An Update With Staci: OUR Powerlifting Superhero

You know Staci, right?

Yeah, THAT Staci.  The woman who transformed herself a few years back after finding Nerd Fitness.  The one that can deadlift 385 lbs and squat 255 lbs ?

That one 🙂

After Staci transformed a few years back, she started helping with the Nerd Fitness Community, soon after with Nerd Fitness itself, and is now a full time team member!  I wanted to put together an interview with Staci to find out what’s happened since her transformation and what her routine looks like now!

She’s also going to answer the most popular questions she’s received over the past two years.

An interview with Staci

progress

Steve: It’s been a little over two years since your success story came out.  What’s been going on? What’s your training like now?  What’s different?

When my success story was published I had just switched from lifting on my own to focusing on CrossFit.  I did that up until about last November, when I pretty much stopped doing CrossFit altogether and switched back to focusing 100% on powerlifting.  While I miss the community, it was probably one of the smartest decisions I could have made training wise.

I really have always just really LOVED lifting heavy, and CrossFit was getting in the way of that. CrossFit has a lot of amazing elements that helped me grow, but I put so much pressure on myself to perform (both in the gym and in competitions) that it sucked all of the fun out of training. I still do circuits and other workouts with friends as an accessory to my main lifts, but I don’t focus on time or make it about competition.

Right now I’m focused mainly on strength, doing a crazy Russian squat program where I squat heavy 4x a week, working other big lifts in around that. I try to get in conditioning, in the form of something like sprints, burpees, or sled pushes a few times a week as well. I’ve also been swimming a lot, but that’s more for fun, recovery, and meditation.

Steve: Have you had any setbacks? Or has it all been smooth sailing?

Oh gosh, no. This last year has been one of the hardest years yet. About 10 months ago now I was in a competition and landed a power clean funny, straining my wrist and causing me to drop the (155lb) barbell on my right leg. It did a ton of damage to my right quad. So for the majority of this year I’ve been in massive recovery mode!

The other big thing is that I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an auto-immune disease that messes with your thyroid, which explains a lot of the struggles I was having with random weight gain and anxiety that just didn’t make sense. It definitely put a big strain on my training. I’ve decided to take an active approach in treating it by changing my diet and lifestyle over just medication (don’t worry – while being monitored by my doctor).

Steve: You’ve been a huge supporter of women and lifting heavy; what do you have to say to people who tell you that lifting weights will make you bulky?

You know, it’s funny, because I’ve had a ton of people walk over to me at the gym while I’m lifting and tell me that I don’t want to keep lifting heavy because I’ll get bulky, and at first I would always stop and explain the science to them, but I stopped for two reasons:

  1. While my numbers aren’t the best in the world, it’s clear that I didn’t start doing this yesterday, and that I’ve put a lot of work in getting there.  So if I was going to get bulky, I probably would have by now.
  2. But also, who is this random person I’ve never met before and why do they think that they can tell me what I want my body to look like? Because what if my goal WAS to get bulky or do a bodybuilding show? They don’t know that.

For women afraid of getting bulky, I will say this: when you lift weights, your body shape WILL change.  When you work out and lift, you’ll develop a body that looks more like an athlete – which may not be the super skinny Kate Moss look, but it’s a naturally healthy look, which is a million times better if you ask me.  And plus, as long as you’re not eating in excess, you won’t gain size.

Steve: Once you got “in shape,” the goal for most people, what was the next step?  How did you stay “hungry”?

I guess I never reached a point where I felt like I was content with where I was at.  I always want more, and there’s always something new to learn.  People will tell me that once they reach, say, a 315 lb squat they will be satisfied. But to me, I’m thinking, “Why? Why wouldn’t you want to try to squat 316 lbs next time?”

I have this concept of hitting a PR every day, no matter what, and that could mean anything from lifting 1 more pound, doing 1 more rep, or finishing 1 second faster.  I hate the idea of being “comfortable,” because if I’m not pushing out to the edge and trying to do better, then I’m not growing.

Staci Lifting

Steve: Okay, but why do you feel the need to always do more?

I think because my overall goal, sport specific aside, is to be able to do whatever I want to do whenever I want to, without warning, without my body holding me back.

And by that I mean if a friend calls me tomorrow and says, “I found a secret treehouse in the middle of the woods, but we need to hike a gigantic mountain and bike 50 miles to get there,” I want to be able to say “I’m in” without hesitation.  So I always want to push my body’s limits.  Plus, it’s fun.

Steve: So is your goal to just do better every day? Or do you set more long term goals?

I always want to do better than yesterday, no matter what, but I set all of my goals pretty long term. Every small victory is a part of working towards that larger victory. So, for example, right now I have a goal to hit a 405 deadlift by the end of the year – I’ve had this goal for 9 months now, and because I set it so far in advance I was able to really look ahead and see the different pieces of the puzzle.

Steve: So, what’s your diet like now?

While I did switch to a 80/20 Paleo Diet for a while, ever since my Hashimoto’s diagnosis I’ve been doing an extremely strict auto immune Paleo diet. I basically eat meats, veggies, and berries.  The auto immune part of Paleo cuts out nuts and seeds, nightshades (tomatoes, peppers), and eggs.  I do have milk and butter, but only whole and organic grass fed. I don’t do any other dairy (like cheese) at all.  I don’t even cheat with gluten or soy anymore, no matter what.  I feel SO much better since adopting this new diet.

Steve: Do you ever miss junk food? Like you’re missing out?  

The thing is…I don’t.  Once you’re off of all of the sugar and processed foods, you don’t even think about it.  I got ice cream the other day, which has always been my huge weakness, and it was so sweet that I actually had to mix it with berries and even ended up throwing some of it away.

It always bothers me when people will be like “come on, why don’t you live a little!” when I’m out to eat. I’m eating this way out of choice, because I want to.  I LOVE steak, I LOVE shrimp, I LOVE broccoli – why would I eat pasta or pizza when I can have any of those?  Processed food actually tastes fake to me now. I really, truly, actually do not want it.

Steve: Isn’t that super expensive?

Sure, it can be, but I made it a priority in my budget.  To me, feeling amazing and being healthy is more important than having 1,000 channels, getting the newest gadgets, or living in the most luxurious apartment.  Plus, I save A LOT of money by not going out drinking that often 🙂

Steve: How do other people react to the change in your diet/fitness? How did you deal with friends that didn’t support your journey?

Most people have been super supportive, but other’s definitely think that I’ve gone too extreme.  I learned to drown out the voices pretty early, and just do what I felt was the best for me.  With diet, I remember the first few people I told about Paleo definitely were not supportive and were more worried than anything. I started telling people who certain foods just “didn’t sit well with my stomach” or that I was allergic (turns out, it was sort of true). It worked great.

Steve: You lost weight before getting super strong. Would you recommend others do it that way or can I get strong while losing weight?

You definitely do not have to lose the weight first. Actually, if I was to go back and do it all again, I would start lifting right away.  Now, it doesn’t matter if I’m trying to bulk up or lean out, my routine doesn’t change. The only thing that changes is the amount I’m eating.

Steve: So you don’t stay super lean all the time?

Nope – I don’t perform the best in the gym when I’m SUPER lean with abs, and honestly, I don’t like my body the best that way either. Once I start to get below a certain body fat percentage I start to lose my boobs and my hips – and my curves are one of my favorite things about my body.  I’m happiest both performance wise and body wise hanging out around 17-18% body fat.

Steve: What do you have to say to women who are afraid to do different types of exercise/lose weight because they are afraid of (losing their curves/getting huge shoulders/losing their hourglass figure)?

I don’t think you should avoid doing something you enjoy because of what shape your body is going to take.  When I started swimming someone asked me if I was afraid my shoulders were going to get bigger. And I said no, absolutely not, because I LOVE swimming.  I’m not going to deprive myself of having fun because there’s a chance my shoulders will get bigger.

You can absolutely change your body shape (in your favor) through exercise. I actually LOVE having bigger shoulders because as a pear shaped woman, wider shoulders help even me out. If you get your diet under control you’ll lean out and look amazing.  And any changes to your body do not happen overnight, so you can adjust as you go.

Steve: What do you have to say to women who are afraid to go on the weight floor because they find it intimidating?

pop-staci

I was definitely afraid to go on the weight floor at first. The number one thing here is that we have just as much right to be out there as everyone else.

I think the underlying issue here is not knowing how to handle yourself with various situations on the weight floor.  I hate it when people tell me they don’t want to go out on the weight floor because guys hit on them. Or if someone tells you you’re doing something wrong. You’ll be surprised how quickly you learn how to handle the situation and get on with your workout.

The truth is that most guys are just as self-conscious to be out there with a girl as you are to be out there with them.  They’re even more self-conscious when you start lifting more than them. But for every idiot that comes over to me to say something stupid, someone else comes over just to say “I just wanted you to know I think you’re awesome, I can’t do what you’re doing.” or “Can you show me how to do that?”

Steve: If you could go back and fix one mistake you made back when you got started, what would it be?

You know, I look back and I see so many mistakes that I made: starting out with the elliptical, no weights, and joining Weight Watchers instead of learning about proper diet.  But I wouldn’t change any of them, because what I needed at first was for things to be easy.  If I had known I was actually supposed to be eating differently and actually supposed to be lifting weights, I probably would have been so overwhelmed that I wouldn’t have started at all.

The biggest mistake I made in my entire journey, was letting it take over my life and become an obsession.  When I was overweight, I would look in the mirror and say “ugh, I need to lose a few pounds” and then go on with my day. But after I started to lose weight, I started looking in the mirror and seeing 30 things that needed to change; that’s when I developed an eating disorder and BDD, and that was when everything started to go wrong.

Steve: How did you get over the 1,200 calorie a day/I need to be super super thin mentality?

This one definitely took a long time, and was the hardest thing, because even though it’s great to be strong and achieve all of these great things, I would go home and get upset that I wasn’t fitting into my pants anymore – but in reality, I SHOULDN’T have been fitting into those pants. At my lowest, I was in a child’s size 12 (or a junior’s 00/0) – because at 27 years old, I somehow couldn’t wear clothes made for adults.  But in my head, I had worked so hard to fit into those, it was almost painful to not fit into them anymore.  So I had to change my entire outlook on what a woman SHOULD look like.

Steve: How do you feel about “strong is the new skinny,” fitspo, etc.?

Staci Deadlift

Well, while these can be really inspirational for some people, I think they’re also just promoting another unrealistic ideal.

The girls in those photos are all gorgeous fitness models with perfect six pack abs and lean legs that go for miles.

I’m much more inspired by someone like Bronwyn, who is a mom and kicking butt at powerlifting competitions (while looking great doing it).

Steve: What would you say to a woman who wants to get healthy but doesn’t like exercise?

Stop saying that you “don’t like exercise” and find something you do like. You’re not going to get healthy playing video games all day (unless you’re playing DDR), doing photography all day (unless you hike up a mountain while you’re taking your photos), or playing in your band (unless you play an active instrument like drums).

Stop looking at going to the gym as a negative thing, thinking about how horrible it’s going to be.  Instead of “ugh, I have to go to the gym,” think “Hey! I get to do squats today! I wonder if I’ll hit a PR?”  I know it sounds silly, but that little mental change really does make a big difference, especially if you keep doing it.

Third, diet plays such a big part of it.  Don’t tell me that you can’t live without pizza/pasta/ice cream. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but yes you can – you just don’t want to.

Steve: What would the “you” of five years ago say if we told her where you’d be today?

Ha! I would laugh in your face and tell you that you’re lying.There are a lot of things that I wanted to do with my life back then, and fitness was definitely not one of them.

Steve: What’s next for you fitness wise?

Right now my immediate goal is to get an elite total at my next powerlifting meet, which depending on the federation I’m either there already or close enough that I’m confident I can do it.  I’m also studying to get my CSCS and learning basic swimming strokes. 

join the nerd fitness academy

Staci Diamond

As previously stated, we have opened enrollment to the Nerd Fitness Academy!    Staci will be your lead instructor for this course, and we’ll help you through the first 12 months of your fitness journey: workouts, boss battles, nutrition levels, and so on.

We’d love to have you in there!

Leave a comment at the end of this article, and let us know two things:

  • One thing you’ve learned and applied (or hope to apply now that you’ve read it) to your own life as a result of Staci’s story.
  • How you’re going to use The Nerd Fitness Academy to improve your life.

Have a great weekend!

-Steve

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  • staciardison

    thank you! 🙂

  • staciardison

    For the first few months I worked out at home, perfecting every movement and obsessing over if I was doing them right in the mirror. I was SCARED TO DEATH to go out and lift in front of other people! Turns out it’s not as scary out there as you thought 🙂

  • staciardison

    🙂 I got tired of saying no to things because I was afraid of my body not being able to physically do it, or being afraid that what I was wearing would show I had cellulite or something like that.

  • staciardison

    thank you!! 🙂

  • Antje Cobbett

    I joined nerdfitness a couple of weeks ago and practice every other day. The first few days weren’t easy, but, as Stacy says, I try to do a bit more every day. It’s working out fine like this. I also changed to 100% paleo which is no difficulty for me as I’m a good cook (from scratch!) and no feeling bloated anymore! Great! I also took up Wing Tsun again which I did when I was a lot younger, so one day nerdfitness and the next day Wing Tsun.

    I live this outdoor/cavemen like lifestyle in the mountains of Spain and I make my own firewood, lug stones around and shift tons of soil for the vegetable garden and I must say that just within this short time of doing all the above, I can shift even more now, be it rocks, tree stumps or soil.

    So thank you for nerdfitness. Sorry, I’m the lone wolf here. My internet connection is lousy, so I can’t participate in the forum.

    My BIG motivation is to be able to carry a sack of almonds (like the local men here do!) on my back and carry it to the van. I was so dead jealous that they can do that and I can’t, but I thought, well, women just can’t lift so heavy. Well, Stacy, thanks for clearing that up!!! Women CAN! I will also train up slowly but steadily and I WILL be able to lift and carry this sack of almonds!

    Hope to be able to participate more!

  • Katie Skoglund

    You look amazing!

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  • Nayomee

    One thing I’ve learned from this article is that it is okay to lift heavy even if I am still heavy myself 🙂 I don’t have to loose all my weight before jumping in and building muscle!
    NFA is going to improve my life by adding in a support system that I don’t have in the real world. Being able to be a part of a more select community that is working towards the same basic goals will be life changing for me.

  • emtbythesea

    Man, it’s so hard to drown out the voices of people who don’t support me as a female who wants to powerlift. I find them talking me into quitting something I love and am kinda good at. This sport helped me overcome some food and body image issues too. It’s surprising how quickly people will criticize my quest for strength, “you will get bulky like a dude” but they never talk about how much better I look/feel with muscles at 115 lbs instead of 98 lbs of skeleton. Nothing builds self-confidence better than achieving a PR, but without a support system I’m finding it hard to keep motivated and stay positive. I feel like only my trainer shares my enthusiasm. Advice before I give this up?

  • http://somercet.livejournal.com/ somercet

    Only as a non-lifter, but I can say you sound like you need a new crowd to hang out with. Try to find some lifting buddies. Don’t cut anyone out of your life, but even if you need to drive an hour to lift with someone, do it.

  • Driftwood

    I love your overall goal! I’ve gotten weary of training for specific physical events and am looking to be fit in order to have more fun. Your goal says it so well. Also, thanks for showing people what true beauty looks like: A mind and body characterized by strengths.

  • Driftwood

    Staci, I love your overall goal! I’ve gotten weary of training for specific physical events and am looking to be fit in order to have more fun. Your goal says it so well.

  • Jade VE

    Staci, you look incredible! You’ve inspired so many and that is admirable!

    I’m 25 years old. I live in New Zealand. Gyms are really expensive over here, especially personal training. I’ve been on my own fitness journey the past 14 months by going to the gym and doing various group training classes and have made good progress even joined a bootcamp class end of last year and achieved great results from that while practicing healthy diet and lifestyle. After my boyfriend has seen major results and strength from powerlifting he has encouraged me to do the same. Reading your story just confirms to not let anyone or anything hold you back from your fitness goals. I have my first personal training session tomorrow to start powerlifting and plan to continue my journey with fitness and hopefully achieve great results. I have had SOOOO many comments from people after I told them what I plan to do and most people are so uneducated about physique, general health & well-being that it is a concern. Like Staci has, I am going to drown out the voices and practice determination to reach my fitness goals while living a well-rounded healthy lifestyle too.

    So although I’m far away. Just want to say thanks for the inspiration to be a strong, determined and healthy woman who lifts heavy. 🙂 <3 All the way from NZ

  • Ronald Smith

    hey there, i’m a vegeterian, so could Steve/anybody suggest a diet that i could follow?
    Thanks

  • Kelsey

    I know this is delayed, but I just read this article. Staci, you said you are on a special autoimmune paleo diet. Do you have any recommendations on where to read up about this (I have psoriatic arthritis and have always wondered if there were certain foods (outside of processed ones of course) that I should avoid).

  • Liz

    I’m not Staci and I don’t know if this is what she does, but one possible source is The Autoimmune Protocol by Sarah Ballantyne aka The Paleo Mom. I have not read it, only read about it.

  • Vivian

    I’m right there with you. I gained 6 pounds of fat on a low carb, high fat, high protein diet. As soon as I started back up with qunioa, toast, and black beans, the weight started sliding back off.