. It’s just a great way to track what, specifically, you are doing for exercise and it assigns points, kind of like a video game, which is nice if you’re a gold star collector. I’m still tickled when I level up and it’s neat that it notifies you when you’ve hit a PR. It’s also social so you can do challenges with your friends if you’re into that sort of thing.
  5. Spotify: Okay, this really isn’t habit related, but I REQUIRE music for many things. You can use it for free (with ads) but I highly recommend upgrading.
  6. Mint: Cleaning up my financial house has been something I’ve been working on diligently since last August and I could NOT do that without a budget and financial tracker. I check in every single morning which helps me stay in integrity with my spending and keeps me from burying my head in the sand when it gets tight.
  7. Thyme: this is a free timer, designed for cooking. It has 5 timers you can run simultaneously which is nice when batch cooking.
  8. Ibotta/Ebates: cash back on stuff you’re going to buy anyway? Yes, please.
  9. OurGroceries: I’ve been using this one for years, including when I had an Android phone so I know it’s available on that platform. It’s a grocery list that can be synced to the website AND it can be shared with family members, which is nice. Two things I’ve learned not to do is shop hungry or shop without a list.
  10. Evernote: I use this for many things including writing, to do lists, and saving articles/recipes. It’s a very useful tool. They’ve changed the pay structure for this recently so now you can use it on two devices for free. I’ve yet to max out the allowable storage per month – you’re allowed to store a certain amount each month new, not in total – which is better than some other cloud storage services.

That’s all for now. Have a great week, everyone!

Hello 2017

“Who do you look up to? Who leads a life that you find interesting?”

These are questions I asked my 15 year old son on the way home from Christmas with my extended family. Of course, because I was asking him these questions, I had to consider it for myself.

There are many people I admire, whether it be for their professional success or how they show up in their personal lives. But the common thread throughout is this: they are UNAPOLOGETIC. They do things their way, no matter what the naysayers might think, and they show up, every single day.

Here’s the asterisk to that: just because I admire someone doesn’t mean I should do things the way they do them. Have you ever heard the saying “trying to fight a square peg into a round hole”? That’s exactly what it feels like when I try to do things someone else’s way.

Modeling yourself after someone doesn’t mean making yourself a cookie cutter copy. It means you look at their process. It means you look at what, specifically, draws you to that person. For me, it’s that these people are unapologetic and authentic that stands out.

Here’s a really good example: there is one woman who, when I look at her life and her business, I think “I want that”. I am not remotely like her. I’m an introvert, she’s an extrovert. She is supremely confident in her place in this world, her purpose, and who she wants to show up as. She is willing to look fear in the face and push forward anyway. I have those possibilities within me, as do you, but they’re still pretty buried beneath years of “be quiet, you’re too much, who do you think you are”. I find it very helpful to participate in her programs, listen to her podcast, and pay attention, not to WHAT she’s doing, but WHO she is as she’s doing it.

I feel it important to note that I’m not paying attention to WHAT she is doing because I don’t want to BE her. I’m NOT her and therefore shouldn’t do things the way she does. I don’t want to be anyone other than who I am, unapologetically and authentically, and this is something I’ve struggled with since I started coaching because I naively surrounded myself with loads of resources wanting to tell me exactly how to build my business and exactly how to run it. It all felt wrong and inauthentic and forced and I very nearly threw in the towel.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be making some changes to this site and to my social media accounts. “What Health Coaches Eat” is going away in favor of a more authentic URL, as much because health is about so much more than just food as because I have found “What Health Coaches Eat” to be a bit constricting (not something I’d considered when I so enthusiastically bought the URL and built this site around it a year ago). This will also allow for evolution: the evolution of my message, the evolution of my style of coaching, and the evolution of my products and services.

If you follow me on Instagram (@barbara_g_hyatt), you may have seen my post about my intentions for 2017: clarity and ease (not to be confused with “easy” – for me this means that I stop fighting what is). The coming changes are in alignment with these intentions and my hope is that with these changes, my role in all of your lives will also bring clarity and ease.

I’m ready for 2017, are you?