Katie Anne Rutherford, Natural Figure Pro - Powerlifter - Entrepreneur
Katie Anne Rutherford is a competitive Powerlifter and Natural Figure Pro. She has recently qualified for Powerlifting Nationals in two different weight classes. She finished with a 165lb bench press, 347lb back squat, and a 352lb deadlift in the 72kg weight class at a bodyweight of 148lbs.
In the world of Figure Competition, Katie has competed in Junior Nationals, Nationals, Teen Universe, and an NPC Show which is the largest amateur bodybuilding organization in the United States. Last year she placed first overall for figure in an OCB show (Organization of Competitive Bodybuilders) which won her Pro Status.
Before meeting Katie, I never considered that a Powerlifter would have any interest in figure, and vice versa, simply because of the fundamental differences in the philosophies behind each – one is about aesthetics, the other about ability.
Figure is a class of physique-exhibition events for women with emphasis on muscle definition. The competitors are judged solely on muscular symmetry and definition, in other words – competitors are judged on what their bodies look like.
I will admit that before meeting Katie (and several other Figure competitors) I assumed Figure was a shallow hobby full of women with eating disorders who were lifting weights for all the wrong reasons. Katie is one of many women who have proven me wrong. In fact, Katie is using her experiences with Powerlifting and Figure to help young girls and women overcome body image issues.
Fashletics: Katie, How do you describe the difference between Powerlifting and Figure?
Katie Anne: Powerlifting is very objective in nature. It involves intense training, and is a mental battle as well. The thing about powerlifting that is so empowering and enjoyable is that the focus is less on physique and more on performance. It is generally very objective. You either lift the weight or you don’t.
Figure is so objective. So many things play into your place – how you pose, your make-up, your swimsuit. It is mentally draining because it’s easy to say “why do the judges like her better than me?”
F: What do you love about Figure Competition?
KA: I never thought I’d be up on stage without starving myself and doing excessive cardio. I came form a place of unhealthy relationship with food, so it is a huge personal accomplishment to be able to step on stage and to do it the healthy way.
I really want to be a example of the fact that you can prep for a Figure Competition in a healthy way, and that you don’t have to go to extremes. I want to prove that you can still eat a healthy diet you don’t have to do all these crazy depletions.
The thing that I’ve learned to embrace is that it’s amazing to just be up on stage in the fist place and to see your hard work. It’s absolutely all about the progress you make for yourself.
F: What do you love about Powerlifting?
KA: Powerlifting only adds to my appreciation for what I can do. Before, my only focus was on physique. That gets old. It is empowering to go lift weights next to guys and lift more than them.
Powerlifting shows you what you’re capable of and how strong you can be. It’s amazing how you can surprise yourself. You’re stronger than you think. It really is a metaphor for life.
Lifting has made me realize that I can do things I never thought I could do. I can be whatever I want to be.
F: What was at the root of your body issues as a teenager?
KA: I was a track runner in high school. Overall body image issues follow every girl. I mean, think about our society and how body focused we are. It’s not easy for any teenage girl who is bombarded by airbrushed models and false information and sexualized culture. Every single girl you see in a magazine has been altered in some way.
I was focused on being as light as possible so I could be as fast as possible. I also wanted to be more accepted socially. This all led to an unhealthy relationship with food. I was cutting out entire food groups, not eating sugar, and limiting calories.
I was going to run track in college, but I got injured junior year which ruined any chances of being recruited. I started overeating and went through times of depression. I would binge and gain 20lbs, and then follow the latest fad diet to lose the weight.
F: How did you repair your relationship with food?
KA: I found Lane Norton (Ph.D. in Nutritional bodybuilder and Powerlifter) and he changed my life. I modified my philosophy on training and nutrition based on his research and I started working with him directly last year. I didn’t want to compete without a coach and he is the one who suggested Powerlifting. I learned that if you prep the right way, with a good coach who cares about your health, it is possible to compete as a Powerlifter and still step on stage.
F: How do you think we can help young girls avoid the pressures of society to be thin or “perfect”?
KA: That’s kind of my mission now. When I was in high school I had no knowledge of how to build muscle, look good, and EAT.
When I was nineteen I was told I would never step on stage unless I followed an 1100-calorie diet and did crazy cardio. This is 100% false. It is sad to see how many people are trying to follow restrictive diets for the sake of “looking good”. There are extremely negative long-term health effects, and it even affects relationships with family. That is devastating. I’ve been in that position, and I’ve been able to come out on the other side. If I can just share a little slice of my journey and help one person, it’s all worth it.
I want to get the message out to women that you do not have to be miserable to look good and love your body.
F: How has training changed you mentally in regards to your body and how you want to live your life?
KA: Over the past year of doing Powerlifting and Figure – doing more than I thought I could do – I’ve realized that the one thing that holds people back is fear. Before I started on this journey I was always fearful. Once I was able to realize it was about the journey, I was able to overcome my fears and make significant life changes.
This year I completely changed career paths. I have a finance degree and I worked in corporate finance for 2 years. I had a great job with a great company, but I realized that it wasn’t what I felt like I was being called to do. I quit my corporate job and started an LLC so I could focus on coaching, writing Powerlifting programs and nutrition recommendations, and give seminars at gyms.
I took a leap of faith. Had I not ever competed on stage or in Powerlifting, I would not have had the courage to quit my job and start something new.
Physical accomplishments are so empowering. As a result of training and competing, I had the confidence to change career paths and now I want to help other people.
It was scary, but I’m so happy I did it… and I love what I do!
F: As our Fashlete of the Month, Katie Anne is receiving a sterling silver inspirational charm with the word of her choice. Katie chose the word “strength”, and here’s why…
KA: Throughout my fitness journey, the word has applied in many aspects. Through achieving physical strength, I have also discovered an inner strength and determination that has enabled me to accomplish things I never thought possible. I believe that each person has more strength than they know - and can use it to make an impact in the world and the lives of others. Developing your mental, physical, and spiritual strength is a constant journey in life and one of the most rewarding.