My Big Fat DEXA Scan

After a bit of a delay, I managed to get into my local university´s nutrition center for a DEXA scan.  I had been burning quite a bit of mental energy around determining what my intentions were with said scan.

Things that are true:

I wanted to find out how much lean muscle mass I had and to work in the future to either preserve said mass or increase it:

I expected that I would have at least decent bone density and wanted to find out if that was true so that, as a perimenopausal woman, I could make sure that I was taking necessary interventions if I needed to.

Things that are bullshit:

Whatever my body fat percentage was, I was going to be ok with that.

I was absolutely not going to use that body fat percentage and the lean mass numbers as a jumping off point to try to change my body composition to lower the body fat and crank up the lean mass.

I was also not going to spend an obsessive amount of time calculating how many pounds I would have to lose to lower my body fat percentage 1%.  (Ahem, it´s about 4.5)

 

Things I expected:

I honestly thought that my lean body mass was going to be around 135-145lbs (out of my current weight of 270), giving me a body fat percentage of around 50%.  This was based on my lowest athletic weight of about 145 lbs (in high school) and estimated body fat percentage at that time (around 15%).  It was also based on me looking at pictures on the internet of women of different body fat percentages and determining the 50% body looked the most like mine.

I expected my bone density to be at least average.  I eat well, I have good vitamin D levels, I powerlift, I ran a marathon, I´ve been carrying a lot of weight on my frame for quite a bit.

I also expected the folks at the nutrition office to have a thin veil over their fat phobia and to gingerly dance around reporting my BMI of 40 and my body fat percentage.  I frankly expected to have to do a lot of work around convincing them that I´m mostly ok with where I am and that there are things to celebrate about my body and, in fact, I do balance my unhealthy lifestyle (staying up all night, stressing about life and death situations at work, too much coffee) with healthy things (low-sugar, high protein diet, lots of lifting and martial arts and rowing and walking and swimming).

The results:

Overall, I am super-glad I did this.  My tech was a dietician who was actually really, genuinely body positive and talking to her was a joy.  I was shocked to find out that my LBM is actually almost 160lbs.  And my feelings about that are very positive.  (I am weirdly ok with objective validation of the fact that I am fucking huge.) I feel athletic and strong.  I feel like all of my physical training is paying off.  I feel inspired to continue trying to maintain that LBM, even if I do try to lower my body fat.  41% body fat feels like a smaller number than I would have expected. I feel a feeling of balance around trying to reduce that body fat percentage and am pretty darn comfortable with just sitting with my feelings around trying to improve aesthetics, athletic performance, health, aches and pains, flexibility and range of motion.  It feels safe to look into making changes for any of these reasons without being self-hating or obsessive.  I feel more calm than I thought I would.

My bones are made of fucking concrete.  Or concrete and steel.  My bone density is off the chart for a perimenopausal woman.  It feels awesome to know that for the immediate future I can check off one of the worries about aging and focus more on my new liver spots and the fact that I can´t remember where I put my glasses.  (My T-score was 4.3 for all of you stat nerds).

I´m in a pretty big muscle-building phase with my training and plan to go back in 3-4 months and see if there are any changes.  For SCIENCE.

The two docs below are my scan documents.  The crappy scanning has removed some of the details from the charts and graphs, but you get the picture.

Doc Sep 19, 2017, 11:12

Doc Sep 19, 2017, 11:13

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One Plate, Two Plates, Three Plates, Black Belt.

I’ve got a lot of shit on my plate right now (hahahaha, I made a pun).  

I’ve got four babies to deliver in the next four weeks, I’m going to a conference in Toronto for a week with a few thousand other midwives (and pinkhairedchickenmama, yay), my kids have alltheendoftheschoolyearshit and I’m renovating my kitchen.  I’m basically shoehorning in building ikea cabinets and installing paneling and painting and rearranging stuff in boxes in between everything else I’m doing.

So, I’ve not been the best about getting into the gym, but I’m using my time wisely — to set goals.  I had superfastnewbiegains like a lot of beginning powerlifters and got real excited about what might be possible for my future.  But I’m trying to adjust my expectations and set up something a little bit more realistic.  I also don’t have a competition to go to before next year, so I won’t be able to gauge my progress by how I perform at a meet.  That’s ok, because it helps discourage me from trying to pile on too fast.

I have a love affair with the 45lb plates.  I like to give them a little squeeze every time I put one on a bar.  If I ever do competition, I think I’ll feel the same way about the reds, maybe even more so.  But for now, I’m in the land of the imperial at the YMCA and so I’ve set my goals by those plates.

 

I want to bench 135, or one plate.

I want to squat 225, or two plates.

and I want to deadlift 315, or three plates.

That just seems, well, so neat and tidy, doesn’t it?

Those goals are different levels of achievable.  Deadlifting 235 right now feels like I am using every last bit of energy and reserve and willpower to reach the top.  Benching 115 for three feels heavy but solid on the first and then mighty shaky by the third.  And squatting 150 feels like I could do a ton more, but I’m inching up slowly because I don’t have a great spotter available to me and dumping the weights on the safety bar would not only earn me the side-eye of all of the Y employees, it would be embarrassing, which is much worse.

I weigh 265 lbs.  So those aren’t huge goals for my body size, but I’m also an old lady.  You’ve got to climb your own hill.  Also, I’m coming to respect that some of my goals won’t be achievable for five years or more because that is how powerlifting works.  (WATCH OUT M2 LIFTERS 2022.  YOUR ASS IS GRASS).

So, maybe I can hit these goals by next spring?  Or at least some of them?

It’s really hard to judge what I should be able to do by looking at other people.  There just aren’t that many fat old lady powerlifters.  I’m occupying a weird space right now.  I think my training weights would break two of the three state records for women my age and size and yet, I’m nowhere near being competitive (or even qualifying) for nationals.  And the meets tend to have just four or five women total, not even in my age and weight class.  So, I start with my plate goals.  Then, maybe when I meet them, I can set the bar higher (hahaha, another pun), and go for 1, 2, 3 red plates.  That would be impressive.

One other little thing:  the black belt.  I’m going tomorrow to my dojo to watch the black belt testing — judo, jujutsu, and iaido.  My martial art is iaido, which is a kind of inner martial art that uses both wooden and metal swords to cultivate strength, balance, self-control, focus, and agility.  I’m an ikkyu, which is the last stage before shodan, or first black belt.  I’m setting my intention right here and now — I’m looking forward to the future and earning that shodan for myself.  It’s going to take a ton of work, but I have time this summer.  After the four babies, I have eight weeks of only quarter-time work. Eight weeks is not enough time to earn a shodan and not enough time for my plate-stacking, but it is enough time to set focus, set intention, and get a running start.  I commit to training in iaido 4-5 times a week and lifting 4 times a week.  I will sleep and eat well.  I will stretch and practice good self care.  I can do it.

It’s Not You, It’s Me

image

Pinkhairedchickenmama and I pausing on a run during happier times.


Dear running,

I have to break up with you.  Our relationship has not been good for a while.  When we met I was all in, maybe a little bit too soon. Spending time with you gave me a kind of heady feeling, some would say addictive.  But there have been signs since the beginning, red flags if you will, that we are a bad match.  I have other lovers now, and while things aren’t necessarily easier with them either, I just get don’t worn down by the them the way I did with you.  Plus, they’re sexier.  Sorry.  Well, sorry not sorry.

Be well,

Me.

I have a backstory, as lots of people do, which put me in the not-so-unique position of having two young kids and being in crap shape.  I had a few false starts at trying to improve my fitness (including a very fun, but ultimately too time-consuming stint on a competitive rowing team) but found that I couldn’t stay consistent with anything fitness-related because of the constant pull of insomnia, kid-wrangling, work-wrangling, and inertia.

But then I found running.  And because it was something that could be done in my own neighborhood, with no prep time and minimal gear, it seemed doable.  I did couch to 5k four times before making it through the program (should have been my first hint), but kept going and then joined a running group where my embarrassment about being last every time motivated me to gain speed and distance at a reasonable pace.  I ran my first 5k, a women’s only race, and placed a full 15 minutes after my friends.  But then I PR’ed every single race after that, running about one every one-two months.  I started to feel like a fit person.  I was proud of myself.

With the help of an amazing group of people at the Ypsi Studio, I managed to train for what seemed to be an impossible distance, the half-marathon, and ran a very satisfying 2:32 in the Detroit Free Press International Marathon (half-marathon event).  It was a real peak experience and I savored every minute of it.  I felt healthy and strong and capable.  I knew I wasn’t the fastest runner there, but I finished the distance just fine and I did so at 218 lbs.  I was pretty proud of what I had accomplished and felt like my fitness was better than it had been in years.  And it was. Training for the half-marathon took me from someone who struggled to finish a 5k without walking to someone who cranked out 9 and 10 mile training runs and had a bit to give.

Looking back, though, I wonder if it was the running that led to my fitness gains or if the running just benefitted from my fitness gains.  I was running in the mornings twice a week with the Studio running group, then filling out my program with three more runs a week.  But I also was doing bootcamp classes, spinning, and a HIIT workout with the Studio’s owner, Julia Collins.  Sometimes I was doing three workouts in a row — running with the group then staying for bootcamp and spin.  I think that my body responds awesomely to resistance training and high-intensity cardio.  And maybe not so much to the long slog of distance running training. I often felt like my long runs were my least effective days.

This became really obvious when I tried to springboard from my half-marathon success and train for a marathon the next year.   One mistake — I started training too early on an ankle I had broken in a rock-climbing accident.  But really, marathon training was just one fail after another.  As running replaced my other workouts, I actually felt my body get weaker.  My adrenals took a hit.  I began to get repetitive stress injuries.  I had to roll my IT bands every day or they felt like concrete when I ran.  I had absolutely debilitating heel spurs.  My knees sounded like they had a bag of marbles in them every time I went up or down the stairs. I gained 25 lbs.  My long runs were three and four and five-hour-long exercises in sheer will against a constant desire to quit, followed by a day on the couch.

My friends from the Studio and from our running community were super-encouraging on the day of the race and it did feel like a triumph, though strangely not as satisfying as my half and with a time much less satisfying — over six and a half hours.  I could say that I ran a marathon, but, in reality, I wasn’t sure I would ever want to run again.  And, two and half years later, I’ve gathered together all of my false starts in running, attempts to use running for fitness gains again, and I’m officially saying goodbye.

My closure was inspired by one of my neighbors, who has found a new love of running by running races of only a single mile, finding meaning in being fast.  Here is her story:  http://milermethod.com/blog/breaking-up-with-the-marathon

Sierra’s writing about how holding the marathon as the pinnacle of the recreational running experience led her to doubt her body resonated pretty strongly with me and awoke me one step at a time to something I hadn’t realized:  running puts me in a constant battle with my body.  Sierra came to a slightly different conclusion — she decided that her body type was more suited to a faster, shorter race.  I decided that I’m not going to run at all.

I’m now about 270 lbs.  And even if I get down to 218 again, or lower, to my fighting weight of, say, 165-185 lbs, I still don’t think running will be my best sport.  I’m in a head space where I don’t want to make weight loss my primary focus, rather I want performance and strength.  And I’m finding that there are a lot of sports where my weight is not the kind of hindrance that it is in running.  Because even 165lb me is not going to be a Boston qualifier.  I’ve accepted that.  My muscle-y self is not made for it.  And I don’t want to do a sport where I’m thinking that if I could just lose a little muscle weight, I’d be faster.  It’s a battle I don’t want to fight.  Running makes my body my own enemy, and I hate that.

I’m an awesome athlete, when I train consistently, and I sometimes make sick improvements in short amounts of time that surprise me when I pick the right activities. When I was cross-training for the half, I surprised my trainer by pulling 400 watts consistently on the erg and I’m erg training now, trying to get a 5k time less than 20 minutes.  I think I’ll get there by the end of the month.  I can cycle efficiently and tear up the mountain bike trails.  I can swim long distances easily.  But what I really can do is lift weights.

What all of these activities have in common is that having a more muscled body is a strength, not a weakness for them.  I knew that I would excel in weightlifting because I have a long-ago history with it and a little flirting relationship with it from HIIT.  But now that I am working an actual powerlifting program, I am absolutely, totally, head over heels in love.  And I’m crushing it for now.  I feel at harmony with my body in a way that I haven’t for years while exercising.  I’m dreaming big dreams about how far I can go with this sport and, best of all, I can do it in the body that I’m in.  LOVE.

For the week

Totally failed to work out except on Tuesday. In my defense, I attended two births in a row this week and was awak for 50 hours.  Set up a yoga space in my house and hiked around 20 acres of grassland we are looking at buying.  Will yoga tomorrow. Feeling hot, lazy and fat!