Doing A 180

I wouldn’t actually call it a 180. I’m not totally flipping my goals and decisions right now–based on the fact that I originally made the decision I talk about in this video back in April/May, this is really more of a 360. Originally, I walked away from the experience of competing in the 105 weight class declaring that I was going to bulk up and maybe someday be competitive in some other weight class. I did this for a small amount of time, and then the comfort of restricting my weight corralled me back into a position of watching it carefully for the 114 weight class. Indeed, the post prior to this one on this blog is all about the scale(s).

Let’s back up a second and focus on what I describe as “the comfort of restricting my weight.” Yes, this is a thing–for me, and for others. Spending years bringing my weight lower and lower has seemed to have made its mark on me long after I managed to work myself out of my addiction to attempting emaciation. I will tell you right now that if I wake up and see a lower number on the scale today than I did yesterday, I get a “comfort/relief” response. It’s like taking a test and waiting for grades to be posted–seeing something in the A range causes a mass-scale release of endorphins. At least, it did for me when I was playing the academic game. Despite my declarations in the above video of desiring to put on mass–which are absolutely true and part of my goal set right now–I am still programmed to desire lower readings on the scale. Thus, I have chosen to step the hell off the scales for a while.

So while the glamor of national rankings called to me and held me in a 114-oriented mindset in recent months–let me interject here by pointing out that the words “glamor” and “powerlifting,” when coupled, are purely oxymoronic–what I know I want at a deep gut level for myself conflicts with my until recently-held intentions for my weight class for my November 17th meet.

Most of us like to think we’re above pride, at least on our good days. When someone we know falls obviously victim to their pride, we watch knowingly. I’m not sure, however, how many of us realize how much hubris lies at the foundation of decisions we make. One injection of it early on in the process of forming a plan is all it takes to grossly mislead yourself. I’m guilty of deciding to go 114 because of my conviction that doing so and consequently ranking would yield admiration, respect, and dare I say attention.

Bullshit. I’m tied for the number six ranking in the country at 105 and no one gives a damn. I wouldn’t come close to number six in the 114 class. Furthermore, examining the rewards of “admiration, respect, and attention” reveals a needy desire for validation.

There’s almost no money in this sport. I’m not going to make a living off of it, a career out of it. I will gain friends and meet great people regardless of whether or not I compete at a specific weight class–that I know. So I refuse to restrict myself or my potential for the comfort of the scale or the falsity of ego.

I mean, if I had that much of an ego, would I be posing like this? Damn.
I mean, if I had that much of an ego, would I be posing like this? Damn.

Apart from the above declaration, I’d like to briefly list a few articles I’ve read recently that I’ve found particularly relevant to some of the issues I discuss in this post or because they are good articles or because they talk about me (see Erik Egger’s Elitefts piece)–semi kidding there. Semi.

Marisa Inda’s “Photo Shoots: Perfectly Imperfect or Smoke and Mirrors?” breaks down how much online images of fitness are only vaguely reliable/reflections of reality:

http://www.bodystrut.com/?p=1382

I’m not generally into the paleo (okay, actually, I hate paleo)/crossfit gig, but I respect some aspects of both pursuits. This article is written by a woman who’s passionately into both and speaks to the dangers of comparison–something I think a lot of female athletes struggle to overcome:

http://gabbysgfree.com/2013/10/perspective/

Wine to Weightlifting’s recent post regarding body composition is worth a read for those of us who get sick of the instagram ab pictures. I mean, okay, they’re cool sometimes, but everything has a limit:

http://www.winetoweightlifting.com/2013/10/08/progress-pooch/

Erik Egger’s article over on Elitefts is both about dealing with the darker side of training life and, uh, mentions me. Erik is an awesome lifter and a great guy, and I’m really honored to be featured in this article:

http://articles.elitefts.com/training-articles/beast-reality-shitty-days/

 

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The Scale as Torture Device

This title is misleading. In the Keough-Finkelman residence, two scales, not one, hold court in the bathroom. The younger scale is a blue Weight Watchers product found on sale at Target; the older is a clear, unassuming purchase from some other big box store years ago. It has never been a particular aspiration of mine to own two scales, but I do now. And as an athlete in a weight class-defined sport, I am an unfortunate slave to both.

 

thetwoscales
The perpetrators.

Why do I own two scales? To put it simply, the older, clear scale started to behave abnormally around April of this year. It would weigh heavy one minute, and then a few minutes later show a very different reading for the mass of the same body that had recently stood on it in consternation. Then it started weighing its user in consistently heavy, and I got kind of irritated. You see, if you need to make weight for competition, you track your weight for months around that competition. You do this in order to understand both your weight but perhaps more importantly how your body retains water as might be influenced by diet, or how much of your (water) weight “floats off” overnight while sleeping. Knowing such details makes the process of making weight more easily refined and controlled–in other words, less stressful both physically and psychologically. So when the device that you count on to help you track your body’s mass starts to act like it got ahold of the scale equivalent of a psychotropic drug, you get concerned. You weigh yourself on the Clear Monster, and then you go to your gym to step on the $1,000+ scale in the locker room that tells you that, indeed, the Clear Monster is screwing with you. You decide to go to Target and buy another scale in order to escape the devious machinations of your formerly trusty one, and you bring it home. Upon putting it next to Clear Monster and weighing yourself, you discover New Blue Scale weighs you heavier than Clear Monster. You kind of freak out, because seriously, how much DO you weigh right now? What’s right? What’s wrong? Are you a skinny twig or a behemoth?

So for several weeks you run experiments on your two scales in comparison to the all-knowing, accurate Gym Scale of Peace. The two conspirators in your bathroom, you discover, constantly weigh you at differently weights in relation to the GSP. This means that you can’t just get on them and expect to be able to subtract a pound and be able to trust that that number is your weight. In other words, the scales have figured out how to exact psychological warfare, and they’re waging it now.

Fast forward to months after initially realizing the Clear Monster was messed up–I still get on both scales even though I KNOW they are not reliable. I don’t know why I do this. Both consistently weigh me in heavier than I am, and both are probably chortling away while they do it. Sometimes, I can step on and off both of them and have them read differently within a matter of minutes. I KNOW I am completely complicit in my own torture–I’m enabling the devices themselves–and still I do it.

At this point, you may responding to this with one of two impressions: one, that I’m way, way too obsessed with this, that it’s unhealthy to be focused on the scale, that you can’t imagine living with the kind of awareness and frustration I describe here. If this is you, I am willing to bet you do not compete in a weight class-based sport. If that is true, I cordially invite you to stuff it. Seriously. Go play chess or whatever it is you do. Impression two: you get this. You either compete in a weight class or you have spent many years agonizing over the number on the scale. Having experienced both defining myself via the number on the scale and having to pay attention to my weight because I compete in the 114 lb weight class, I will tell you that I vastly prefer the latter relationship to my weight. I will further tell you that there is a difference between the two.

The weird thing in the situation with our conniving and/or faulty scales is that it’s kind of been a blessing for me, psychologically. I have asked myself to let go of the exacting way I try to determine and influence my weight, and I have made sure I don’t engage emotionally with the weights I see. Because I understand that what I see on our scale duo is kind of messed up, but I’m pretty sure the way I’ve been eating and taking care of myself has me at a stable and productive weight for my sport and, indeed, my weight class. I’m relatively confident I’m in a good position to make weight in November, but I’ll be standing on two dysfunctional scales tomorrow anyway. They’ve got a hold on me.