Our next athlete to be featured in Strong People is Elaine McCaffrey. I am extremely excited and proud to be able to give her the opportunity to share her story with you as she is my wife and the only woman brave enough to put up with me. Enjoy!
My journey with Strongwoman training has been quite short so far. In fact it is really only the last 6 months that I have been training for strength specifically and I am 16 weeks into training with a personal trainer. Whilst I’ve really only dipped my toes into strongwoman training I have been involved in the community for a while – it is hard not to be when my wife of ten years is the developer of this website and a dedicated strongwoman herself.
My main reason for starting strongwoman training was to try something different for me to get back into exercise. Many years ago I started exercising to lose weight and change body shape, I was incredibly successful at this dropping from a size 24 to 12 but my desire to constantly drop weight resulted in me developing an eating disorder. I had adopted a strict calorie controlled diet of 1200 calories to lose weight. However some eating and weight control patterns can become damaging, such as restricting food intake, or in my case an excessive use of exercise when working in a calorie deficit. I didn’t realise this until I became ill myself.
What started as a tool to lose weight became a massive preoccupation with food and a completely skewed perception of my own weight. Daily I had an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, and this allowed me to become obsessed with controlling my food and undertaking excessive exercise. I want to be clear, I did not skip meals I would eat empty calories. An example of a normal daily diet to me would be as follows:
Breakfast: 40g of porridge oats made with water and perhaps a banana
Lunch: 200g low fat cottage cheese, 1 pack of snack a jacks, a yogurt (low fat)
Snacks: 200g of fruit
Tea: 1 Quorn burger/escalope and vegetables
That’s it....and if I did exercise (at this point I was ironman training, doing 8-10 mile runs home from work and 60+ mile cycles at the weekend) I would not eat additional calories, I saw this massive calorie deficit as a win in the battle of shifting weight faster.
Long story short this incredibly unhealthy attitude to calories led to me becoming quite ill, several years of therapy to try and fix my brain and ultimately me knocking excessive exercise on the head to stop me getting worse. The years went by and I still trained, but inconsistently and eventually I started to gain weight again and fell out of love for the sports I used to thrive on. Fast forward and this year I decided to start training differently.
The last few months of strongwoman training has been an education for me.
Not only have I genuinely started enjoying exercising again but I have really started to understand the value of good nutrition and not restricting yourself. The days where I restrict too much I really feel it in my workouts, I’m tired, lethargic, lack concentration and the muscle soreness lasts a lot longer than if I have eaten well. Previously when my eating disorder was at its height I would exercise more than the training plan, this was driven by compulsion and a need to create a larger calorie deficit. Strongwoman training has really helped knock this bad habit on the head; I understand the structure of the plan and the need to rest between sessions. I read an article recently about exercise driven eating disorders and it mentioned “food becomes the opponent in the race for being thin”. Strength training has turned food in general from being my nemesis to part of the journey in getting stronger every day. I’m not going to win any Strongwoman competitions just yet but strength training is really helping me win the battle against my own demons.
Thank you Elaine for sharing your story and I for one am so excited to see where this takes you. If you would like to follow her progress then you can find her on Instagram @the_zombiegeek