It's been 4 months since my first bikini competition and just as long since I've been trying to work my way back into "normalcy"... whatever that means. Non competition brain? See, this is the part that you don't hear a lot about. Everyone talks about the prep and show day. At least I never heard much about what happens after.
Don't get me wrong, I LOVED everything about prep. It suited my personality. The food, workouts, accountability, structure. I didn't even really miss booze. I traveled and hung out with friends. I kept as much of my regular life as I could while still giving competition prep 110%. It consumed me and my life, but I was okay with that. I was surrounded by people who supported me even when they thought it was crazy.
Show day... I always say expectations are the root of disappointment. And I, too, fell victim of this. I worked SO damn hard and felt confident and amazing, but placing wasn't in the cards for me that day. Sure, I was devastated the day of, but I picked myself up and realized that wasn't what competition was about. In hindsight I know what I could have done differently as my "stage body" did not quite match my pre stage body.
Throughout the process I made friends, gained confidence, and learned so much about the sport, nutrition/exercise science, my body, and most of all myself. This is what bodybuilding is about. And even though it may have taken me almost a week to get over myself so to say, I realized it.
After competition I gave myself a week to eat and workout how my body wanted... even if that meant deadlifts for 30 minutes on my lunch break. Actually, let's back up... I had a photoshoot scheduled for the Monday after the show, but since I decided to eat foods I hadn't in months all day Sunday, I felt terrible physically and mentally, so that got cancelled. I then decided I didn't need to be as strict, but was trying to reverse diet off of carb cycling. My hormones were a MESS. My body reacted negatively to foods I used to enjoy. And couldn't for the life of me figure out how to go back to "pre-prep life". It's hard when you go from 9-10 HOURS of working out a week to not having to workout at all if you don't want to. It's hard going from ALL THE PROTEIN to normal amounts for lifting. My head was confused and it stressed me out.
I finally scheduled a photoshoot for the end of May. Success! I thought, now I have a reason to keep this up and not be a weirdo. Unfortunately, it had to be rescheduled for the end of July due to a family emergency and I continued with my pseudo strict dieting for another 6-8 weeks.
Let me tell you... the body is so.fucking.smart. It will rebel. It will demand. It will get what it wants regardless of what control you think you have. There were days I would give in and eat the damn cookie or have the giant sweet potato when I wasn't having carbs. It wants what it wants. I know I need to take care of my body if I want to sustain my life as an athlete. And it was a photoshoot I was prepping for not a tiny bikini on a stage. That being said, it still messed me up mentally after I'd give in. Oh the glories of my sick brain.
I held onto until the photoshoot and did a peak week before. For those who don't know, peak week is when you really change your body for competition - the final push if you will and usually involves some form of carb cycling or loading and water manipulation of some sort. I made it through and the morning of my photoshoot looked in the mirror...
"I don't look like I was stage ready!? How isthis possible?! I did all the right things!!" I didn't look stage ready because I wasn't getting on stage. I took a step back and said to myself "You look great! You've been working hard and you're going to rock it today!" I stopped focusing on the "softness" in places I was self conscious about and moved on. I'm glad because the images that Russ and I captured were nothing short of wonderful. I honestly love them more than my stage photos.
After reviewing them, it hit me. You don't need to be ripped and shredded to feel confident and strong. I eased back into non competition eating and continued my workouts. I tried to embrace the fluffiness that would happen from eating carbohydrates telling myself they'll help me recover and "give me gainz".
So, I'm now a little over a month out from that. I said to my friend, Karyn, yesterday that I think I'm finally okay mentally about my body, eating, and lifting. My hormones have finally calmed down. I'm enjoying my workouts and food again. Eating to fuel my workouts and my goals instead of solely to manipulate what my body looks like. I can skip a workout and feel okay about it or I can have a drink if I want. I can deviate from my workouts and do something else that seems fun or join others in their workouts.
It's been a difficult decision, but I've also decided I won't be competing in November. I'm finally in a headspace that can rationalize that I was doing it for redemption and not the right reasons. That's okay! I don't know for sure when the next one will be, but I'm hitting that stage with the BEST me I can build.
I've been enjoying life a little more and not feeling guilty. And best of all, I get to go on vacation with 2 people who mean a lot to me and not have food/workouts consume my life. I get to be active, but not deliberate.
Whatever you do, do it with passion and purpose. Make sure you feel good.