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Heavy girl doing the heavy lifting

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  • Heavy girl doing the heavy lifting

    Today I put a barbell across my back for the first time in my entire life, and I loved it, so I thought it might be time to start a journal.

    I'm a 5'5" 28-year-old woman, a doctoral candidate in an academic discipline. I'm also very fat—I haven't weighed in awhile, but I weighed a scant hair under 300 pounds in September, and probably about the same when I first started taking my eating more primal this winter. I would say I have identified myself as fat since I was a very small child (about four) and have been actually fat since I was about thirteen or fourteen. I have been a long way from strict since my first euphoric rush of energy, which may well explain why I'm only about 15 pounds below that now. I have a long history of eating disorders (this is why I don't know my exact weight, but I may have to discuss weighing again with my nutritionist—or just do a thorough set of measurements and photos), including inpatient treatment in '05; my behavior tends to fall into cycles of starvation and bingeing. Unsurprisingly, I have weight-cycled my entire adult life. My endocrine system is (and always has been) a mess: I have PCOS, insulin resistance (have my first post-primal appointment with my endocrinologist a week from tomorrow), an androgen imbalance, and HGH deficiency (was treated with HGH—the real deal, from the pituitaries of organ donors; this was before it had been synthesized—as a child, but treatment protocols pre-synthesis called for termination of treatment when full adult height was reached; I'll be following up on this with my endocrinologist, since it literally only occurred to me as a factor recently and now that there's somatropin adult hormone therapy is a real possibility). Thankfully, I am surprisingly healthy in other ways: my cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, etc. are sound. I attribute this to being raised on whole foods (it was the '80s and fat was the devil, but I've never had a Hostess product—seriously, never ever—or a fast food habit) and being a native New Yorker (i.e. a good walker).

    I do have a bit of a Diet Coke habit. I definitely have a sweet tooth. I also deal with a fair amount of anxiety, for which I am not currently medicated but have been in the past. And I'm frequently running low on sleep, so adequate sleep is really a priority for me. One of the ways that primal really won me over was by the immediate improvements in my sleep I saw when I first started.

    I may never be a thin person. Certainly there are a lot of obstacles here. I would like to be thinner, but we'll see. I do okay in the world as a fat person: I'm working towards a profession I love, I'm in a healthy relationship, I have a lot of friends and a lot of cute dresses, etc. But I do think I owe it to myself to focus on my health in a self-nurturing way: patch up the broken endocrine system as best I can, restore a healthy relationship with my body's needs, and get stronger. I really, really want to get stronger. Strength training feels like a blessed revolution: I'm not any worse at it than a person who's not fat would be (I squatted with 10 pounds less on the barbell than my gym buddy this morning, but she's lifted before, and besides, I almost certainly outweigh her by better than a hundred pounds, which load I'm also bearing when I squat), and when it's hard (which is almost immediately, particularly on upper-body moves, despite using just about the lightest weights there are) the voice in my head is encouraging, not berating. I cannot believe it took me twenty-eight years to find a barbell, but I guess as a woman when you think exercise you think cardio. I may never get on an elliptical machine ever again, but I'm going to be back in the weight room the morning after tomorrow. And two days after that, too.

    I feel really lucky to have found primal; I love the way it values appetite and vitality. And it was a happy accident, because I know vegetarians and vegans and runners and dance-fitness enthusiasts but no low-carb eaters and no weightlifters, so no one I know would ever have told me about this crazy idea about eating lots of red meat and fat and throwing over the elliptical machine for some free weights. I have believed religiously in the conventional wisdom all my life; I vividly remember as a child being scolded for eating the fat on a (very occasional) steak or asking for more cheese on my pasta. I read for weeks before I tried increasing my fat intake and decreasing my carb intake. I've read for months now even as I haven't really committed. But picking up that barbell this morning felt like committing. So I guess I'm going to try to see if a journal here serves my goals. And even if it doesn't, I'll still be reading: it's been great to read about others' experiences changing their eating and their activity levels and their lives. Cheers, cavepeople!
    Primal goals: metabolic health, vitality, strength, and maybe some weight loss wouldn't be amiss

    My journal: eating-disordered fat woman takes up eating meat and lifting weights; hilarity ensues

  • #2
    Yesterday I ate:

    9:15: two eggs fried in bacon grease, iced coffee with cream (pastured heavy cream)
    1:45: two burger patties, about half a cup of mint chip ice cream
    10:00: three hot dogs (good quality: grass-fed and gluten-free) with red cabbage/apple/carrot/parsley slaw (dressing of full-fat Greek yogurt, mayonnaise [conventional], apple cider vinegar, garlic, spices)

    Yesterday was light on vegetables, because I didn't have a batch of anything prepped to go in the fridge (I'm a big fan of batch cooking) and I was starving when I came home from the gym. After the post-gym meal, I found myself startlingly unhungry through the late afternoon and evening, and finally ate a late dinner when I felt tiny hunger twinges. During the afternoon, I broke down two small chickens and put them in the fridge to marinate (also put the carcasses in a stockpot for stock [edited: I guess primal jargon calls this "bone broth," but I've been making stock since way before I learned that weird phrase, so stock is what it will always be to me]), and made a big batch of slaw for the fridge. I think it's a little overdressed, so may throw some more cabbage in there today.

    The quality of my food varies a little: the eggs, hot dogs, and cream are all organic and pastured, but the beef, mayonnaise, and yogurt (I'm assuming—it's Fage Total) are conventional. The chickens I prepped for today are antibiotic-free, but not marked organic. I'm looking forward to joining a meat CSA in the fall, but until then, I'm trying not to beat myself up too much about food quality, buy better when I can afford it, and focus on the positive changes I am making. This post was really helpful for me: Are you paralyzing others with Paleo Perfectionism? | Balanced Bites | Holistic & Paleo Nutrition Education

    I'm stiff and sore from lifting yesterday, and hoping it gets better today so I can get back at it tomorrow morning.
    Last edited by nimiety; 07-11-2012, 06:38 AM. Reason: to get snippy about primal neologisms
    Primal goals: metabolic health, vitality, strength, and maybe some weight loss wouldn't be amiss

    My journal: eating-disordered fat woman takes up eating meat and lifting weights; hilarity ensues


    • #3

      It's always refreshing to hear about women doing serious strength training. Stick with it and I'm sure you will be amazed with the results.

      It sounds like you know how to cook. That will definitely serve you well with eating a better diet.

      Feel free to ask questions, but keep in mind that you have to find what works for you. There are people on the forum that have "pet" recommendations that they dish out regardless of who is asking. I've been guilty of that myself in the past and try to limit it now. Sometimes these recommendation are great and will help, sometimes not.


      • #4
        Thanks so much for the welcome, yodiewan!

        Yep, me and my gym partner were the only ladies in the weight room when we walked in last time, and may well be the only ladies in the weight room again when we walk in this morning. I'm excited for the beginner's easy strength gains that I've read about—I'm not going to add weight until what I'm lifting now feels substantially easier (it's amazing how quickly ten pounds gets heavy! I failed at my last rep on the seated chest press last time). Last session was a little scattershot, but today's will be more methodical; I'm prepared with a notebook to record my sets and ideas on trying compound lifts. I'm okay with doing a little of this and a little of that for the first little while, to build both the habit and some strength, but am going to want to move on to a methodical program pretty soon. Split sessions & compound lifts sounds right to me.

        And yes, I do have good cooking skills. When I'm cooking for myself, I'm generally eating pretty well—it's when I start not feeling like putting in the time and energy that my intake goes wonky. This is one reason that it's nice to be temporarily cohabiting with my boyfriend: he gives me a reason to cook well. We eat quite differently—he's a big roast-turkey-on-whole-wheat kind of guy—but nevertheless, his presence gives me the momentum I need. And also, he said today, "well, I guess I don't really need bread," and put some sliced turkey directly onto the bowl of slaw he'd served himself. Hey! Baby steps.

        I am super, super sore today. Which was inconvenient, since I had an awful lot to do, in two different states. So there was a lot of penguin-walking through big subway stations and gasping down staircases (up was easier). In general, I'm too vain (we might more accurately say too insecure) to go out looking anything but put together, but today I resigned myself to wearing not just flats but sneaker-y flats. Outside the house! For the whole day! That's how sore I was. Really, really sore. Does it help that I am also menstruating? Thanks for asking. No, it totally doesn't.

        So here's what I ate today:

        9:30: iced coffee with cream
        10:30: three eggs fried in drippings over a handful of spring mix with a little olive oil
        1:30: big bowl of slaw with a handful of kalamata olives and several ounces of smoked salmon; Greek yogurt with raspberries and strawberries and a drizzle of raw honey
        6:00: two string cheeses
        12:30: two chicken thighs and one chicken breast (all with skin, of course), marinated in olive oil and balsamic vinegar and spices and baked
        Also, had a Diet Coke today, on the train back from Jersey.

        I thought my trip out to Jersey was going to be easier and quicker than it actually was—should have planned ahead and bought a snack, but had to settle for some fairly gross Duane Reade string cheese I'd picked up in Penn Station in a premonition of disaster. Got home late, put the marinated chicken in the oven, and ate it right out of the oven without any vegetables, such was my hunger. But it's not the churning gnawing anxious hunger of roller-coastering blood sugar, at least. A little dairy-heavy, today, but could've been worse. Skipped pizza at a meeting this afternoon without even a second thought (sometimes food snobbery is as helpful as nutritional ideology: national-chain delivery pizza is gross no matter what you think is good for you). Anyway, I think it's a good idea for me to keep some jerky in my bag; I too often go long stretches hungry and not eating, and as an eating-disordered woman, this is not "IFing," it's "being a jerk and not feeding myself when I'm hungry."

        Speaking of, this article spoke to me in a big way today: Paleo For Women | Binge/Restrict:The Most Common Pattern of Overeating, and How to Stop (with Love!) That's me all over. Can't stop bingeing without ceasing to restrict first. I have to feed myself when I'm hungry. Diets don't work. Diets don't work. Diets don't work.

        Back to the weight room tomorrow morning, I'm almost sure—I'm probably still going to be twingey in my upper body and sore in my lower, but I want to be there.
        Primal goals: metabolic health, vitality, strength, and maybe some weight loss wouldn't be amiss

        My journal: eating-disordered fat woman takes up eating meat and lifting weights; hilarity ensues


        • #5
          Nope—woke up sorer in my arms than I'd been when I went to sleep, and my gym buddy woke up to an allergy attack, so no weight room today.

          Also, wow, these are long posts I'm writing. I should probably chill out with the wordiness a little.
          Primal goals: metabolic health, vitality, strength, and maybe some weight loss wouldn't be amiss

          My journal: eating-disordered fat woman takes up eating meat and lifting weights; hilarity ensues


          • #6
            10:30: iced coffee with cream, five hard-boiled eggs mashed with some mustard and mayonnaise (the lazy/hungry version of egg salad)
            3:00: big burger patty over a bowl of slaw
            8:15: two marinated & baked chicken leg/thigh quarters over a bowl of slaw
            10:45: a few bites of fresh pineapple
            Plus the daily Diet Coke. My boyfriend, knowing my vice, sometimes picks one up for me when he goes to the bodega for beer. Sweet of him. And yet!

            —Scoped out a new neighborhood supermarket today. Bought an 8-oz. flank steak for $5, which is fairly unthinkable in fancier neighborhoods. Also noted six slabs of pork belly for $10, beef heart, beef kidney. All conventional—not sure where I come down on eating conventionally-raised organ meats (heart is probably okay, but kidney?)—but still, makes me thankful to live off the beaten track.
            —Sore! Sore. Real sore. Still! Probably for the best that there was no lifting today, though I was disappointed this morning. I am walking more normally than I was yesterday, though going down (not up, for some reason) stairs makes me grab the wall in panic, which, when you live in a third-floor walk-up, is less than convenient. If I'm feeling less sore tomorrow, I'll go on my own, but if not, I'll wait 'til Sunday when my lifting buddy can make it.
            —I just kinda can't believe that there are two kinds of sweet frozen things in my freezer and they've been there nearly a week and they're still there, and I am basically apathetic about them. I think this is how regular people do things.
            Primal goals: metabolic health, vitality, strength, and maybe some weight loss wouldn't be amiss

            My journal: eating-disordered fat woman takes up eating meat and lifting weights; hilarity ensues


            • #7
              DOMS = Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness. This is what you're experiencing. As a new lifter it may be a week before you have no soreness. It can help to have a very light session or doing something to simply get blood flowing to those sore areas; think of it as more of a warm-up and breaking a sweat and finishing with a cool down of light stretching.

              It's pretty cool that your guy is joining in a bit with your new way of eating.

              It sounds like you're doing great and you've found something that you'll be able to maintain with consistency.

              I got my parents to start in January and my dad has dropped about 50 lbs without adding exercise. My mom has lost about 20. It's been a bit slower for her because of the stress level of her job and because she's a woman. They plan to start walking for exercise again and may add a bit of weightlifting as well. We'll see

              Don't worry about the length of the posts in YOUR journal. Write whatever you like. This is your place to keep yourself accountable and to track your progress and talk about whatever.

              You'll be successful with this whole thing. I'm excited for your journey and future moment when you realize you've gotten to where you want to be.


              • #8
                So, I took off for the weekend to visit my parents, and then started an intense week of work. But mostly staying primal (have had a few bites of bread several times while trying not to be too conspicuous when eating with colleagues—I've given this up and started bringing my own lunch), and back in the gym tomorrow, thankfully.

                Today I ate:
                —10:30: a container of organic raspberries
                —1:15: a container of turkey/avocado salad with cilantro, onion, etc. After two days of trying to pick the meat out of sandwiches, I opted to come prepared for the lunch provided by the company I'm freelancing for.
                —4:30: iced coffee with half-and-half
                —8:45: a big burger patty with mayonnaise

                May update with more, but wanted to post here to nudge myself to get back to it.

                Wayland, thanks for your note! It's great that your parents are starting to eat more primal because of you—my own parents are pretty much lost causes. They're chronic dieters, prone to the restrict/binge cycle, and because of family history, I get very nervous eating around them. I just keep my head down and discuss food as little as possible when they're there. Luckily, they also eat good-quality foods, so I had some nice local grass-fed meat and fresh produce while I visited. Both days I had some non-primal menu items (a chunk of excellent sourdough one day; ice cream for dessert twice) but made sure to ward off points at which I'd get hungry enough to eat anything by feeding myself adequately in the morning.

                I also had a rough session with my shrink in which I brought up the Paleo for Women article I linked above. We talked about next steps in my eating disorder recovery, and I got quite emotional when I discussed the way the diet mentality and restrict/binge cycle have been a blight on pretty much my whole conscious life. It's time to stop restricting: I know it and my eating disorder team knows it. Until I went primal, I'm not even sure I knew I was still restricting. I'm so grateful for the folks who research and write around this way of eating, and so grateful their work made its way into my life. I'm scared, but also hopeful that improvement—real recovery—might really be possible.

                And I can't wait to be sore again! My last workout I didn't push as hard, so this time I think I'm bumping the weights back up and shortening the sets a bit to try to find the sweet spot.

                Hope you're all having happy, healthy weeks, cavepeople!
                Last edited by nimiety; 07-18-2012, 06:22 PM.
                Primal goals: metabolic health, vitality, strength, and maybe some weight loss wouldn't be amiss

                My journal: eating-disordered fat woman takes up eating meat and lifting weights; hilarity ensues


                • #9
                  Nim, when you've had a hard workout and think you may end up sore, try taking a cold bath afterward. Just as putting ice on a strain/sprain helps prevent inflammation, so does a cold bath help reduce the amount of DOMS you may get.

                  ...just be sure you have enough time to warm up before you go to bed. I'm doing the 10,000 kettlebell swings in 10 days challenge, and after the first day I laid in a cold bath for about twenty minutes, then went to bed. When hubby came to bed a short time later, I almost sent him through the ceiling when I put my cold feet on him!

                  Have fun with your weight lifting--I love doing the Olympic lifts!


                  • #10
                    I wasn't quite full after the burger patty last night, so I added about a cup of full-fat Greek yogurt with a little raw honey.

                    Thanks for the tip, Goldie—I may need it tonight!
                    Primal goals: metabolic health, vitality, strength, and maybe some weight loss wouldn't be amiss

                    My journal: eating-disordered fat woman takes up eating meat and lifting weights; hilarity ensues


                    • #11
                      I recently made my own yogurt after a couple weeks of not having any. I make it thicker than anything I've ever seen in stores.


                      • #12
                        9:00: a few bites of egg salad
                        1:00: the rest of the batch of lazy egg salad (seven eggs, some mayonnaise, and some spices)
                        7:30: a big steak (grass-fed; bless Brooklyn menu transparency) with caramelized onions and herb butter, three slices of fried green tomatoes (gluten!) with yogurt-dill sauce, a wee watercress salad, a couple of bites of my friend's salad, a few bites of ice cream (sugar!), coffee with milk, two cocktails (no sugar)

                        I ate gluten and sugar today (albeit in really small amounts), but feel quite good. Must be the lifting. I could be mistaken, but I feel like my form has improved in just three sessions. I haven't upped the weights (from the first session—I did go back to those weights from the slightly lower load of last session), but I'm pretty sure my lunges and squats and leg presses are deeper and more controlled. I did five bench presses with just the bare bar (on the incline bench) after seated chest presses and overhead presses and was really glad I had a spotter. The weight room got loud around 5:30, guys talking basketball and grunting, and I loved the way the noise drained away when I focused hard on the mind-muscle connection. I love lifting!

                        And I'm icing my thighs as we speak.

                        Incidentally, I heard from my endocrinologist today, and though it will be news to precisely no one, devouring bacon and eggs and steak and cream has had zero impact on my blood tests. Cholesterol, triglycerides, etc.: still perfect. Blood pressure also perfect. Growth hormone indicators low, which we're going to have to figure out how to address, and of course the reproductive hormones still very much out of whack, but that's another story. I'm going to go back on Metformin for the PCOS, even though I no longer need it to regulate insulin the way I did before I went primal.

                        I would be interested in more on the yogurt method, Wayland! I've made my own but not for some time, and when I did I had trouble getting a consistently thick consistency.
                        Last edited by nimiety; 07-19-2012, 09:35 PM.
                        Primal goals: metabolic health, vitality, strength, and maybe some weight loss wouldn't be amiss

                        My journal: eating-disordered fat woman takes up eating meat and lifting weights; hilarity ensues


                        • #13
                          I heat a half-gallon of whole milk to 180 or 185, then I cool it to 115 in an ice bath or just cool running water, add in my starter yogurt whether it is a small 1 dollar container of plain from the store or a half-cup of my own leftover from the last batch. I mix it with a whisk to make sure it's distributed well throughout.

                          I then pour this into covered containers and let it incubate wrapped in towels for 8 or more hours.

                          After, I grab coffee filters, strainers, and bowls for each and let it strain for 6 hours or more.

                          Using half a gallon of milk, I end up with a quart of the thickest yogurt I've ever had. Probably as thick as soft cream cheese practically every time.

                          It's one of the simplest things to do. It just takes a little time.