Is the fat girl really fat? Is it all in the scale, all in your mind, or all in your goals?

I’ve read a number of posts in the last month where someone says, “I am not going to define myself by the weight on the scale. I weigh XXX right now, and I am fit and strong and healthy, and I like my body the way it is.” These posts all throw out a number – say 140 lbs or 165 lbs, it doesn’t really matter – that is supposed to be a “shocking” number. You know, it’s a number that the average woman on the street who has a goal weight of 105 or 115 lbs is going to have a heart attack just imagining. “150 lbs! How could I ever weigh 150 lbs! That’s… FAT.”

Fat1Those of you who have followed my athletic endeavors over the last 5 years know that my weight has been all over the map. Growing up, I was super active and super skinny, and I graduated college weighing 119 lbs at 5’8. After having two kids and not exercising whatsoever for 4 years, I was an out-of-shape 174 lbs and couldn’t do a single pushup. I was “meth-addict” lean at 132 lbs with abz and some decent double unders. And, I’ve been 145 lbs, 155 lbs, and 165 lbs as a weightlifter trying my best to put more weight on the bar above all else.

Methy1Several years ago, when I first started trying to gain weight to get above that 132 lbs of methy neurosis, I jokingly started calling myself “fat” as the scale went from 132 to 145 to 155. I thought it was funny because there were so many women who wanted to look like me at 132 lbs, and for me, it was never about the number on the scale. I had “accidentally” leaned out trying to be the best at exercise and Paleo, and I mistakenly thought that I was performing well at that weight. Once I purposefully started gaining weight, anything above that 132 number became a “fat” post on Facebook. I admit that I am often the only person who finds me funny.

163Earlier this year, Nick and I wrote a new training plan for me. It’s a long term training plan that extends all the way to the 2014 American Open. And, it involves me getting fat. In short, my number one goal for the past several months was to increase my squat and not worry about bodyweight. Whether or not you think I am “good” at weightlifting, the fact was that at the end of 2012, I was an extremely efficient lifter – my max snatch and clean and jerk were very, very close to my max squat numbers, and I was still getting pinned under PR clean attempts that I could rack but not stand up.

If I wanted to get better at weightlifting, I had to get stronger.

Since I didn’t need to worry about making weight to qualify for a national meet anytime soon, we said fuck the scale. Squat and eat and squat and eat and be a superheavy lifter for a while. That’s what I did, and I achieved my short term goal of squatting over 300 lbs.

Nick thought it would be funny if I could get up to 90 kg body weight. Maybe the funnier thing was that I was willing to try. I mean, how many women do you know who would purposefully gain weight to reach 200 lbs?

179I don’t weigh 200 lbs yet, and I think it will really hurt to get there if I decide it’s in line with my goals. But, outside of pregnancy, I weigh more than I have in my life. The scale said 179.4 lbs this morning. Nick said, “You’re too skinny. You can’t be under 180.” It’s true. If I am going to do this, then I have to be all in, and 179 lbs is missing the point.

179 lbs.

Is that fat or not?

I mean, I am not talking about morbid obesity here, people. I am talking about what you think when you see someone on the street or maybe at the gym. If you saw me lifting, would your brain automatically think, “She needs to lose some weight?”

Because I honestly don’t know what you would think. I only know what I think, and I don’t have a problem with the weight on the scale or what I see in the mirror. Most importantly, the weight on the barbell is going in the right direction. I am achieving MY goals, and no matter which way my weight swings right now, it will be because of those athletic goals and nothing else.

But, am I fat or not? You tell me. And, would your answer change if you just saw a photo of me and hadn’t read this post first?

    Photos shown:

  • April 2009, 174 lbs
  • April 2010, 132 lbs
  • September 2012, 163 lbs
  • August 2013, 179 lbs

Author: Tamara Reynolds

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43 Comments

  1. When I read that you’re “fat” my brain turns to myself and remembers that I am still over 100 lbs heavier than you and I am only two inches taller. I wonder what some people think of me on sight too. I have had plenty of people say something along the lines of “I wouldn’t say you’re fat, I would say you’re big and muscular.” From my perspective, at least in regards to your “fatness,” I wouldn’t consider you big or fat. That’s mostly from training with football players, being a former thrower, and being a super heavy weightlifter. My standard of big is different than most. If you want to be 90 kgs go for it. You’re still not a real super. lol. Not until you weigh about 105. Prepare to consider meals one of your “training sessions,” and cramming into pants “active recovery.”

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    • I agree that I won’t be a real super until I weigh 105 :-). But, I am happy to share “super” status with you just because I think being like you in any way will make me more awesome. It’s funny because I was looking at your videos recently – your 195 front squat and 155 clean and jerk – and I said to Nick, “I would never say Sarah looks fat.” You don’t look fat to me. You look big and muscular and awesome, and I want to be able to do what you do.

      Honestly, I realize that part of the perception problem is that people like you and me see ourselves as athletes first. It doesn’t matter to me that I am not competing at the same level as you because I want to be the very best I can be at weightlifting, and I don’t know how good that is. Not an Olympian for sure, but it’s a lot better than what I currently am.

      If I could accomplish what you’ve accomplished, would I be willing to weigh 105 or 115 or 125? I can honestly say yes. I don’t think most women actually would say that because their goals aren’t the same.

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  2. I’m not the only one…. I’m not the only one. That’s what I keep repeating. I’ve done the amazing morphing body for years now but today not at a number ( weight) I like but it’s what I supposed to be. I’m never suppose to be skinny but lord knows in the past I tried and now looking back at those photos what at the time I thought looked awesome today I look so weak. I fit into that magic number but there is no way I could’ve squatted what I can today. Today I might not be at that stupid number I have in my head but I am a heck of a lot healthier and definitely MUCH stronger! And against all us women have been programmed to believe I am at a healthy weight and trying trying trying to be ok with it. I love weightlifting. I’ve found my passion. I’ve found the new me!

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    • I love this comment! And, I am willing to say that what I do with my weight probably isn’t “healthy” as many would define it. But, I don’t do this to be healthy. I do it to play a sport, and I want to be really, really good at it. I wasn’t healthy at 132 lbs either because I was mentally screwed up about food and I was pretty weak for that size and constantly felt like crap. My diet may be less “healthy” now as some would define it, but I feel a hell of a lot better physically and mentally.

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  3. Wow, you look fantastic now. A butt and hips are fun things to have. For myself it’s been very interesting losing weight from being chubby with paleo and then getting back up to that very same weight again while eating well and exercising. I’m the same weight, but I look very different.

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    • Thanks! I love my giant butt, haha. Yes, I can identify with that. I look much leaner now at 179 than I did at 174, and I have photos along the way that show the same thing at similar bodyweights – one looks much leaner than the other even though the weight on the scale is the same.

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  4. I think you look fan-f*cking-tastic at your current “heavy” weight. You are STRONG. You looked meth-tastic at 133.

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    • Thank you! And, yes, that period of time is fondly referred to as my “extra methy” period.

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  5. I LOVE your approach to this.
    Honestly, I think you look great at all the non-meth weights & your 179 is fanfu***ngtastic!!!
    I’m a trainer, at my heaviest weight in a long while, struggling with sugar, lifting a decent amount but nobody (openly) says they believe I’m at 176#.
    Thank you for your perspective & get after it!!!

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  6. I’m reading this while eating two sandwiches for lunch.

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  7. Re your question, I think that where you are now may be “heavy” (in terms of someone of your height and the published height/weight tables that are part of the problem, not the solution) but I sure wouldn’t call you “fat.” If that’s what 179 looks like, count me in!

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    • Yes, according to the BMI scale, I am bordering on overweight at 165 lbs, which would be the minimum I want to weigh in training if I am going to be a 75 kg lifter. The problem with BMI, as you said, is that it is part of the problem. It is meant for populations and not individuals. And, I am currently carrying more muscle mass than most women ever will.

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  8. Love, love, love this post.

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  9. Love the 162 and 179 photo. Fat? ha

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  10. Tamara, you’re beautiful!! I’d love to have that kind of power. I loved reading this post, and the comments too. Rock on ladies :).

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  11. Without wishing to be “that guy”, in all honestly if I saw you in my gym at 179 I would probably think you could stand to lose a few pounds of fat. Sorry to say it, but you did ask. The reason I would think this is that MOST women in the gym are only there because they want to look good on the beach. However! And this is a big however. Your goal is not currently aesthetic, and from what I have seen in this industry, the really strong women do carry a fair amount of fat and THAT’S FINE. They are fit and strong and achieving their goals which are entirely unrelated to physique. As soon as I saw you squatting 300 I would backtrack in my head, and fast ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • I totally get that. I will say that I think I look good at this weight. If I had to rate my priorities in terms of WHY I train: 1. Athletic goals, 2. Aesthetic goals, 3. Health. Health is way far down the line from the other two. I think in the fitness industry, people forget that not everyone is sexually attracted to a super lean woman or even a super lean man. That’s an entirely different conversation, obviously, but there are certainly many people who find me more attractive at this weight than at other weights, especially the super lean 133 lbs. I like myself with boobs and an ass if I had to choose, but all of my photos and weights reflect my goals at THAT particular time, so I’m cool with all of them for that reason.

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  12. I suppose I should chime in, huh, baby? Given that I am both her fiance and the guy coaching her, you may not be surprised to hear that I think she looks stunningly beautiful and that she’s a badass.

    The fact that she’s a fucking powerhouse is high on my list of things I love about her. ๐Ÿ˜‰ She lifts her ass off, has big goals, does what it takes to reach them, and isn’t afraid to buck convention in order make that happen.

    You’re a wonderful woman, baby girl.

    Nick

    PS. You still have 21 more pounds to go, lol.

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  13. Also a woman, I wanted to say I think in the pic at 162 you look amazing, but at 179 holy cow you have a nice badonkadonk and if you are comfortable, who really cares what I or anyone else think of your weight.

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    • Haha, thank you for the badonkadonk comment! It’s not so much that I care what anyone thinks. It’s more that I am curious as to what other people actually see when they look at me. Just like Sarah Robles wrote… do people see her as fat or as big and muscular? And, would that change if they knew she was an Olympian?

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  14. Very impressive!

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    • Thanks, Paula!

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  15. I am 5’9″ and weight 173lbs (had to get the calculator out as I weigh in kgs) I don’t consider myself fat. In part this is to do with the weights I lift (I don’t lift particularly heavy as I am still a beginner), the weights give me the confidence to know it’s not what my body looks like it’s what my body can do that’s important. If other people look at me and think I’m fat that is their problem not mine but also what other people think of me is none of my business.

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    • That’s great, Helen! You have plenty of time to find the weight that lets you perform and look the way that YOU want.

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    • I’m glad the weights are giving you confidence!

      I ask the question “Am I fat?” not because I need or want to hear the person’s answer. It’s more to have people check their own ideas about body image and training and how we’ve beeen “brainwashed” to think that certain body types are more beautiful or even more healthy than others.

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  16. I really needed to read this today. I am pretty new to crossfit, training specifically for a year, I’ve been active most of my adult life but was an overweight child. My biggest issue is the emphasis people put on my weight. I weigh 78kg or about 170lbs, apparently I need to be losing. Someone told me I need to lose 20kg if I want to be any good competitively, that would mean weighing 58kg and most definitely losing strength. My max DL is 130kg, which is a far cry from when I started, I am 1.72m tall. I become despondent when people are constantly telling me I’m fat when I train my ass off every day!! Thanks for your post!!

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    • If you look at some of the top CrossFitters in the last year or two, you have Katie Hogan, Lindsey Valenzuela, Elisabeth Akinwale and others who all weigh around 165 lbs. I honestly think the days of the 120 lb competitive CrossFit female are over, at least at the Games level. Will we have some female Speals who can still kick butt being much smaller than everyone else? Probably a few. Samantha Briggs is lighter, but even she is over 130 lbs. But, time has shown that 165 lb woman can excel at both metcons and strength if they train for it. So, depending on your goals, you might be quite good at CrossFit at just slightly under your current weight. Don’t feel pressure to lose 20 kg. Find a weight that lets you perform well, feel good and like the way you look.

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    • You’re welcome! If you look at some of the top CrossFitters like Katie Hogan, Lindsay Valenzuela and Elisabeth Akinwale, they all weigh about 75 kg. So, you might not need to be 58 kg to be competitive at CrossFit. There aren’t many Games athletes who are that light. Even Sam Briggs weighs more than that, and she is super lean and more of a “thin” body type than the women I mentioned previously.

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  17. Love the post! I’m a bit disappointed in the ‘meth-tastic’ comments though. Some women are naturally lean like that, or compete in sports whose performance favours that body type. I have a runner friend who eats like a sumo wrestler, and looks pretty much like you do in your first photo, and she isn’t a subscriber to any dietary or aesthetic ideology. So, having that very lean body type doesn’t necessarily make them slaves to conventional beauty and they shouldn’t feel bullied about how they look….Even if it is less likely they would be, given they fit so called ‘cultural beauty ideals’ more than heavier power lifters might. I know it refers to the mental and health state you were in at the time, but it’s still bashing a particular kind of physique.

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    • Except, I am not sure how referring to my super skinny self as “extra methy” is any different than referring to myself now as “the fat girl.” Am I bullying fat people and subjecting them to conventional beauty standards by referring to myself as fat? The meth comments have nothing to do with the mental and health state. My former coach and a lot of my friends and trainees refer to that as my methy period because I was simply too lean. There is such a thing as being too lean just like there is such a thing as being too fat. Among the CrossFit crowd, it is very common to see that super lean type promoted whether or not it is actually healthy, which is why so many people wanted to look like me. My body weight and body fat percentages over the past 5 years have all accurately reflected how I ate and trained at that particular point. So, I don’t have a problem with how I looked then given what I was training for at the time. I find my extra methy jokes just as funny as I find my fat jokes. If peple think I am bashing a particular physique then I must be an equal opportunity basher.

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  18. Thank you for this!!! You seriously freaking rock!! I too have played the weight game for years. I’ve been 113lbs (starvation diet, 3 hrs of cardio per day) to 225lbs. I did lose a huge chunk of weight from a strict, low carb paleo diet. I started cf/heavy lifting / oly lifting a yr ago (thankfully I have an awesome gym that focuses on strength/lifting programming more then metcon) and have been struggling with the 20lb gain in weight (sitting at 165ish?). At first, it flipped me the hell out. Now, after I threw that effing scale out, I set goals… like a 200 back squat/ 300 dl) / 100lb snatch and began fueling myself properly with LOTS of yummy food and carbs(!). Guess what?? My ass grew more, but my strength shot up like nuts and I look so much leaner then I did 20-30lbs ago. Who would of thought lol!

    My only complaint about this? Finding pants that fit both in the legs/ass, but don’t gap like a mofo at the waist! ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • Thanks, kpbella. I will say that I recently found some jeans that fit great. In the past, I had some luck with The Flirt and the Sweetheart styles at Old Navy. But, I got two pairs of Earl jeans, and they are amazing. You can often find them at TJ Maxx, Marshalls or Stein Mart.

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  19. Great post! Thanks for helping me rethink all of that crap! You look fabulous! Strength rules!

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  20. So I’ve started seeing lots of women posting very similar things about weight and what is considered “fat.” I think you look good today in your 179 photo but I also think you look amazing in your 133 photo. I really don’t understand why anyone would say anything negative about your 133 photo as you look fit and healthy. I feel that a post like this puts down girls who are thin. I am 5ft tall and weigh typically 95-102 lbs depending on the week and how many cookies I sneak. I run X5 a week and eat 1200-1600 calories a day. A post like this calling someone who is thin “methy” is mean. Girls who have a few extra pounds are offended by anything referencing their weight but are typically the first ones to call out anyone skinny assuming that they starve themselves or use uppers. I just think it’s a double standard and isn’t fair to categorize everyone who has a certain body type.

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    • So, it’s mean for me to call myself methy? Is it mean for me to call myself fat? I’m using these words to describe myself, and one of the reasons I do it is to make people stop and think. When I was super thin, no one who wanted to look like me thought twice about the fact that I was completely orthorexic and constantly sore and tired. All they focused on was my abs. I am not arguing in favor of one body type or another. I am simply asking people to think about what the number on the scale represents to them.

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  21. If I was watching you lift I would probably be too busy trying to suppress the shame of having about the same 1RM squat weighing 230 and being a dude to be too judgy about your BF%, but if I managed to get over myself knowing what I know (Blog & SS Forums) I would likely assume that you were bulking to gain some muscle and eventually planning to lean out. I personally think that you BF levels @ 162 have you looking what I imagine would be an athletic ideal for you. I think the number on the scale is kind of irrelevant and ultimately being useful outweighs (pun intended) one’s appearance. Your certainly not obese or even fat. Maybe think would be a good description….and not any kind of insult.

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  22. I just wanted to add that I hope you don’t cave in to the shaming accusations. I totally get the fat girl motivation (and think it probably is helpful) and the fact is that, while there may be a lot of women who are naturally THIN like your methy pics, there are ver, very few who have abz like that without some obsessions that could compete with being a meth head.

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