I've always been fairly small and petite. I'm five foot two inches. The summer before I went to college I was 103lbs! That was probably the lightest I've been since before high school. When I started college at Seattle Pacific University and joined the rowing team, I gained a little weight (probably from training for three to four hours a day) and stayed around 110lbs. I can safely say that before college and through college I was never above 115lbs. I'd get up around there after a day of overeating (cheat days amirite).
As soon as I stopped rowing and graduated, I started lifting a lot more. I was already lifting for rowing but instead of lifting AND doing two hours of cardio a day, I was just lifting. Needless to say I gained weight fast. I think the summer after I graduated (2018) I went from 110lbs to 130lbs. And for someone who is only 5'2", a 20lb weight gain is quite significant.
I had mixed feelings about being heavier. For one, I liked that I actually had boobs. Lol. I also liked how much stronger I was. Sure my clothes weren't fitting me as well as before, especially around the waist area, but I didn't necessarily mind it. I was focused on my performance and I believe that my mindset helped me not view my weight gain negatively. But despite my performance-centered opinion on my body, I definitely experienced some negative thoughts towards my appearance.
After summer, I lost a few pounds. Putting some cardio back into my routine (because heart health) three days a week for no more than 30 minutes at a time helped me get back down to 125lbs (five pound weight loss).
By the time I did my first powerlifting competition in January 2019, I was back down to around 120lbs. I think I weighed in at 117lbs (no food/water) early in the morning of the meet.
Then I decided to actually gain weight! I was in the 57kg (124.5lb) weight class and was well below that. Typically size and strength go together so I figured I could get stronger and build more muscle and become a lean 125lbs.
But. Ladies. Building muscle. Is incredibly. Hard.
I didn't gain ANY weight. I did get up in a little in weight during a hypertrophy phase. This was mostly because the workouts were pretty grueling – high volume and frequency – so I was ALWAYS hungry. I ate a lot. Most takeout food too. The high intake of sodium probably attributed to a lot of the weight that I was holding onto. I could determine that it was sodium because as soon as I cleaned up my diet after my meet in July 2019, my weight dropped down.
I really cleaned up my diet. I went from eating takeout four days a week to eating home-cooked meals every weekday, with the exception of pizza and fast food on the weekends. The number on the scale and my body's visual appearance responded. My weight slowly dropped from 125lbs to 115lbs. My body became leaner, especially around the waist area.
In these three pictures above, I was about 130lbs in the first picture, ~125lbs in the second picture, and down to ~118lbs in the third picture.
The point that I'm trying to make is that your weight is a fickle thing. It will have its ups and downs (literally). Sometimes when you try to make a change, it does the opposite. Your body is incredibly complex. The hormones and chemicals in your body, the way your body responds to sodium and fluids, your genetics, and everything else dictate how your body will respond specifically. So don't get discouraged if the number on the scale won't budge or it even goes up. There are a LOT of variables that come in when weighing yourself. The number on the scale reflects your muscle mass, bone mass, adipose tissue, fluid, skin, and organs. And probably more! It reflects your composition but does not necessarily mean anything.
Your weight does not tell someone what percent of muscle or fat you have. Your weight does not tell you how well you're hydrated. Your weight doesn't give an accurate representation of the care you're giving your body. Your weight does not differentiate between your good and bad days, your hard-earned gym sessions, or your effort in fueling your body.
Fat loss is also a process. If you expect to lose ten pounds of fat in a month, I'm here to tell you that it's incredibly difficult. Ads that promise that you'll lose twenty in two months are LYING to you. Crash dieting and fast weight loss usually results in fat weight gain plus some. Don't fall for it. If you want to lose fat, whether its for health or aesthetics, it will be a slow arduous process no matter who you are. And it should be. Your body doesn't like to be disrupted and fat loss is a huge disruption. So it will try and reverse this disruption. Hence why people who go through rapid weight loss tend to gain it all back quickly.
My journey with fat loss/gain has not ended. And it never will. Bodies are constantly adapting and adjusting in response to whatever you do. Fat loss takes time. So next time when you step on the scale, ignore the pang of anxiety that you feel when you see that the number has grown since last time. Ignore the excitement you feel when you see it has gone down. The process of changing your body composition in the best, most healthy and respectful way to your body is long. Each day is a small snapshot of the big picture.
So next time you're feeling discouraged because of your weight, remember that your weight is not an accurate representation of your body composition. Muscle has much more mass than fat does! Take a deep breath and remind yourself that it's a process. Each step you take each day either pushes you a little bit more towards your goal or pulls you away. The path to success is never direct. There will be ups and downs. It's all part of the journey.