Tamara Walcott: After years of food addiction, record-breaking strong woman says powerlifting ‘saved me from myself’



CNN

Tamara Walcott still remembers the first time she stepped foot in a powerlifting gym: hands painted in chalk, wrists tied, screams and screams as weightlifters lifted weights off the floor.

As she witnessed the scene, Walcott’s competitive spirit prompted her to try on her own. Soon after, she had a weight resting on her back and was preparing to perform her very first squat.

The spark was instantaneous.

“When I felt that weight on my back, the first squat…I just fell in love because I was doing it for me,” Walcott says.

It was 2017, and at the time, Walcott had already been training with dumbbells for a year in a desperate attempt to lose weight. After having children and getting divorced, she weighed 415 pounds and ate regularly late into the night.

Weight training and healthier eating habits had already caused him to lose 100 pounds, but powerlifting became Walcott’s salvation at a time when his mental health had seriously deteriorated.

“Powerlifting saved my life,” Walcott told CNN Sport. “It saved me from myself, saved me from food addiction; it was my therapy, it saved me from depression and it changed my life.

The private and deeply rooted importance of athletic strength in his life may partly explain Walcott’s success in the sport.

In July, she broke the World Raw Powerlifting Federation (WRPF) record for the heaviest cumulative lift for bench/squat and press, registering a total of 1,620.4 pounds in the squat, bench press and press. deadlift at the American Pro competition in Virginia.

In the same competition, Walcott broke his own WRPF deadlift record with a weight of 639 pounds. In perspective, that’s about the weight of a Dexter cow or a grand piano.

But years before she could even consider lifting those weights, Walcott had to find a way to gain acceptance in the male-dominated world of weightlifting.

When she started the sport, she was regularly the only woman in the weight room, sometimes being the subject of sideways glances and sneers.

“I remember guys saying to me, ‘Don’t bench because women shouldn’t bench. It’s going to change the way your chest is, so you shouldn’t be benching,” says Walcott.

“I could hear people saying I wasn’t doing things right. I remember hearing someone say, “Why is she here and not on the treadmill?” … I stuck with it and kind of carried on.

Today, however, Walcott has noticed a shift in attitude and says women are “taking the powerlifting community by storm.” She founded Women in Powerlifting in March this year, an organization dedicated to increasing women’s participation in sport and breaking down negative stereotypes around female powerlifters.

For Walcott, who goes by the nickname “the queen of plus-size fitness” on social media, empowering other women to play sports is one of her main aspirations.

“That’s why I wear my hoops, why I wear my lashes, why I wear my jewelry when I lift,” she says. “Sometimes I wear lipstick – because it’s good to be beautiful, it’s good to be sexy, it’s good to be a woman and to lift heavy weights.

“To other women, I would tell them to do whatever you want to do – get in the gym, own it. It gave me so much more confidence.

An influential female figure continues to inspire Walcott’s own powerlifting career.

His grandmother, a chef on the Caribbean island of St. Croix where Walcott grew up, died in 2019, and Walcott becomes emotional as he remembers the larger-than-life spirit and open-arms generosity of his grandmother. mother.

“When she cooked pots, they weren’t little pots of food. It was like she fed the whole community,” Walcott says.

Throughout her career as a powerlifter, she drew strength from her grandmother’s memory, using it as fuel during her toughest times.

“I was chasing the 496-pound deadlift for about a year, I couldn’t break it,” Walcott recalled. “And then a few months after he passed, I broke him down channeling his energy saying, ‘I’m going to do this for you,’ you know? And I was finally able to lock him down.

“I just remember being full of emotion. I was crying in the gym. Everyone was looking at me then – everyone was clapping, everyone was clapping… It’s almost like she gave me her energy or something, I don’t know how to explain it.

Powerlifting’s impact on Walcott’s life has been tremendous, giving her purpose and confidence when she needed it most.

At the heart of this is his changed relationship with food and his healthier eating habits.

“I’m going to be completely honest – is my food addiction gone? No, I just swapped it for something else,” she explains.

“In the beginning, when I started lifting and training, I remember late at night I used to binge eat when I was heavier, and I was like, ‘ You know what? When I start getting these cravings, I’ll go downstairs and do 20 push-ups or 20 sit-ups, or I’ll drink a big glass of water.'”

Walcott’s new lifestyle also involves drinking a gallon (about 4.5 litres) of water a day and making sure she gets enough sleep every night – which can be difficult when it comes to balancing workouts with babysitting and a full-time job in real estate.

This sometimes means resorting to nightly gym sessions – which can end around midnight – and catching up on sleep at any free opportunity. Walcott even tinted his car windows to help him sleep during the day.

“I make it work,” she says. “Motivation is long dead for me. It’s all about pure dedication right now.

Walcott performs a deadlift during the competition.

Walcott now plans to take a break from competitive weightlifting. She battled arthritis in her knees earlier this year – to the point that she could barely squat and was reduced to walking up and down stairs just weeks before her record lifts in July.

She talks about possibly competing in an international event late next year, but for now she’s committed to her ‘My Strength is My Sexy’ gym tour, where she shares her journey from powerlifting at gyms across the United States.

That’s not to say she lost sight of her competitive goals. She spoke to her trainer, Daniel Fox, about the goal of lifting “747” – a 700-pound squat, a 400-pound bench press and a 700-pound deadlift.

“Doesn’t that sound good?” said Walcott. “I am a big protester; I’m determined to put things in the atmosphere, let it grow, and say it out loud.

Setting — and surpassing — her own goals has been Walcott’s style since she first stepped into a powerlifting gym five years ago. She never looks at who else is on the roster at competitions and hates being told how heavy a barbell is before she tries to lift.

“I don’t want to hear all this, it’s going to upset me,” Walcott said. It competes for itself, all its dynamism coming from within.

“Right now it’s just me against me,” she says. “I challenge myself to be better every day – I think I like that aspect.”



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