The Iron Ladies

About the Iron Ladies – by Amy

It’s a very hot quiet Sunday afternoon and the dust just settled after moving in to my new apartment. My divorce had been finalized two weeks ago and lately, life has been taking some turns with me! A new challenging and full-filling job, divorce, new home….I need to stand back sometimes to see the big picture and be grateful.

I am a part of several minorities and can boast that I am one of the few who made it back to (a great) life from morbid obesity, and type II diabetes (both self-inflicted). I recovered from this, and other diseases associated with morbid obesity by cutting sugar and processed foods out of my diet, sleeping, drinking water and doing activities that I am passionate about – and I am an extremely passionate South African!  I really can thank my lucky stars that I have a fairly black and white take on “losing the weight” because the quality of my existence (and my young son’s) depends on it. I have genuinely tried everything in the book and the gentle approach got me nowhere.

A few months before my divorce was finalized, I did what every woman does: I hired a weight lifting trainer and started building muscle and pushing iron. I would call myself a cycler, yoga-fan, dancing (yes please), swimming and please let’s not forget the merciless hours of cardio in the gym. So – the weight training has rocked my world. Not only with the plateau I have been hitting in weight loss (pending skin surgery), but with actual body fat percentage and inches dropping steadily – it’s all I want to do right now…it makes me feel beautiful, and strong, and ok and I can DO THAT FOR ME – all by myself. Anytime. More so, it has been inspiring to watch myself empower my son by sharing my successes with him and teaching him that strength: inside and out – is beautiful – for boys AND girls.

I remember being at a party when I was 10 and somehow, us kids ended up arm wrestling. We were under a tree and I kept winning – even beating the boys. The rush was incredible. There were some mothers who stood around frowning at such a display of “boyish behavior” – by a girl – and comments were made. It wasn’t the first time I was shamed:  about my body, my choices, the results of my choices,  what my actions were… – Oh – the list can go on and on…. And when I got into weights and lifting, people I love very much, told me “oh no no no.” –which made me want to do it even more. I came to the conclusion that people like to look at others, because looking inside is infinitely more loving…. and harder… and right. They tend to forget that I am already locked in stiff competition with myself.

You are talking to a woman who stands 5.8 on her feet and easily 6 foot tall when she wears heels, and boy, does she like to wear’em… and THAT with blazin red lipstick!! (which brings up the hilarity of anyone questioning my femininity – I love lip gloss and nail polish and high heels and hand bags and hats!!)  I am not a small girl and I have always been strong – and dare I say – always beautiful in my mind and heart and body and spirit. Does harnessing my physical capacity for strength and the joy it gives me diminish that? I don’t think so. In fact: It has amplified it. Either way – It is still nobody’s business WHY I do this. I need iron and calluses and the burn of a great workout and the sweat of a heavy lift and the focus of form in one breath:  I need it because it is empowering me and helping me be the mother I have to be for my kid: right now.

Two months into weight training: I am dead lifting 160 pounds. I am squatting a little less than I would like, but still focusing on form, and sprinting (ahem) SPRINTING AT 7.5 MPH!!!!! There are extreme misconceptions of what happens to a women’s body when she starts gaining muscle and shredding fat. I highly recommend strength training for any woman who wants to empower her body and her mind…and the community has been EXTREMELY supportive and collaborative!!!

In my book: Functional Strength Is Money.  Boy or Girl. The necessity for me to ride my bike for 50 miles or run a marathon is not immediate, but I will have to squat and lift things all my life. I want to get it right – I want to move more – I want to move longer, and strength training is my ticket.

Of all the beautiful gifts life has given me until now, I DO get to be a model — for my little man: born almost 12 pounds 22 inches, the biggest 6 year old you know. I can model  how to be the strongest and most confident version of myself when I step into gentle competition with me. In betterment of himself he can only exceed his own expectations – as I have – and there is no greater reward.

There was some backlash about this t-shirt Julia with Bella Forza designed. This t-shirt represents a lot more than other people’s insecurities and judgment – this t-shirt is the weight-lifting version of: “my kid goes to Harvard,” it represents a minority group of women and mothers who are willing to break through the misconceptions of weight training. Try it or don’t. Like it or don’t…but understand that there are women out there who high five each other after great lifts – and buy these t-shirts for their kids – for a very powerful and beautiful reason….and essentially…we don’t care what anyone has to say about it WE love it. Thank you Julia!! I think you are a ROCKSTAR. You keep inspiring!!

bella forza kids shirt


“My mother thinks I am the best. And I was raised to always believe what my mother tells me.” ~ Diego Maradona

(This was written by a dear Facebook follower named Amy.)

About Julia Ladewski

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