Bodybuilding is a funny thing. You train and diet for months on end for a competition which lasts about 1 minute on stage. I must admit something, from 2013 to 2014, I had bodybuilders brain. I was so focused on my goal, and I couldn’t see anything outside of that. I was so determined, so focused, and so set on competing, that I somewhat missed out on everyday life.
I don’t regret competing at all. It was a really great experience and I am so glad I did it. But when I look back on the last two years, I didn’t like what I had turned into and the person I had become.
Let me talk to you about what went through my mind as a competitor.
When competing, all I think about is food:
- How many calories are in what I am eating?
- Does it have enough protein?
- Is it low in fat?
- How many carbohydrates does it have?
- Will this fit into my diet?
- Have I gone over my calories? And so on.. you get the point.
As for training, I think about..
- When am I going to get to the gym?
- How long do I have to train?
- How can I fit in my social life with my gym life?
- When am I going to see my friends next?
Friday nights were spent at the gym.
Every night was spent at the gym.
Saturday and Sunday mornings were spent at the gym.
It was all about the gym.
I’m surprised my fiancé didn’t leave me! I hardly saw my friends and hardly saw my family. When I did have social plans, I always thought about how I could squeeze in a gym session before or after my social plans.
When I was actually out with my friends or family, I was thinking about how many calories were in each meal, if I could eat dessert, or if there was enough protein in my meal. I was calculating, worrying and thinking about food and training all the time. It was driving me insane and giving me anxiety.
As for my body, boy, brace yourself!
I’ve always been “self aware” of my body and how I looked. I’ve always taken pride in my appearance and liked to be fit and healthy, but when competing, this took it to a whole new other level.
Every morning I would check myself out in the mirror. See if my abs were coming through, if my muscles were getting bigger, if my legs were getting toner. I analysed every single part of my body and would look in the mirror constantly. If I felt a little bit of fat, I wasn’t trying hard enough.
I would be stricter with my eating, train harder at the gym, do more cardio, take more fat burning supplements or do anything I could to lose more weight.
I become obsessed with my weight. Measuring myself, weighing myself, looking at myself in the mirror.
I felt so self conscious all the time. I couldn’t tell if I was losing weight. I was always criticising myself, thinking that if I wasn’t losing weight, that I had to do more. I would eat less, or I would train more. I had to do something.
What I regret about bodybuilding, is not appreciating my body the way it was during that time.
I was probably the leanest I’ve ever been, had the lowest body fat and I didn’t even appreciate my body. I didn’t look at myself and think, you look amazing! I just thought, I could do more. I need to do more. My abs aren’t showing enough. My butt isn’t big enough. My legs aren’t slim enough. I was so critical of myself, that when I look back on it, I cringe. I wish I had appreciated what I had at that time.
Bodybuilding really gets to you.
I had a friend ask me if bodybuilding made me more confident.
That was a good question because from the outside, you would think that bodybuilding would make you more confident. You stand up on stage in a teeny tiny bikini in front of hundreds of people. You are being judged by the way you look, by how much body fat you hold, the shape of your body, the amount of muscle you have.
So you would think that if you had the guts to go up on stage in a bikini, you would be super confident. But the fact of the matter is, it is just a front.
You have to look confident to be on stage. You practise your walk, you know what your doing, so you feel confident. But deep down inside, when you don’t get the result that you want at a competition, you criticise yourself immediately. You crush yourself and say it is because your abs aren’t showing enough, your not lean enough, your legs aren’t toned enough – these are the reasons why you didn’t place.
Instead of being happy with your body and what you achieved, you criticise your body because it didn’t give you that winning title.
I haven’t placed in a bodybuilding competition. In my last season, I did everything I could to make sure that I followed my coaches guidance. I trained up to 7 days a week, sometimes twice a day. I ate very low calories, I cut my carbohydrates, I water loaded, I dehydrated myself, I took loads of supplements. I spent thousands of dollars on competitions. I did every trick in the book to try and win a plastic gold medal.
I know. Now in hindsight, what was I thinking?
You know, I think some people are better competitors than others. Genetically, some people are better competitors. And some people work their arses off. I worked my arse off, and I didn’t place.
What does that say about me?
Does that mean I’m not good enough?
Well that is what I use to think.
Now that I am out of the bodybuilding world, I realised that bodybuilding is not for me. I changed my life dramatically to compete in bikini competitions. My life revolved around the gym and eating. I strained my relationships with friends and family. I put bodybuilding first whereas I should have put my relationships first.
It has been over 10 months since I last competed, and I have worked really hard to be happy with myself and my body.
Finding my balance
Finding my balance with food was exceptionally hard, but overtime, I was able to do it. I stopped weighing and measuring my food, I put away the kitchen scales.
I buy a variety of different meat: red meat, pork, chicken, fish, seafood, and I am able to eat sauces and marinades which I was never able to use before.
I eat healthy, meaning, I eat predominantly unprocessed foods and fresh fruit and vegetables.
Stopping weighing my food was probably the hardest thing to do. I was so used to eating a weighed and measured container of chicken breast, sweet potato and broccoli, that when I had to serve my own food without weighing it – it felt weird.
I put on weight.
But you know what?
I am OK with that.
I train 3-4 times a week, and I don’t feel bad when I want to skip a day.
I eat out at a restaurant or café at least once a week, sometimes 2-3 times a week, and..
I don’t have to do an hour of cardio because of a meal I just ate.
So how did I do it?
It is a funny thing actually. As soon as my competition was over, I was back at the gym for my 1 hour of fasted cardio. I couldn’t let the competition life go. I was still on my supplements and eating really strict, but then I thought, why?
Why am I doing this?
I have the freedom to live my life as I want to. Freedom to go out for a meal with my friends, freedom to have a drink of alcohol!
I started to binge eat.
I would eat everything in sight and I had no control.
I couldn’t stop eating.
I would think about eating all the time.
So I confided in a friend, former bodybuilding coach, Personal Trainer and former posing coach: Latoya Walker. I talked to her about how I was feeling and how I felt lost without a goal and how my control mechanism was gone. She assured me that this was OK and it was normal but it can be broken.
I wrote my own meal plan and added more food into my diet, and a variety of food. I can’t look at oats the same way – I can’t even eat oats anymore. Same with chicken breast and broccoli. The thought of it makes me want to vomit. BLAH!
I spoke to Latoya every day and gave her a recap of what I ate every day to keep me on track. I kept a food diary, but I didn’t track my macros / calories. I wanted to get away from tracking as this makes me anxious.
I continued this for at least 1 month until I was making better decisions and not binge eating. I made small goals for myself to correct my eating habits. I ate food that was good for me, but also food that I wanted to eat. I added bread back into my diet as well as a small amount of dairy.
My daily eating would look something like this:
- 2 pieces of rye bread
- 1 egg, 1 egg white
- Slice of cheese
- 1 slice of ham
- Large mixed green salad
- Chicken / lean meat
- Protein Shake
- Mixed vegetables
- Lean meat
Throughout the working week, I would throw in a croissant or muffin. Something sweet which I like to eat.
Now that I have no restrictions, I don’t think about food all the time. I eat when I am hungry, and my choices lean towards the vegetables and lean meats. I love salads, and not because I have to eat them. I eat them because I like the taste!
I feel so much more relaxed now and happy.
My body is physically bigger and I hold more fat, but I am happy.
I don’t have to train twice a day, or 7 days a week, and I have a social life. I spend a lot of time with my fiancé, and I see my friends every week. I can go to parties and eat the food that is there, not bring my Tupperware container and eat chicken breast from a container.
I am so extremely happy with my life, and the balance I have created for myself.
The reason I am writing this is for anyone out there that has experienced extreme dieting, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You can feel balanced and happy too. You don’t have to feel anxious anymore.
If you have any questions or need help, please feel free to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org or comment down below.
Everyone is different and deals with their situation in different ways so please get in touch!