This is the hardest post I’ve ever made in my 4 years of blogging but I thought it was important to talk about and to be honest.
I’ve been terrified about writing this post for a while now. Will I lose credibility as a blogger? Maybe. Will I lose credibility as a personal trainer? Probably. Am I being honest? Absolutely. If I lose some blog readers after this, I guess I’ll deal with that when it happens, but I thought being honest was more important. I’m sure some of you can relate to what I’m about to say…
I’m just going to straight up say it…. I have a body image disorder.
Let me rewind back about 7 years. 7 years ago I was a recent college graduate and had finally transitioned into the corporate world. I was starting to feel comfortable in this new transition in my life. I was living in Chicago with my best friend, single, and having a blast. Since I finally had a “big girl job”, I didn’t have the time, or desire to go out boozing until the sun came up – 4 nights a week like I did in college. My big girl job led me to new responsibilities and one of those new responsibilities was actually getting up early every morning! Gone were the days when my first class started at 4pm. Oh college!
Since I couldn’t go out partying until the wee hours of the night, I found myself losing the college weight I had gained from my terrible eating habits and lazy days of college living. It was refreshing to lose that weight and finally feel back to normal.
I eventually started going to a local gym in Chicago when I had time and I would go out to eat with friends in the city all the time. Drinks would be consumed on the weekends and late night indulgences often happened after leaving the bars. I’m not going to lie, it was really damn fun. In my opinion, I was living a healthy and balanced life. I felt confident with my body, never got down on myself for having nachos at 3am, I was working out when I had the time and energy and was still going out with my friends and letting loose! Win..win..WIN!
This lifestyle continued until 2012 when I decided I wanted to challenge myself. I was feeling confident with my body but never confident enough to stand in a bikini in front of friends and feel good about it. I wanted to see what my body was capable of by challenging it in a way I never had in my life. I decided to commit to training for a bikini competition because what is more scary than being in a bikini? Oh yeah…being in a bikini, on a stage, with a crowd in the audience, with spotlights aimed on you, next to 50 other hot bombshells, while experienced judges CRITIQUE you and take notes. THAT’S what’s worse than being in a bikini! 🙂
I’ll be honest, I didn’t tell anyone about my goal of competing except for my boyfriend because I really thought I might chicken out before the show. Even though my anxiety was through the roof for those 5 months, I never chickened out and stuck to my goal. My coach just kept saying “trust the process”, which I tried to do as much as possible.
I took my workouts to another level and learned how to eat like a competitor. The workouts were fine but the eating was just terrible for me. I wasn’t a veggie eater, had never heard of quinoa or even had a sweet potato at that point! My body was in for a shock with the diet.
I saw results quickly because my body wasn’t used to such a clean and healthy diet. I kicked the diet soda habit and I was off and running!
I then became friends with a lot of other fitness competitors online, mostly on Facebook. I even created another Facebook account so I could have all my fitness friends on one and my “real life” friends on the other one. I never wanted to annoy my “real life” friends with all my gym escapades. My fitness page was so helpful at first because I would find motivation from other people’s pictures and posts.
I think it was at this point that I started to develop a body image disorder. When I was training for my competition, I would see all my fitness friends post pictures of their perfect bodies. I started to compare myself to them and it started to become unhealthy. I remember sending this picture to my coach for my weekly check-in and I was completely depressed about how I looked. I felt like I was fat and there was no way I would be able to fit in on stage with the other girls. I was terrified that I was going to embarrass myself in front of everyone.
Looking back at this picture today, I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to look like that on an every day basis. I was strong, fit and healthy. Internally though, I had this morphed sense of what “normal” was and little did I know, things were only going to get worse.
My show came and I did as best as I could. I placed well and was beyond proud of myself afterwards (see my bikini show posts here).
Now….let’s fast forward a year and a half later to today…
The transition from post show to real life has been harder than I ever imagined. It’s been a nightmare to be honest. I gained weight immediately after the show which was to be expected. NO ONE can maintain their stage weight because you’re completely dehydrated and at an unrealistic weight. My post show diet was not good. Coaches recommend you go out and celebrate after the show with a big cheat meal but then get back to eating clean in a couple days. I told myself I’d get back to clean eating after a few days but then a few days turned into a few weeks which turned into a few months.
I couldn’t even handle the thought of eating tilapia, chicken or asparagus because I was so sick of them still.
I had gained back about 25 pounds from my stage weight. I went on stage at 115lbs and then went quickly back up to 140lbs within 6 months.
Before you ask, I’m 5’7. I do understand that 140lbs is absolutely healthy for that height.
Did I feel healthy? ABSOLUTELY NOT. I felt like I lost myself. I felt depressed. My life-long emotional eating issues kicked in and I continued to eat crappy because I was depressed. I ate my emotions and it has been a nightmare.
It wasn’t until recently that I finally realized that I had this body image disorder after my bikini competition. After having a lot of talks with my best friend and boyfriend, they made it clear that they had been worried about how I view myself. To them, I looked great. To me, I was a hot mess! My best friend saw how unhappy I was becoming every week when I saw the scale go up a pound or two. I finally realized that my mind is still stuck in this fantasy “competition world” where I think I should look like all the fitness girls who compete year round. This fitness fantasy world that I was once in is no longer my reality. It’s just not realistic for me to believe I can look like a competitor year round.
Newsflash to myself…I’m a normal girl, living a normal life, blogging about my experiences, working a 9-5 job in an office. I’m not a personal trainer in the gym every day so I’m not as active as most of my fitness friends. The gym and competing are NOT my career and definitely not my life. I go to the gym when I can. I need to stop comparing myself to others who live the competitor life year round and/or who are personal trainers in a gym setting every day. I need to step away from the scale and find a healthy balance with food.
I currently fluctuate from 138-148lbs. Is this a lot more than my stage weight, yes. Is it healthy according to a doctor. YES. Should I stop weighing myself so damn much, YES YES YES.
My metabolism has taken a HUGE hit from the extreme dieting that I did for my competition, and the photo shoot I did a couple months after that.
I have been working on trying to fix my metabolism for a while. There really is something called metabolic damage that can be caused from extreme dieting. I think that my metabolism and/or thyroid has been affected because I’m currently eating what I would have normally had before I started dieting for my show and I’m gaining weight consistently. Maybe it’s because I’ve aged a little bit but I highly doubt it. I’m still going to the gym several times a week. I know my body well enough to know that this weight gain is NOT normal for me. With this confusion and stress, it only adds to the body dysmorphia issues that I’m already trying to deal with.
I’ll have to do a post at a later time to go into more detail about metabolic damage but that’s for another day.
The whole point of this long and emotional post today was so you can see what I’ve been dealing with since my show. To many, I probably seem like a fitness blogger who’s got all her $h!t together, but now you have a deeper look at what I’m dealing with. I know that so many of us women deal with body issues every day and just because I run a fitness blog, don’t think it doesn’t happen to me too!!
I’m constantly worried about my body. It’s become an obsession. If the scale goes down one day, I’m happy. If it goes up the next day, my day is instantly ruined. I think I’m going to do what I tell all my clients to do and hide the scale for a little bit and base my looks off how I feel and the way I look in the mirror. This is such a healthier approach.
I miss the way I felt about myself before I started to become strict with my diet. I miss my old relationship with food and working out. It was a perfect balance that I unfortunately decided to mess with.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder is described by ADAA.org:
“They can’t control their negative thoughts and don’t believe people who tell them that they look fine. Their thoughts may cause severe emotional distress and interfere with their daily functioning. They may miss work or school, avoid social situations and isolate themselves, even from family and friends, because they fear others will notice their flaws.”
It saddens me because I know I’m not alone on this. I know that so many of us compare ourselves and our bodies to other people’s on a daily basis and become too hard on ourselves. By comparing ourselves to others, we become anxious and become unappreciative of what we have been given. With Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, “Fitspo” images are all around us and it makes things so much harder! Wasn’t the world much simpler when social media wasn’t so IN YOUR FACE?
Us women deal with a lot of $H!T It starts young when we start comparing ourselves to other girls at school, then the media is on our ass everywhere we look telling us how we should look and act, and then if you’re like me, you may do something that you’re personality can’t handle..like a bikini competition.
I don’t want you to think that competing is terrible for everyone, it just wasn’t right for me. The personality I have is a bit to obsessive which caused me to diet a bit too extreme and then became too upset with myself when I started gaining my normal weight back. It caused a whirlwind of issues. Competing can be great for some people, but please be careful if you do it (or any restrictive diet for that matter).
I will continue to try to find balance in my life. I have been working on finding a healthier relationship with food and exercise. I am thinking about seeing a doctor to get my hormones checked out and talk to them about the possibility of metabolic damage and how to recover from it.
As with everyone, I’m a work in progress. I will continue to fight and hopefully learn more about what’s the best route for me to take.
I know that many of you deal with body image issues and/or post competition weight gain that can really screw with your head. Not many girls talk about this. It’s kind of like a secret in the competing world..but it’s there. It’s REALLY FRICKIN’ there!!
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. Sorry this post has gotten so long!!! I’ve been wanting to post about how competing ruined me for quite some time now, so it got a bit long!
Much love to all of you and I truly appreciate everyone who continues to follow LiveLifeActive.com.