What Being Big Means to…

TAGS: transformation, dave tate, barbell

Since the “reactivation,” everyone seems to be interested in Dave Tate’s log. Why? Well because it’s Dave. His training, his diet, his ups and downs, and his humor all bring new insights to us. Let’s face it—Dave’s been around the block a few times so to see him back in the trenches is fun and exciting.

Where am I going with this? It started a few weeks ago when I emailed Dave about something totally unrelated to training. But at the end of the email, I asked him about the “new Dave” and how he felt about him. Needless to say, I got some very interesting responses. E-mails continued back and forth, and I decided to formulate this into an article. Let me prepare you. This is a unique look into Dave’s mind. It’s not about training or powerlifting but just the simple fact of being BIG.

JL: Dave, I saw that picture of you (and your son) in your log when you were at your highest weight (and biggest belly and head). Is it crazy for you to think about being that big now that you're 40 plus pounds lighter?

DT: To be honest, I hadn’t really thought about it until I saw the picture. At first glance, it cracked me up. Apart from the hair sweater that I am wearing, I was most impressed with my head size. That picture was taken at the back end of one of my all time best training cycles, and I was very close to the biggest I ever was.

JL: Now Dave, I know you're one of those guys who always wants to be big, and losing weight is never fun for a big guy. But what goes through your head when you look back at those pictures? Thoughts of lifting? Thoughts of eating? Thoughts of heavy breathing and being unhealthy?

DT: I did have some thoughts of lifting, and it did bring back all the force feeding I had to do to get there. But I never really thought of gaining weight as part of trying to get bigger. Getting bigger was part of my plan to lift more weights. I got into the sport to lift the biggest weights I could lift. For me, this meant getting as big as I could get. I did not come into what I felt was strong until I moved up to the 308 lb class. This weight provided me with great leverages to lift bigger weights. I was never really that strong so I had to use my explosive strength and leverage to the best of my advantages. Because being big was really a side effect to the main cause, I never saw being big as anything more than lifting more weights.

There are many people who allow their body structure (being big, lean, muscular, small, or anything else) to define who they are as a person. Many times you will even hear people defined as Big Rex, Big Dave, Little John, and so on. Sometimes people allow these labels to define who they are. These people freak out if they drop (or gain) a few pounds because it has become their identity. Who we are really has little to do with how we look. When people equate who they are with their physical structure, problems can happen when this structure changes. I have never defined myself by what I look like so I can be big or small and I still know who I am. This could be why dropping the weight has not affected me that much.

JL: I hope that you are happy with the results you've received. And I'm sure Traci and the kids are too! You look great. And I know much of this is about reaching that body fat goal that you had set for yourself. Any thoughts of competing again?

DT: At this time, I do not have any plans to compete again, but I always say that things can change with time. When I made the commitment to drop the weight, get healthy, and correct my blood profile, I cut off all other alternatives. My shoulder is trashed and my neck is a mess, but in time, they will get better. My goals when I started this process were to drop my body fat to 8 percent (but it will come back up to 10—12 percent), regain mobility, and restore my blood profile to normal. I did what I needed to do to make this happen. Placing a bar on my back was not an option (I can’t hold the bar there anyhow), and the use of surpramaximal weights would be counterproductive to some of the goals that I was trying to achieve. This is why I pushed the thought of competing off my plate. For me, I need to focus on what I am doing and work my ass off doing it. If I place my focus too far ahead, I will not be able to see what is right in front of me. I still have more work to do, but things have been progressing the way that I want them.

JL: I remember your article from awhile back titled "27 Reasons to Be Big." Of course, that article poked fun at big guys and all the “inevitables” that occur when you're big (lower back pumps walking across the room, typing w/Shrek-like fingers, and my favorite, #21, the fun of getting in and out of small cars!) But what do you really miss about being big?

DT: I’m not sure if I miss any of it. I do miss the heavy ass training and the weights that I could move when I was bigger, but I really don’t miss how I felt at the time. We all joke about it, but only a few really know the hell you have to go through when you walk around 30 pounds more than you should be. I did it because it was what I felt I needed to do. I still feel the same way now. Many have said that if I ate better, I would have lifted better and felt better. Here is the thing. I tried that and it didn’t work. I couldn’t put the weight on, couldn’t get as bloated as I needed, and was weak. Maybe it works for some, but it sure as hell did not for me. I found what worked for me, and I did it. I am doing the same thing now—it’s just for different goals.

JL: You mentioned that you wouldn't change a thing and that it’s always good to look back on your life and know you did things the way you wanted. And of course, we know the benefits of being big (getting stronger, lifting more weight, eating more food), but what are the regrets of being as big as you were?

DT: I don’t have any. Like I said, I did what I needed to do. I just sat here and really tried to see if I could find any regrets and could not. For me, the best way to get better in the sport was to keep getting bigger. With each weight class jump, I got better, not just in the weight I lifted but also in how I ranked with others in the weight class. I guess if I had one regret, it may be not trying to lift as a SHW one time. However, this would have meant gaining even more weight, and I am not sure that I could have done it. It was very hard to stay at and get over 300 lbs. I can’t imagine what I would have had to go through to get over 320. I will say that dieting and cutting weight is much easier than gaining weight. There is no comparison. Everyone seems to think having a strict diet is hardcore. Wrong! It’s so easy. There is no strain or effort. You just follow the damn diet! Hardcore is stuffing your face to the point where you feel like you’re going to pop and then going to get a milkshake.

JL: See, there are many people (females, the general public, small guys who wish they were big, and big guys who wish they were small) that don't understand the inner workings of a meathead like you. What about being that big makes it an addiction? To step on the scale and say, "Nope, not big enough yet.”

DT: For me, I am not sure that the weight was an addiction but lifting heavier weight was. I knew if the scale went up, my lifts would be up. I did whatever I had to do to make this happen. If it meant force feeding all day then I did it. It did not matter to me. I did what I felt I needed to do to get five more pounds on the bar. I do not see this as an addiction but a passion that very few know. I could ramble on and on about why this is so and what this means, but the fact of the matter is those who know what I am taking about already know how this passion affects you (and how I feel it should). Those who don’t understand, never will so it is not worth trying to explain. It isn’t a bad thing that they don’t understand because this is what makes us all unique individuals. Some people have a great passion for other things that I would never understand so who are we to judge if they do not understand ours?

JL: Great stuff, Dave. One last thing, you said, "I knew if the scale went up my lifts would be up." Do you ever get to a point where you just stop and say, "I wanna lift more, but this is getting ridiculous." When does that occur? Does there ever come a point when you just know that gaining more weight is out of the question (because of health problems, family, injuries, etc)?

DT: I never got there because my focus was on the lifting. However, when I got the call from my doctor telling me how bad my blood work was, I knew it was time to change.

JL: When do you decide to stop getting bigger and just get stronger at the weight class you're in?

DT: This is hard for me to say because I never got there. The one thing that I can advise everyone to do is to get regular check ups and blood work. This is one thing that I always did over the past 10 years. At the least, I had my blood work done two times a year. As I got older and bigger, I bumped this up to four times a year. The reason for this is simple. Early detection is the best prevention. There have been many and will be many more who criticize what I did and the way I did it, but I always knew the status of my health. When it got bad, I made changes. There were ups and downs throughout the years, and we (my doctor and I) were able to control it for the most part. We came to know when it would get bad and for how long. The problems came when the indicators did not drop back down and they normally did. They actually got worse. This is when we looked into what I was doing. Most of the people who will criticize have no idea what there own state of health is so they really have no room to talk.

JL: So, we could sum it all up and say that getting bigger meant being stronger and lifting more, right?

DT: For me yes. This was always the case.

JL: Give the rest of us who are trying to get bigger in order to lift more weights one piece of advice?

DT: Always remember what you are training for. You are training for a bigger total bottom line. Is does not matter if you have abs or not. What matters is if you are getting better. I was once told to keep gaining weight as long as I kept getting stronger. If and when this ceases to happen, then drop down a class and try to hit bigger weights. I still think this is some of the best advice I have ever been told.

I thought the conversation would end here with this e-mail. But there were still some things that I didn’t understand. We all want to be strong, but what else was there about being so big that made Dave want to keep gaining weight? So I made a phone call.

JL: Dave, I have to ask one more thing. Other than lifting more weight, what are the benefits of being big?

DT: The giant size food portions. For example, when you’re on an airplane, the flight attendants will give you several bags of peanuts and full cans of pop, not those little shot glasses full. And one time, one lady gave me the full carton of orange juice! Or when you go to a friend’s house for dinner, they always put more on your plate. Or when I go to Cold Stone Creamery for ice cream, they give me a significantly larger scoop. So, that’s always a plus.

But there’s also a negative side. When I go to business meetings, I have to let my business partners know that I’m not just a bald-headed, goatee-wearing, dumb muscle head. They expect you to be an idiot when you speak. So it’s getting rid of some stereotypes right away when it comes to the business part.

JL: Everyone loves midgets and giants. Do you sometimes feel like a freak?

DT: Not like that, no. But being big, you definitely create a physical presence. And that presence demands attention. I definitely get more stares now that I’m leaner. Before, people just saw me as big and fat.

JL: Dave, I have to thank you for clearing up some of the issues. Hopefully, some people can learn what it takes to be big, stay big, and lift big.

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