23W Members Spotlight: Deb Loats

By Asha

We all face societal pressure to look a certain way and most often that pressure pushes us to want to loose weight. However we often forget that it goes in the other direction too! Gaining weight can be just as challenging as losing it! 

Learn about how Deb is practicing what she preaches when it comes to health and safety, how gaining weight can be a huge triumph and how it can be hard to unlearn self-doubt, but so worth it. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

I am 28 years old, and live with my boyfriend Sean in Thornbury, just a 10-minute walk from 23W. Much of my time is focused on my work in Human Factors, where I specialise mostly in cognition, human performance and fatigue.  Currently I support the safety division within Metro Trains and am studying part-time at Central Queensland University to further my professional skills in safety science.  

Outside of work I enjoy playing with notebooks and stationary (basically anything to do with planning or journaling), exploring all the delicious foodie places in Melbourne, and playing Nintendo.

How long have you been training with 23W?

My journey began in September 2019 with an eight-week challenge. I mostly attend the late evening S+C classes, as I quickly realized that early morning sessions could never fit in with my love for sleep. I also enjoy some extra yoga or Pilates on the side, and Sean is still trying to convince me to start Muay Thai, as he loves martial arts. 

What got you started on this journey? 

Growing up as an adult I thought that gyms simply were not my thing, or a place that I belonged. But my late 20’s I started seeing my mum develop more serious more bone density issues, and I had a high number of risk factors for osteoporosis myself: gender, genetic history, low weight, limited physical activity and high caffeine intake.  

I also knew that from my training in fatigue that sleep quality can be measurably improved by moving the body during the day, and it was time to practice what I was preaching. So I searched for places nearby where I lived, which were smaller, focused on building strength and female-only. The rest is history! 

Did you have any specific goals in mind when you joined?

My initial goal was to build my weight up, which at the time, I was a little ashamed about, seeing at most women in my life were experiencing the opposite problem. During periods of stress, my weight was dropping as slow as 45kg, but I’m proud to report that I have finally reached over the 50kg mark now after gaining some much-needed muscle mass. 

What challenges did you face when you first started?  

When I excitedly told others that I had started lifting weights and was changing up my eating habits, I was surprised about some of the perhaps well-meaning, but unhelpful comments that I received from people who cared about me. Things like: 

  • I hope it doesn’t make you look too masculine; 
  • You’re already thin, other people would kill for your figure; and 
  • Protein supplements are bad for your body 

It was always helpful listening to Ange confidently bust these myths, and that helped me not take any notice of what other people were saying.  

As I began using muscles in my shoulders that were not used to working under load, I also noticed that I didn’t yet have the mobility needed to do back squats, overhead presses or chin ups. Asha was able to help me find a myotherapist who has also made a big difference in my health by helping me release the tension I was carrying from a stressful desk-job.  

Funnily enough, in the first few weeks I was worried I didn’t fit in because I thought I needed to have sexy activewear to go to a gym. You really don’t need that if it isn’t your vibe – I showed up in my old comfy band t-shirts and was accepted by everyone. That has been the best experience with this community, I am always free to be myself.  

How do you feel you have changed since you joined 23W?

I no longer see physical exercise as a chore, or something you do when your body is already broken. It is a fundamental building block to your health – all you need to do, is small things every day, and before you know it, you’ll see incredible progress! 

Making a scheduled time to work hard physically after a stressful day at work has helped me wind down, and not get so caught up in the anxious thoughts that rattle on in my head. It hard to worry about a report I need to write when I’m busy counting burpees! And when I’ve finished my workout, I know that my thinking and writing will be much clearer. 

Doing the late sessions also means that I get to look forward to a ride home with Dee or Asha, which has helped me stay accountable by keeping them company, and talk their ears off about trains. 

Tell us about your recent health scare.

In February I had my first seizure, which was quite a frightening experience. In the weeks and months following it was important to manage potential risks of sudden incapacitation, and all the trainers were on-board to help me continue participating while keeping me safe. While I’m still undergoing testing to explore potential causes, it felt great to know I didn’t have to give up on training or the new routine I had built for myself.  

 What have you learnt about yourself? 

An important lesson I have learned is that it’s not weak to switch out exercises because of concerns about existing pains or risk of injury. I am extremely grateful for the knowledge of Ange, Asha, Dee and Maryellen, who are always quick to offer something else that safest for your body on the day, which still meets the intent of the exercise.  

I’ve also leaned what Napoleon Hill really meant when he said that “our only limitations are the ones we set up in our own minds.” I realized that over many years, I had been fostering beliefs about myself that stemmed all the way back to negative experiences from PE classes in school. Weight training has challenged old beliefs about what I thought I couldn’t do or wasn’t good at, and has revealed an inner strength I had all along, which is now manifesting on the outside too!

 What is next for you? 

I have joined my first push-up challenge to raise money for Lifeline, by doing 3,318 push-ups until June 25. Sadly, rail suicide makes up the most common choice for Victorians to end their lives, with at least one person dying every week on the network. The impacts are devastating – not just for the family involved, but for my work colleagues, the emergency services, and our passengers. 

If someone asked me to take up this challenge a few years ago, I would have politely declined. But because of the hard work that goes into 23W, I now have the strength and confidence to help raise awareness and funding in new, exciting ways! 

If you would like to support me, you can visit my donation page – https://www.thepushupchallenge.com.au/donate-user-246183 

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Our founder

Ange Drake is an personal trainer, women’s empowerment coach and fitness blogger in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. She is the director of one of the few womens’ only strength training gyms in Melbourne, 23W. Ange helps women to learn how to use strength based training, nutritional strategies and a positive mindset to transform their bodies, relationship with food and mind.

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