5 Rude, Nasty, and Downright Horrifying Side Effects of Fat Loss

 

Thursday morning. I should have been at work but instead I was sitting in a room full of braless women in pink scrubs, fighting the urge to jump up and run away…except that I was braless and wearing pink scrubs too, and jumping or running without a bra in my world is absolutely out of the question. Hell, I wasn’t even about to stand up or move unless I had to. Besides, if I were to cut and run, the lump in my breast would come with me – best to just stay where I was and go through with getting it checked.

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I found the lump a couple of months ago. I tried to ignore it at first – sticking my head in the sand seemed like a good solution at the time – plus, you know, I thought it was only fair to give it a chance to go away on its own. Besides, I know the statistics: 9 times out of 10 breast lumps are nothing to worry about, so I tried really hard not to stress over it. Still, there was that niggly little whisper of doubt in the back of my mind: what if it IS something to worry about? Finally, after one panicked and sleepless night I went and saw my family doctor, and a week later here I was in the breast centre, wearing pink scrubs.

I spent the morning getting squashed in various directions (and holy crap can my boobs ever cover a shocking amount of surface area when they are squashed to roughly 2cm thick; it took half of my willpower to not cry from the pain and indignity of it all, and the other half of my willpower not giggle hysterically at how ridiculous they looked), and then laying on a table staring up at the Thomas Kincade poster on the ceiling, trying to pretend I was somewhere else while the doctor poked and prodded and ultrasounded. Finally she spoke. “Have you lost a significant amount of weight recently? Like, more than twenty pounds?” I answered yes, I had lost thirty or so pounds in the last six(ish) months. She went on to explain that women who lose a significant amount of fat have a tendency to develop lumps in their breast tissue – fat loss doesn’t happen in a uniform kind of way and the tissue can bunch up. “But it’s always the right thing to come get it checked out,” she said. “We don’t need to do a biopsy. You’re free to get dressed and go.”

Wait, WHAT?? Fat loss can cause breast lumps? I left the breast centre in a fog, partially due to euphoria that I was still healthy (I didn’t quite realize how much stress I had been carrying around for months over this until it was gone), but also because I’ve been a personal trainer for twelve years. I read voraciously, I stay on top of the research, and I do four times the required amount of continuing education every year. I have gained and lost HUNDREDS of pounds myself. Seriously HOW had I not heard about this before?

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So, although you guys all know more about my boobs now than I am 100% comfortable with, I thought that the only thing to do with this little piece of information was to pass it on. I *probably* would have felt better if I knew that lump formation was a normal, although horrifying, side effect of fat loss. (Note: I still would have gotten it checked. ALWAYS GET LUMPS CHECKED.)  And don’t get me wrong – it’s not a deterrent by any stretch; losing excess fat is worth the effort, even if it has some unsavoury side effects.

Spurred on by the sting of indignation over never having heard of this “fairly common” thing that happens, I set out to compile a list of all the shitty, nasty, and rude side effects of fat loss that I, my friends, colleagues, and clients who have lost fat would have preferred to know about in advance. Because forewarned is forearmed. Because the only thing worse than experiencing a shitty side effect is getting surprised by a shitty side effect. And because I’ve got your backs, homies – this coach is gonna give you the whole story even if it stinks a little bit. Without further ado…

Food that used to be your friend won’t be your friend anymore.

While on the surface this might seem like a good thing – it’ll help you with the fat loss effort rather than hurt you – it can make for some uncomfortable situations. Picture this: you’ve had the worst day ever. You’ve had a fight with your significant other, you aren’t getting along with your co-workers, and you just need some downtime with a plate of cookies and you know you’ll feel better. Right?

Wrong. One of two things will happen here. Best case scenario is that you’ll take a bite of one cookie and it just won’t taste that good, you’ll realize that eating that plate of cookies won’t make you feel better, and then…then you’ll have to find another way to deal with the bad feelings. Not fun necessarily but an opportunity for growth. Worst case scenario? You’ll eat that plate of cookies, feel sick, and then hate yourself. You’ll feel betrayed by those cookies – they used to be there for you, the fuckers! And now everything is worse because you have guilt to add to that delicious cocktail of bad feelings.

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If you are accustomed to chasing bad feelings away by throwing brownies or potato chips or pizza at them but you’re trying to drop some fat, you will need a new strategy. Besides which, did eating those feels away really help? Really? Of course not, food is just food; it doesn’t have the power to change your situation. All it can do is distract you from solving the problem for a little while. So before the next crisis situation hits, let’s talk about how to deal.

  1. Don’t keep junk in the house. The other night I was dealing with PMS cravings that made me feel ready to murder someone for a cupcake. I was already in my pajamas and too lazy to leave the house to hunt down that cupcake (or cookies or brownies or cake or whatever, bring me all the sugar!! ROAR!) and, you guessed it, there was no real junk food to be had in my house, so you know what I ended up eating? Air-popped popcorn with chili-lime seasoning. SO unsatisfying, yes, but no guilt later and no stomachache.
  2. Get the hell out of the house. I know, all you want to do is climb into bed with a tube of pringles, but trust me, you want to put some physical distance between you and those pringles. Also just going for a walk will help you clear your head, and the endorphins released will help that crisis situation feel less like the end of the world.
  3. Practice feeling shitty. That’s right – hang out with those bad feels for a while without eating them away. Give yourself 30 minutes to wallow – cry, curl up in a fetal position, write in a journal, call a friend, whatever. Feeling bad sometimes is inevitable, it happens to everyone, and the sooner you develop some coping skills without narcotizing yourself the better off you’ll be. (It should go without saying here that if you are down for days or weeks at a time you need to reach out for some help.)

PEOPLE that used to be your friends won’t be your friends anymore

You know the story about the crabs in the bucket, right?

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One of the crappiest aspects of losing weight and changing your life for the better is that you may find that some of your friends or family are just crabs in people suits. They are unhappy with their own lives and they don’t want to see you be happy with yours…because how dare you imagine that life could be better when they’re stuck in victim mode? And then you have the gall to show them it’s possible to get yourself out of that bucket?

See where I’m going with this? Their changed treatment of you has nothing whatsoever to do with you and everything to do with them – all you are doing is holding up a mirror. You could offer them a hand up…but chances are they’d just use it to try and pull you back down again. If they can’t be happy for you then fuck’em. Let them go. Surround yourself with people who will be genuinely supportive and happy for you.

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Extra Skin

At this point we’ve probably all seen enough weight loss reality shows that we know that skin doesn’t always do what it’s supposed to and snap back into place when we lose weight, right?

I could do a whole post on this issue alone but for brevity’s sake: saggy skin can happen after weight loss, especially if the weight loss happens quickly. It doesn’t happen to everybody. If it happens to you, be patient with yourself – it can take your body some time to catch up with the new normal and it might get better. For some people it doesn’t, and the skin stays stretched out – if that sounds like you and it’s something that you can’t live with, surgery is an option.

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Depression

So you’ve taken all these steps to change your life for the better. You’ve worked hard – maybe harder than you ever have – toward changing your body, and you’ve been successful. But you don’t feel better about yourself…in fact, maybe you feel worse. Depression that sets in after weight loss is super common: you aren’t the same person that you were. Your chief coping method is no longer available. Maybe you’ve lost friends. Your new body may not look like you thought. Above all, you are still you, and if you weren’t okay with yourself before you lost weight, it might come as a crushing disappointment that losing weight didn’t help you like yourself more.

This is all normal, and you are not alone. Be patient with yourself; you have to grieve for the old life that’s gone – that is part of the process. BUT here comes the PSA: PLEASE reach out for help. If you know anyone who has gone through weight loss themselves, ask them about it. And if you’ve been really down for more than a couple of weeks, see your doctor.

Do it Anyway!

Here’s hoping I haven’t scared you away from the fat loss train. Like I said earlier, I (and all the people I asked about this) would have preferred to know that the negative aspects above were possibilities, but the benefits outweigh the risks tenfold.

Did I miss anything? Did I make your day? Ruin your day? Tell me about it – I’m always listening.

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Musings about The Ugly Truth

This morning I read something that hit me right in the feels so hard that it brought me back to the place where I wrote the piece below, and I was inspired to skip the post I had planned for today and re-post this instead. The crazy thing about it is that I wrote it in 2014; not that long ago…and a few months after I wrote it  I gave up; I decided to pack it all in and find something else to do because being overweight and being successful as a trainer seemed mutually exclusive.

I stumbled along for another year doing this and that to make ends meet, and then I decided to give it one more shot. I surrounded myself with people who were supportive no matter how I looked, I found my self-respect again (thanks largely – no pun intended, ha ha – to powerlifting) and got my health and my career back on track. Actually, back on track but better than ever, because I learned some stuff in the process. More on that later.

June 22, 2014

The Ugly Truth

So this morning I got on the scale and saw a number I haven’t seen in a long time. Like, we’re talking ‘previous life before kids, before exercise, before MARRIAGE’ kind of long. If I’m honest I kinda knew what was coming. I’ve been feeling shitty about myself for a long time. I dread getting dressed in the morning because my clothes don’t fit. I don’t go to places where I’ll see people I know because I know what they’re going to think. I don’t market my personal training business – the career that I love – because clearly I’m a fraud. I don’t let my husband touch me because I can’t possibly be deserving of affection.

I knew it was coming. But that didn’t make it sting any less.

So how did I handle it?

Well, first I crawled into bed and cried. Then I took a deep breath, stood up, and decided that it’s time to disappear off the face of the earth. Time to give up on my career in fitness and get a menial job (ideally one where I’ll never run into anyone I know), delete my personal and professional Facebook pages, take down my website and my blog. Time to give up on trying to make myself better, time to buy some bigger clothes and quit hoping my existing wardrobe will fit again one day.

I decided to get on all that stuff as soon as I dropped my kid off at her scheduled play date. Which was good because I could stop at the bakery on the way home and pick up some delicious blobs of sugary white flour to help make the pain go away. Fuck it all. Fuck trying. Fuck the everyday struggle of trying to be something I’m not. This is who I am: I am a fat person and I cannot be anything else.

Except that today is Sunday and when I got to the bakery it was closed.

Okay, I thought. I’ll go to the grocery store and get junk food. But then, as I sat in the bakery parking lot, it occurred to me that the other option was to do the brave thing and NOT hide from the whole world. I could do the opposite and put it all out there: the shame, the uncertainty, the feelings of inadequacy…and just maybe, I could use my experience to help someone else get through this too. That’s why I became a personal trainer in the first place, right? Because I know firsthand how this feels? So what am I doing here a second time??

I sat in the parking lot of the Bonton bakery for a while. I don’t remember how long. Wearing my husband’s biggest sweats even though it was 22 degrees outside. I decided to do the right thing and find the courage to put all this out there. Maybe I’ll help someone struggling with the same problem. Maybe I’ll change the way someone thinks about fat people. Maybe I won’t do any good at all, but that doesn’t matter as long as I try.

So here it is: I have 75lbs to lose. I don’t know if I have the strength in me to tackle this again and honestly it feels pretty overwhelming at this point. But like it or not, if I don’t do something about it I’ll be setting a bad example for my daughters. I’ll have to find a new career. And if I don’t find some peace with myself I’m afraid of what will happen…so I will find my sense of humour, my spine, and dammit I will take my big girl pants OFF so that I can start enjoying life again.

Learn to Deadlift Workshop

 

GET STRONG IN 2017 Part 2 is coming! Next Saturday I’m workshopping the deadlift, so whether you are just getting started with lifting or you’ve been strength training for a while but haven’t quite figured out the deadlift yet, this workshop is for you. We’ll work on setting up and executing various deadlift patterns, troubleshooting your form if you hit a snag, and accessory lifts to boost your deadlift performance. The Learn to Squat workshop filled up quickly so email me early to reserve your spot!

hannahbgray@gmail.com

 

Three No-bullshit Ways to Keep Your Health and Fitness Resolutions

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Whoohoo, it’s clean slate time! I love the idea of having a fresh new year to write on – at this time of year it seems like anything is possible. And with that idea in mind and credit cards in hand, lots of people are going to walk through the gym doors this week, cheeks aglow with optimism, thinking that this, THIS is the year that everything will change. Gonna get healthy and lose weight and put on muscle and get ripped and jacked and so freakin’ sexy that nobody will be able to stand it!! And it’s gonna happen by, like, April!

Maybe that will happen for some of them. I hope it does, really I do. But for most of those people, it won’t. Most of them will be done with this whole getting-fit-and-healthy idea by Blue Monday, and the gym will be mostly empty again except for the people that have showed up there every damn day for years. Statistics show that roughly 47% of New Years’ resolutions concern improved health and fitness…and 8% of resolutionaries are successful at following through with them.

Why on earth does this keep happening? Clearly as an industry we are dropping the ball. A lot of balls. It’s easy to see where it’s happening, too, which is maddening as hell because professionals in the fitness industry are supposed to be helping people make their lives better. The thing is, the vast majority of fitness pros I know care deeply about seeing their clients succeed over the long term. We aren’t into snake oil or magic pills or detoxes; most of us know very well that there is no quick fix, that damage from an unhealthy lifestyle that took years to develop is going to take more than a couple of months to undo. Yes, ten different fitness pros will have ten different road maps to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’. But that doesn’t matter, because the real problem is this:

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The market is freaking saturated with quick and easy bullshit fixes. A lot of them are insanely expensive. Sure, they’ll work great over the short term – if you can muscle through that seven day juice fast or twenty one days to a reset metabolism you’ll see some pretty crazy results…but I promise it will not be fun and as soon as you go back to “normal” those results will be gone faster than the wrinkles between Doctor Oz’s eyebrows.

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Okay, so what do you do if you’ve made health-related resolutions that you would like to keep? Don’t worry; I’ve got you covered. Here’s what I wish someone would have told me when I jumped down the fitness mole-hole – it would have saved me a lot of time and heartache (or heartburn – take your pick!)

  1. Start where you’re at. Be brutally honest with yourself – if you haven’t been exercising, do you think you’re ready for any program with the word X-treme in the title? I’m thinking not. Start with a workout plan that is on the easier side of doable; you may be surprised at how sore you are tomorrow. I had a conversation once with someone outside the gym, who asked me how I manage to train consistently…then without waiting for an answer he told me about how he really wants to be consistent about working out, but every time he goes to the gym he ends up so sore he misses school and work, and when the pain finally dissipates after a week or so, it takes another week to gather up the courage to go again. If this sounds like you, it may serve your long-term goals better to dial it back and do something that will leave you eling good. You know, excited to get back and do it again, even.mjaxmy0ynzezztzlodnlnzu1mmzl
  2. Adjust your expectations. Storytime: many years ago I had a client who joined the gym in the first week of January to lose weight and get fit. Kathy* was a mortgage broker who worked from home. She was a little overweight, the bulk of her diet consisted of gummi bears and coffee, and most days she didn’t get out of her pajamas. At 48 years old she was starting to notice that she was having trouble getting in and out of her desk chair. She had moved the cans of soup in her kitchen to the counter because she didn’t have the strength to lift them out of the cupboard. We had a very frank discussion on her first day about where she was starting from and how getting fit and strong was going to be a long process for her given that she was too weak to tackle what most people would consider normal daily activities. Two weeks later, she was walking tall, carrying a 5lb dumbell down the length of the gym – I couldn’t have been happier; she was making it happen! When I expressed how amazed I was at her progress, her eyes hardened. “That’s great, but when am I actually going to see some results?” I was flabbergasted; this was her sixth workout. I reminded her of our conversation only two weeks – fourteen days! – ago where we talked about what results she could expect to see. She grudgingly accepted what I had to say. Another week went by where, in every session, she mentioned that she wasn’t getting any results and the workouts weren’t doing any good. After nine workouts (total) she stopped showing up and I never heard from her again. So, coaching fail on my part – obviously I didn’t effectively communicate with her and the two of us had very different ideas about what the words “long process” and “results” meant – but she was also clinging to some pretty unrealistic expectations regarding how her body was going to change. Now, Kathy was an extreme case, but almost daily I have a conversation with someone who wants to see better results, like yesterday. Here’s the thing, and this is your coach giving you some tough love here: strength and fitness is a blue-collar pursuit. You have to put in the hours. You have to eat mostly well, most of the time. There is no fast track to success. Anyone who tries to sell you on fast results is lying through their teeth and setting you up for failure over the long term – because the ONLY way you will see great results that you can maintain forever is by making little changes to your habits that will stick. FOREVER. This is your new normal. Are you ready for some good news? The good news is, it’s worth the effort. I promise – pinky swear with a cherry on top, that it’s SO worth it. YOU are worth it.funny-animals-exercising-5-383x500
  3. Be patient and progress at your own rate. Yup, there are indeed lots of people on Instagram who are progressing faster than you. There are also lots of people who are not posting belfies on Instagram because they are feeling disillusioned with their progress (or lack thereof). But you know what? Fuck all of them; they don’t matter. What matters is this: are you building habits that you can maintain forever? Are you showing up regularly to get exercise? (At this point I don’t even care what kind of exercise you’re getting as long as you’re moving.) Are you getting better at being consistent? If you answered ‘yes’ to all three of those questions, you are moving in the right direction. Now, say you’ve been doing that for two or three months and you want to take it up a notch. I’m not going to be the one to tell you to go for it or not (unless of course you’re someone I know pretty well), but I’d urge you to take a close look at why you are wanting to put the pedal to the metal. I have conversations to this effect with my own coaching clients all the time, but to illustrate this point I’m going to use myself as an example: I work with a trainer myself, every week.  Not because I need someone to push me to work harder, but because I need someone (who knows me well and wants to see me progress) to tell me to chill out and just keep being consistent which he is wont to do just about every time I see him.  Which is why we all need a trainer, or an instructor, or a workout buddy, SOMEONE who is willing to be the voice of reason when madness sets in and you feel like you need to work harder, be more, get there faster. If you’re like me and have impatient, type ‘A’ tendencies, those urges just lead to injury and illness. Trust the process and keep showing up. You’ll get there.

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In a nutshell, the one most important thing to do to keep your getting fit/healthy/strong resolution is keep showing up. It’s definitely not the quick fix that it’s easy to get sucked into, but it will work…and it won’t let you down over the long term. And if you need a boost, message me! I’m always in your corner.

Learn to Squat Workshop

 


Hi all, I’m running a Get Strong in 2017 Series on the three big lifts (squat, deadlift, and bench press) this month, as well as one workshop on doing your first powerlifting meet. Come learn how to execute the lifts, how to troubleshoot if you hit a roadblock, and how to program and use accessory lifts to help your performance.

These workshops are free for everyone but space is limited, so email me to reserve your spot at hannahbgray@gmail.com.

The Learn to Squat Workshop will be Saturday, January 7th at 10am at World Health Glenora, 10720 142st, Edmonton, AB. Hope to see you there!

Happy New Year!

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You know what’s weird? My peepers flew open at 5am today, just like every day (I totally didn’t make it to midnight last night. Actually I didn’t make it to 10pm. Don’t judge me.) and I kind of expected today to feel different than other days. You know, because it’s New Year’s Day and all, and perception is king where that kind of stuff is concerned. I am a big fan of New Year’s Day usually; I love the idea of having a fresh new year to write on. 2017 is one that I’ve been looking forward to for a while, so I’m a little surprised that it’s here and it feels…the same as yesterday. Oh well. I’m not a superstitious person and I know that the idea of New Year’s Day is arbitrary, so moving on: so what if it doesn’t feel all new and sparkly? I’m still gonna make some big things happen this year.

Anyway, hello 2017, nice to meet you finally. I’m going to wax a little self-indulgent here but stick with me for a few minutes. 2017 is special to me because this is the year I will turn 40. FORTY. I used to think forty meant old-ish. Middle-aged. Kinda frumpy, maybe. And yet here I am at the doorstep of turning 40 and I’m definitely not feeling old – I’m still getting better, getting stronger, feeling more comfortable being me than I ever have. My forties are going to be GREAT, and damned if I’m not spending this whole freaking year celebrating. Oh yes I am.

If I look back on each decade of my adult life so far and the defining moments that punctuate them, here’s what I see:

Twenties

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My husband (who was my boyfriend at the time) got me a card for my 20th birthday that had a Doonesbury cartoon of a funeral on the front that said, “We are gathered here today to mourn the passing of our youth.” I thought my life was over – that I had failed, missed the train. I wasn’t a superstar yet and I figured that was it for me – what a drama queen! Ha ha.

At twenty-one I got married. Worked in various retail management jobs. Raged against life. Felt lost. Didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do. I grew obese and weak. I knew it, but didn’t want to face it – kept thinking that at the next big milestone I’d do something about it.

Twenty-five: joined Weight Watchers. Decided to go back to school and study music – this time I was going the whole way: masters’ degree and symphony orchestra job. Instead, I got pregnant.

Twenty-six: became a mom. Didn’t sleep for more than an hour at a time for probably the entire year. I don’t remember much about that phase of life…but something about parenthood forces you to get your shit together pretty fast – we paid off our student loans and bought a house.

Twenty-seven: pregnant again. Baby #2.

Twenty-eight: Turning point! Figured some stuff out – taught myself how to train, lost just over 100lbs, did five triathlons, became a group fitness instructor, went back to school to be a trainer.

Thirties

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I figured I had my shit sorted out at this point. I knew what I wanted to do and thought I knew how to do it.

Thirty: went back into the work force as a personal trainer in a commercial gym. Given my history as a nerdy overweight girl, I couldn’t even keep a straight face when I told people I was doing. It was awesome.

Thirty-four: Took Precision Nutrition’s coaching program, and PN’s professional certification. Life took a sharp sideways turn – something in my body went funky but couldn’t identify what was wrong. First bout of real depression.

Thirty-six: Darkness. Fell apart in all directions. Gained sixty pounds. Crushing disappointment in myself. Crazy amounts of stress from extended family issues. Serious clinical depression. Body funkiness finally diagnosed accurately: benign but active pituitary tumour. Tried to start treatment but stopped because of nasty side effects. In spite of all this I managed to complete four Spartan races and brought home the Spartan trifecta medal for completing all three obstacle race distances in one season. Got my first tattoo to celebrate surviving that year.

Thirty-seven: Quit my job to be self-employed. I was surprised to find that I didn’t really like it. Took a position at a smaller personal training studio and learned some tough lessons about life. Started treatment for pituitary tumour again and saw it through this time. Discovered powerlifting as a band-aid solution to training while I fought my way through side effects of medication, and totally fell in love with it. Found joy in playing music again.

Thirty-eight: Went back to my job in the gym. Made a conscious decision to stop hating myself. Stopped taking anti-depressants. Did my first powerlifting meet and got hooked. The sun came out again and life got exponentially better.

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And now here come my forties. I definitely do not have my shit sorted out and I don’t feel one bit bad about it; life is a fluid process and hopefully the learning never stops. I have no regrets – every loss, every mistake, every roadblock taught me something valuable. My strong, smart, amazing daughters are growing more independent at kind of an alarming rate and I have clear ideas about what I want to accomplish this year: gonna lift up lots of heavy stuff, write, coach, train, and always keep growing, getting better, and giving back. Here’s to a great 2017, guys!

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