“What’s boiling again? Is that 212?” Glaring into a pot of water sitting on my stove, I try to remember anything regarding chemistry. Google says that yes, it’s 212 degrees Fahrenheit, and I ignore how pathetic it is that this is something I need to look up. The water flows up to the boiling point, I adjust it back down slightly, and turn a bottle of black liquid over the simmering pot. There is going to be change. Or there is going to be change and then disaster. I pick up the singlet I broke a world record in, soak it under the faucet as the bottle’s directions dictate, and lower its black and neon-colored mass into the now-dark liquid. This action will either start the singlet towards assuming a new, totally black identity, or it will slowly degrade the fabric’s fiber to the point where the garment is stretched out beyond usability.
I compete again in two weeks. It doesn’t occupy my mind much. I don’t know if this is because I am just not concerned about it in any way or if it’s because I am very good at coming up with things about myself to feel bad about and better at spending time dwelling on them. I think the reason lies somewhere between the two options; I am at once very content to trust my body and my training in relation to how I will perform at this meet and constantly looking for small, less significant ways to invalidate myself.
If you follow me on social media you’ll have seen me fairly regularly referring to my shift in weight class recently. I have spoken on this topic frequently, expressing dismay at finding out some lifter cut water or physical weight to make a weight class at their first or second meet. This is old news, and those who are at all familiar with my involvement in this sport and my journey through it–as of April 1st, my time in this sport and doing major barbell work is four years–know that I have again and again advocated not holding your weight down for competition. So I was going to do this upcoming meet at 132, and weeks ago now decided against it because at a very deep gut-level I can tell that 148 is a more appropriate weight class for me for the future. In other words, I refuse to be a hypocrite, and I refuse not to practice what I so vehemently preach.
What I resent is my automatic sense of shame/the defensiveness that rises within me when I assert this choice and act on it. The shame and the defensiveness come from a sense of my position in the sport’s community and they are a response to perceived values said community holds. They are not positive, but they are feelings, and there’s no real use negating them. Acknowledging them is what’s going to be best here, and that is what I’m doing now. So let’s break this down, by the facts, by the numbers, whatever:
The last time I competed was in August of 2015. I competed at 123. I cut to 123 from a bodyweight of 131 pounds.
After that meet my bodyweight went up to around 135-137. I embraced this post-meet time period as one in which I would work on some lagging areas. I did. My weight went up to into the 140’s, partially because I had never planned on staying at 123.
I started to cut down to 140 to make 132 for this upcoming meet.
I stopped because it didn’t feel right.
My gut instinct, which has not once failed me in relation to handling my body in this sport yet and has led me to multiple successes, said that something wasn’t right, and that something else was, and I listened to it.
At a little over 5’2″, I believe 148 is a much more sustainable weight class for me in the long-term. I am only interested in the long-term.
I am not interested in writing about what I think I will do. I don’t need to. I don’t need to tell anyone what I will do, because I will just do it and then everyone will know. So you can draw whatever conclusions, say I’m going to hit whatever numbers, say I’m a fool, say I should make a stop again at 132, and it doesn’t matter, because I know what I will do eventually because it is my body and I have not been wrong yet about what to do with it.
Is it easy? No. Five years ago I would have been horrified at the idea I would weigh 145 pounds at any point in my life. Ten years ago I would have possibly just tried to kill myself over it. Melodramatic? Absolutely. There is nothing rational about the brain of an anorexic. There is a reason there is such a high death rate among that population. And it’s probably the 19 year-old Janis that has echoed back to me recently, an old horror bouncing back and forth between 2006 and 2016, one that I have felt truly haunted by for weeks now.
What I write on this–whenever I do–lays me bare to the criticism of others. I have been called a social justice warrior, weak, more self-hating than anyone the speaker has ever met, annoying, body-image obsessed. I know what it means to put myself out there like this. I know what it invites, I know what judgment looks like. I also know that the people I admire most in this sport–and elsewhere in life–are the ones who are strong enough to place themselves in vulnerability. Because if I say it first, if I tell my own story, it can’t be told by anyone else. You can say whatever you want in reaction. The first person first-person is there now.
You can also tell me that I shouldn’t care what everyone or anyone else thinks, and–this is always the second part of this axiom–I should do what I want to do. I hear this a lot. My two responses to this are: I operate in a community. I wouldn’t compete at powerlifting if I didn’t want to engage in a social setting in relation to what I train for. I don’t believe I act in a vacuum. I don’t believe anyone who says they don’t either. I care about helping other people. I care about telling people they are not alone. Because I am not alone in what I feel and what I am describing, and I have the guts to talk about it.
My second response is that I have the guts to act in a way that IS doing what I want to do. I have done it before, I have followed through, I have accomplished, and I have done it again. I will do it again. I am doing it now, because I choose to compete at 148. I am talking about it now, and I will talk about it again. And this makes me strong. I am allowed to have reservations, to have doubts, to be afraid, to feel insecure, and still ultimately be strong. I am stronger because I fucking acknowledge them. I am strong because I put myself in a position many aren’t willing to put themselves in.
Once rinsed out, the singlet looked stretched beyond wearability. I held it up in dismay, realizing the boiling must have broken down the fabric, or maybe it was the dye, or maybe both. I hung it up with a sense it might dry back down to normal size. I came back to it the next day. It had dried, it had survived the shift to black, and I will wear it in two weeks.