Confessions of a Competitive Body Builder

Many of you know that I used to be really involved with the Competitive Bodybuilding circuit.  In fact, I even competed in three competitions within a two year span.  I loved the passion and the drive I felt when I had such a huge goal on my horizon, and was so inspired by the commitment level of my fellow competitors. 
That being said, in retrospect,  I have some major regrets with how I handled my competition prep, and I feel that by sharing my story, I’ll likely help others avoid those same mistakes.  It’s important to note that I’m not bashing the bodybuilding world and competition life, I may even compete again in the future, but when I do, it will be as a completely different person with more information and a better perspective on my side. 

PITFALLS

The fixation on food was so strong that the moment I finished eating one meal my mind was focused on the next, “When can I eat again, and what can I eat?” was the constant thought running through my mind.  It got to the point that when my children would ask for a bit of what I was eating I became panicked and wouldn’t let them try it, how could I share when I wasn’t feeling fulfilled as it was?  This becomes a bit of a joke in the bodybuilding community, never sharing food out of desperation, but when you take a step back, it’s kind of crazy, isn’t it?​

When you’re in competition prep or strict dieting mode, you can get into a protective mode over your food.  I even started keeping track of what was in the fridge, possessive over what was in there and getting upset if anyone in the family took food from my drawer! 

In competition prep, you’re always on a timeline, there’s always the next goal weighing on your mind.  My mood was totally dependent on the scale, which is intense because so many things can affect the number on the scale.  There were days I was hungry and stuck on point to the nutrition plan and I would STILL wake up the next day with a higher number on the scale.  It was so frustrating! I became obsessed with the brightly lit numbers popping up on the screen of the scale and that number consistently going down! Times when it went up, I would get grumpy and a bit angry for the rest of the day.

MY BIGGEST REGRET

​One of the things I regret most is using laxatives the way I did.  The plan that I was following to hit my numbers on my nutrition  plan was not formulated around keeping the digestive tract in homeostasis, it was built to bring the number on the scale down.  And the result, unfortunately, was frequent constipation.  It’s a catch 22 because when you aren’t going to the bathroom, the scale goes up as well.  SO frustrating!

Sometimes I was so anxious knowing that weekly weigh-in was coming up.  So many fears ran through my head, “will my coach  think I was cheating and not sticking to the nutrition plan?”, “Will he limit even more foods?”, “Am I closer or have I gained?” ​

I was being so strict but it didn’t always show in weigh-ins! Eventually I resorted to laxatives meant for colonoscopy prep just to handle the constipation in time for weigh in.  It sounds crazy now, but at the time I was so desperate!

Just so you know, this way of dropping weight didn’t always work and it definitely isn’t healthy.  It often backfired on me because it would dehydrate me while making me bloated at the same time! It’s not healthy to rely on laxatives to go to the bathroom, it’s just not!

I didn’t go the laxative route often but it was always in the back of my head as an option. 
This is the path that lead me to body dysmorphia which is a condition where by you can’t accurately recognize the reflection in the mirror as an appropriate image of yourself.  I became obsessed over my body fat percentage, always pinching my skin to see how much fat was left, intent on making it go away. 

A lot of bodybuilders go through this. We get this distorted image of how we look.  You see, we look fit and defined to everyone else but somehow have this distorted image of how we look and only see the areas of fat or places that need improvement.

HOW I PULLED MYSELF OUT OF IT

I had to step out of that zone for a bit to heal myself and recover from that phase of my life.  First thing I did was put the scale away until the negative emotions around it faded away.  It took a few months, honestly.  Sometimes my food obsession pops up again in my daily life, usually when my kids ask for food to share and my gut instinct is to keep it to myself since that scarcity mindset (never enough food) returns!  I have to work through it for a quick moment and remind myself that there is plenty of food.  And if there isn’t, well then I can have more! Isn’t that crazy?

I’ve come a long way with these issues. My body dysmorphia is no where near as bad as it used to be, but there are still moments that I need to redirect those thoughts that pop up in my mind and replace them with truth.  I really delved into personal development (Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis and Like She Owns the Place by Cara Alwill Leybe,) and started practicing mindfulness through the use of meditation (I love the “Headspace” app as well as “Calm”!)

It’s all based on how you see yourself and everyone is differrent.  I’ve had to do a lot of healing, especially with my relationship to the scale.A And I know the time it takes to heal from these kind of situations is different for everyone.   I gave myself grace,  put away the scale for a few months and had a nice long break from obsessing over that number, until I felt my mindset was more balanced and more accepting of the number that reflected back at me.   

I’m in a different place now than I was a year ago.  And I’m so happy I figured out how to help myself and snap out of it! 

I may consider going back to the bodybuilding (much to my husband’s dismay), but in a totally different mindset.  I want to try it again in a way that is actually healthy and prove that it’s possible- to others and to myself. 

WHAT’S NEXT?

People always ask me about the competition prep and I hesitate talking about it sometimes, because it’s really not for everyone. I always say, if it was easy, everybody would be doing it. It’s a full time job- planning food, prepping food, measuring it out accurately, stressing about missing a workout, and several hours in the gym per day training.  

I think there should be a recovery group for people post-competition because it’s so hard coming down off of it.  It’s like a huge wedding day you’ve prepped for SO long for, then 10 minutes on stage and it’s over.  There becomes this post-competition blues that hit pretty hard and is never talked about. 

Many of us gain a bit of weight post-competition when our hormones are out of whack.  The plan is to reverse diet and slowly ease your body back into a “normal” cycle of nutrition, but it’s not always easy to do this when your mind and body is just craving something you’ve been missing for so long!  Also, with no set goal (another competition),  it’s hard to stay on track and say no to the foods you’ve been missing for so long! And just to have some freedom back to eat what you want is liberating so control definitely becomes an issue! 

I learned a lot about myself in competition prep, so I don’t regret doing it. ​Never. It made me who I am today and I am VERY PROUD of my accomplishments. Will I ever return to the stage?  Maybe. But for now, I enjoy working out when I want and not stressing over a missed workout. I eat mindfully and in moderation with a focus on fueling my body for my workouts and daily activity. And I embrace the skin I’m in, knowing that I take good care of my body and it’s outward appearance is, by no means, a reflection of my self worth or value in this world. 

WANT MORE?

I love my Happy, Healthy, & Holistic Facebook Community!  That’s where I unload a ton of my holistic knowledge, answer questions, and pour my energy into growing a healthy and informed community! 

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Not quite ready for all that?  That’s okay, I’m here for you!!  
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