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Credit: EE Berger
The Way We Eat

“One More Year Could Be Big for Me.” Olympic Weight Lifter Kate Nye Talks Mental Health, Gummy Bears, and Tokyo 2021.

updated Jul 16, 2020
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NameKate Nye
Location: Detroit, MI
How many people regularly eat together in your home? 2; Kate and her husband.

In a way, a huge weight was lifted for Kate Nye when the IOC announced that the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo were officially postponed to July 2021 (due to the coronavirus pandemic). The Team USA weight lifter, who had already qualified for the games over the span of 18 grueling months, was just glad they hadn’t been cancelled altogether.

For the time being, Kate is choosing to look on the bright side and focus on another year of training to get even stronger than she already is. (Seriously, check out her Instagram to watch her in action.) Kate’s goal is the same as it always has been: to stand at the top of the podium next summer wearing the gold medal.

We managed to squeeze in some gym time with Kate in her Detroit garage where she just so happens to train every day (even when stay-at-home orders aren’t in place). Here’s what Kate has to say about her mental health journey, her favorite snack between lifts, and keeping her eyes on the prize.

Credit: EE Berger

How did you get into weight lifting?
I had been a competitive gymnast for 11 years, but I tore my meniscus and needed surgery. After the surgery, I decided I didn’t love it anymore and had no interest in going back. When I stopped training 25 hours a week I didn’t know what to do with myself, got out of shape, and was really unhappy. A friend of mine signed us both up for a Cross Fit intro class about four years ago. A few years in, I decided to switch to weight lifting because my coach and I knew I had unlimited potential competitively. It was something that I wanted to give a shot.

Credit: EE Berger

I imagine what you eat is super important to how you train. What does a day of food look like?
Every morning my husband makes me an egg white scramble with turkey sausage, lots of vegetables, and pico de gallo. I like to put hot sauce on it. It’s a good amount of protein and the scramble is usually all I really want. When I’m in competition mode, I usually add one or two pieces of whole-wheat toast to make sure I get those carbs in. I usually don’t make a lunch, honestly. I snack throughout the day, have leftovers from dinner, some fruit, or a smoothie.

After training I’m really hungry and ready for dinner. We always do a main meat and work around that. Pasta with ground beef, chicken with rice, last night we had brats. I don’t eat super strictly by any means. I did have to bulk for my Olympic weight class, so I had to gain a lot of weight.

How did you do it?
My approach is just to take my time and not make myself miserable. I make sure I’m getting lots of protein and quality carbs, and if at night I want some ice cream, I have some ice cream. Counting calories really messes with my mind and stresses me out. I have a body that can gain weight really easily, so I knew if I just ate what I wanted, and ate intuitively, I would gain the weight naturally and I did.

Credit: EE Berger

What kind of mental toll does that take?
When I first started weight-lifting, I cut a lot [of weight] to enter a lower weight class. It was silly to do that. I was only 8 percent body fat and I wasn’t happy. I would be dehydrated from a water cut and would lift awfully at competition. It was at a point where it was taking a toll on me and I wasn’t reaching my full potential. I was supposed to be focused on competition but it was all about the food. Then we changed course and decided to go up a weight class instead. It was the best decision for both my performance and mental health. In the new weight class, I felt really good about myself. Even though I weighed more. I felt confident and wasn’t nitpicking myself as much.

When new Olympic weight classes were announced that summer, that’s when it got a little crazy. Mine was one of the ones that they decided they were going to no longer bring to the Olympics. I either had to move down one or move up another class, so I just moved up. Gaining a mandatory 10 to 15 pounds doesn’t sound awesome, but I dreaded cutting even more, so that’s where I am at right now. It’s hard to talk about. I don’t look in the mirror and hate myself, though. I like myself, and appreciate my body and what it allows me to do. But at the same time, do I want it to be in a different place? Yeah. When I retire in 2024, I can weigh as much as I want. But right now, your weight class controls you.

Credit: EE Berger

Are there any foods you absolutely must eat before a competition?
Because of the Olympic qualification system, I had to compete internationally six times. When you start traveling, you have to learn to be really flexible with your routines and your diet. One thing I did learn though is that chicken and rice (in some form) is pretty much available everywhere. I can do any sauce, spicy, plain — I don’t care. So that’s usually what I eat before I compete every time.

My coach likes me to eat more carbs, so when I compete I bring fruit or gummy bears even to keep that source going. I’ll snack on those between lifts. I’m definitely not superstitious though.

When the news of the Olympic postponement came out, how did you feel?
When quarantine started and the Olympics came into question, it was really hard. This is the first time it’s ever been rescheduled which is kind of a relief, rather than getting cancelled. I was going into 2020 as a medal contender, and now I’m thinking in one year I can be a gold medal contender. One more year could be big for me.

Credit: EE Berger

Major props for changing course like that.
It’s really hard to explain, you know? There have been great days and really bad days. I’m just trying to keep my eyes on the Olympics even though they’re a year away.

That must be pretty easy with those Olympic rings behind you!
I’ve always wanted to do that and started pulling the project together back in January. I wanted something cool on the wall besides posters. Quarantine actually gave me the time to finish the job and put that reminder up there for me — even though it’s much further out than we planned on.

Thanks so much for talking with me, Kate!

The Way We Eat is a series of profiles and conversations with people like you, about how they feed themselves and their families.We’re actively looking for people to feature in this series. You don’t have to be famous or even a good cook! We’re interested in people of all backgrounds and eating habits. If you’d like to share your own story with us, or if you know of someone you think would be great for this series, start here with this form.