When I found out I had PCOS, I was devastated about the thought of no longer being able to compete in a figure competition. Having now been through two strongwoman competitions, I am now in a different realm of competing altogether. I don’t think there is anything wrong with competing in bodybuilding – provided you’re doing it for the right reasons – but it is something I have absolutely no interest in anymore.
Back when I first started blogging, I read a blog post by Christine (she has since changed her blog so the post isn’t up anymore, but her original blog was what inspired me to start blogging!) where she said that something like 90 per cent of people who compete have an eating disorder.
At the time, I thought she had to be wrong – I mean, I wanted to compete and I was perfectly healthy, right? The problem with competing is that your life inadvertently revolves around food and working out. Even if you follow the increasingly more common “healthier” if it fits your macros-type of contest prep, you still have to record every morsel that goes in your mouth and count every calorie (which we know I’m not a fan of!).
I will freely admit that I wanted to compete in figure for the wrong reasons. I thought that by achieving such a level of leanness, I would finally feel proud of my body and receive the admiration that I so desperately sought.
I’d estimate that I’ve worked with at least 50 women who have had initial goals of wanting to obtain a bikini model-type physique. Although I don’t immediately discourage anyone from pursuing their goals, I always ask them WHY. Why do they think that looking like a bikini model will improve their life? Will achieving bodybuilder leanness for a fleeting amount of time (because it can only be fleeting, unless you want to dissolve into the depths of a full blown eating disorder) really solve all of their problems?
I now completely agree with Christine. I have worked with a number of women who competed while in denial about their eating habits, yet now deeply regret the damage it caused both their metabolism and mental state.
I see women who are currently prepping for a show and claim to be super healthy and eat OMGallthefoodz, but have the most messed up relationships with food I’ve ever seen. The thing that makes my blood boil is that their followers look up to them as a symbol of health while not knowing the full story, and then feel bad when they can’t achieve the same results.
When I was in high school, thin was very much in. Now it seems that everyone wants to look ripped and all this “strong is the new skinny” crap is only fuelling a new kind of eating disorder and pressure on women to chase an equally impossible physique. In my opinion, it’s much harder to achieve a fitness model look than a fashion model look – the latter can be achieved through pure starvation, but looking like a fitness model involves finding the delicate balance between building muscle while also reaching unnaturally low levels of body fat.
This is why I’m so against “motivational” pictures. People think if they go to the gym a couple of times a week and do a few cable kickbacks, they are going to have an ass like Amanda Latona. They don’t realise how much work truly goes into it.
Preparing for a competition involves 12-20+ weeks of strict dieting, weighing foods, never eating out, never missing a workout, and spending hours not just in the gym but also practising posing. Every bodybuilder I’ve ever met during their so-called peak week seems to be suicidal.
It seems like one ideal has been replaced with another. Girls who have eating disorders can easily dismiss claims of undereating and overexercising under the guise of trying to build muscle. If you question them about not eating enough to actually build muscle, they then use the excuse of not being able to gain too much fat as they want to compete. Newsflash: bulking actually requires weight gain, and your excuses for not being able to are invalid.
I am a self-admitted selfie whore on Instagram, but I try to limit how many half-naked photos I share. I know a lot of people think that posting selfies is a cry for validation, but for me it’s about feeling proud of how far I’ve come. I’ve transformed from a skinny runner with one hell of a messed up metabolism to a thicker, stronger woman who has now been featured on a website for competitive eaters!
I am proud of my body because of what it can do and where it has come from, and I don’t need to stand on stage in a bikini to prove that. I think women are already too critical of their own bodies – we don’t need to ask strangers to add to the judgement.
I like being able to look in the mirror and not pick on certain body parts for being underdeveloped or too soft. Of course, it’s pretty cool when I see my muscles becoming more defined, but I view it as an added bonus of participating in an activity I enjoy, rather than the sole reason I work out.
Of course, there is still that 10 per cent of competitors who don’t have messed up relationships with food. The perfect example which comes to mind is Chelsey. She goes about prep in the sanest way possible – she doesn’t cut carbs and she still lifts heavier than I could dream of two weeks before a competition!
I know there are numerous bodybuilders who read my blog so I’m not trying to offend anyone – I’m genuinely curious as to the reason you compete. I appreciate the aspect of wanting to improve yourself physically, but the sacrifice doesn’t seem worth it to me. I started this blog as somewhat of a bodybuilding journal, but my goals and beliefs have obviously changed over time.
If you compete in bodybuilding, why do you do it? How do you cope with the eating and training side of competing?
If you don’t compete, have you ever felt pressure to look like a fitness model?