The One About My Weight Gain & the “Bulk” Fear of Women vs Weights
15 Fri, 2011 § 12 Comments
Do you have a number? There is not necessarily a good reason it exists in your mind at all. It is likely arbitrary, but there it is: the number you envision slim, attractive women weigh. Or perhaps strong, masculine men, if you are a guy.
I have my own number. Even now, though I rarely step on the scale & am not even worried about being at this number, it still floats around in my head. Honestly, I am not sure if I have ever really been at this weight; at times I have been far too under it or uncomfortably over it.
I do not own a scale. I stopped weighing myself in high school. Actually, it was in jr. high I learned weight is relative, dependent on muscle gain & such. I began to gauge my…body composition (though I didn’t know to call it that then)…by how my clothes fit. Usually I only learn my weight when I visit the doctor’s office.
When I was in Albuquerque in February, I spotted a scale at the gym. I was curious. I stepped on. Honestly, my first thought: “huh, must be muscle gain.” I weighed a good ten pounds over “my number”. I had gained a few pounds since my last weigh in. I was ok with it.
I was feeling my best, my clothes still fit — if anything, they were looser — & I was maxing out on pull ups, chin ups, push ups, etc. I knew I was strong. Maybe the scale wasn’t showing my “ideal” weight or even my happiest weight. This was a temporary price required as my body was subtly changing & becoming stronger.
That moment on the scale, there was no judgment & no criticism. I was excited to see where my body was taking me; I was enjoying the ride.
[photo by David Finch]
Lifting weights makes women bulky. At least that is what I hear over & over again. Many women are terrified of weight training. They all say the same thing: “my body is different; I bulk up.” Maybe initially this is true, but even during my weight gain, I wasn’t actually bigger. I’ll be honest: sometimes I feel like my arms are “bulky”; I want more “tone”. Dave is often my grounding force to reason, almost rolling his eyes as he assures me they are not bulky. Maybe as women, we have this I-look-like-a-dude panic whenever we build a little muscle.
If you have more body fat, you might experience initial bulk. Usually women succumb to the panic & stop all strength training. DON’T.
You have to push through…because it’s about to get so good.
When you gain muscle, your resting metabolic rate goes up; though by how much is debated [source]. Does it really matter? Your body is getting stronger & healthier. If your goal is to slim down, you’ll reach it more quickly by gaining muscle. Now, my goal isn’t to lose weight but to change my body composition. I am training to gain strength, & honestly, build lean muscle. I always think “build lean muscle” sounds kind of weird. What I’ve really done is build muscle — perhaps even a little “bulk” — & gain strength, then let me body find its balance through all of the other activities I love like climbing, cycling, swimming, interval training, etc. I’m no expert, but this seems to be working for me.
Curious again, I stepped on the scale at our gym recently. Without trying, I have lost 6 pounds since Albuquerque. Because I have added more muscle, definition & strength since then, I know it’s the kind of loss I want.
I do not obsess over the number on the scale, but I don’t mind seeing it go down right now as long as I stay strong & energized. If I weigh less while maintaining — no, increasing — strength (& stamina), my weight-to-strength ratio will be in my favor. As a climber, pulling myself up the wall or boulder, this is optimal.
I am trying not to dwell on where I want to be but just embrace the process as it is happening. I do this by climbing harder & tracking progress in the gym with a workout journal. Like I said, I’m just enjoying the ride. Of course I want to be stronger & use my passions to challenge myself & push farther, but I don’t let the little hater inside tell me I am not good enough yet.
I am. You are too.
If you only take a few things away from here, I hope you’ll believe the following:
- The ### on the scale is relative. I weigh more than many of my friends who are similar in size. Muscle does not weigh more than fat. A pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat; but a pound of muscle takes up less space. I won’t be weighing myself regularly. It works for some people, but I prefer to gauge my progress by how I feel, how my clothes fit & how I perform.
- Girls have muscles too. Some might not like the way this looks. To each his/her own, but I don’t get it. I love strong women — I love strong people. Being able to do a pull up or even a push up is empowering. I would rather be motivated by strong people than torture myself & get sucked into the realm of “thinspiration”.
- Make it about more than the number. I know I progress not because the number says so but by my performance. Am I climbing harder? Running farther? Biking faster? Squeezing out one more rep? Adding another plate to the rack? Find something you love, make your body good for something (not just pretty) & treat it like it is.
FEEDBACK! I want to know what you think about women lifting weights, muscle gain & the scale. As you can tell, I’m a little passionate about this — I know you are out there, so please share your insights!!!