Before this awesome little community, before the team and before helping hundreds of women lose weight, I was losing weight myself.
For over seven years, I studied my own weight loss on a daily basis. I knew exactly how much I lost overnight, how much I’d gain by eating out, what I needed to eat to make weight, and how to hit a weigh in down to the tenth of a pound.
I wasn’t living in some bizarre world (actually, scratch that, I definitely was). I was a lightweight rower, which meant I stepped on a scale two hours before every single race. If I weighed too much, my team was disqualified.
With that kind of pressure and over 200 race weigh-ins spanning the 15 years from high school to collegiate championships, to World Championships and the Olympics, you kinda get the hang of the whole weight loss thing.
It's actually why I went into personal training and Weight Loss Coaching in the first place; I already had many of the skills, so the transition was seamless.
First: the basics.
How much did I have to weigh?
In high school and college, each athlete had to weigh 130 lbs, but in elite (international) competition, my teammates and I had to average 125 lbs with no one going over 130 lbs.
If it’s a two person boat, that means your weight and your partner’s weight had to average 125 pounds. In a four person boat, things get even more interesting. You can imagine the conversations if someone weighed in a little too heavy!
Typically, you and your teammate(s) decide on target weights ahead of time. For the two years leading up to the Olympics, my target weight was 121.6 lbs and my partner’s target was 128.2. In the years that followed, I was at 121.0.
We were incentivized to weigh in as close to our target as possible. If you weighed in too light, even by a few tenths of a pound, you were giving your competition an edge because you could've had a little more muscle on you or eaten something before the weigh in to better fuel yourself. If you weighed in too heavy, your entire team was disqualified. This never happened to me, but I saw it happen to my competitors.
In a sport that often comes down to tenths or hundredths of seconds, weigh ins were a critical part of the competition.
How much did I have to lose?
Up to 8 pounds.
That might not sound like a lot, but I was already working out 20+ hours per week and eating really well, so to get down from there meant tweaking and dialing in habits rather than making a wholesale change.
When would I weigh in for a race?
The weigh in window opened exactly two hours before the start of the race and closed exactly one hour before the start of the race.
So if you had a 10:26 am race, the officials would start calling you up to the scale at 8:26 am and it would stay open until 9:26 am.
Here’s the challenge: you need about a 50 minute warm-up for your race, so the time between weighing in and getting out on the water was only about an hour. Typically we didn’t eat breakfast before your weigh in, so we’d only have an hour to eat, drink, and digest before warming up. There was a lot of strategic eating during this time window, too!
What were the weigh-ins like?
Tense. Everyone wakes up nervous on race day, and the weigh in was the first time you’d see all your competitors off the water, in uniform. Athletes wouldn’t usually talk to each other at the weigh in; you kept your game face on. It was a part of the business. After weigh ins, it was on to the fun part.
The 22 year old me after a weigh in at the Under-23 World Championships in Scotland. Happy to have made it!
What I Learned
01. Systems, systems, systems.
We all know that to lose weight, you’ve gotta burn more calories, eat less, and eat better quality foods.
Yet most peoples’ experience with weight loss is that it’s complex and elusive, not straightforward and simple.
Much of the challenge comes from not tracking your progress over time.
It’s a good thing most elite athletes are Type A people, including yours truly. When it was my job to lose weight, I did the one thing I knew how to do best:
I SYSTEMATIZED the heck out of it.
Week-by-week weight loss chart leading up to race day? Check.
Taking as many variables out of daily weigh ins by doing it first thing in the morning, clothes off, after going pee? You got it. (You’ve probably noticed your weight fluctuates several pounds within each day, so this gives you the most accurate data.)
Logging each and every weigh in so I knew if I was on track? I’ve got piles of these sheets.
Researching study after study about what to eat to keep your strength and perform at your peak? Absolutely.
And ohhh, the food logging. I was tracking everything that I ate for the weeks leading up to the race. Call me intense, but when you have an Olympic sized goal, you do whatever it takes.
The methods to my madness were just that; methods to a bizarre kind of madness. If I brought this intensity to my Weight Loss Coaching clients, they’d probably report me.
In my Weight Loss Coaching and fitness training, I bring the tools, not the intensity to my clients. I’ve adapted my tools to virtually guarantee the women I work with are successful.
I help them form a goal, create a plan, hold themselves accountable, and change their lives for the better - without going crazy along the way.
(I have the best job.)
02. Pay attention to trends
Weight loss might be simple on paper, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy in real life.
After making my neat and tidy weekly weigh in chart, I’d record my actual weigh ins next to what I should weigh.
There were times I would sit at the same weight for days and days in a row, even though I felt like I wasn’t eating that much food.
There were times I would eat what felt like too much, but weigh less in the morning.
The randomness of it can make you crazy.
I learned to pay attention to the daily and weekly trends, rather than getting stuck in the granular moments.
Basically, I studied my own body.
I learned that eating out always made me weigh more the next morning.
I learned that my body functions best when I lose weight progressively over many weeks versus crash dieting over a few days. Bonus: I don’t go crazy in the process.
I learned that eating enough protein made me feel strong and powerful during the next day’s practices and not eating enough breakfast would always, always make me feel weak.
I learned that staying on top of hydration during training was critical to effective weight loss.
The process will never be as linear as you want it to be, but learning what works and doesn’t for your body while staying smart, healthy, and informed is the way to go.
03. Drop the Judgment.
As women, we’ve been conditioned that the number on the scale is a reflection of your self-worth.
The number we see on the scale is immediately associated with a feeling: I’m fat or skinny, I’m ugly or pretty, I’m worthy or unworthy, I’m lazy or hardworking.
It’s so hard not to do this; it’s culturally ingrained.
But when I was an athlete, we thought of it differently. Weigh ins were very simply part of our job. We used the number on the scale as a tool to see how we were doing with training and how we could get stronger.
There was a curiosity around our weigh ins, rather than an immediate judgment placed on it.
Don’t get me wrong; I’d still find myself frustrated by or pleased with the number I saw. But that was immediately followed by, “Huh. Why did that happen?” rather than “What does this mean about me?”
The dialogue around weight was different, too. I regularly and openly talked about my weight with coaches and teammates because it gave us information on how to get faster and where to hone our skills.
Being in a different environment can change everything. What if, for just a moment, you adopted curiosity around your weigh ins, rather than demeaning yourself?
I'll be the first to tell you that it's not all about the number on the scale - I weigh myself about once a month these days - but when you do weigh in, how would this new mindset change your experience around weight loss?
These subtle shifts and powerful tools might just change the way you look at your journey to better health and wellness. You got this!