“When the body is strong, the mind thinks strong thoughts.”
Rachel has been powerlifting for 2 years, and she feels that powerlifting has dramatically strengthened her mind and her self-confidence.
Weight Gain Background and Contributing Factors
Rachel spent her early childhood in Virginia at a pretty average weight. When she was 11 years old her family moved to Massachusetts and not only was she the new kid in school, but she also had a different accent than her peers. Rachel says because of this she was bullied a lot in middle school and didn’t make many friends at all.
It was at this time in her life that Rachel began to turn to food for comfort.
A few years later on in high school, when Rachel met her husband-to-be, he was also dealing with personal problems through food. They ate together for comfort and to relax—what Rachel describes as a “dark path.”
Rachel says that they enabled each other, and had routines like eating fast food together every single day after school. She says:
“[We would] eat our emotions…instead of talking about them.”
Rachel gained 50 pounds (22.7 kg) from the 10-12th grade.
How Being Overweight Impacted Rachel’s Life
When Rachel describes her sedentary life with her husband-to-be she says
“…our health was just down in the dumps.”
She talks about how, as teenagers, kids should have lots of energy and generally feel good, but after eating fast food all she wanted to do was sleep. Rachel also noticed that her eating habits contributed to acne, and she remembers having terrible knees at age 18, just from carrying around extra weight.
Rachel explains that since they knew they were overweight they would try various diets together for a while, such as not eating white things for a month, and some of the more popular diets, but just never stuck with it. She thinks these attempts didn’t work because they really just weren’t ready to lose weight, and it was just easier to give up.
Rachel says she felt down about her health, her physical appearance, and her self-confidence. She noticed that she was not taking any new opportunities she was presented, rather she was just living alone in a shell, not enjoying life.
Rachel’s peak weight was 220 pounds (100 kg) on her 5-foot frame.
“As sad as it is to admit, I really just hated myself. There was nothing that I liked.”
The Turning Point
Rachel describes a scene that one day she was just sitting at home, thinking and talking to herself she said:
“You’re not happy. Well, who can change that? HELLOOO! Only I can.”
As she sat on the couch and thought of all the things she wanted to accomplish in life, she realized: “The only thing that was holding me back was my weight.”
Rachel knew that if she wanted things to be different, she needed to change them, and she was the only one who could do it.
Starting The Weight Loss Journey
After her epiphany, Rachel discussed her ideas with her husband and together they decided what they would do. They decided it would be best to take baby steps.
Rachel says the transition involving food was difficult because of the cravings, and she heartily believes that fast food is an addiction. On the other hand, she says that the walking and exercise made her feel good—even just after one week, so that was easier to stick with.
At the beginning Rachel says they tried to substitute more healthy foods that would satisfy a craving, even if they weren’t perfect. If they wanted ice cream they might get frozen yogurt instead, or instead of ordering pizza or eating burgers out, would make those foods at home. Rachel says people first noticed her weight loss at a family party that was about one month and 10 pounds into her journey. Everyone noticed, and that made her motivated to continue.
After her initial successes, Rachel didn’t have a good grasp on what a healthy eating plan looked like, as she says she was eating only 1000 calories each day and trying to exercise off that same amount of calories at the gym. Her body had nothing to use as fuel. She says that her weight loss stalled at that time because her body was “starving,” and Rachel started to feel “pretty crummy.”
Rachel used the internet to educate herself on what total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) and basal metabolic rate (BMR) levels were and how many calories she needed to eat in order to both fuel her workouts and lose weight.
“I really educated myself and learned a lot.”
She says at first it was shocking to think she needed to almost double the calories she had been eating, and the thought of that made her feel “terrified.” A friend suggested Rachel join My Fitness Pal, and she began to post questions to the forum there.
Rachel says it took her a while to add back in the calories to the appropriate level, but that she realized if this was to be a lifelong thing and she wanted to keep the weight off, she could not continue to starve her body. Rachel shares that thinking in terms of the long-term has helped her out a lot.
Challenges Rachel Faced Along The Way
Rachel says that throughout her journey her family was always supportive.
It was tougher to find a balance with her friends who were used to socializing only by going out and drinking and partying, and Rachel didn’t want to join in. Rachel says she lost a few friends when all that they had left in common was going out, but she has made a few new ones through her new found interests.
“You realize who your true friends really are.”
Rachel says she has learned a lot about herself through this journey, and that she was stronger than she gave herself credit for mentally.
What Rachel Learned About Food, Exercise, and Herself
After losing 90-100 pounds, Rachel says:
“I lost the weight I wanted to lose, but I still was not happy with my body.”
She describes how she didn’t look the way she wanted to look. There was some tightening up she wanted to do. Her friend who is a power lifter convinced her to try a few lifts. She was intimidated by the idea that it was a guys-only sport. Her friend showed her all the equipment and routines she would need to learn to lift.
After she finally got started Rachel learned that the lifting area of the gym was a lot less intimidating than she had thought. She says it has done wonders for her body. Her body has tightened up, and she is preparing for a power lifting competition in spring 2015.
Rachel says she is mentally stronger today than she ever was. Her self-confidence is also better, which she says stems from taking on the challenge of weight loss and conquering it.
From a peak weight of 220, Rachel dropped to 120 (54.5 kg) and has put back on some pounds of muscle through lifting.
Today Rachel gets up at 4:00 AM and is in the gym by 5:00 AM. She says that when her alarm clock goes off in the morning she is excited to get her day going, and that lifting starts her day on the right foot. She does powerlifting routines 4 days each week and about 15 minutes each day of light cardio. She says she still wants to lose a little fat, but her driving goal is to keep adding weight to the barbell and get stronger and stronger.
Rachel says that “not in a million years” would she have believed anyone who told her in the past that she would be the person who she is today, such a changed person from just a few years ago.
Rachel’s Advice For Your Journey
“You’re worth it!”
- You are worth living a healthy life.
- Don’t be afraid of the unknown.
- Ask for help if you need it!
Resources Discussed In This Podcast
- My Fitness Pal – Rachel says it feels great to have a community of people who are going through the same things.