Competing At Any Cost
There are SO many articles, blogs and literature out there right now about all of the damage that can come along with dieting and training for competitions. Metabolic damage, hormone damage, stress, food disorders, emotional and relationship stress, etc, etc. These are all VERY serious issues and very real. And I am very happy that awareness has been raised around these issues.
What bothers me, though, is how it came to become such a huge issue. I'm confused. Why does dieting and training for competitions so often result in completely wrecking your body and health? From the day I decided to see if I could compete (back in 2008) to today…I have never once done anything to any sort of extreme to get ready for a show. I think the most extreme I've ever gone is eating a low fat diet for a few weeks before a show. And that was my very first show when I had no clue about sports and bodybuilding nutrition and still thought that eating fat made you fat. Other than that little bit of ignorance in the beginning, the adjustments I have made to my training and nutrition to compete have been the most healthy, wonderful and positive HABITS I have ever had in my life. I feel sexier, love my new body, have more confidence than ever, my skin is healthy, my hair is pretty, I have energy, motivation, …the list goes on.
Before I began preparing for shows, I partied hard on the weekends, ate like crap, had absolutely no routine, drank more coffee and diet soda than water, skipped meals and did an hour of cardio a few times a week to make up for the pizza, wine and blue cheese dressing I ate multiple times per week. I have never been overweight, but I certainly wasn't lean and definitely wasn't healthy on the inside. I was tired, stressed, grumpy and unmotivated. I justified a few reps of lat pull downs, leg extensions and bicep curls and a yoga class here and there as "getting enough exercise."
Talk about damaging.
I have competed in 10 figure shows without a coach, trainer or nutritionist. I figured out what felt right for my body by trial and error - but always healthy and never deprived. Isn't the point of being in the health and fitness industry to be healthy and fit? It is one big, fat contradiction to be setting an example, inspiring people, posting recipes, exercise videos and articles and building a fan base when behind the scenes you eat 1,000 calories a day and do double days of 60-minute cardio sessions to get ready for a show.
Ladies, whether you think you need to or you have a coach/trainer telling you that you need to…please remember that the bigger picture here is you getting into the best shape of your life. If you can't get on stage without going to extremes, please do not plan to get on stage. Make small adjustments to your lifestyle over time until you naturally come into a place where all you have to do is kick it up a notch to get your body conditioned to step on stage. If you have a lot of weight to lose, I think it's wonderful to use a fitness competition to keep you on track to lose the weight - but, please, do not try to do it in 2-3 months. Make the decision and begin your transformation with PAAALENTY of time ahead of you to slowly develop great habits and change your lifestyle.
If you already compete and gain 19, 20, 21+ pounds after your show and then spend weeks and months hiding your body, feeling embarrassed/ashamed and obsessing all day about how you want to stop eating badly but you just can't…I truly wish you would reconsider competing until you can find a better balance. I promise that you can keep the same habits all year long with just small adjustments (small calorie deficit, a little bit more cardio, less cheat meals, macronutrient cycling, etc) to get you ready for show.
On your own or with a coach, you should be able to create post-show plan to prevent binging and/or emotional stress. When you walk off stage, by all means, enjoy your evening…wake up and have a lovely breakfast, take a couple of days off of the gym, get a massage and relax. After that, keep cooking your food, preparing meals, drinking your water and training hard. Don't break all of your wonderful habits! You should have a plan in place that matches your goals (maintain, gain muscle, etc) that allows you more calories than your show prep, extra cheat meals and some well-deserved time to yourself. Plus, you need to get caught up at work…you have to save up some money for your next suit!
Jessie Hilgenberg, IFBB Figure Pro
Team NLA For Her Athlete
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