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:

What Does Integrity Have To Do With Commitment?

For the past two months, I’ve been doing a deep dive into my personal habits and thought processes in an attempt to finally come home to myself. Some of that has involved listening to podcasts, reading books, and renewing my involvement in some coaching groups I’m part of. The rest has been forcing myself to really sit with the gunk that was being dredged up and writing about it.

One podcast that really kicked me in the shins was Elizabeth DiAlto’s interview with Nancy Levin back in August. There’s an entire section where they talk specifically about integrity and how NOT being your word is the primary source of suffering in our lives. I swear I heard the screech of the needle across the record. This felt both extremely accurate and incredibly painful simultaneously.

Because it’s true. I can’t SAY I’m doing X but then go do Y. I can’t say I’m trying to pay down my debt and then spend frivolously on high end food stuffs. I can’t say I’m trying to lose this last 10% body fat and then have an entire week of birthday nutritional debauchery (which I did).

When you say one thing then do another, it creates a loop of hiding and shame. It perpetuates the internal dialogue of “I’m not good enough.” It is definitely the definition of misery.

Something I’d seen years ago but was recently reintroduced to was the concept of having a list of 20 things that I eat. Sometimes, a list is the best way to keep yourself on track. When I sat down to write my list, I discovered how hard it was to come up with 20 things. When I’m committed, the list of things I eat is quite small, though it adjusts seasonally. Does that mean I’ve been absolutely perfect? Not in the least. What it means though, is that I’m conscious of my decisions. I know exactly why I’m choosing this over that. I make the best possible decision in each moment, regardless of perfection (because life isn’t perfect) and then move on. Mom’s Chicken Soup wasn’t available on the hot bar so I had to settle for the Chicken Chowder with Yuca and Corn? It was clean enough, so that’s what I went with and then moved on with my life.

Something else I was introduced to a couple years ago is Pearson’s Law. Essentially it says that anything you measure, grows. Want to get stronger? Track the amount of weight you use. Want to get faster? Track your times. Want to get healthier? Track the days where you (honestly and sincerely) did the best you could nutritionally. I have 3 habits I track: move, write, and meditate. That’s it. The days that I do all three are consistently excellent for me (and not surprisingly, my nutrition game is strong those days too – when I feel awesome, I eat awesome). I don’t specify the specifics because I don’t care HOW I do those things, just that I do them. The how doesn’t matter, especially when you’re getting started. What matters is how many days you can string along.

Commitment, though, is what keeps you going when life hands you a set of circumstances outside of your control. Because that’s what life does. This is where being your word (integrity) saves you from misery. My commitment to my health removes the appeal of caramel corn…

Your turn: What commitments are you really struggling with right now? What do you get out of not acting with integrity? Hint: there is always a payoff, whether positive or negative (e.g. by choosing to stay in an ill-suited marriage, I got to be angry). Comment below or shoot me an email: barbara@whathealthcoacheseat. I’d love to hear from you.


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