If you were to look at my Instagram (@reliablefit) a few months ago, to a year ago; you may think “Wow, she looks great! I wish I could look like that!” Thank you to all who have commented or sent me messages along the lines of that level of appreciation. However, it doesn’t come without it’s form of costs. It seems fitness competitions are becoming more popular with the aid of social media; and while competing did have many benefits in my life, do they outweigh the negatives? I am here to share the behind the makeup, glam, high heels, trophies, and cheat meals of bodybuilding.
I recall back in late 2014 into 2015 stating to a friend “I could never do what you do and compete, I love food too much!” Yes, I was one of those people; and who would have thought a year and a half later I would be a WNBF Pro Bikini athlete–surely not me!
When I first started my fitness journey in December 2015; I was training for my C.H.I.P. test to become a cop, after the completion of the Appalachian Trail–I was eagerly searching for that type of camaraderie that I thought I could find within being a cop. While fell in love with the training; I evaluated my newfound career choice before I got in too deep into the process (though I did pass the C.H.I.P. test with the male standards of my age group which is harder and more than the female!)
I continued training though; and vowed to start my first bikini preparation January 2016 with my first show scheduled for May 2016. I will admit the heightened amount of self conscious thoughts and perceptions about the overall end goal of getting on stage in heels and flirting in a girly manner. A caption from an early Instagram post back in January 17, 2016 reads: “It’s about the fear of wearing high heels higher than these, on stage in front of a bunch of people judging you on your appearance, learning new routines that I’ve never practiced before, and seeing where I came from in the beginning while never losing the love and dedication towards my goal.” This was after my first posing session. My coach told me to stop walking like a boy and lead with the ladies, you can paint a picture in your mind of a male baby giraffe trying to show the world he is delicate butterfly…that just about sums up my posing sessions.
I hated practicing because I felt uncomfortable, awkward, fake, un-natural, difficult, and just frustrating–but I loved lifting weights in the gym. My confidence in my performance started to rise, and as I began to see my body change and chisel into that of an athlete; there was no stopping me. My perfectionism kicked in and I stuck to my perseverance in and out of the gym; some may say it even heightened it. I became a little obsessed with health, nutrition, and the gym; it took over my life and I was determined. My coach wanted me to compete a month early (April 2016) stating that I was ready and although I I didn’t feel it, I changed my plans to compete in my debut amateur bikini competition in Mashpee, MA in April where I placed 3rd place overall and 3rd place in debut. While this was a great accomplishment for my first show; I felt like I should have won, so 3rd place was a big of a let down. Everyone around me (friends who compete, friends who don’t, and family) were so happy for me, and proud of my placing, but in my mind I thought “It just wasn’t good enough. I was supposed to win.” Yes, this is my thinking at something I have never done before; to be the best. I understand now how unhealthy perfectionism is; and it is a constant battle every day to be more aware and present in the moment and not get caught up in the performance. I wrote in a post on Instagram that following day “The adrenaline was pumping through me, the nerves shook my legs, and my smile felt dry and forced; there is a certain confidence that comes from training countless hours toward a goal and yesterday I saw it flood from within. I didn’t feel self conscious, inferior, or insecure, I felt strong, sassy, and confident.”
Back to the gym I went; I changed my diet for this next month in-between competitions because let’s face it, I am a foodie–and I only had ONE cheat meal throughout the whole 3 month preparation leading up to my first show. I became so strict with my meals that I no longer enjoyed food; it was just fuel– protein, carbs, and healthy fats at it’s most basic boring form. I was much happier creating macro-friendly meals that I could enjoy. My confidence boosted even more between these two shows; I looked and felt dynamite–but in a way, was still unhappy. There are many highs and lows of preparation and competing; not to mention the unhealthiness of it physically and mentally.
Which brings me to May 29, 2016 “I started training 146 days ago; that’s 4 months and 25 days to not cheat once in 105 of those days, suffer, grow, fall short, work harder, stay focused, get a cheat meal, partake in my first hell week. For 39.89% of 2016 I embraced a lifestyle with so much determination, and heart that I never lost sight of the goal from the start. I knew I wanted my Pro Card. No one said it would be easy, but it sure was worth it this journey I’ve been on!
I have met so many new amazing people, re-connected with old friends, helped current friends, and have been surprised a few times when people tell me that I, have inspired them. That’s the overall goal right? Find something you love, something that you get so excited to talk about, and be a part of, that it radiates and inspires other people without that being the plan. It’s when you help yourself, you find yourself helping others. Four roses, three 1st place gold medals, a plaque, and one thankful girl!”
While this is all true; it has it’s price to pay, you don’t see that in a celebratory photograph. You spend a lot of time alone or isolated; sure you may train with a team or a friend, you can bring your meals to the table with friends or loved ones, you have a whole team the day of the competition helping and cheering you on–but it is a very singular experience overall. I have met many amazing people through my fitness journey, rekindled and strengthened other relationships, but at the end of the day; even when people support you–it doesn’t mean they understand you. Especially in the fitness industry; outsiders project their insecurities and self-sabotage on you when they see your change in lifestyle. Asking things like “Hows your diet going” “You sure you can’t eat this?” “It’s just a bite it won’t kill you!” “I could never do what you’re doing, but you look great!” and so on. I am not here to make you feel bad about your life or choices; so please don’t twist around your words or mine to think I am judging you for your lifestyle.
After winning; I went into a celebratory binge, I ate everything and anything–I was loving life, happy as could be, and I didn’t want to workout. Which left me feeling mentally like I should be working out. I beat myself up over indulging in food, and not going to the gym. It was a good month or so before I slowly wanted to get back in the gym–and by that point my mental realization of being absent from the gym for so long hindered my physical performance. I felt weak, I felt un-motivated, and I felt obligated. I had to compete within a year of winning my Pro Card to keep it’s status; let the ego flood in…NOW!
I slowly started to lose my confidence and sass; it would come in waves, I depended on others and this is not something I thrive on. I changed a couple trainers, stuck with one through the completion of my Pro Debut prep, and placed 4th in my first Pro show. While deep down, I wish I had placed better; I was a little more humble this show than my amateur debut. I had made the goal prior that I wanted to make top 5; that would be a successful Pro debut for me, and I did–I met that goal.
After my Pro debut; I again binged on celebrating, I never was the young girl who had an un-healthy relationship with food, I never tried fad diets, restricted my eating, or had a sweet tooth. Now this all changed; through competing, I began to associate food with emotion, eating sweets and over indulging with winning and good feelings of celebration. I started craving everything sweet and un-able to physically stop without telling myself I needed to. Let’s put this into perspective; one night I ate an entire sleeve of Oreos…let’s not stop there though–because each one had a dollop of peanut butter on top. They were amazing; so good tasting that I physically and mentally did not want to stop until they were all gone.
The hardest transition for me now has been maintenance; and overall living a healthy lifestyle. It is a struggle every day, to not associate with “bad foods” or “I can’t have that” and the freedom of I CAN HAVE IT! Restrictions are a tricky thing; you have to be disciplined either way, not to have too much just because you can, and not to restrict too much because I am no longer in preparation.
It has been 397 days (when I wrote this post) since my Pro Debut show; and like I said, it is still a struggle daily to allow myself to eat donuts or dessert without feeling guilty; but then when I do–to not overindulge and stop myself from doing so. I tell everyone (woman especially) who pursue me with questions on competing; to be prepared, and not for what they think like meal prepping and living in the gym–but for the mental changes and post show blues that we all face, yet withhold from sharing…the darkside of fitness competitions.