During this last semester, I have been in a quandary. I visited the doctor the day after I returned to Biola to get a physical. I could tell you a riveting narrative of my visits to the doctor’s office over the following weeks, but at this moment it seems pointless to put words to the paper that have no purpose in hasting the conclusion of this post.
So long story short, I was found to be in good health except for my blood pressure. Well, my blood pressure and weight- the doctor told me that it was my weight and weight lifting that was causing my high blood pressure. The doctor prescribe me some medication and told me I had to lose weight, start doing cardio, change my diet and stop lifting weights.
I was quite angry, to say the least. I was fine with doing cardio and curbing my diet to lose weight but the prescription for medication and telling me that I must give up lifting weights is what angered me. He was asking me to give up an activity that I enjoy immensely, so much so that I block out time in the week to go to the gym, no matter the course load. I have written about how weightlifting is a way I deal with stress. He was asking me to give up something that was more or less a large part of my identity.
So I did what he asked: I started taking the medication, I cut back on the amount of food I took in, I started doing the prescribed cardio work, and I ceased lifting weights. No squats, no deadlifts, no overhead press, not even bicep curls. For the next few weeks I did not step into the weight room and took the time set aside for weights to be put into cycling. People asked me what I was doing and I was ashamed to admit that I had to give up weightlifting because of such a condition. Deep down I felt like a part of my identity was being denied me- I was thrown into a funk.
In the first week I lost eight pounds. That was cool.
This was in part to the medication. It forced my body to shed a bunch of water weight. I started carefully tracking my intake, shooting for 2200 calories a day; down from the ~3000 I was shooting for in the fall. There were positive effects of the weight lost. I was feeling more energetic. I was sleeping better at night. I was not profusely sweating with any little exertion, such as walking to class. But still I was in a funk
After a few weeks of not being in the weight room, I decided to start lifting again. The doctor had restricted it because lifting at maximal weights caused high inter-abdominal pressure which negatively effect blood pressure. I started to work in the 40%- 55% range of maxes with higher reps. I took things slow and modified the program to be less “pressure creating.”
However, I went to test my maxes, to see how far I could go- I failed out of a 455 squat and more than 5 reps with 405 seemed impossible- when at the end of December 2014, these were numbers I could confidently walk into the gym at any day and put up. This was extremely disheartening. I had lose something that made me who I am, what people knew me for.
I was questioning if this was worth it, losing the weight. In losing the body weight, I lost something I had worked for so hard- these numbers. I had put so much time and effort in hitting these milestones. I was forced to confront the reality of where I found my identity. Was it in my strength? Was it in my physical appearance? Was it in my body image? I knew in mind mind that none of these things would bring me lasting satisfaction, no matter how much I enjoyed the pursuit of strength.
I was reminded as I was attending a midday prayer chapel at which we recite form prayers. Part of the prayer is a reminder of where Christians ought to find their identity. It is not in the roles that they have, their success or failures, or the labels people put on them. It is in Christ- the core of my identity is found in Christ alone not in my activities or roles. This reminder was extremely freeing, the weight I felt from believing that I did need to be known by my deeds was gone.
To date, I have lost about 20 pounds in about 12 weeks. I am not really checking the scale anymore; but when I do, it to make sure I did jump up or down five pounds. I have maintained a level of cardio and I am working to add volume at a moderate weight for my lifts. I am preparing for a summer at camp.
People have noticed and acknowledged the change and I see a change in my physical appearance. I went on to select a pair of dress pants to wear for a presentation- 4 of my newest pairs were two inches to large in the waist- I had to pull out a pair of kakis that I had not worn in 4 years. So I have lost weight and lost strength. I miss being able to walk in the weight room and being comfortable under the weights I was under 3 months ago, but it feels good to wake up without the unrelenting creakiness. I cannot allow my body image or physical ability be the core of my identity- that must be found in Christ as a new creation, but this does not deny that my physical appearance and physical appearance is apart of who I am.