Jacqueline Flores | Staff Writer
Last year, I stepped into the gym for the first time as an overweight woman, anxious about my appearance and barely able to lift a dumbbell. Now, I’ve grown to focus on feeling strong through powerlifting and not caring about others thoughts on my image.
Women’s empowerment is essential now more than ever. More women are entering the weightlifting world, creating a much-needed community with uplifting support.
Working out has often been associated with looking thin through dieting and intense cardio workouts.
Girls are often influenced to starve ourselves when we see celebrities do the same to fit in a dress for an event or movie premiere. Like Kim Kardashian, who led a harsh diet for two months just to fit in her Marilyn Monroe dress for the 2022 Met Gala.
According to the Washington Post, more women are putting down the diet trends and picking up heavy weights initially told to us that only men could lift. It’s more rewarding to feel strong and powerful than to be anxious over how you look.
Jennifer Moore, 18, has power lifted for the past four years. Within the FIU powerlifting team, she met 20-year-old Jacquelyn Kraimer, who’s been powerlifting for a year now; both have found their place and each other here.
“I’ve struggled with body image and eating in the past,” Kraimer said. Once she started powerlifting, her mindset toward dieting and body image changed. Kraimer believes that powerlifting isn’t about improving your body image, but about gaining strength.
Weightlifting has also helped women overcome eating disorders.
Tamara Walcott, a Guinness World Record powerlifter, started lifting due to food addiction and when her mental health spiraled. “I just fell in love because I was doing it for me,” she said.
Yet the gym is still male-dominated, which can be intimidating for beginners.
Not everyone can strut into the weight room ready to lift heavy. That’s why community matters and it’s a great way to welcome beginners to start training with supportive women.
“A lot of people do weightlifting for the community and to get strong. It’s the best environment to be in,” said Moore. She’s also found her sense of belonging at the gym.
Girl Gains, a new chapter at FIU, recognizes how essential building a community is.
They focus on women uplifting each other through working out together and encouraging others to begin their fitness journeys.
“I didn’t expect so many girls to be into fitness,” said Anabelle Diaz, co-founder and co-president of Girl Gains. “Our group chat has 200 members,” continued Diaz. “E-board sends pictures and motivating quotes for our members and then everyone else does the same creating this wholesome community.”
But challenges still present themselves, such as the stigma that women may get bulky from gaining muscle.
This is a myth, however— our genetic makeup is different from men as they have much higher amounts of testosterone than women, which helps them to achieve larger muscle mass. Women also have higher levels of estrogen which reduces the bulk of the muscle.
The challenges women face are the hormones constantly changing throughout the month. Some weeks will be physically more challenging than others and our strength can decrease, which causes some disappointment. This frustration women go through can be difficult for men to understand.
However, weight lifting is still vital to balancing out hormones and feeling better. It’s a natural remedy and mood changer.
“We want to leave a lasting impact, even after trends die,” said Daniella Payan, secretary of Girl Gains.
Perhaps weightlifting is the current fitness trend for women and will eventually die down. It’s important to leave an impression now so that the next time weightlifting becomes trendy again, you can be the inspiration others need.
Eventually, I became an inspiration for other women. Other women at the gym would compliment the weight I’m lifting, or ask me about their form. I sometimes post my fitness journey on Instagram and my friends would tell me how they started working out.
It’s empowering to know I can motivate someone else in the community – it’s something that I never would’ve dreamed of.
I finally feel like I belong somewhere after joining powerlifting. I have been supported like never before and feel a new confidence. When I watch Moore and Kraimer lift at the gym, I feel like I can’t be left behind.
It’s an honor to be in the gym and I hope more women soon can also understand and enjoy this feeling from weightlifting.
The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of the PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.