I'm one of those people who used to believe and repeat the idea that women can't get bulky from strength training. I was a moron. Valerie Waters educated me. "Bulky" is so personal and subjective. The worst disconnect is from fitness pros who equate being bulky with looking like a pro bodybuilder, fitness competitor, or powerlifter. Is that look going to happen to women accidentally after a few Body Pump classes? No way. But can consistent, well-fueled, heavy lifting make you bigger than you want? Or cause you to not fit in your clothes? Oh, yes. Been there Hulked that.
Not that all women need or want to be small. There have been times in my life when I worked very hard to get bigger, stronger and more muscular. Once you have it, it does tend to stick around to a degree, unless you break a leg. Weeks of bed rest will atrophy anything. I still remember the horror of watching my quads shrink until they were narrower than my kneecaps. My legs looked like arms. I actually just saw that photo on my phone and it freaked me out all over again. If I were on my computer I'd include it so you too could gasp at my armlegs.
I used to put so much effort into getting bigger, no, smaller, no, bigger, no, smaller. I could never make up my mind. I'd add muscle and immediately think, "Oh, crap! What have I done?! I'm a monster!" Then I'd lose muscle and think, "Oh, crap! What have I done?! I'm a marshmallow!" The panic-driven pursuit of appearances was never going to go well. It kept the pendulum of crazy in motion with both food and training.
It's been life-altering to stop putting appearances first and instead ask: What kind of activities do I find fun? How do I like to move? What do I like to eat? How do I want to FEEL? That snapped everything into place because then I was invested in the process itself, not some superficial future outcome, and definitely not in what others might think of me or my choices. I spent too much time listening to dude bros, fitness experts, diet gurus, women's magazines, and celebrity gossip. I spent basically no time listening to my own body and mind. No wonder I was so confused!
So, just to clarify...
I like: being hungry for satisfying meals, naps, walks, kettlebells, cake, jumping rope, handstands, peanut butter, flying burpees, dipping my food in chocolate, pull-ups, push-ups, sriracha sauce, my Fitbit, yoga, kombucha, pizza, cartwheels, blueberries, and backbends.
I don't like: being told what to eat, StairMasters, "mini meals," exhaustion, egg whites, protein powder, nagging aches and pains, tape measures, anything fat-free or low-cal, boring workouts, resting between sets, calorie counting, canned peas, dry chicken, or ballet.
I would LOVE to hear both stories of how things went awry listening to outside sources and what your own likes and dislikes are once you really check in with yourself. I'm sure we're all very different.