The Pants and the Identity Crisis

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F yeah deadlift deloads.

I like to lose. I can barely handle winning–in my world, where “wins” are having a gallery exhibit my work or doing very well at a powerlifting meet, crying after success is not unheard of. Losing feels comfortable to me, a safe zone, a place where I–

Alright, this is intensely depressing and I haven’t gotten past two sentences of it. You can perhaps see why I haven’t blogged in a while; I often feel that what I am inclined to write about is so negative or depressing that readers will recoil in disgust and/or–likely and–stop wanting to read my blog. The thing is, I don’t do particularly well with writing about who I’m not. I tend to write with a more liquid facility when I’m writing about my struggles (are we even allowed to use that phrase anymore? Every time I do it’s an automatic mental flash to a “Mien Kampf” book jacket with the mustached face glaring at me from a slightly angled head). 

There’s a lot of positivity in the sport for which I train. A lot of those little images with motivational slogans slapped across someone’s deadlift lockout or whatever are strewn all over the fitness image bank if you run a search on “strength training motivation.” “DON’T GIVE UP,” “YOU ARE IN CHARGE OF YOUR DESTINY” (this one, by the way, is oxymoronic. I am not a fan), “FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION,” “DO YOUR SOCKS SMELL LIKE COURAGE? THEY DAMN WELL BETTER,” etc. I hide from these like my snake attempts to hide from anyone and everything quite literally under a rock. At this point, I feel like I’ve turned into an anti-Yoda, which probably looks something like a mange-ridden female Chewbacca sitting at a bar ordering bad vodka and diet cokes because she can’t tell the difference between bad vodka and good vodka and no, there is nothing wrong with drinking vodka and diet. I did it all through undergrad.

I don’t drink anymore except for the times that I do, which I’d say are about once every three or four months, and only about two drinks max (usually one). I don’t do alcohol well, and I’m in favor of good training over mediocre drinking. I’m also in favor of keeping my head down right now and recoiling from the light of revealing too much about the darker aspects of my training life. That’s right, I said darker–melodramatic, but there it is. If you were to make a little bar graph of my lifting experience so far measuring clarity of purpose, the bars would be jumping up and down from month to month. One thing has remained consistent–I train. I go in and lift and it is part of my week. But I now find myself on the fringes of a sport for which I had very particula, very high ambitions. Before, I was enthused about being little and lifting big, but I have moved far away from that inclination. I believe I am heavier than I have ever been. While my lifts have all gone up appreciably, where once I was competitive enough to be ranked, now I am nowhere near it. My total from my meet in April 2012–611 at 105–currently holds the #7 ranking at that weight class in this country. My deadlift from that meet–a 304 pull at 105–is #5 in the nation. Hell, my squat from that meet is ranked somewhere in the top 20 too, but I’m too lazy to go and look it up. 

But looking at those numbers is kind of like looking over the accomplishments of another person at this point. I cut from 112 lbs to 105 in April. I now weigh about 132-134 or something–depends on the day–and this is weight I put on purposefully. I decided to put on that weight, but that 20 pounds has brought with it such conflicting issues that it has put me in a kind of double existence. One day I’ll be extremely happy with how lifting is going. The next, I’ll wear jeans that are now undeniably too small and end up in tears later on because I’ve felt the constant reminder of my corporeal expansion in restricted motion and the semi-impossibility of pealing off my jeans to pee all day. Should I just go buy new pants? Apparently, yes. But I’ve been slow to do so, slow to accept that I have another body that doesn’t fit the pants that I have literally been able to fit into–or that even have been too big for me–for over four years. 

And as I don’t really know or feel all that enthused towards the alien body I now inhabit, so too do I feel a sort of identity crisis in relation to how I feel I fit into powerlifting. If I’m slow to accept my pants size shift, I’m even slower to accept or really know myself at a higher weight class. 

I will cut this short, because I’m dancing around a downward slide towards communicating what the rhetoric REALLY sounds like in my head from day to day. And as much as I want want honesty and transparency in this blog, the language I use toward myself and my body internally right now is often corrosive, vile, deeply abusive shit. I’m highly aware of how damaging this kind of language is to myself; it is perhaps why I so fiercely defend people whose family and friends or strangers on the internet feel free to comment on their bodies in a negative (positive isn’t that great either, but that’s another story) manner. But I can’t just decide that the fat that comes with the muscle is beautiful–I can’t change my emotion, just limit the triggers that flick it into the “on” position. That said, seriously, my boobs are a lot bigger now. It’s really cool.

I’ve come a long way from the prison of anorexia. Really. But there is a spectrum upon which one’s relationship with one’s physical aesthetic sits. Hell, there are probably multiple spectrums stacked up on one another. I’ve been brave enough to put on mass to perform in a sport in which mass moves mass (although this is tempered by the fact that the sport holds relative strength as massively important). And yes, I said brave. Because weight gain hasn’t been easy, and it has major drawbacks to the strength gifts that come with it. I do what I am doing right now because I have faith that in three or four years it will pay off. YEARS. This is not your 30-day Squat Challenge. This is not your goddamn Victoria’s Secret Sexy-Up Workout. I want to be great, and I am willing to be uncomfortable to get there. 

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14 thoughts on “The Pants and the Identity Crisis

  1. I think your blog post resonates with a lot of women lifters. I know it does with me. I usually fight hard to cut to compete as a 53k lifter simply because I refuse to accept being a 58. And even if lifting in a heavier class means lifting more weight I have serious issues wrapping my head around it. I “see” myself as a 53.

    1. Oh MAN I should write an entire blog post about my complete inability to find a bra that fits me anymore. My back is so wide proportionately to, um, the expanding boob that nothing fits. It’s awful.

      Your support always really helps me through this journey. Keep kicking butt yourself, I cannot WAIT to see what you do at your next meet.

  2. Your strength will grow into your body’s new size. As far as the rankings in powerlifting (I don’t know this for sure at all ) but, there’s probably significantly less competition in the smaller weight classes, hence a higher ranking. Don’t trap yourself into being the big fish in a little pond. In these other weight classes you’re competing against bigger fish in a big ocean now. That’s why you don’t rank highly now. Its not a reflection of your lack of ability. Its a reflection of moving up to higher competition. As far as your looks and clothes, my own opinion as a man is I think you’re hotter than ever. I admire your honesty and write whatever you want without fear of who’s going to stop following you or not.

    1. Matt, what you say here is exactly why I chose to move up. Not only do I have a higher ceiling strength-wise with more muscle, I also just feel that it’s somehow more honorable to put myself in the ocean you describe. I felt like the smaller classes were kind of cheap–I’m really quite tall for 105 and even 114. So I’ll do the work and see where things end up, and I’m willing to have that take years. Many thanks for your response.

  3. I can totally relate! I am up about 20 pounds and my pants are tight as can be. To everyone else, I’m still “small”, “skinny”, “in shape”, and I know I’m still hella strong. I haven’t been bulking, just taking a small break from lifting, and eating too damn much.

    You are right about the bigger boobs being a plus, and I even like my juicier booty. But new parts of my body are appearing, like the dreaded boob niblet comin outta my sports bra.

    On the plus side, I’m lifting again, started back this week, and I have a feeling I’m gonna like what I see when I start cutting down some. Loved your post, I was just contemplating whether to buy bigger pants today, or just resign myself to yoga pants and leggings for awhile.

    1. Omg, boob niblet!!! hahahaha, I love that. I am using that in the future. And honestly, the way I’m handling the pants thing is I’m going to go to a pretty good secondhand store in my area and pick up some jeans that fit for hopefully around $12 or so. I just can’t really be investing a lot in jeans anymore because my shape is constantly changing. Maybe you have some sort of thrift store with suitable clothes near you? We have “Plato’s Closet” which is a pretty good place to find non-frumpy secondhand stuff.

      So glad you’re on the lifting train again! Hope it brings you happiness.

  4. Leggings. Always leggings, lol. My body is always changing and it was already hard enough to find jeans that fit with the whole quad situation. I have found that American Eagle jeans fit the best. I’ve fouund a pair or two at platos closet. Or I just wait until they do their buy one get one half off sales. I never get rid of jeans unless they’re worn through. Every now and then the bulk gets so strong I need my fat pants :p

    1. Very interesting–will look AE again, it has been quite a long time since I tried on any jeans there. And you bring up a good point that I’m slowly starting to learn–have multiple sizes in your closet. I did, to a small extent, but I think I need to widen my scope now. Crazy!

  5. Your writing really is fantastic, even if it is ‘dark’. I too am trying to acceptable a new shape and can sadly relate to ‘the language I use toward myself and my body internally right now is often corrosive, vile, deeply abusive shit. I’m highly aware of how damaging this kind of language is to myself’. I think you are fantastic and badass – just thought I’d let you know 🙂

    1. it’s just a rough spot to be in if you have a complex relationship with your body, and I really feel for those who experience it. Thanks so much for your comment. Just keep pushing with your own efforts to train your body and to have a relationship to it that is best (and as healthy as possible) for you.

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