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:

An Exercise in Patience

I am not, by nature, a patient person. Unless we’re talking about babies with colic or some other malady that has them crying incessantly (and is not mine), in which case I can sit with, rock, walk with and/or snuggle said babies for hours to give mom and/or dad a reprieve. Don’t believe me? Ask my mother, I did this often as a teenager. But I digress…
I was discussing different metrics measured via blood test this morning with a loved one and how the information obtained doesn’t always tell the whole story, that often those numbers are an indicator of symptomology, not root cause. For example, high LDL is actually a symptom of PCOS, which makes sense when looking at the root cause of PCOS, that being metabolic syndrome. My LDL has been high for my entire adulthood, regardless of diet, including my 18 months as a vegan. If diet had been the cause, surely a vegan diet would have corrected it, yes?
Nope. As a matter of fact, it got worse. Per the current dietary recommendations from our esteemed government organizations and various big pharma-backed “medical” associations, it should have though.
We’ve all heard it: Rome wasn’t built in a day. But it is still very hard to be patient when we just want to hurry up and be healed already. It is a serious exercise in patience to attack the root cause of an illness. We don’t get sick overnight. It often takes years for these things to develop to the point where we exhibit any kind of symptoms and then we’re lucky if we get an accurate diagnosis right away.
It’s unrealistic for me or anyone else to expect to be healed overnight. And yet…
Here’s the upside to things taking time: when we focus on the progress, not the outcome, we are creating habits that are transferable. Think of it in terms of employment: when you want to change career paths, you focus on transferable skills. When we focus on the daily behaviors necessary for us to create healing, we’ve inoculated ourselves against relapse because those habits will then, ideally, be with us for the rest of our lives.
This also teaches us a great deal about our respective innate resiliency. When I’m feeling like I’m failing (which, by the way, is NOT the end of the world), this resiliency is quick to remind me of where I started. It’s quick to show me where I’ve been successful in long term journeys (motherhood anyone?).
My greatest hope is that my patience will pay off in resilience dividends. What I’m trying to create is a resilient body and mind and life. Everything I do, for the most part, is a step in that direction. Progress may be slow, but as long as I keep putting one foot in front of the other, I’ll get there eventually.
If you choose to walk a similar path, so will you.

Results May Vary

Sometimes great things come to me during my morning meditation. Here’s an excerpt of the email that is going out to my subscribers Friday morning, sparked by a meditation session:

You see that disclaimer with just about anything that is trying to sell a dream, weight loss programs especially and get rich schemes; anything that tries to circumnavigate actual effort; anything that wants us to ignore what we already know – that anything we want takes effort and work.

You know that saying we all heard as kids? Money doesn’t grow on trees (well, yes, actually it does, but I’m not trying to be a smartass here). Sometimes it was said in exasperation when we were careless with our things. Most often though, it occurred to me in this meaning: there are no handouts in life. You have to earn it.

Are you subscribed yet? Click the link in the sidebar to get on the list. This content will not be shared anywhere else.

How MLM Fits (Or Doesn’t) Into My Practice

Pampered Chef
Tupperware
Mary Kay
Avon
Beauty Counter
Lularoe
Life’s Abundance
Young Living
Beachbody
doTerra

MLM businesses are extremely popular these days and for, I’m sure, good reason. It’s actually been suggested to me that in order to succeed in building a thriving health coaching practice, I need to sign on with an MLM company due to supposed passive income possibilities and the marketing training and support.

Perhaps this is true. For some, it likely is. Some (but not all) of the above mentioned companies are excellent to work with. I’ve been approached by women on the Beachbody, Life’s Abundance, and Beauty Counter teams and each of them thoroughly love the support, the products, and the extra income. I can’t argue with that, at all. And I’m not going to. This isn’t a rant against MLM at all.

I’ve thought about this long and hard. For me, I see it as a conflict of interest.

If I’m going to preach bioindividuality, I cannot, in good conscious, try to sell anyone on specific supplements or essential oils or skin care, etc. If I know anything it’s that just because it works for me does not, at all, mean that it’ll work for you.

I also have zero interest in what I see as growing elitism in the Paleo community. I may subscribe to many of the tenants of the Paleo lifestyle, but I sure as hell am not going to push products that cost the same as a week’s worth of groceries just because they are better for you.

Here’s the thing: there are no quick fixes. You cannot undo years of unhealthy habits in a 20 day challenge. You cannot undo years of unhealthy habits by taking specific supplements. You cannot undo years of unhealthy habits with an expensive serum.

I’ve had many women with PCOS ask me about supplementation and what I use. I always hesitate. I hesitate because my type of PCOS may not be the same as yours, making what I take a waste of money for you. I hesitate because I’m still doing a bit experimentation there myself and I don’t have all the answers. I hesitate because there are laws that I have to consider that vary by state – if you live in certain states, I cannot legally even suggest supplements. All I can do is point you towards the research and let you decide for yourself.

It is for these reasons that I see, for my practice, MLM as a conflict of interest. While I know better than to say “never,” I don’t see MLM as having a place within my practice at this time. I would far rather focus on the behaviors that created the issues you want to correct than pushing products promising the world.

Remember, consistency is the secret sauce on the success burger. If you decide to try something, give it 90 days or more before you decide it doesn’t work. The idea that it takes only 30 days to create/replace a habit is a fallacy that’s been repeated ad nauseum by the publishing industry because a) we all want a quick fix and b) because it sells books/programs. I’ll point you to James Clear on this point because he’s done the research, I’m just repeating it. 30 days is just long enough for you to begin to see results (depending on the habit), so keep going.

Thoughts? Questions? Comment below or send me an email: barbara@whathealthcoacheseat.com – I’d love to hear from you.