Let Go of Shame, Learn to Succeed

On May 15th I competed in the 2016 Niagara Powerlifting Open. It was my first time competing in a meet and one of the most rewarding things that I’ve done. Having lost 65lbs, regaining a lot of it and jumping from one goal to the next without meeting any goals at all I knew that I needed something to work towards. I needed a plan, I needed a date and I needed to get to work.

I hired an online nutrition coach so that I wouldn’t have to worry about my diet. I knew realistically that it would be challenging to lose 15lbs to meet my weight class while also putting on strength. Each week I had to send my coach the amount of carbs, fat and protein that I ate every day as well as my weight. At the end of the week I had to give my average weight for that week and she would make adjustments based on my overall loss, whether or not I had un-tracked meals and how I was feeling. I have a lot of food issues and always have so knew that while nutritional coaching was not necessary it was a tool that I am glad I utilized. I learned so much about myself through this phase of my preparation that it’s too much to write here.

After issues with my diet, joints, back and my hip I felt discouraged. I couldn’t train the way I wanted to train. I had to take weeks of of deadlifting and squats. I had to take time out for myself due to stress and I felt like everything was getting in my way. The closer I got to the competition the more I wanted to quit. My macro coach even asked me to consider postponing the meet because physically and psychologically I was feeling run down and depleted. I don’t think there was a week that went by where I didn’t consider giving up. Somehow I kept on and I didn’t retreat. Some days it took everything I had in me not to throw it all away but I knew that if I gave up on getting strong and taking care of myself it would be one of my greatest regrets.

Finally after all my preparation the meet came. There’s no accurate way to describe how I felt. I had such high anxiety, I was afraid I’d vomit right then, right there. I was afraid I’d fail all three of my squats and I’d be disqualified. I was afraid that despite working hard to lose weight I still had to wear a singlet that was tight and form fitting and get in front of a crowd of people to perform my lift. I had to get up there and own myself and declare: This is me. This is my body. This is my weight. This is what I can lift. This is what I’ve worked for and this is how strong I am today. I could not run or hide. I just had to do it.

Getting on a stage in front of people is terrifying for the first time, yet once you are up there, you hear “the bar is loaded for Sandra Barnhart,” and strangers tell you that you’ve got this and the crowd claps and cheers even though they’ve never met you before and have no idea who you are. The worries melt away. You listen for your cues. You perform your lift. You wait for whether the lift passed and failed. When you make it the crowd cheers. When you fail the lift they build you back up and tell you that you’ll get the next one.

Life is different when you let people believe in you. When you share your goals with people and they lift you up you have to have faith that they mean it. I put my trust in Chris to give the ref’s my attempts. He watched my lifts, asked me how they felt and made a judgement on what the next weight would be. I let him believe in me. I didn’t ask what the weight was and when they called my name I went for it and succeeded on every attempt except 1.

Below is a video of my third and final deadlift. It was my very last lift of the day. Chris told me I’d be lifting 225lbs which is something I was able to do at home a couple of times so figured I’d give it my best shot. After I succeeded he told me I’d got a PR and lifted 237lbs. I didn’t believe him. He had to convince me it really was 237lbs and by far the most I’ve ever lifted in my life. I couldn’t believe that I was capable of it after all of my challenges leading up to the event. I felt so emotional and grateful and proud in that moment. Any self doubt that I had before seemed so silly at that time and I’ve been riding that wave ever since.

It’s hard to feel ashamed of my body now. Videos of me lifting were out there for everyone to see. The event was live streamed. It was on Snap Chat (not that I even know how to use that app). My weight was displayed for everyone at the meet. After feeling so self conscious for so long it was a huge weight off my shoulders to simply not worry about it anymore because I realize now that what the scale says actually doesn’t matter.

With that said, tomorrow I am back to weighing and tracking and measuring. I can approach health and fitness now without worry about a number on the scale. I’m not chasing a specific weight. The scale doesn’t tell me how much lean mass I have. It doesn’t tell me how much fat mass I have and it sure as hell does not tell me how strong I am. Now I am armed with my measuring tape, my food scale, the weight I can lift and progress photos. I’ll let DEXA scans tell me how my fat mass to lean mass ratio is improving. I will carve out a healthier physique to carry me through my life. I will focus on strenght. I will focus on my feeling of wellness and vitality and I will focus on living my best life possible.

If anyone wants to jump on the bandwagon with me starting tomorrow (or whenever you’re ready) to improve their level of wellness then you’re welcome to. You don’t have to pick up some weight and put it back down again on a stage if you don’t want to. You don’t have to publicly declare what you’re eating, what you weigh, what your measurements are, etc. All you have to do is show up for yourself, try to make one good decision at a time and let consistency be the key to your success. If you’re interested in a private facebook group to support your wellness send me a message and let me know. In the mean time, here’s me achieving a Deadlift PR!

Coffee Break Clarity #1

People often ask me how I changed my life so dramatically. If you’ve read the About Sandra section of my website then you’ll know that my life was in shambles. I had so much work to do to improve my mental and emotional health and on top of that address my weight issues, my relationship problems, my finances and my social life. With all of that going on I felt like I was drowning in my circumstances and I couldn’t find a way out.

When making big change there are some of us who are able to jump in with both feet, change it up cold turkey and the next day wake up a new person. Then there’s others of us out there who, like me a few years ago, feel so overwhelmed by the information available that we don’t know what advice to follow or what steps to take to get us from point A to point B. In fact, some of us may not even have a clear vision of what Point B is. I know mine looked a lot like having a healthy body weight, not having a panic attack just opening my apartment door and having people in my life who enriched my life instead of energetically draining it.

Change doesn’t have to be an over night thing. It can be as simple as making one decision at a time. That’s how it happened for me. I decided to find a way to cope with my anxiety on a day to day basis. My panic disorder had begun to dictate my life and even though I thought I was functioning well, looking back I can see how much it deteriorated my quality of life. So I started the research: I looked into everything from meditation, binaural beats, chakra healing, deep breathing, listening to certain kinds of music, drinking more water, cutting down on coffee, etc. I researched endlessly to try to understand how these things might help me. Through this I began talking to people about what I was trying to do and had the book The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle recommended to me. I ordered it online (because I couldn’t go to the book store without a panic attack) and upon reading the first page burst into tears. It resonated with me so deeply and was exactly what I needed to really make the first shifts in my life towards well-being. These choices were the tip of the iceberg. After I learned to take action in small measures it began easier to make the bigger changes that I needed to like upgrading my nutrition and integrating regular exercise in my life.

When you are on a journey and are seeking answers you will find that the people and resources you need are already there and waiting for you. Once I started clearing space in my life for healing I found so much information and so many people that acted as a guide. Your path to your higher self is already there under your feet. You just have to clean it up a bit with one tool and one strategy at a time. You may find that as you address on challenge the benefits will show up in other areas of your life and it’s pretty exciting when small things start making big waves!