Your Stories: Brandon Morrison from Lift Big Eat Big

photo by Chris Rosa

photo by Chris Rosa

 

When Brandon Morrison, the founder of Lift Big Eat Big, invited us to come train and talk shop, you better believe we jumped at the chance! A few weeks ago we spent some time with Brandon improving old tricks and learning new ones (deadlifts and log presses!) and got a chance to  pick his brain about the many misconceptions about female athletes, how to begin training from square one, and lots more.

 

How long have you been Strongman'ing/powerlifting and how did you find it?  

I have been competing in Strongman for two years, and Powerlifting for one year. I found it, like many have found it, by process of elimination. I started with Crossfit four years ago, and remember looking at a photo of huge Russian Powerlifters and thought “Wait a minute, I don’t want to be 165lbs anymore, I want to be huge!” After that, I spent roughly a year just lifting and doing my own thing, trying to figure out the direction I wanted to take my training. Two years ago, almost exactly, is when I started competing in Strongman.

 

What misconceptions about women lifting heavy weights do you take pride in dispelling?  What would you say to a woman who is scared of lifting because she doesn't want to get "bulky"?

I feel that one of the biggest contributions LBEB gives to the strength community is that we are accepting of all fitness/strength goals. Originally, I was fairly dogmatic with my approach to lifting, as are most new people who don’t know of the wide world around them, but I have progressed the business into a model that more reflects my attitude towards training. We don’t preach that women NEED to have a six pack in order to feel good about themselves. If they want one, that’s great! If they don’t care about having one, and just want to get stronger, that’s great too! I think a myth that we dispel adequately (although it feels like beating a dead horse, because we repeat it literally every day) is that heavy lifting is not a sport solely for men. There are women, including women I sponsor, that sometimes make me question my own abilities because their performances are so spectacular.

For question #2, I would say this: Do you avoid reading books, because you don’t want to turn into an English teacher? Do you avoid driving, because you are afraid of turning into a Nascar racer? If getting “bulky” was such an easy thing to attain, you wouldn’t see males pour their souls into the gym, just to gain a few pounds of muscle. Women don’t possess the hormone levels necessary to get “bulky” in the sense that many refer to. Plus, you can lift all you like, but if you aren’t eating more than you require in order to grow, there will be no bulking to be had.

 

What are some positive ways you've seen heavy strength training impact women's lives? How has it impacted your life?

Some of the most readily apparent ways that I have seen lifting affect women’s lives is how they carry themselves, and how their world view changes. I am not referring to just their attitude in lifting, but in life. I see their timidity and feelings of fragility dissipate, as they start to realize that their bodies aren’t made of glass. Their bodies can take a gym beating, grow stronger, and come back ready for more. I especially enjoy the smiles my female clients give after they easily nail a weight that terrified them just weeks before.

Training has impacted my life positively because it gives me a physical outlet, and a two hour chunk of time where I don’t have to do any thinking or business planning. All I need to think about is the numbers I want to hit, what music I want to listen to, and of course, what spandex I want to train in.

 

Where do you get your own programming from? 

I receive my programming from Alanna Casey. She is 3x Arnold Classic Strongwoman Champion, record-holding Powerlifter, World’s Most Powerful Woman, and most importantly for me, she is my role model. She is one of my sponsored athletes, and we have an interesting relationship. If it’s a business call, I assume the lead role in the conversation, and when we discuss my programming, the roles are reversed. She is very attentive to some of my more unique training needs due to body defects, and has helped me greatly over the past year. It is always nice to have someone else do your thinking for you, Even though I program for a pretty large amount of people, I don’t want to write my own.

Taylor working on deadlifts with Brandon. His cues were to keep shins as vertical as possible, pull with explosivity and speed, and avoid the "shrug" on top. This is 185 lbs x3.

 

What are some of your favorite trusted resources for people looking to start a strength training regimen, and how do you suggest they start?

I would be remiss if I didn’t list LBEB as one of my favorite training sources! I love our extensive list of guest authors, because not only do they bring different viewpoints and training methods with their content, they also know that I require all information to be research-based and backed with scientific evidence: If there is no evidence for it, I won’t post it. My biggest concern is LBEB looking incredible, in the literal sense (ie: NOT credible), and that is really reflected in the content we share.

I believe that the most common mistake a beginner lifter makes is trying to follow too many programs at once, and listening to too many varying sources for guidance. It is important to have a guide when you are new, but there are many different ways to reach your goals, and if you try to do them all at once, you will get poor results. By trying to follow two programs to get twice as strong in half the time, you will get half as strong in double the time.

To alleviate this, simply find a program, any program really if you are new, and stick with it to its completion. Don't add in your own programming to it, and don't ask everyone you see for advice, as too many opinions will just cause confusion in your own training. Asking Pros what they currently do for training doesn't make sense: you aren't a Pro. Instead, look at what the Pro did when they started, to see how they became a Pro.

We all started at square one, and know the struggles that go along with it. Stick with it, think about your end goals, and break up your goals into smaller, achievable pieces.

 

We learned one of the classic Strongman lifts, the log press. 

We learned one of the classic Strongman lifts, the log press. 

 

Do you think women and men face different challenges in regards to achieving strength goals? If so, how are they different and how can we support each other in those challenges? 

Yes, I think men and women face different challenges in regards to achieving goals. Unfortunately, most of the problems lie within how others treat those that try to reach goals. Men seem to face detractors mostly from the male population (I call it “nut flexing”). Some men simply don’t want other men to perform better than them, because it reminds them of their own inadequacies.

Women face this from men, as well as other women. I honestly feel terrible for the way that many female lifters are treated, as if “How dare this woman attempt to make herself happy by doing something to better herself?” It is just plain sad to me.

We can support each other with these challenges mostly by keeping our insecure feelings to ourselves. Everyone can see when someone is projecting their own insecurities onto someone else, and detraction can quickly turn a video of a great performance into a fight of whether or not “she looks like a man.”

 

In regards to nutrition, what is the most important thing most women need to implement in their lives (or get rid of) to achieve their goals?

Good question. Naturally I would say to look at what the research says, in regards to nutrition. This doesn’t mean only looking websites with green/natural/alternative in the title, but actual research that may disagree with your current way of thinking.

Many of my most successful female clients have found their success by sticking to a meal plan I have written for them. The most important part is hitting the daily macronutrients I have prescribed. There aren’t necessarily magical “superfoods” that burn belly fat, fight “toxins”, etc. However, by focusing on macronutrient control, you can still eat all the good foods you like, as long as the macro goals are the same. This doesn’t mean that all your calories should come from Taco Bell, it just means that if you get a craving for ice cream or tacos or pizza, eat it! Life is much too short to not get into a little ice cream.

 

Morgan on the log clean & press. The log itself weighs roughly 85 lbs, but is very awkward to finagle at first!

We love that you support overlooked minorities in the weightlifting community, such as women and the LGBTQ community. Can you comment on where your passion comes from in that support?

I am honestly not sure where it comes from. It probably has something to do with the way I was taught history when I was younger (Homeschooled) and I just remember learning about slavery and feeling a great sense of “wrong” about it. I get the same feeling when I see LGBTQ athletes slandered or discriminated against. It just feels “wrong”, I can’t explain it, I suppose, it is just a deep feeling that this is not how it should be. I became a feminist during college, I remember it was almost like a switch went off in my head that said “slavery may have ended in America in 1865, but injustices still run rampant", and they are so prevalent that we don’t see them as out of the ordinary.

I try to bring that type of thinking to LBEB. I know it pisses off a lot of readers, and I may lose them because of it, but I think with my position of very small influence, I have an obligation to be on the right side of history with things like social justice. This puts me at odds with a lot of lifters, but there are still a great deal of good folks out there who see the same problems I see and are dedicated to bettering them in any small way they can.


 

Follow LBEB across the interwebs for tons of training tips & photos of his cute pup Ajax.

LIFT BIG EAT BIG BLOG // YOU TUBE  //  INSTAGRAM @liftbigeatbig  //  FACEBOOK

photo by Chris Rosa

photo by Chris Rosa



 

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Your Stories: Stacy Toth from Paleo Parents

We were lucky enough to be able to chat with Stacy Toth of Paleo Parents about her various endeavors into the worlds of Paleo nutrition, Strong Woman training, and her path to empower women with self-love. She couldn't have been kinder, and we are so thrilled to share all her words of advice with our readers today.

So go grab a cup of coffee, take a seat, get comfy, and settle in to this lengthy interview with one of the strongest and most inspirational women in the Paleo community- And know you'll have a fresh and urgent motivation to go get after your own goals at the end!

    YOUR NEW COOKBOOK REAL LIFE PALEO IS A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO MAKING THE PALEO LIFESTYLE EASY AND SUSTAINABLE. THAT BEING SAID, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE TO YOUR PERSONAL PALEO LIFESTYLE, AND HOW DO YOU OVERCOME IT?

I would say navigating social situations is our biggest challenge. And not just with the kids, but for me as well. I work in an office environment where people bring bagels and doughnuts to work all the time, so navigating these situations in a way where you’re not insulting anyone, while often getting pressure from the people around you to “just have a bite” can be tough, especially since those situations never go away. The thing about being diffrerent in a food-related way is that you can never just take a day off- you always have to eat! So it becomes an ongoing thing that you constantly have to deal with. Learning how to navigate these situations is important, like for example giving yourself a gray area with some foods, learning when to roll with it, knowing where your lines and limits are, and when and how to stick to them is the hard part. 

This is also especially difficult for kids- I can’t imagine being a 6 year old boy and not being able to have birthday cake, or not being able to have the Skittles that the teacher is using to teach math, and not being able to even relax and sit down at lunch with your favorite vegetable because it happens to be green, and the boy next to you thinks that that’s gross. That’s really difficult! They have learn to deal with these situations just as we do, and so I would say that’s the constant battle we’re always facing. 

 

WHAT IS YOUR NUMBER ONE TIP FOR TRANSITIONING KIDS TO PALEO?

Get them involved! There’s certainly a lot of things that need to happen to set yourself up for success, like being prepared, not bringing non-paleo food into the house, etc, but nothing is going to help someone be as long-term successful as getting their kids involved in the process and engaged. From planning to prepping to buying to cooking food, if your kids are involved in that then they’re invested in it and much more likely to try it, to understand why you’re eating this way, and so on. It’s one thing to start a newborn off on the Paleo path, but when you’re talking about say, my 9 year old, who is becoming his own person and making his own choices, the best thing I can do as a parent is set them up for success so that when they’re in a position to make food choices themselves, they make the right ones. 

Stacy and her husband Matt, and their three boys.

Stacy and her husband Matt, and their three boys.

 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE A STRONG WOMAN WHO IS RAISING THREE YOUNG BOYS?

Wow, great question. It means to me that I strive to be a role model for all people. I actually minored in Women’s Studies, and even though I’m not a "card carrying member", I do consider myself a feminist and feel very strongly about equality and women being empowered.. and that ultimately translated into me wanting everyone to be empowered. As a mother, I want my kids to know that they’re not always going to be the biggest or the strongest or the best, and that that’s ok! We can all individually be really great at something. I hope that the ability I have to be role model for my boys makes them want to be strong, but mostly I want them to respect the fact that there will be women who are stronger than they are, and that’s ok! I think their dad is a great example, as I’m stronger than Matt in a lot of the “mechanical movements”, and he is wonderfully supportive and encouraging of me.  Sure we have some friendly competitiveness sometimes, but we’re also “rah rah-ing” for one another all along the way, which I think is important for our kids to see. No matter what, I hope I can teach my boys to always be respectful, and to always treat other human beings (including women) with that same respect. 

 

A peek inside Stacy's new cookbook, Real Life Paleo

A peek inside Stacy's new cookbook, Real Life Paleo

YOUR AMAZING BLOG POST I AM STRONG STARTS WITH THE DECISION YOU MADE TO STOP WORRYING ABOUT LOSING WEIGHT AND INSTEAD FOCUS ON GETTING STRONG. WHAT LED YOU TO THIS DECISION? WHAT WORDS OF GUIDANCE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER WOMEN WHO ARE STRIVING TO MAKE THAT SAME MENTAL SHIFT?

I just stopped caring what I looked like. I had this realization when I was having an emotional conversation with Matt one night, where I was saying things like, “I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to be a leader in a health movement”, and expressing how annoyed I was that I wasn’t losing any more weight.. And Matt just said, “Why do you care?”. He was so nonchalant about it that it struck me- it had never occurred to me that that was something that I didn’t need to care about. And the more I thought about it, I remembered that I had lost and maintained an 100 pound weightloss, I was at the top of the leaderboard at my CrossFit gym, I had improved all my health markers so much that my doctors were recommending Paleo to other patients- I had all these amazing things going for me, and if it wasn’t for the fact that I wasn’t happy when I looked in the mirror, then I would feel like the most perfect person in the world!

I realized what I needed to work on was my perception of myself in the mirror, and not caring what other people thought, or what I was “supposed” to look like, and instead focus on how I felt, what I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. As soon as I reframed that mindset, it became what I wanted my body to be able to feel like, or what I wanted my body to be able to do. And what I wanted more than anything was to be strong. I decided I wanted to set goals for myself that aren’t related to how I look, and I wanted to do it for me.

I knew that even if I got to some “perfect” weight, I’d still look in the mirror and see something I’d want to fix or improve. So instead of obsessing about the weight, it became more important for me to feel good about my body.

This idea of self respect is a big one, and I think it transfers to training in the sense of, “what can my body do” vs “what does my body look like”. I really love setting a big goal for myself (right now I have a goal of a 350 lb back squat). Everyone’s personal goals for themselves might be different, but they all have the ability to decide what it is they want their body to be able to do, and then it just becomes a matter of executing it. For some people that may be becoming healthy enough to carry a baby, for others it may be resolving an auto-immune condition, and for me, in my current phase of life, I want to be STRONG. 

For other women out there: Find people who accept you for who you are- you can only be as strong as the people around you. Even if you’re set up for success but you don’t have a good support network, it’s going to be much harder to succeed with that mental shift. It’s also important to have self respect. I encourage women to not carry guilt or shame about foods they’ve eaten, workouts they’ve skipped, choices they’ve made, etc. Keeping self respect and remembering my goals are what allow me to make the right choices in various situations- I’m not turning down the Ben and Jerry’s because I want to be skinny, I’m doing it because it won’t help me hit my goals for health and strength. 

 

WHAT DOES THE TATTOO ON YOUR SHOULDER REPRESENT TO YOU?

Adeira is a Pheonix, rising out of the ashes, and I feel like I have risen out of the ashes with my health conditions from five years ago, to where I am today. I literally struggled to go up stairs, and had generally just given up on the idea of being a healthy or fit person. My goal with Paleo was to be able to lose enough weight so that I had the energy to play with my kids. So today, to be a competitive athlete is amazing to me. I got the tattoo as a marker of the transition into my Stong Woman training, to remind myself what I used to feel like, and how great I feel now.

 

WHAT DID IT MEAN TO YOU TO TAKE FIRST PLACE AT THREE BIG COMPETITIONS LAST YEAR, AND EVEN SNAG AN INVITE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN STRONGMAN NATIONALS? WHAT OTHER ATHLETIC GOLAS ARE ON THE HORIZON FOR YOU?

I don’t know if I’ve really comprehended it all yet, honestly. To be up against all these incredible athletes who have been gymnasts or lifters for years upon years, and here I am, this thirty-something mom of three, who just got off the couch and lost a bunch of weight and decided to give it a go is wonderful. The community is really incredible too, and being around such a positive energy has been a part of what allowed be to reframe my whole mentality on life. Crossfit, Strongman, weightlifting, etc, has all been such a huge positive force on my life that I could never have anticipated.

Aside from my 350 lb back squat goal, I’d love to be able to make it to the Arnold, so I’m working a lot on my static movements and powerlifting right now.

 

ANY WORDS FOR WOMEN OUT THERE WHO ARE ON THE FENCE ABOUT STARTING WEIGHTLIFTING, CROSSFIT, OR STRENGTH TRAINING?

Just do it. The stars are never going to align, you’re never going to feel perfectly comfortable- that first time walking into a gym is always going to feel nerve wracking and scary- But if you’ve vetted your gym properly and find a place that has an on-ramp or fundamentals program, and coaches that are dedicated to help you learn, and if you’re ready to really take it on in your life, I think what you’ll find is your people

 

YOUR LOVE FOR YOUR OWN BODY DIDN'T NECESSARILY COME EASILY- IT'S BEEN A JOURNEY, LIKE IT IS FOR MOST WOMEN. WHAT WORDS OF ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR WOMEN WHO ARE ON THIS JOURNEY OF SELF LOVE?

Go easy on yourself. It’s not going to happen overnight, and the best you can do is to think positively as often as you can, and if you do that, eventually it will become your default. Find things to love and appreciate about yourself, things to be proud of, things you do well, and feel proud. Make good choices, and feel good about every choice you make.


If you aren't already, be sure to follow Stacy on her Instagram, Facebook, and tune in to her Strong Woman Radio podcasts to get a weekly dose of her positive and motivating attitude!

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