So you’re getting serious about fitness and you want to challenge yourself even more. You’re scrolling through Instagram and you are captivated by all these fitness competitor’s. You’re mesmerized by the glam, the aesthetics, the chiseled abs and that confidence that cannot be taken away. Something suddenly clicks! You start playing around with the idea of what it could be like if YOU were on that stage? Imagine the attention you would get? That one day, all eyes are on you. Everyone is there for YOU. You get your hair and makeup done, you get that beautiful dark tan, you put on that sparkling suit and you prepare yourself for a day you will never forget. It’s a game changer. While you’re focusing on all that positivity, you are failing to dig deeper. You fail at researching the aftermath of a competition…or are you? Maybe you are doing your homework, but you simply cannot find the flaws behind competing. If you are doing your research and you simply cannot find athletes discussing the negatives of competing, that’s because it’s taboo in this industry. No one wants to talk about the AFTERMATH. Well, I sit here today, behind my MacBook at a Second Cup and Starbucks, to give you the down low and the realities behind competing.
If you’re thinking of competing, you need to read this carefully. At the end of the day, you choose the outcome, but don’t say you weren’t warned!
My story: where did it all begin?
If you’ve been following my journey, either through my blogs or even on Instagram, you know by now that I competed in my first show just a few months ago. Then, I proceeded to do a second, 7 weeks later, since I qualified for Provincials.
When I started my journey to a healthier lifestyle, I was always in “awe” of fitness competitors. I looked at them and I always tried to picture how I would look like and feel in a size 0. I always envisioned that future for myself, and I was going to do whatever it took to get there. Because let’s be honest, for most people (not all), it’s appealing.
In November 2016, I got down to business. I hired a coach, I picked a federation, I picked a category and I picked a show date. Now, it was time to share those plans with my trainer and come up with a game plan. Since I had been cutting for approximately 10 months (disclaimer: this was done at a very slow and healthy rate), it was time to “reverse diet“. My trainer was going to try and bring me up to eating 2000 calories per day before my prep begun. My prep was going to start March 1st, 2017 and it was going to last 16 weeks.
My trainer at the time had noticed that I didn’t have the best relationship with food. I would still refer to certain meals as “cheats” and I often times couldn’t control myself while I was out with friends and family. There were no exceptions when it came to Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. His plan was not only to bring up my calories, but to work on that relationship and turn it into a positive one.
As March was quickly approaching, my weight was going up slowly, which is what we wanted. I remember the last 5 weekends before prep started, I had every Saturday’s treat meal planned out. I kept telling myself that I wasn’t going to be able to eat these foods for 16 weeks, so I wanted to have them one last time before throwing myself in prep. Well, on February 25, 2017, I should have realized that I hadn’t achieved that healthy relationship just yet. Although most days were good, I still struggled.
I had been mentally preparing myself for restriction. Seeing as though prep was beginning in just a few short days, I had planned to go out to Mandarin (an all you can eat buffet) with some friends. This was the perfect ending to a reverse diet in my mind, and a good way to eat everything I hadn’t had the chance to eat before the beginning of a long 16 weeks. And before we continue, when I say EVERYTHING, I mean EVERYTHING!
On that day, I consumed a whopping 4 plates of food. Being a little under 5’2, and weighing 127 lbs, there was NO way my stomach could handle all of that food. My first plate was just sushi (I had a plan to keep it relatively “clean”). While I was eating my sushi, I noticed everyone’s fried food. I wanted that. My second plate, as you guessed, was ALL fried food. From chicken balls, to chicken wings, to fries, onion rings, egg rolls, pizza and much more…I DEVOURED it. I hardly even chewed my food. My third and fourth plate was dessert. I think I had about 3 pieces of pie on one plate, and every other pastry and ice cream on the second. I was full after my 2nd plate, but in my head, I NEEDED to fit dessert in. After all, I wasn’t going to be having this chance again for a whole 16 weeks!
Before leaving the restaurant, my stomach was in so much pain, I felt sick. I felt that I needed to puke. Fun fact: I am incapable of puking. It’s genetic. Otherwise, I would have puked that day. My boyfriend and I got home, and I fell asleep for 3 hours mid-afternoon before my shift started at Boston Pizza. When I woke up, I felt just as horrible, except I had an added migraine.
I went to work and got through my shift. All I could think about was the fact that prep was starting. Even though I was still in a lot of pain, I proceeded to order a giant pan fried cookie with ice cream. I sat at work, hidden in a booth and I demolished it. Now, I was feeling horrible about myself and convinced myself that it was going to be okay. I was going to start my 16 week prep the next day, which was a few days earlier than anticipated, but it was going to be okay!
Leading up to prep, and even the stage, I had countless of friends in the industry warning me about the repercussions of doing a show. Other athletes and even trainers tried to warn me of what will (not may) happen post-show, but I ignored every single warning. Even the one’s that were so obvious (my relationship with food). I convinced myself that it would be different for me. I constantly told myself that it would be okay, ignoring not only friends, but all of the signs.
Throughout the 16 weeks, surprisingly, I hadn’t encountered one single craving. That’s probably because I was baking low calorie desserts that kept me in check!
It felt weird. Every competitor I had met along the way told me about their cravings and what they were going to eat post-show. It was different for me. I didn’t have a craving. I didn’t have an idea of what I wanted post-show. The only plan I came up with, was to head on over to Boston Pizza and just eat whatever it is that I wanted to eat. Seemed like a good plan at the time, but it ended up being a mistake!
The night show came to an end, and I was riding such a huge high! I had just placed 2nd place in my first ever bikini competition. No one was able to bring me down from that feeling, I was literally floating on a cloud and happier than I had ever been in my life. The second I stepped off that stage, I began putting my hands on every single treat I could find. From chocolates, to Swedish berries, to Oreos and homemade chocolate chip cookies, this was simply the beginning of my night.
My boyfriend and a few friends of mine headed out to Boston Pizza. Well, I took one look at the menu and my eyes were MUCH bigger than my stomach. Steve and I ordered a team platter as an appetizer, then we ordered a Medium pizza and I had a chicken sandwich with sweet potato fries. We ended up taking a lot of it home, which was another mistake. I was showered and un-glammed by 11:30pm and in bed. At 3:00 a.m., I woke up and remembered the pizza that was waiting for me in the fridge. I snuck upstairs, pulled out the pizza box and my iPad, and sat on the couch quietly watching Netflix and eating pizza, followed by a chocolate bar. I wasn’t even hungry – my stomach was STILL hurting from consuming so much food. A very similar situation and feeling that I encountered back in February.
I woke up Sunday morning, and we had plans to go out for sushi with friends. Well, at 7:00 a.m., I woke up and ate half a load of my sister’s homemade banana chocolate chip bread, and some more pizza (on a full stomach). 11:00 a.m. rolled around quickly, and I wasn’t sure it was such a good idea to go out for sushi, since I was still in a lot of pain and very full. But, because I had come in second place at the show, that meant I was going to be on prep for another 7 weeks, bringing me to the Provincial stage. So with that mind set, I sucked it up and went out for sushi anyway. I ate until I was burping up the taste of puke. And still after this, we all decided to head on over to Dairy Queen for some ice cream. But I was so full, I took mine to go. Came home, napped again for 2 hours, woke up, and went out for dinner. I had 2 bites of my dinner because that taste of puke was still there. My stomach hated me. My body was hurting, but I couldn’t stop myself.
We got home later that night, I ate my ice cream, demolished a bag of mini eggs, had some more pizza and kept eating as much as I could possibly fit since I was back on prep the next morning!
The beginning of an unhealthy relationship with food:
So it’s Monday, it’s time to be back on prep for the next 7 weeks. Well, it was brought to my attention that a close uncle of mine didn’t have very long to live as he was battling cancer. So Monday was devoted to driving to Montreal to say good-bye. The only thing I brought with me was rice cakes and a protein bar. I didn’t have enough time to actually prep some food, so this is what I left with.
While we were driving back home to Ottawa, after our visit, I was very emotional. I was sad. Sad to know that this was going to be the last time I ever see him again. So on the way home, my sister and her boyfriend stopped for gas. I was craving Subway and Dairy Queen. To my “luck”, they were both right next to the gas station. I ordered a footlong sub, a medium Oreo blizzard mixed with cookie dough bits, and ate it all within 10 minutes. I was happy.
I kept driving home and about 1 hour from Ottawa, I stopped at a Tim Hortons. I told myself I had already screwed up and was off my plan, so I may as well continue for the day. I got an Ice Cap with whipped cream and a donut. I got home, and I wanted more food. I hadn’t told my boyfriend what I had eaten, only that I was emotional and I wanted to eat. No matter how much he tried to convince me to eat healthy, I ignored him. And so another binge happened.
Today is September 14, 2017 – 1 month post Provincials. I am now weighing about 11.5 lbs above stage weight – which is “normal” I suppose, but not under these circumstances. Maintaining stage weight is unrealistic, nor should you try to maintain it. As I sit here, I am on day 4 of no bingeing episode. Today, I am confident. I am confident that this is the beginning of recovery. I am confident today. Will I be tomorrow? Who knows. It’s an uphill battle. I am constantly aware of my triggers, my surroundings and what type’s of food I am around.
Do I regret competing? Absolutely not. Would I have done things differently would I have known? Maybe. But no matter how many times people warned me, I chose to ignore it. Why? Because I thought I was going to be the exception, not the rule. The reality is, if you’re a competitor, you’ve been through this before, and you’re probably still struggling. And that’s okay. What’s not okay is keeping it quiet or remaining in denial. It’s not okay to pretend that doing a show is healthy and fun all of the time. There are so many things you don’t see behind every athlete’s journey, and there’s a reason for that. It’s ugly.
After reading this post, if you are still dead set on doing a show, just be mindful. Have a plan. Make sure that you love yourself and that you have that good relationship with yourself and food before you even begin to think about doing a show. This industry will chew you up and spit you out, you better be ready to endure a whole lot.
To all my fellow competitors: I admire each and every one of you. I know what it’s like to do back to back shows, or even let alone just one. It’s hard. It’s a struggle at times. But at the end of the day, the friends you make, the lessons we learn…those are things no one can take away from us. To be a competitor, it truly is an unexplainable feeling.
Will I compete again? Who knows. I need to take care of myself, my body, my mind and my relationships with friends, family and my significant other before I think about doing another show in the future.
If you enjoyed reading this post, stay tuned for a future blog post about the ups and the downs of competing.