How Serious Athletes Deal With Intentional Weight Gain

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Have you put on weight training for strength sport? If you’re struggling, read this.

Strength sports come with plenty of challenges for women. And we don’t mean training and dieting. Prioritizing strength and size still goes against so many cultural expectations for females. It might be 2016, but if you’re a big, strong, physical female, be prepared to fight for your rights.

Let’s talk about one particular challenge that women in strength sport can struggle with: Weight gain.

Have you gained weight since training for strength and power? It can happen intentionally (because you want to be heavier, or choose to move up a weight class). Or it can be a side-effect of training, eating, and adding muscle. Plenty of women breeze through the experience of watching the scale weight go up. But some find it a real head f- – k!

The truth is, some of us have to gain weight for our sport. Adding muscle will usually mean adding weight. We all know the facts: a more muscular body will be heavier, even if it looks smaller. Body weight doesn’t always mean body fat. Blah, blah. But logical platitudes won’t always sooth the inner voice which panics when the number on the scale keeps on climbing.

Why You Might Struggle With Adding Weight

Gaining weight might be tough if you have a history of disordered eating, diagnosed eating disorders, or unhealthy food behavior. Psychologically, seeing the number on the scale go up could challenge everything you previously associated with a desirable body type. And you might find walking around in a heavier body physically challenging, too. Bigger, stronger bodies feel different to small, dainty ones. If you grew up a skinny kid, being heavier and more robust could challenge your mindset. It’s beyond the scope of LBEB to tell you how to deal with these feelings. But if you’re ready to embrace a new body image and identity, seek out support.

Quieting the Panic

If you’re struggling, try facing your objections full on. Make sure you are gaining weight a healthy way, and your mind might run out of fears and doubts.

Are you sleeping well? Lack of quality sleep affects ghrelin, leptin, and the neurotransmitter serotonin. This will affects your appetite, mood, and ability to handle food cravings. Get your sleep in check, and you’ll be more confident that the weight gain is not due to food or hormone issues.

Are you eating right? Gaining healthy weight needs a caloric excess, but it’s easy to over-shoot it or to get those extra calories from foods which don’t make you feel great. Check your nutrition, food choices, and eating behaviors to put your mind at rest.

Forget the Scale and Focus On This Instead

Strength and power: a heavier body typically means a stronger body. Focus on your training numbers, PRs, AMRAP numbers, and totals. Do you feel more powerful? Are you recovering better?

Body shape: you might struggle to accept a heavier body weight, but how do you actually look? Take the emotion out of it and see yourself through someone else’s eyes. I bet you look pretty damn great! Pick out your new favorite body parts, compare photos, and be proud.

Sports goals: will your new body weight allow you to take part in your ideal weight class? Or challenge larger and more developed competitors on stage?

Compassion: if you’re a trainer, a team-mate, or someone who other women turn to for fitness advice, consider this weight gain a valuable string to your emotional bow. You now have another layer of experience. It could help you identify with more women as they go through their own fitness journeys.

When Gaining Weight Is Great For Your Body

There’s plenty to celebrate about getting healthfully heavier due to training and eating right. For many women, adding a little body weight means they get their period back for the first time in months (or even years!) This is something to celebrate. Is your body actually healthier and happier at this heavier body weight?

The power of community is going to help you come to terms with gaining weight, looking larger, and taking up more space in the world. Surround yourself with the most relevant people for the phase you are in. Connect with powerlifters, strongwomen, off-season bodybuilders, or women working hard to move up a weight class. Share your feelings, support each other, and accept their offers of help. Hey, embrace the hashtags and memes if they help you! And I know it’s difficult, but please don’t compare yourself to anyone else on social media. It can feel disheartening to see someone in your weight class who looks more jacked than you. But remember that social media doesn’t show her entire story. How tall is she? How long has she been training? Is she natural or assisted? And – most of all – is the photo posed and filtered?

Do you want a small scale number, or a large total? Focus on your goals and embrace every change in your body as part of the journey. You’re in this for the long-haul, right?