Good morning, everybody! How are you today? Well, it’s been quite an interesting winter break for me—I’ve experienced many minor and a couple of major road-bumps along with a vast number of sky-high flies for the month of relaxation. If you did not read my last blog post regarding my goals for 2017, then you should know that for the longest time, I put my health to the side.
Basically, to make a long story short, I disregarded the concern about an absent period for three whole years. You read that right. I was sure that not getting a regular menstrual cycle wasn’t of any major concern so if everything else with my body and my life was in check. But, after a couple of blood tests and checkups with my doctor, I realized that it’s time to fix this problem if I want to become my absolute healthiest self and avoid infertility, early osteoporosis, neurological dysfunction.
On the drive to the L.A. Fit Expo last Saturday, my doctor updated us with the results of my blood test I received after our last checkup: I was found to be deficient in carnitine, vitamin D, and protein, and he recommended that I take an extra 2000 IU of vitamin D alone from my vitamins supplement, plus gain ten more pounds to solidify my chances of enabling my body to convert certain amino acids into carnitine, plus ever seeing my period again.
Carnitine was no surprise, as that was concluded in my last blood test. Vitamin D, another no-brainer, since I am a vegan not getting adequate sunshine from the ho-hum winter weather. But my protein, the very nutrient that I emphasized so much (maybe even obsessed over) throughout the course of my diet—both before and after the transition to veganism, was low?! My plates were always loaded with tofu, tempeh, leafy greens and even vegan protein supplements if I were having a sweet potato breakfast plate. I was dumbfounded. But this was a fact, and I had no other way of going around it. The only explanation I could draw was malnutrition—my diet was deficient in calories in general.
It made somewhat sense—I’ve adopted such a discipline lifestyle where during my early, early, early blogging days, I barely splurged on a single flourless cupcake for the first time ever after what seemed like ages. Over time, my vision of what a truly healthy lifestyle looks like changed drastically; I’d look at YouTube videos while scratching my head. Frozen yogurt, pizza, rice, white breads, Oreos and instant ramen can be part of a healthy diet?! Why, it’s something called moderation, a concept that my character just doesn’t seem to align with. Think of trying to dress a fussy, hungry baby with a rash. That’s basically my personality and flexibility.
Now for the highlight statement: I couldn’t even fathom trying to gain ten pounds. Sure, that could happen if I grew two more inches or got pregnant, but for my figure, seeing ten pounds would be so easily noticeable. I can even gain one pound of water weight and feel my stomach balloon. Keeping this in mind, I decided that aiming for a more muscular, toned and well-defined physique would be the best route. After I recompiled my experiences and researched a bunch of studies and articles, I have constructed a personal plan for myself to gain weight in the healthiest and safest way, all while taking care of myself and not going overboard. You can read it below!
- Aim to gain 0.5-1 pound a week. With extra weight, it’s almost guaranteed that my period will return and my carnitine levels will increase. From experience, it’s quite easy for me to put on weight. Simply by eating more, I can put on two or three pounds within a couple of days. Ideally, these new pounds should be muscle. Fat is easy, muscle is another story. In this case, I actually need a set strategy. But, I have and continue to research extensively on bulking and putting on muscle rather than just gaining weight mindlessly. In the long run, muscle mass is much more beneficial for metabolic function, aging and strength and health preservation than fat mass. However, it is inevitable—and perfectly okay!!—for me to gain some extra fat here and there. After all, I am a woman, and it’s clinically and scientifically proven that females, in particular, need a higher body fat percentage than men for optimal health. Action-wise, I will weigh myself every Monday to keep track of my progress.
- Supplement Vitamin D. Easy, as nowadays absorbable vitamin D supplements are widely available at most health stores and drug stores.
- Track for the first few weeks. Specifically, I’m talking about my weight and my nutrient/food intake. Firstly, my college gym has a scale in both locker rooms, so I will weigh myself right after my first morning class and right before I eat or drink anything and workout. I am aware that training fasted is quite risky for weight gain, but this procedure ensures the most accurate starting weight. Secondly, I need to track my food intake to make sure I am eating the right kind of foods and how many calories and nutrients I need to consume for a given day. While I used to have a very unhealthy relationship with calorie counting, it pretty much disappeared after I had to track calories again for a nutrition class assignment during the fall quarter last year. The numbers no longer trigger me, so I know that inputting all my food will be painless. I hope that by the time I hit the halfway point, I have developed a sense of intuitive eating for me to know where to maintain my weight and feel when my body is hungry versus satiated. As recommended by many fitness influencers and professionals, I will use MyFitnessPal to record my data.
- Increase my standard lifting weight by two pounds in at least four weeks. Okay, so the four-week deadline isn’t at all serious, but it would be very encouraging for me to find that my strength can increase in that amount of time, plus I will be more motivated to lift heavier and push farther towards my goals. Lifting a lot more heavy means that I can put on more muscle and strength at a faster pace.
- Adjust my meal times and sizes. I do notice that I tended to hold more muscle in my lower body when I eat slightly—I stress slightly, as I am trying to gain weight—smaller meals at a more frequent 3-4 hour pace than two large meals that are nearly 5-6 hours apart. Later in my life, I had to adapt to the latter because of my college classes, which may explain my inability to build muscle no matter how hard I trained—the long periods of time I go through in starvation mode had eaten away my muscle!
- Eat more beans and whole grains. Widening the variety of my protein sources is extremely important, because I receive all kinds of amino acids. For instance, black beans and brown rice would be the perfect protein-packed meal since the beans have methionine and the rice has lysine, aka the combination for a complete protein. Since I bought so much bulk tofu and bean-based pasta, I neglected consuming a more varied, balanced diet for quite a while. However, it will be so fulfilling to eat more delicious, warming and filling foods in their whole form. Bring on the black bean tacos and Buddha bowls!
- Continue resting every other day. Fortunately, my doctor agrees that my current workout routine of mixing strength training and a little cardio every other day is perfectly healthy. In fact, resting will only benefit my muscle growth by adequately repairing the broken muscle tissues from the previous workout. Since I do live on my college campus most of the year, I will still incorporate plenty of walking every day, with the exception of the times spent at my family’s house.
- Reevaluate my relationship with my body image. Mind games are bound to play with me. If you have ever lived in a body that was once taunted for being overweight, chubby, or just downright unattractive, then embarking on a route any closer towards that figure is an absolute nightmare. Obviously, I want to gain ten pounds of mostly muscle to redefine where my body tones first. However, gaining muscle is not an easy route, especially since I don’t have the testosterone of your average bodybuilder, let alone your average male. Sometimes I will gain weight in the wrong places, and my mind is an expert at being nitpicky. My plan is to shift my focus elsewhere, my personal ideals, and really be honest with myself in terms of what I want to see and feel, all through meditation and writing.
- Have fun! Nobody wants to dread a new regimen, right? Truthfully, I can imagine that so many girls would want to be in my shoes: I can eat more to accomplish fitness goals? 10,000 Calorie Challenge, here I come! Sure, I will come across a few rough patches of bad body image, feeling sluggish after eating more food, having difficulty increasing strength, and of course, struggling with putting on more muscle, especially in my arms and my booty. But this is a journey I attend to maintain long-term, so it’s okay if I don’t look absolutely perfect by the time I put on ten pounds. The ultimate goal is to restore my period and my physical health. At the end of the day, a body with some extra fat and muscle is healthier with a period than a lean, shredded, or skinny body without one.
To be honest, I have mixed feelings about this new endeavor. One side is terrified for her life, bombarding the mind with questions—What will ten extra pounds look like? Will I look fat, bulky, curvy, or completely the same? What if my health doesn’t improve with the weight gain? The other side is overjoyed, excited to start lifting heavier, eating more naughty foods, and of course increasing strength. But I don’t know. Am I haunted by my younger, overweight, and unhappy self who used to be the driving force of such extreme pursuits to my present state? Am I too vain, too infatuated with where I am to embrace the change? Or am I, a creature of habit, just too afraid of changing what I’ve kept with for so long to embark on a new transformation?
More than anything, on the other hand, I am determined to regain my health. I know that this isn’t about my appearance. This new route is about grounding my relationship with my routines, reuniting my mind with my body and re-nourishing my body and my soul with the needed nutrients and TLC. Even with a belly pooch, I can still have an amazing day. Even with a flat stomach—that’ll be it. The only positive highlight of my day would be my stomach. What does that really do?
There you have it, my updates on where my health status stands as well as my strategy to retrieve my menstrual cycle back, replenish low nutrient levels and attempt a new path of increasing my muscle mass and strength! I intend on writing updates every week or at least every other week regarding my bulk, which I guess you could say my journey is, really (Day 1 will be on here for SURE)! Again in a way, I am both terrified and thrilled for this new direction of change. But I intend on reaching my destination as a stronger, more self-assured, wiser, happier and healthier self, which is ultimately who the “superfitbabe” is.