Body Image Woes and Victories/Janis Goes on a Rant

I think a huge amount of the issues women have with self-hatred and lack of self-acceptance come from some sort of deepseated idea that we derive much of our worth and our identity from our appearance. You can appreciate your body for what it does in training all you want, but until you learn to not think of your worth as remotely determined by how you look, you will not be fully able to appreciate yourself.

I went on a pretty crazy rant about this the other night. In advertisements leading up to the Ronda Rousey-Liz Carmouche UFC fight, Rousey was constantly promoted with the ridiculous rhetoric “she’s badass and beautiful” and similar. I sat there railing that “she’s a FIGHTER. I do not CARE what she looks like and it pisses me off that she’s being promoted for this FIGHT using her LOOKS. Does no one else see the incongruence here? No? Apparently not.”

You do things and you are proud of them and build a sense of self from this process. You have a body and you exist in a society in which people feel the freedom to assign far greater a meaning to its proportions, composition, and shape than its existence as a pile of marrow and muscle and fat really warrants. Embrace your body, yes, but think about how you are embracing it. The more you think about your body using the judgmental language–good or bad–used by the masses, the more you stay situated in the trap you seek to escape.

I admit that I get fatigued by the onslaught of images of the body pervasive even in women’s strength sports territory (to say nothing of physique competitors, which I’m going to go ahead and put in a separate category from the former in the context of my argument). I am very small and one group of individuals would probably laud my proportions while another would look at me as sub-par. I sometimes feel marginalized as a lifter because I am a rather spare, lengthily proportioned individual. And then I remember that I don’t have to accept ANYONE’S rhetoric regarding my physique and what it means or doesn’t mean. And I remember that cultural responses to my body have absolutely, utterly no bearing on how I perform in the gym. How I perform in the gym is my ultimate concern. How I perform in the gym is a far better illustration of my character than how my body is formed.

What Happened When I Missed Making Weight: Another Confessional

Here, I explain the events of yesterday. There is no mention of me walking around a locker room naked, angry, crazy, starved, and blind, but that happened. That’s a story for perhaps the next blog post. There IS mention of how the weight cut was and wasn’t successful and what I learned from the experience, which was roughly a metric ton. There’s also dramatic reference to my near-blackout experience, so prepare yourself.

Weight Cut/I’m Giving Up for Not-Lent

I am cutting weight. That sentence is very different from what is typically meant when someone says “I am losing weight.” In weight-class-based sports, of which powerlifting is one, “cutting weight” often means focusing on manipulating water weight. If you’re heading into a weight cut prior to a meet, you had better already taken care of the question of how much body fat is contributing to the number registering on the scale–a week before competition is not enough time to do this, so don’t try it. If you’ve been watching your body composition–and yes, this means self-discipline–in the time leading up to your meet, what you’re doing during a weight cut is manipulating how much water your body retains. If you’re the average, non-weight-class-sport-inclined person, you have absolutely no idea how much water your body retains and how radically you can change your level of retention. A radical drop in the body’s retention of water means a seeming radical drop in weight as it is registered on the scale. Done correctly, a weight cut should leave an athlete with most or all of his or her original body mass, but he or she should be pounds lighter at the cut’s conclusion because of responsible management of water intake and sodium and carbohydrate intake reduction.

I am on Day Two of a five-day weight cut. On the sixth day of this cut, I will not eat or drink anything until “weigh-in time,” which will be 7 PM. Every day, I drink a gallon and a half to two gallons of water. I constantly refill a water bottle and count how many of them I’ve drunk, and have to pace myself with this process throughout the day. I also have to pee EVERY TEN MINUTES. This makes doing things, like going to the store to get groceries, a challenge, and it certainly makes training a challenge. Eating flavorless food compliments the experience.

I’m aware Lent is happening. The correlations between giving things up for Lent and weight cutting is not unremarkable. Let it be known, if it is not already, that I am a half-Jewish religionless individual, and Lent is something I know almost nothing about.¬† I believe the period I am to be engaged in “giving up things” is not as long as Lent. But having never fasted for any reason, religious or not, and being aware that fasting and/or manipulating aspects of one’s diet is a crucial component to some religious practices, I can’t help but contemplate my current experience and consider its crossover to ones driven by religious principles. I know I am skirting territory it is ridiculous for me to skirt based on my ignorance of such principles, but I want to say that having a purpose behind dietary restrictions and the experience of “suffering” under them is, in a way, somewhat beautiful. I do not say this because I am a masochist, or because I enjoy punishing myself. Both of those charges COULD be levied at me and they–particularly the latter–are, in fact, true. But I have lived with my inclination to feel unsourced guilt long enough to have learned some ways of managing it at this point, and I respect the benefits that come from honoring oneself through reward and compassion.

“Suffering” through deprivation as described above places you in a position to respect the hell out of your body. You become hyperaware of its needs when you deprive it. There is little that makes me feel stronger or more whole than being aware of my body–whether it is in training, in rest, in caring for it. I do not prefer to exist under the conditions of a weight cut, but they generate a kind of centered sense of purpose and desire for survival that lends each day a sense of gravity. I like it–for a limited time only. Here’s to Refeed Sunday.

And here’s a video from today’s work in training: deadlifting is going pretty well.