Today I wanted to address the number one concern women exhibit when facing if they should lift or not… the concern of “getting too bulky”.
“I want to lose weight, and get results, but I don’t want to get too bulky…” How often have you heard that phrase, said that phrase, or thought that phrase? I’ll be the first one to admit I still hear that phrase, say that phrase, and think that phrase. I’ve even cried over not feeling feminine enough… and I’ve even sworn up and down Id never do a bikini competition because Id be afraid Id get “too big”. I also have felt insecure about my body, thinking my muscles made me look fat. I admit this to you because I want you all to know 1) its a totally normal concern to have and 2) I actually have a different opinion than most articles trying to de-myth that women can even get bulky in the first place and I explain it all below.
Here I’ll say it… YES you can reach a point where you feel “too muscular” GASP! The light bulb has recently gone off for me. I’ve now been a fitness professional for almost 8 years and since a young age have had a very muscular frame. So even from my youth, I not only worried about body fat, I also worried about “too big” of muscles. I grew up playing soccer, so my quads were naturally larger than most of my friends and crossing my legs was a bit of a challenge… forget about ever having a thigh gap.
My leanest time in life was after losing 40 lbs through diet. I was pretty tiny and can catch myself going back to those photos, making a game plan on what I need to do to possibly get back there. But upon reflection, I realize I didn’t lift weights AT ALL so the loss was all cardio based. I was pretty thin, tiny actually, but so were my muscles… my muscles would have to SHRINK for me to get back to that place. Id need to deliberately atrophy them. While that sounds ludicrous, my instinct is to crave a thin, smaller frame and wish I looked smaller than I do now. I can blame this on magazines, movies, the fashion industry, the popular girls… what have you, but my light bulb going off has been accumulating up unto this point… I finally thought, and am pledging to advocate that, “I’m in charge about how I feel about my body (no one else)… I love that I can do 100’s of push ups, lead a variety of fitness classes, prohibit injuries I used to suffer from, and am able to help carry heavy things in the case of favors OR emergencies… SO why do I cringe when my back muscles pop out of a size small? This ends NOW! You’re not a little girl who talks herself down. You’re a beautiful WOMAN that holds her head high”
If you have conversations like this with others, your girlfriends… guys who don’t like women who “look like” men, fellow fitness professionals, after reading magazines, trying different workouts, etc… then YOURE NORMAL! And YES your muscles can and will grow! And YES you may think that “youre too bulky” …. not because everyones lying to you… its because BULKY is subjective. If you’re naturally stockier and muscle grows a bit more readily than say your leaner, longer (normally taller) friends, than you can probably bet on this concern popping up. Im not saying you should want that. Im also not saying you shouldn’t. Im addressing that its a normal feeling and that its all up to YOU to create the proper MINDSET around it.
This is a perfect case of wanting our cake and eating it too. Here’s what I mean… I can’t want to be incredibly strong and then get mad when leggings fit me better than skinny jeans. I can’t want my muscles to flex when I teach but then get mad if a vein pops out in a Facebook photo. I also cant be thrilled when my joints don’t hurt anymore because they’re properly supported, but then get angry my weight is 10 pounds more than when I was my thinnest.
Do you catch my drift? Here is what I propose… know your WHY behind doing things. Heres mine: The types of workouts I do (interval training, weight lifting, cardio AND weights) helps me become STRONGER… and why do I like to be strong? Professionally, I’m able to do more as a fitness instructor and coach, physically it supports my body in a way that feels good…NOT BAD, and mentally … well I get a heck of an endorphin high when I push my body through these workouts, and it honestly makes me a better person.
I realize ANY body type can be shamed. Whether thats overweight, too bulky, too skinny, too tall, too short, etc, etc and the only reason we may try to be any different is that we are shaming them ourselves. Whatever anyone else says to you or whatever you read… youve got to believe it to start thinking that way (even if its just the tiniest agreeance). My suggestion is to know yourself SO WELL, and love yourself SO MUCH, that you have the faith to know you were made the way you were made because its beautiful… and on purpose, not because you need to manipulate your clothes or workouts or photoshop to contort your body unnaturally.
Clearly we all have goals. And my profession lends itself to helping others with that, as well as always working on it myself. Im not addressing that… what I want to address is that if you are wanting to become stronger, for example, OWN the side effects. Your muscles will grow… its up to you to love it. Let me ask you this… if you lifted for 6 months and ended up increasing your dress size, but also became a stronger, more confident, more empowered individual… would being “bulky” even be a concern anymore? Id bet money that if you take the time and reflect, it’d be a heck of lot smaller of a concern than before.
While I realize this can be easier said than done.. here are some tips if you’re finding yourself on a similar journey towards muscle “to be or not to be.”
Tips for LOVING those muscles and being comfortable in your skin:
-Buy larger clothes and even consider getting them tailored. Your waist may be shrinking but your shoulders and glutes are growing- highlight THAT, don’t drown it and don’t suffocate it. Clothes can and will do both.
-Know HOW they came about- if you’re not in love with them stop doing the workouts that grow them, if you LOVE the workouts… rationally realize this is a side effect. You can always tailor your workouts to step it back, or step it up. But shaming your body is no way to get any closer to the physique you want.
-Know that “fat” or “too bulky” or “skinny’ ISNT A FEELING. Its a description thats subjective. Everyone can have an opinion about what constitutes as what, my goal for myself and everyone is to feel content/happy/bliss in their own skin, whatever that looks like.
-Look up other heros… instead of being strong and then looking at the girls on the red carpet who self admit that they haven’t eaten all week…look at the last set of Olympians. Did they win a Gold medal for their sport? Chances are your body’s going to need muscles for that type of achievement.
Write down the PROS of what comes along with larger muscles. Like I mentioned, there’s a ton of em… have that list and work on GRATITUDE over attitude. Do those legs help you walk? Removing yourself from what you want to look like and transitioning to what your body is capable of doing can really make a difference. Being thankful works like a charm…every time. I hope this breakdown helps you! I know hashing out these thoughts and tips keeps me on the path towards gratitude, self acceptance, and continuing to kick my own and other’s butt with the workouts we love. Heres to muscles, even if someone think’s they’re too bulky, at the end of the day, its your opinion that matters most.