Deadlifts and Donuts with Kelsey Clifton

Weight loss stories come in all shapes and sizes, right? Well, this one is really about strength.  And an 18-year-old named Kelsey Clifton who dramatically changed her size, her attitude – and most importantly – her strength.  I got to hang out with this little teenage badass last weekend for a little donut and deadlift date…here’s how it went.


Bourbon cream for me and Chocolate for Kelsey. Yum!


For those of you that may not be familiar with Kelsey, she’s a teenage phenom in the powerlifting world.  She’s kind of a big deal.  Seriously, when it comes to powerlifting, she holds more federation world records than I have high heels (and I have a lot.) Not only is this girl a badass who could easily deadlift three of me, this teenage girl has an amazing story.


Back in 2012, at age 16, Kelsey topped the scales at 225lbs. Since that time, she has lost over 65lbs.


Pretty impressive, huh?


So, when I got the opportunity to have donuts with Kelsey, I jumped at it. And when she was up for a little deadlifting, too, I’m in! A “Donuts and Deadlifts” date with Kelsey — umm, can you say jackpot?


Looking at the picture above, you guys are probably thinking, “how the crap did she make that kind of transformation…especially at age 16?”  I was, too.  Over our donuts, Kelsey told me she actually got her motivation by watching the 2012 summer Olympics.  After seeing the Olympians in fantastic physical shape (a moment of silence for Michael Phelps’ abs…) she felt motivated to get moving.  She started by walking and jogging. Then, a pivotal moment came when her parents got her a gym membership for Christmas.  Like Kelsey said, “It was the best Christmas present I’ve ever gotten.”


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Like most women, Kelsey started by spending all of her time on the treadmills and ellipticals.  And, she said she was clueless as to what to do in the gym (even getting a lot of her initial workouts from Instagram and Pinterest.)  But she found her way into lifting with a group of people in the gym.  It didn’t take long to notice she was made for weightlifting.  Kelsey said, “One day when I had the leg press loaded down with 45lb plates and 75lb dumbbells, a guy came up to me at the gym and said I should do powerlifting.” So she did.


Kelsey signed up for her first powerlifting meet.  And after the first one, she says, “I was hooked.”




One of the things I love about Kelsey (and there’s a lot to love) is that at such a young age, when most of us were just worrying about what to wear to the movies that weekend, Kelsey was taking control of her health.

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Listening to Kelsey’s fitness story, it’s clear to see that it certainly wasn’t easy.  It was a long, hard road, but the impact has been incredible.  She’ll be the first to tell you, “[Getting in the gym] can change your life. It’s like jumping into a swimming pool and you don’ t know how deep it is or how to swim, but ask questions, don’t give up.  It is hard.  If anyone tells you it’s easy, they’re lying.  Be extremely persistent. Consistency is key.  If I would’ve let the fact that I was hitting plateau after plateau and gaining weight affect me, then I wouldn’t be where I am.  I would’ve given up a long time ago. One of the things I’m proudest of is I never gave up. Even when I was gaining weight, I still went to the gym, [I was] still doing what I need to do.  When I wasn’t losing weight like I was supposed to, I still went to the gym.  When I was going through hard times, I still went to the gym.  It just became a habit.”  


Same spot, two years difference.


Kelsey said she can tell a huge difference in her life before and after she found her way into the gym. “You feel comfortable doing things that you never thought possible. If you would’ve told me [before I started weightlifting] that I would be happy and have friends and a social life and be breaking world records, I would’ve laughed and thought you were making fun of me…and then probably cried.”



Kelsey has a goal of hitting a 1,000 lbs total (bench, squat and deadlift total weight) at her next powerlifting meet.  (FYI – for all you non-powerlifters out there, that’s a ridiculously high number.)  With her push in heavy weights and push in the gym, she has seen the scale go up. With that added weight, Kelsey admits that she has a love/hate relationship with her body right now.  “I love how much stronger I’ve gotten.”  She admits, “Some days I love [my body], some days I feel like a huge exploding can of biscuits. I find myself wanting to wear bigger shirts to the gym.  I feel a little uncomfortable sometimes when I look back at recent pictures and think, ‘wow, I was so small, look at my shoulders there, look at my legs there.’  But, when I think about it, my goal is to total 1,000lbs. And I know if I weighed in at 165lbs at this competition, there’s no way I would hit that.”


I asked Kelsey, “if you could give one tip to anyone wanting to get started in their weight loss and fitness lifestyle, what it would be?” Without hesitation, Kelsey said: “Get in the gym.  Just go.  It is extremely nerve wracking at first.  I used to go literally in a tank top, t-shirt, sweatshirt and two pair of pants to try to hide my body.  I didn’t want anyone to look at me. When I say, ‘just go’ it’s because so much good can come out of it. It’s not just because of your health, it can literally change your life. It literally broke me out of my shell.  I’m still the exact same person.  It’s just that the fat was a brick wall.  And slowly I took it down. Stepping outside of that brick wall, I found so much that’s there for me that I never imagined was possible.” Wise words from someone so young.



Here’s me and Kelsey deadlifting.  Really, I mostly just watched her in awe as she warmed up….with my max. 🙂


Kelsey has a goal of a 1,000lbs lift total at her next powerlifting meet which is in Cleveland on April 23rd.  And, I, for one, can’t wait to see her hit it.


Lift on!


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