Hi all! It’s been some time since I published a new post here, so I’m glad to break the silence today with a new series of posts that I’m going to call Vegan Girl Power! My last post about my experience with training for a bikini competition resonated quite a bit with you guys, which sparked a thought that it would be great to share stories of other vegan women who embraced lifting weights and shed the pressure of the society to look a certain way. I learned that weightlifting can give us a great boost of confidence while making us legitimately strong – a quite logical connection, in my opinion – so I decided to ask a few prominent vegan women who lift about their take on the subject.
My first guest is the wonderful Lacy Davis from Portland, Oregon! I’m excited to have Lacy in the very first episode of this series because she is the perfect example of what I’m trying to communicate with the Vegan Girl Power project: she shows that overcoming adversity and being ready to ‘think outside the box’ can lead to amazing results. Lacy has defeated an eating disorder and a destructive habit of doing too much cardio, and lifting weights has helped her immensely. She is now a certified health and wellness coach who helps people recovering from eating disorders, as well as a personal trainer, writer, lifter, blogger at SuperStrengthHealth.com. Together with her friend Holly Noll Lacy runs one of my favorite vegan podcasts, Rise and Resist (now defunct).
All right, let’s have Lacy take the center stage!
1. When and why did you decide to start lifting weights?
I decided to start lifting weights at the tail end of my recovery from an eating disorder. Actually, it was kind of a recovery from all of the eating disorders 🙂
I had been a compulsive cardio person for years and I had basically capped out the amount of time my body would stand for an elliptical or a treadmill. A few good friends of mine had started doing Crossfit and seemed to love it, so I figured I’d give it a whirl.
Initially, I had joined my Crossfit gym to lose weight (this is why I did almost everything I did at the time), but what I got from it was something much, much better. From the second I held a barbell in my hands, the desire to purge (something I had really been struggling with) basically disappeared. I gained a significant amount of strength, of course, but I also gained more self-esteem and self-respect, and a greater sense of self. I will forever love weight lifting, as it was the conduit for learning how to actually love myself.
2. How did weightlifting help you with your confidence and strength levels? Did your body composition/number on the scale change as well, and if so, what was your reaction to that?
Okay, so, if I am being real – weightlifting DID change things for my body, and not in a way that I initially loved. When I started lifting I stopped purging, as I mentioned, and I also starting eating enough to fuel my activity for the first time in many years. My metabolism was shot at the time, and I quickly gained what I would consider to be a lot of weight. I had grown so, so used to being “small” and it was extremely uncomfortable to actually end up being the largest my body had ever been. A lot of people get bigger when they lift, but I want to be transparent- I didn’t look bigger and more muscular. For a minute I just looked big in my eyes, and that was kind of rough. (I am in no way saying that bigness is a bad thing, and I want to just say that fatphobia is a very real cultural standard that I now rail against, but I wasn’t at that place at this time).
I had a pivotal moment where I realized I was getting larger, and I considered stopping weightlifting entirely. In a flash of brilliance, I realized that I actually loved weightlifting so much that I wasn’t willing to stop it just to be smaller. The decision was kind of a small one in the scheme of things, but was a sign of a huge mental turning point.
Through years of consistent eating, lifting, and self-care my body has mellowed out. I currently sit about ten or twenty pounds heavier than before I started lifting and twenty pounds less than the weight I weighed when I decided to keep going with the barbell no matter what. MANY people come to weight lifting from a restrictive eating disorder past, and I think its important to note that sometimes the body will naturally bulk up before settling in to the weight you’ll be. THAT’S OKAY. Trust your body’s process and fuel it like it’s your best friend.
3. Has being vegan had a positive effect on your fitness levels, recovery, etc.?
I have been vegan for most of the time between age 14 and 31 (which is how old I am now) so its honestly impossible to say 🙂 I wasn’t active as a teen (INDOOR KID FOR LIIIIIIFE) so I never knew how I was recovering.
4. Why do you think women should embrace lifting weights (instead of doing too much cardio or nothing at all)?
There is nothing, and I mean nothing, better than feeling your own strength. I love to feel capable, I love to be the person who everyone asks to help them move, I love to see my muscles. I LOVE being a part of a community of strong women and most of all, I love that I stand as an example of self-love and self-confidence to others. I gained all of this through lifting! Sure, running outdoors is a beautiful thing, but there’s only so much of that that my body likes, where as I feel like I could lift all day.
I really want to glorify lifting for the mental aspects it gives me, but I also have to note that I love the way my body looks with some muscle on it. It’s a thing, people! Muscles look good!
5. Oftentimes women say that they don’t want to lift heavy because they’re afraid of getting too bulky/’looking like a man’, etc. As a female personal trainer, how do you deal with such comments?
Honestly, the people that come to me don’t necessarily say that. Maybe because I market myself as a body positive coach? If people do talk about getting bulky, I am transparent about my personal experience with body transformation, but I emphasize that it was totally worth the journey. I am also okay with lifting not being for everyone! I am supportive and encouraging to those who are ready, but I don’t try to convert anyone.
6. What’s the #1 mistake you see newbie female lifters make, and how can it be fixed?
Hmmmm. This isn’t specific to females at all, but I do notice a lot of rounded backs during deadlifts, especially when they get heavy. My suggestion is always to sit your butt BACK (like, aim for the wall behind you), keep your weight in your heels, and really draw your shoulder blades back. I personally pretend there is a hand between my shoulder blades, and aim to draw toward that imaginary hand. Just having a visual in my mind really helps.
7. What’s the biggest piece of advice you’d like to give all women interested in lifting weights?
Work with a trainer to help formulate a plan first! This can be via the internet, in person at a crossfit gym, or one-on-one. I would also suggest going for the barbell as opposed to the machines, mostly because it is more fun. Make sure you eat ENOUGH. That is actually the biggest one. So many people I work with try to put off their post workout meal, which is probably the most counterproductive thing you can do. Feed those muscles!
Also! One more thing. TAKE REST DAYS. Muscles aren’t built when you’re tearing them apart at the gym. They’re built when you refuel, when you sleep, and when you rest. No excuses! Take ’em!
Lacy and her friend Holly Noll host a weekly podcast series called Rise and Resist
8. What are you working on now, and what’s next for you in the fitness world?
I am totally taking in-person clients in Portland, and health coaching clients all over the world. My dream is to start a body-positive gym in Portland, and I imagine that plan will start to go into action at the end of 2016.
Thank you Lacy for sharing your story and your experience! I hope this interview inspires even more women to pick up a heavier dumbbell (with proper supervision, of course!) and set off on the journey to become their strongest, most confident selves.
Lacy is currently accepting new clients for her health and wellness coaching program. You can learn more about her services over here, or email her at lacyisripped(at)gmail(dot)com.
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