After reading one of my favorite fitspo’s, Marie Wold, article on her experience competing and life after competing, it inspired me to share my story of how I overcame the negativity competing brought into my life with all of you.
If you are interested in reading Marie’s, you can find that here.
I was 19 years old when I competed in my first fitness competition and have competed in total four times over the course of four years. Each show, my physique got better and better which was extremely motivating. I was motivated to get even better each time I stepped on that stage. Part of it was my knowledge of of the sport, getting more familiar with my own body, and my muscles maturing overtime. What never got better, was my mental health, if anything, it got worse. I became a victim of “self-bullying.” I was more negative about my body than I have ever been in my entire life. Social media was the number one platform where my self doubt and insecurities came out most because I would compare myself constantly to the other competitors.
The past four years, my whole life revolved around competing and I put everything on the back burner: friends, relationships, social time, family time, school, work, etc. If I couldn’t find a work and school schedule that revolved around my gym time, I would reschedule my work and school schedule. I missed out on holidays, family parties, dinners, being social, dating (no one wanted to date a bikini competitor who couldn’t eat and was exhausted and miserable all of the time), anything you can really think of, I most likely missed out on it.
My most recent prep I went away for one weekend; Saturday to Sunday and this is what the weekend away revolved around:
After each show, I struggled with post show. I never followed my reverse diet and I binged…a lot. I am going to speak mostly about my previous show because I believe this one was the most detrimental to my life. This prep was the best on thus far, but it also really ruined my body, mindset, and outlook on fitness and health as a whole.
My prep was 23 weeks long, but easily the best prep I have ever had. My body reacted so well to every change my coach and I made and I was so focused the whole time. I didn’t have to do much cardio and my diet truthfully wasn’t all that bad. It’s just eating the same thing every single day for 23 weeks, becomes too much to handle…LOL
Mentally though, it ruined me.
Every single week, I would struggle with my body image: “I am never going to be lean enough.” “I need to lose more weight.” “I am not good enough to be on stage in X amount of weeks” I would literally stand in front of my mirror squeezing my skin on my stomach wishing it would go away. In these two photos I did not feel ready or skinny enough at all. I still had so much time to improve, but 7-10 weeks out is a very short amount of time. I would call my coach having mental break downs at least twice a week because I never felt ready. One day I would feel so amazing and on point and the next I didn’t feel good enough.
These two photos were literally 12 hours apart. The photo on the left I remember feeling on top of the world, and 12 hours later I was so upset because I did not feel ready at all. It is a huge mental game.
I loved seeing day to day and week to week changes, though. It was so intriguing that the body can make such significant changes in a short amount of time. But, from years of experience it is neither sustainable or realistic. For someone who wants life long changes, this will not get you those changes you hope to see. And post show, even though I knew to make life long changes I need to be patient, I found myself wanting to follow my prep diet so I can lose weight again.
I was constantly focused on food I wasn’t allowed to eat. I would look at those “food porn” accounts, or I would watch Youtube videos on people doing these extreme food challenges…like what was WRONG with me. There were a few days that I ate a little more peanut butter than I was allowed, or I had some dark chocolate. And when I did that, let me tell you…I beat myself up over it. I would cry, and cry, and cry. I was so afraid that I completely threw the whole show away. I disappointed myself, and I was so upset over the fact that I would disappoint my coach (even though he would never be disappointed in me). My meals were always on point, every single gram and ounce of food was measured to a T and if anything was off my anxiety would kick in. It was a sick obsession.
I was so used to being so lean for nearly half of a year, that when I gained 30 pounds after my show…yes 30 pounds, I was mortified. The weight I was on stage, I haven’t weighed since my freshman year of high school. The weight gain was necessary so my body didn’t break down, but my mind could not handle it. For months after my show in April, I was so insecure, and I hated my body.
*this is pertaining to the photos above* I distinctly remember feeling OVER THE MOON that I could see my sternum when I did push ups, and that my waist was smaller than my XS leggings, and that when I would lay down in bed my hip bones would be protruding out, or my veins looked so ridiculously freaky going up and down my arm. I was literally obsessed with it. I became even more obsessed when the judges for my first competition of the season in April told me I wasn’t lean enough and that my abdomen could have “lost more fat.” I appreciate constructive criticism because that is what helps me become a better version of myself. But, that type of critique is not what anyone should hear. It messes with you, and it will stick with you for a very, VERY long time.
Up until a few months ago, I wanted to have this physique year round. I found myself constantly looking at these photos and feeling upset that I didn’t look like this, that I had extra fat on me, and that I wasn’t as strict as I was on prep. But, mentally and even physically I wasn’t healthy. My blood levels were totally off, I was sick all of the time, I hated the gym, and I hated food.
I feel bad for that girl, and I feel extremely sad for her. It’s so upsetting because that is not a normal way of living. You are not meant to be so strict all of the time, you are not supposed to be so anxiety ridden about your diet and the gym, and your bones are not supposed to be popping out of your skin.
Once I realized that living this way is not normal, my mindset changed completely. I am living my life so happily now. I learned that our bodies are amazing things. I learned to be thankful at my bodies capabilities and I should not discredit how hard I’ve worked to be the woman I am and to be proud of myself. Be proud at how I’ve learned to LOVE myself. When you love yourself, everything falls into place.
I will not miss being so lethargic I am almost unable to function, I will not miss putting things that matter most on the back burner, I will not miss losing out on certain opportunities because I have to focus on my prep, I will not miss forcing myself to stay in and miss out on social events, I will not miss how negatively I felt about myself and how my life was so negatively impacted through competing. Although stepping on stage gives competitors such an unexplainable high, I am so thankful what competing has taught me, and who it has made me into the person I am today; my decision to choose my health over competing has been the best life decision I have ever made.