This decision certainly has not been an easy one. But I have thought about it a very long time, weighed out the pro’s and con’s, and in all reality, the con’s highly outweigh the pro’s.
While it was a great experience, and I think its helped shaped me to who I am today, it was a phase, and I just have to let it go. As hard as it is, I’m sure there will always be a part of me that wants to get up on stage again, but the repercussions are just not worth it to me in the long run.
Here are all the reasons that made me come to this decision. I’d like to say in advance, that these are my opinions…my own. We all have a right to feel the way we do. If it causes debate, so be it, but I will defend my feelings to the end, because they are mine. I hope you all understand.
I don’t need the approval of a judge to signify a job well done
Objective opinion. Its the most difficult part of a judged sport such as bodybuilding. In one show, you may place well, in another you may come dead last. Your left thinking, “What did I do wrong?”, when simply, there was nothing you could have done different. Your feelings get hurt, and you discount all your hard work because your glutes weren’t tight enough perhaps, or your shoulders weren’t defined enough. You start picking yourself apart and lose sight of all the hard work you put in. I’d rather just leave it on a high note (in my mind), and be happy that I’ve come that far, not dissect myself and think, “I’ll do better next time”, especially when I put everything I had into it.
I don’t think it sets a good example for my daughter
Not to be confused with being healthy and fit, which sets a great example, I believe competing doesn’t set a good example for little girls. I want my daughter to grow up and be confident with her body, but I don’t want her to think that it means everything. I want her to be loved not only for her looks, but for her brains and intelligence. As she gets older, I couldn’t stand on stage continuously and be proud thinking I’m setting a good example for her. Lets be honest. You’re standing up there being judged on your looks alone. Personality has very little to do with it, and brains has nothing to do with it. You could argue that the ‘Fitness’ category with a routine does bring an element of skill into the equation, but not so much with other categories like Bikini. With the intensity of competing, you are sacrificing your health for a short time to gain a specific result. I now believe that we should never sacrifice our health, even for a short time. I don’t think that’s the best example. Which brings me to my next point…
It threw off my hormones that resulted in infertility for 2 years
Month 3 into my first contest prep, I lost my period. Cool I thought….no big deal, it will come back once its all over. It means my body-fat is getting low enough to not sustain a period, so hey, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Oh was I so wrong. If I had known the long road that was ahead, I would have thought twice. After the first 2 shows I did (they were close together), I figured my cycle would be back after a couple months. It wasn’t. Then (stupid me) decided that I’d get in 1 final show before the end of the year to get my Pro Card (which I did). Right before my 3rd prep started, I got a short period. Good sign, I thought. But if you add up all the months I didn’t have a cycle, it was 1 year in total. Not good.
After my last show, my cycle started a few months later, in January 2010, but they were very irregular. It was at this time (after my show streak was done) that we decided we wanted to start actively trying for #2. Just for the record, it took me literally 2 weeks to get pregnant with my daughter, so we never figured the second one would be a problem.
I visited numerous Naturopaths, Doctors and Fertility Specialists. All appeared to be normal, for both of us. But inside, I knew it was because of the competitions. It threw something off. It may have been small, but it was significant. I scaled back on workouts for months, and relaxed on my eating. I’ve never talked in detail about our issues with fertility, but I will get into it in another post coming soon.
Competing is not good for my mental health
Anyone that has competed knows all too well about the after-math. You’ve done all that hard work and restricted your diet for so long…now what? You’ve reached that goal…where do you go from there? You’ve dreamed about all the food you couldn’t have, and afterwards you binge. Sometimes for days, or sometimes for weeks. Your body has been literally starved via no carbs to a low body-fat, it is a natural reaction by your body to want food, and lots of it. Your adrenals are exhausted, and so is your mind. All the focus has reached to an end. Many people (including myself) become food obsessed. You’ve been weighing all your portions and worried about everything you put into your mouth for so long. It starts to overcome you. You try to maintain control by counting calories and exercising more than necessary to ‘maintain’ an unattainable stage image. This leads to a lot of unhealthy thoughts and body image issues. I don’t know how you would avoid being somewhat disordered about food and image. You’ve put yourself in that position. Most don’t realize this until its all over, but that’s when the struggle begins. Many people compete again as they re-gain all the weight they’ve lost, and they feel like the super-strict structure is what’s going to be the magic-pill to get them on track again. That’s so far from the truth. In most cases, it makes matters worse.
It took me months to get my mind straight after competing. I don’t know what finally clicked, but I think as soon as I stopped ‘counting’, it subsided. I haven’t counted calories in a very long time. I still like to know a rough number of what is in things, but I look more at eating the proper food and decent portion sizes versus total calories.
Competing is much more of a mind game than most people realize. You really have to dig deep, especially on the days you’re exhausted. While there is nothing wrong with being determined and reaching a goal, especially if you’ve had lots of obstacles, but if it affects me in the long run in a negative fashion, than that’s where my apprehension lies.
Its very self-centered
I can’t eat this, I can’t eat that, I have to workout at this time, I need to go get fitted for my suit, I have posing practice so you need to watch our child at this time. Notice the I, I, I. Its self-centered. I’m not going to lie, competing was tough on my marriage. I was so immersed in what I was doing with all my food, workouts, managing it all and taking care of a child, my husband became the last person on that list. While he was totally supportive and amazing, I only realized this at the very end. He felt neglected, and never really said anything. I can’t believe I hadn’t seen it sooner. The last 4 weeks before a competition are especially the toughest. My energy was completely gone, I was tired, hungry and cranky. All I could think about was food, and the workouts. So, nevertheless, it wasn’t something that made a positive difference in my family life. It caused a lot of extra stress. Fortunately, its something we got past, and I certainly learned a lot from it.
I want to be healthy, and balanced
Nothing about competing is balanced. Its extreme. At first, it seems balanced with food choices and workouts, but the farther along you go, the more intense it becomes. You can’t eat out, you’re on a very specific diet plan. Your mind has to be in the game at all times. Total focus. Some people thrive on this, and I did to a point, but it started to interfere with all aspects of my life. I became withdrawn from everyone around me as the focus took over.
I don’t like what the sport has become over the past few years
Every year, the look seems to change. Thinner and more ripped, fuller and more balanced. How do you know what’s going to win and what isn’t. Its impossible to gauge. Every girl is trying to stand out, and unfortunately, for some girls, respect can get lost in the process. I see videos and pictures of girls that are going on stage with g-string bikini’s. They are posing in a manner that makes them look like a stripper. If acting in a distasteful way is what gets the judges attention and placings, I have no interest in being classified in that group. That generalization may be harsh, and I personally know many competitors that don’t fall under that category, but unfortunately, its those ‘stripper’ girls that have ruined it for me.
I have no desire to be a fitness model
Many women get into competing as they have dreams of being a published fitness model, and competing is a great platform. But for me, I have no desire to be on the cover of a fitness magazine. While I have the utmost respect for cover models, its not something I’ve ever been interested in pursuing. Having my recipes and articles featured in magazines and various sites is much more of an accomplishment to me. Being the author of a published cookbook would be amazing, and my most recent writing offer from the Huffington Post is truly an honor, and I feel like my hard work and consistency is starting to pay off. The harsh reality is, I find it offensive to be followed by a bunch of perverts that are only interested in my body and seeing photos of me in a skimpy bikini. I know this, because immediately after a competition, and pictures get posted, I would get a flurry of friend requests, and inappropriate messages from unknown men! I would much rather be an example of a healthy and balanced mom that other women can relate to. No offense to the guys. Many men that follow this site, I interact with, and consider them friends. They are respectful and would never be put into the category I mention above.
What I Will Miss About Competing:
That extra push of motivation you have when there’s a deadline
There’s nothing quite like registering and realizing the commitment is set in stone. I would never sign up for something and drop out, unless there was a family tragedy or something very serious. Once I signed up, that was it…there was no turning back. That alone, keeps you much more committed and motivated. You share the news with family and friends, and that makes you even more accountable. Studies show that you’re more likely to follow through on something if you share your goals with loved ones. With competing, you spend a lot of money for training, meal plans, shoes, suit, makeup, hair, tan etc. You don’t want that to be all for nothing. That extra motivation is that extra push when you feel like quitting.
Being recognized for your hard work
After the months of dieting, and making sacrifices, it is nice to “show off”, and be recognized for that. Not a lot of people in this world would be dedicated enough to compete, so that is something to be proud of. This kind of contradicts my first point about needing the approval, which I don’t. But I must admit, it does feel nice to be recognized, and who doesn’t like being flattered!
Plain ol’ competition
I’m a competitive person, I admit it, so the thrill of standing beside others and competing (and doing well) is a great feeling. On the other hard, the disappointment is very hard when you don’t place where you want to. You feel defeated, and that is always hard to take. As much of an accomplishment it is to get there, there can still be disappointment.
Deciding not to compete is by no means an excuse to not get into great shape again, only now, my goal has shifted. My one and only health goal right now is to have another baby. After this happens, I will follow a program again. While it will still be intense, it won’t be as intense as contest prep. I’d like to look at other athletic events. Perhaps a biking event, or even a tough mudder or triathlon. It would be great to do an event with my husband. We’ve never had the opportunity to do an event together, as I was too busy recovering from competition, or keeping my intensity lower in order to conceive.
My diet will include more variety, and I will make sure I maintain a balance. I won’t beat myself up if I miss a workout, or have a treat. It will take me a bit longer, but I know I’ll still reach a result I’m happy with, and I plan on having pictures to prove it 😉 I believe that doing it this way will lead to a better overall maintenance plan. Less restriction, means no reason to binge. No deprivation and over-exercising. Its a lifestyle, and for me, its just getting back on track and doing what I know needs to be done.
I also don’t want to discourage others from competing if they choose to. We all have our own path, and the luxury of making our own decisions. This is what my experience has been. I know that many women have an easier time through prep and somehow manage to not let it affect their life as much. Following through on goals like competing will make someone realize if its for them, or if it isn’t. I would have never come to this conclusion had I not done it. I have no regrets, I believe everything happens for a reason.
I’m thankful for any recognition competing gave me, and for the people that first discovered me through that process. Its something I’ve taken, and built upon.
My last and one of my favorite ‘stage’ shots
Yours in Health,