I learned SOOO much during the preparation this past year for my Figure Show. Life is about the journey, not the destination. That is a very true statement regarding this show for me. The goal was to get in the best shape of my life before we had kids and to achieve the goal of getting on the Figure Stage…well, I didn’t quite make that goal because I ended up on the Bikini Stage, but my goals kind of changed during the process. **Please do not take offense to any of this.**
This is my personal journey and what I learned and gained for ME during MY journey. I will never compete again in a physique competition and hope that I do not offend any of my competitor friends! I still support you in your decisions and your goals…and may change my mind, but for now…it’s just not for me. I hope you understand after reading this post, but again, please do not take any of this personally since it is simply my personal opinion and inner conflict.
Currently, I’m trying to figure out what “diet” works for my body. I’m trying to slowly get back to a place where I can eat “normally” rather than on a contest diet. That “normal” diet is a healthy, balanced diet not a “normal American diet.” I am still taking what I learned about losing weight and trying to apply it to maintaining weight which is a totally different world that I know nothing about! And my body is not responding all that well. According to my trainer, for me, for now, 1100 – 1400 calories is “maintenance” until I get my body back the way it was….used to the normal 2000 calories. BTW, that is with continued exercise! So….not “normal” and not a whole lot of food. My body will be adjusting back to a “normal diet” for while!
WHAT I LEARNED FROM THE PROCESS…
- I learned a lot about what to do (and what it takes) to get in shape and stay in shape.
- I learned about portion control and meal timing.
- I learned how to season my foods without butter or oil but instead, exploring herbs and seasonings. [unfortunately I also learned about adding “diet” foods and “diet” additions into foods which I know now is unhealthy.]
- I’ve experimented with healthy meals, making healthy breakfast pancakes out of egg whites [now I know I need the yolk too!] and oatmeal. I’ve made really tasty, low fat and low cal fish recipes. [Now I know low fat is not healthy!]
- I discovered that I can remove things from my diet that I never thought I could!!!
- I added in diet soda (bad idea) and then later removed it (after thinking I’d be hooked forever). I still drink it more than ever before (which was never) so this was a “taste” that I acquired that I am NOT happy about!
- I learned to drink herbal tea. This is a new STAPLE in our diets! We love drinking herbal tea at night! So glad I discovered this!!
- I learned that cutting out salt and caffeine is possible.
- I learned to drink coffee black (though I only did that out of necessity…my creamer is a luxury I’m not yet willing to give up long-term).
- I learned to listen to my body and truly understand the cues it is giving me. I truly know low blood sugar and hunger and what that feels like. I truly know when it is time to eat and when it is a time that I am just eating to eat. (Don’t get me wrong…I am not perfect….this is still a learning process, even for me.) I now know what being tired feels like and how taking a nap is way more beneficial than trying to eat or drink caffeine to become alert.
- I learned that when you are STARVING you have little control over cravings and are much more apt to “binge” than if your body is “balanced”!
- I think I will always have to watch my portions…..for the rest of my life. (At least I think so now, just after contest, when my “maintenance” calories are still well below the average person due to what I’ve put my body through.) [UPDATE in 2016: The human body is amazing. It adapts to what you put it through. I do not feel that my body is still recovering from contest prep!]
- I learned that during contest prep (or hard-core dieting) I am starving around lunchtime or the few hours later, sometime between 1 and 3 pm every day I will want to eat everything I can get my hands on!
- I learned it takes me 20-30 minutes to feel full so I have to portion my meals out before I sit down with my meals, eat, drink water and wait or I will always eat more calories than I need.
- I love to eat. I will always love to eat. I even love to eat healthy foods. Food is so fun and exciting……all the great combinations and new tastes and flavors!
- I will always have to pay attention to how much I am eating and be mindful of that or I will gain weight.
I WANT TO EAT HEALTHY NOW. Most importantly throughout this process, I changed my mindset.
- I WANT to eat healthy now!
- I choose healthy versions of foods over unhealthy ones, for the most part.
- I prefer healthier options. I prefer fruits over cookies…most of the time 🙂
- I don’t look at cookies anymore with a “whoa is me. why can’t i have those cookies. when can i have those cookies. as soon as contest prep is over i can have those cookies.” [i.e. I’m not starving anymore.] Instead, I think, “cookies sound good. maybe next week i’ll make something similar with oats and raisins.” [When you can have something it’s no longer forbidden and loses some appeal.] Or, even better, it doesn’t phase me or I think about having fruit instead. That is probably the best thing I took from this.
- I also learned that I am not always in control when I start eating crappy. I have a hard time stopping. I am better off not starting at all! Or picking healthier options that actually fill me up! When I eat garbage (simple sugars that do not trigger satiety) I feel like a bottomless pit that cannot be filled up and since those foods are already calorie dense, I eat a tremendous amount of calories in one sitting. I have to not start. And, that is getting easier.
- It is a lifestyle shift that we have had to make in our home to not have those things in the house…at all! And we have learned through trial and error how we feel when we eat crappy foods.
- We enjoy the taste of real foods and we enjoy how we feel when we eat them. Profound, I know! 🙂
WHY I WILL NEVER COMPETE AGAIN.
- I learned that physique competitions and the world surrounding them is not for me.
- Background: I thought I was competing in Figure until the night before the show. I signed up for and paid for both Figure & Bikini but found out the night before that I had to choose. My trainer and the judge that I asked both agreed that I was better suited for Bikini. I did not get lean enough for Figure. Why wasn’t I lean enough for Figure?
- I had a cross-road (a few of them) where I had to decide…..am I willing to push my body this hard to get to be leaner than I feel is healthy?
- For me, it was a huge decision to make!!! It was an internal struggle. I felt like a quitter to not keep dieting harder and harder yet my body was telling me to stop! Stop dieting. Stop doing so much cardio. Stop starving. Balance. Health. I looked great. I felt horrible. I didn’t want to get leaner. I was proud of my progress. I was proud of my body. I was proud of my effort. But I felt like a quitter.
- I entered into this competition prep wanting to put my very best package on stage and look like a competitor in Oxygen Magazine. I had unreal expectations of what female bodies are supposed to look like. Everything I do, I try to do to the best of my ability but I was in a conflict with what I felt was best for me and what I had committed to do.
- I ended up wanting to put MY very best package on stage, but knew that would NOT look like the girls in Oxygen Magazine because I was not willing to get that lean, not right now, and not that quick.
- I didn’t understand what it meant to get that lean when I originally set out to get on stage.
- I learned what that meant during this process.
- By understanding that process, I now have a greater respect for my body. [and for how hard it is for others to get and stay that lean.]
- I no longer WANT to look at those Figure Girls (no offense to anyone)
- I no longer WISH I could look like those Figure Girls. (what a freeing feeling, BTW!)
- My opinion of what I want to look like has changed….probably because I now understand what it takes to get to that level of body fat and I also have adjusted my opinion of what “healthy” means for me.
- I no longer look at those girls and berate myself with internal dialogue…thinking how lazy I am for not looking like them. I no longer look at them and beat myself up for not looking like that.
- Instead, I look at them and I am happy for them!!! I understand (for the most part) what it takes to get there and more power to them! But, it’s not for me and that’s okay!!
AT WHAT COST?! SACRIFICES.
- For me, it took too many SACRIFICES.
- I felt like I was sacrificing everything, for what? To look good? It became a huge conflict for me. I couldn’t justify to myself why I was sacrificing so much to LOOK good.
- I felt like I was giving up things that were truly more important than looking good! God. Family. Friends. Work. School. Me.
- It took 2-3 hours a day at the gym that I could be spending with my husband, my friends and family, working, working on my masters, enjoying “me” time, working on my hobbies, etc. That time commitment doesn’t include the time to prep, pack and take meals, practice posing, research posing, order all of the products needed for the show, book makeup, hair and nails, etc. It goes on and on. The time commitment was rough!
- Even when I had the time, I didn’t feel like myself. I didn’t have any energy. I gave half of myself to everything – family, friends, work, school. It was a struggle to function.
- I had a trainer tell me at one point that “you will feel bad during this process. It is not normal to push your body this low in body fat.” Whaat??!!! I wish I had known what that meant a year ago, but I had to learn it myself by living it….and that I did!
- Money. Ouch. Also, I knew it would cost money but didn’t think it’d be that bad! It was really expensive!!! Suits, hair, tan, NPC card, entrance fees, shoes, etc. etc. It cost more money than I thought was necessary.
- I missed out on going places with friends because of food or I went anyway and had the focus all on me because it was hard to blend in when you bring your own food or don’t eat. Then, I was focused on the food in front of me because my body was literally starving. I tried to blend in not eating or ordering specially prepared food, but it was awkward. Then, I had to talk about the show, which I didn’t want to do. I feel, in part, that I lost out on time. I was waiting for the contest to be over so that I could enjoy living my life again.
- Now, I’m enjoying my life and trying to enjoy every invitation I get so I’m overbooking myself a bit trying to make up for lost time! Toward the end, all the signs were saying this is not for me and stop this! It took a lot to finish it out and compete.
- I finished it out but I am glad it’s over and I do not want to go back to that time! I felt like I was being untrue to myself to finish that goal. I’m glad I finished it. But toward the end I had a mental struggle where I truly felt as though I didn’t believe in what I was doing but I was doing it anyway….just to complete the goal.
WHAT IS HEALTHY….for me?!
- I learned that the things that competitors put into their bodies to make them lean isn’t always healthy.
- I learned that fat burners are not healthy. I lost sight of that when I started getting obsessed with meeting my goal quickly and when trainers were telling me what to take, I started following blindly at one point. I felt HORRIBLE though after taking fat burners for a few days – I couldn’t sleep, I felt awful and figured out that it wasn’t worth it! It didn’t make any sense! Why would I ingest something that would make me look good and feel bad?! It made no sense, so I stopped!!
- At that point I decided that I would be as healthy as I could for the remaining month or so until the competition and then I’d be done!
- I also decided that if I ever did this again, I’d do it on my own time schedule.
- I decided that I wouldn’t ever plan to get as lean as a Figure Competitor but might do Bikini again.
- I learned that, for the most part, competitors choose to use artificial sweeteners and artificial butters, rather than just a little of the “real” stuff. Which is healthier? You be the judge. It is a personal decision that we each have to make for ourselves and for our families! I believe it’s healthier to eat REAL FOOD, not diet food.
- Is it better to carry an extra 5 lbs and be eating real foods than be extremely (unnaturally maybe) lean and be eating chemicals to stay that way? For me, yes! What is healthy? Healthy, to me, means a lot of things and I have a lengthy blog post coming on this. As I mentioned before, I do not believe that adding chemicals into our foods is “healthy” in order to stay skinny. I would rather be a little heavier and eat real foods. I find it hard to ingest chemicals for vanity. That’s just me!
- Since the show, I have realized that some rebound HAS to happen due to the extremes we put our bodies through during competition prep.
- I find this ludicrous!!! This just makes no sense to me.
- I have taxed my body so hard that I am unable to maintain the body that I worked so hard for without continuing my 2-3 hour workouts and 1100 calorie diet? What’s the end goal? What’s the point? I couldn’t find one for me that made sense.
- In order to maintain my current weight I need to still be eating around 1100-1400 calories and keep up those workouts. I don’t consider that to be a healthy option for me!
- I am struggling with this right now. I’m wondering why I did that to my body when this is the outcome. [UPDATE 2016: I competed thinking I was getting into good shape. While I gained muscle and heart health. I lost too much fat and dieted too hard to be healthy and balanced. So while there were physical benefits there were also physical detriments. I have no realized that the benefit to my competition were the lessons I learned through the process about health, nutrition, vanity, and weight maintenance.]
- I am trying to maintain, though I’m 10 pounds heavier than I was on stage, and 5 pounds heavier than I’d like. Those last 5 pounds were from my recent travels – I was only home 2 days/week over the last month.
- The thought of dieting off those 5 pounds scares me though. I don’t want to diet again. I don’t know how to do that yet. I don’t know what my body will respond to at this point.
HEALTHY AND BALANCED.
I am enjoying eating healthy and balanced. I am enjoying choosing my own foods and not eating on a plan. I will enjoy working out again once I am better. I have been sick every other week since the show and these last two weeks I have been REALLY sick with a cold/sinus infection that is rough, so my workouts have not been the best. I have been trying to rest and get better and hopefully get my immune system functioning properly again. Being this sick is a sign of what I put my body through, I think.
I want to be a more balanced me and I know I will find that when my body starts responding to treating it with respect again. I am living a truly balanced and happy life now and am letting my body come back to balance when it is ready, hopefully sooner than later!
I took the following quote from a blog entry by Erik Ledin of Lean Bodies Consulting. You can find the article here….Metabolic Mind Games.…
“As Scott Abel has repeatedly said, ‘force the body and it reacts; coax the body and it responds’. Huge difference. Starving fat off is not the same as burning fat off. Working against your body is not the same as working with your body…”
Food for thought. Thank you all for your continued support.[This content has been modified from an article that originally appeared on FIToriBlog on July 18, 2010]