Gym Rat Project: Ever had moments where you get weird looks or you felt judged for taking your blood, or injecting your insulin in the locker room?
Lisa Thompson: Oh yes, people just assume that I’m taking steroids, just because I’m “ shooting” insulin right into my shoulder. They don’t understand that I do it on my shoulder because it reacts better in my body vs doing it on my stomach. They don’t see me testing my blood sugar and they usually have no idea the premise behind it, they see a muscular girl and they are like “ that's a little suspicious.” Because I do have more muscle than a lot of girls in the gym , but I have been training a lot longer. Like what do you want from me.
GRP: have you ever had anyone approach you and say something about it?
LT: Yes, there was this one time. It wasn't while I was taking my insulin but on the gym floor. They approach me and said “ what are you using?”.I was like…”excuse me?”, I wasn't sure what they were asking about, I thought they meant if was I using the bench of something, and they said “I know you're on something”. So I said “NO, but thank you”, I flipped it and took it as a compliment.
GRP: How long did it take you to discover how to manage your blood sugar, did you have help?
LT: Yes, once I met Colette Nelson, she helped me a lot, I remember my blood sugar being in the 300s and then be slaving away with cardio and weights and thinking “why am I still at 28% body fat?”. Because every time your blood sugar is high you have to take insulin and that promotes weight gain. She taught me that when it’s under control and you treat your body like its physiologic then your body reacts like its physiologic. That took me like a good year and even then everyday is so different. I can eat the same thing every day, same insulin but, if I have a fight with someone and my blood sugar is through the roof or an exam. Its definitely hard but so those momentary spikes are not as bad as keeping it elevated.
GRP: Where there points where you were frustrated trying to figure out what worked best for you?
LT: OH, I tried everything. Keto diet, no carbs, I even was like screw it I’m not even going to try weights anymore because I'm getting bulky. I kept putting on muscle underneath fat. So my arms were getting huge and I’m already genetically disposed to having big arms. My face was blowing up, so I hated it. But I was going through recovery. My blood sugar range was almost double, I was getting all this water weight from taking all this insulin while I was healing, but I had to stick with it. Eventually I got the right medication and I got a base line. I told myself “Keep the base line and keep growing”. Then I had to stop being afraid of putting weight on, because obviously I has a history of an eating disorder. It was always really hard for me to see that scale go up. I had to take a step back and remind myself that you can't just gain muscle, it's impossible. For every 5lbs maybe half of that is muscle. I had to mentally accept that it's O.K. for the scale to go up. Once I saw that my shoulders started to show, and people were starting to complement my back, then I was like “ Well this is nice, I can keep putting weight on”. A lot of it is from external sources, it keeps you going. That’s why I have my fitness Instagram, I like seeing the nice comments, it makes me feel that it’s O.K. my scale is up 10 from last yr because I’m working towards something.
GRP: You mentioned you had an eating disorder. ED is developed differently for everyone, do you remember what was the trigger for yours?
LT: What started it I guess it was someone else comment. I guess I’m very sensitive to what people's perceptions of my body. It was in the 7th grade, I think it was some kid I liked and he called me fat. I was 5’2” 105lb, no muscle just a little belly, I was a 13 year old kid. I started to gradually reduced what I ate, and everybody was commenting on how good I looked.Then it developed to a compulsion, I kept thinking more is better. Then it spiraled down, and all those good comments stopped, but I was so far in mentally that I couldn't even see it anymore. I kept thinking fat is bad , all fat is bad.I was too far in.
GRP: At that time what were your sources for your diets, and how to lose weight?
LT: Mostly online, I would search low calorie diets and low carb foods. The internet can be a bad thing. I even tried the Special-K diet. You know where you replace two meals with a bowl of Special-K and have your dinner as normal. I would just replace 3 meals instead. I literally had so much Special-K for months. My parents, they obviously knew something was wrong, but they know I would either eat nothing or Special-K so they kept buying the Special-K. They even took me to the doctor, but when you're in that mentality you can't get out of it unless something else happens.
GRP: What was the reason for your turning point?
LT: I hurt my knee from overexercising, that was the turning point. I was out for about a month, I was freaking out because I would exercise for hours and hours a day. I would do about 4 hours of cardio a day, and then I could do nothing. I was afraid of getting fat, I was freaking out. I remember doing some research because it was not healing.I realized I was killing myself. I thought to myself, I’m not eating, and my blood sugars are really high. So how can I heal if I’m not eating and I’m in this catabolic state?...I knew I needed to fixed myself, so I started eating, I started accepting the fact that I couldn’t exercise at the moment because of my knee. I fixed my blood sugar and I gradually started putting on weight. People started to comment, again positive reinforcement. I saw that scale go up, it was crazy. I gained about 40lb of rebound weight in a year, went up to 122lb maybe. That was my freshman or sophomore year of college. Then I kept a steady 110lb while eating. That mentality where I would eat a chip and freak out about it, and think that it was gonna go straight to my stomach, where I would pass a mirror and be looking at my stomach, that mentality just went away.
GRP: How was managing your Diabetes during the eating disorder, any close calls?
LT: Oh man, it was awful. Blood sugars were really high, I didn't even know blood sugars would cause such problems. I was young and dumb I just thought it was high.There were times where it was over 500 which is very bad, or I would have trouble staying awake and about to fall asleep. There was one time I was working out and I had to stop because my chest was fluttering and I had to lay down. I was thinking “ what am I doing to myself”. This was also a little bit of the turning point. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you get back up.
GRP: Would you agree that having the proper nutrition was a big influence on how your brain was functioning and lead to having a different mentality?
LT: Yes, plus the positive reinforcement, and feeling better. You’re so miserable when you are starving.
GRP: Your knee injury was the main turning point in your ED, was there something or someone specific that influence you to start lifting?
LT: Well I always wanted that muscular physique. Once I recovered I no longer wanted to be skinny or frail, toothpick arms was something I didn't want anymore. My brain locked it out and I just was not interested in that look anymore. I wanted to be strong. I remember seeing Vanessa Tib, and thought to myself “wow her body is fantastic”. I then saw the P90x commercial, obviously I didn't know anything about a gym at that point so I gave it a try and I loved it. After that I realized it was time to join a real gym. I joined a gym and then I met Tim Rich. Tim had approached me and convinced me that I should become a trainer. Once I got certified I basically just fell in love with how the body works, and how weight work with your body, I give Tim a lot of credit. Thanks Tim, hehe.
GRP: You started college with nutrition being your major, what got you into picking Nutrition?
LT: Honestly, it was partially my ED that made me chose that as my major, because I was so obsessed with food. After I recovered I got sick of it. I couldn't give people diets that I didn't believe in. Especially now at the end of my college career, where I’m eating high protein, low carb. How am I supposed to tell people 6-11 servings of carbs a day when I don’t. I just felt dishonest.
GRP: How would you describe your nutrition now, do you ever struggle with it?
LT: I don't eat perfect now. At one point I was really good about it. I even tried macro dieting, I just stopped, I can't count things because it makes me compulsive. I’ve learned to stay away from any behavior that makes me TRACK TRACK TRACK. Now, I stick to high protein and low carb. I’m a creature of habit, so I’m O.K. with eating the same almost everyday, but I l do LOVE cereal. I’m not gonna not eat it, I’m not competing so there's no reason for me to be 10% BF. I’m O.K. with the body fat I have now, and if I feel myself getting a little more i tell myself “maybe not eat a box of cereal in two days, maybe it’s not that good for you right now". Then I up my cardio just for my own sanity, but I don’t over do it like I did back in the day.
GRP: What tip would you give to those that struggle with consistency?
LT: You have to love what you do, it doesn't have to be your traditional gym. Find what you love, I hated cardio but loved the weights. You can’t give up to find what you love. I’ve brought people to the gym and they hate it, but I’ve never stepped inside a gym and felt like I hated to be there. There's days where I want to go home because I don't feel good, but never felt like I hated doing weights. Do what you love, if you like to ski, go ski, or if it's swimming go for a swim. That's the only way you will keep going, and making friends.
GRP: Any advice for those that relate to your history and that lack a support system?
LT: Dont give up on finding a medical professional that you trust. I cycled through a lot of them that I didn't like. They either didn't listen to me, or they would tell me I couldn't workout. A lot of them will tell you that, but there will always be someone out there that understands. I found Colette just by Googleling “ Diabetic bodybuilder”, I contacted her and it didn't take long for her to call me back. I picked her brain and she picked mine. She send me through feedback, before she even charged me. I think that's a big thing, if people are probing you for money instead of genuinely wanting to help you. I think that's the best way to know your not being scammed.
GRP: Anyone close to you that comments negative about your muscles, how do you deal with them?
LT: My mother still hates my muscles. She is my worst credit. She does not mean to be condescending, she is from a time where being skinny and pencil thin was good. So she will tell me that she doesn't like my big butt. I just block it out, at the end of the day I’m happy with how I look and I feel good.
GRP: Getting negative comments it’s a part of life, whether you're living a healthy lifestyle or not. What advice would you give to those that block out negative comments but refuse to believe they are going down the wrong path?
LT: That's a hard one. If you don't recognize it as unhealthy yourself, somebody will. You will hear it from multiple people, they will comment on how little you're eating, or how thin you are. I think if you are getting it often, you should take a step back and talk to someone that you trust and that won't sugar coat it, then seek someone that will help you.
GRP: When you hit a plateau or you're struggling with a new goal, what steps do you take to stay focused and not lose hope?
LT: I’m hard headed so I keep going but there's a few people that I reach out to. I tell them I’m frustrated and they always know what to say. If I don't reach out to them, I dig deep and think about the reason why I started. At the end of the day nobody can motivate you but yourself.
GRP: Ever been too hard on yourself?
LT: Oh, yes I still struggle with that. People tell me all the time that I’m all work and no play, unfortunately I don't know how to be any other way. That's not necessarily good. At the same time I get that empty feeling from seeing my friends having fun. I think I’m getting better at finding a balance. I have to remind myself, it’s O.K. to go out and have a drink, it’s not going to kill you. Balance keeps you happy.
GRP: What would you tell your younger self?
LT: To love myself a little more. There was a lot of self hate all those years. The only reason I am where I an now is because I don't hate myself anymore. I know a lot of it was because of puberty but if I would of loved myself, I wouldn't have been affected so much from that one comment from that one boy. To a certain point I learned to stopped caring about what people have to say about my physique.