As a woman, the thought of eating to intentionally gain weight or size had always been a demonized concept to me. In a world that seems to define femininity as this concept of petite, under-fed, under-muscled women, why in the hell would you ever WANT to gain weight? So after my first bodybuilding competition last July, the feedback I was given was the very concept I had never comfortably considered. I had to GROW.
Most people think about growing in a very negative way: you eat until you’re sick and gain a bunch of fat. WRONG.
While it’s entirely true that some people have rushed into bulk without gradually increasing calories resulting in a quick amount of weight gained in a very short period of time, this is not the only method for bulking. Thankfully I have been fortunate enough to work with a coach whose approach to bulking was centred around slow and steady in order to not only preserve physical well being but also mental health.
We started by taking the calories I was eating post-show and adding an additional 250 calories to that. We held here for about 4-6 weeks giving my body, mind and lifestyle time to adjust to the increase in food. From there we increased another 200-300 calories and held at this new intake point. This process has repeated itself for the past 8 months, starting at 1500 calories per day and working up to about 3500 calories per day!! During that time, we paid attention to how I was feeling overall.
How was my hunger? How was my digestion? How was my energy? I learned how to listen to my body and adjust based on those signals.
During this process my sleep improved drastically, my energy increased and was more consistent throughout the day, my menstrual cycle returned and became a regular cycle again, my moods improved and my anxiety lowered significantly. My cravings diminished to almost nothing and I no longer felt controlled by food. What could I eat? Oh, I shouldn’t eat that.. or not be able to eat out.
Food, simply put has become fuel.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Did I gain weight?
Absolutely I did! Over the course of the past 8 months, I’ve gained about 25 lbs, about 1.25 lbs per week. While my body has changed, I have not only felt immensely better than when I was shredded but I have also been given the opportunity to learn how to separate my identity from the way that my body looked. I’ve had to learn to love this fuller, curvy figure and hold space for myself when I wasn’t feeling so hot about the process.
While this started out as a process to grow for a sport, I have gained so much more from the experience physically, mentally and emotionally. I highly recommend a bulk or better yet ‘GROWTH PHASE’ to anyone willing to try it. Because it really is an opportunity to grow and get to know your body. Our bodies deserved to be fuelled and nourished in a world that keeps us so deprived.
WRITTEN BY ASHLEY HOLDEN