I was a figure competitor in bodybuilding for more than four years and nine shows, also placing seventh at my first National level show. At the time it was my passion, nothing could stop me from achieving my goals. My goal was to become an IFBB Professional Figure competitor and I had no doubts I would become one. That is until after my ninth show, at Jr. Nationals, my body was exhausted, it had enough of the years extreme dieting. The back and forth of my off season physique to contest ready physique. I never had the time to be balanced. This exhaustion had been approaching, but something I completely ignored because that is just what a competitor does, they push passed any obstacles that get in their way. It is an all or nothing mentality that forces a tunnel vision to make your physique on stage your priority. Little did I know, I was ruining my metabolism. I might have looked amazing on the outside but everything inside of me was crumbling. I knew I had to make a change.
You might look at my show photos and be inspired or think, I want to look like that. But what you can’t see is the price I paid to get there and I am not talking money. You don’t see the neglect for my family, friends and social events that I missed because I “didn’t have time”. You can’t see how obsessive I was over food. I would hoard food for my cheat meals and binge until I was almost sick. But on the contrast, I was obsessive compulsive over my meal plan, if I diverted, I was upset with myself for “not being perfect”. I was never happy and constantly thinking about food. I developed an unhealthy relationship with food. My life around me became chaotic but the one constant was bodybuilding so I focused 100 percent on achieving my dreams. I did not like the person I was becoming while trying to pursue my passion.
I do not regret those years at all and I am proud of my accomplishments because it has made me the person I am today. I believe the same drive and determination that made me so great at Figure is how I have also been able to find my balance. The road to finding balance was harder than any contest prep I had ever done which is why I call it “Balancebuilding”. It was an emotional journey that I am proud to say is my greatest accomplishment. Here are just a few things I learned while balancebuilding.
Stop Dieting?! What?! That is all I had known is “dieting”, being extreme to get to a place I was pleased with my body. Well, I had to train my mind to think differently. I did a lot of research and I also hired a reputable coach to get me started. Yes, even coaches need coaches from time to time. It was the best thing I could have ever done. I majorly upped my calories with the right macros and increased my healthy fats tremendously to balance out my desperate, out of control hormones. And then I consistently did this day in and day out and waited for results. Which brings me to my next lesson learned.
I am only human and yes, just like everyone else I want results now. But guess what? Getting lasting results definitely does not happen overnight. It takes consistency and persistence. Just having faith in the process and waking up every day giving your best shot to becoming healthy from the inside out. As time went on, I started to focus less on what I was going to eat all day to actually enjoying my life, making healthy decisions when I was out and about, and actually caring about what went in to my body until it was just a subconscious effort instead of an anxiety forced effort.
3. Listen to your body
At first this was a hard task for me. I was used to forcing my will to push passed any cravings that were not on my meal plan, even feeling guilty over eating fruit. The thing is though, our bodies let us know what it needs we just need to pay attention to it. A lot of our “cravings” just mean we are lacking some sort of nutrition. I am not saying to always give in to your sweet tooth, but it could mean you are lacking something very important. I learned that, you know what, I can have a cupcake every now and then because most of the time I am nourishing my body and keeping it fueled. It is called balance. I eat fruit every morning now, my healthy fats are higher than you can imagine and I feel amazing physically and mentally. I also tried out different physical exercises to see what my body really enjoyed. I tried yoga, circuit style workouts, powerlifting moves, gardening, and many others. You have to enjoy what you are doing for balance to last.
4. Love yourself
This is something that can be harder than it sounds but is something that is so important on any journey to finding balance in your life. When I first started this journey I realized I was not treating myself with love at all. I put a sport before myself. I neglected myself to become something that I was starting to view as negative. It was ironic really, I was trying to become the “best” me, when I was truly at my worst physically and mentally. I had to think differently, more positively and eventually it becomes a habit. It took me about a year to realize that I was balanced, I was the healthiest I had ever been, I felt the best about myself, the most confident I had ever been and I was 20 lbs heavier than my stage weight. Before finding balance, that number would have made me depressed. Now I embrace it and I am proud of how far I have come. It is true, if you are healthy inside it shows on the outside. It is also something you have to keep up on a daily basis. It is easy to revert back to old ways but the more you do something the more it becomes second nature. Practice makes perfect.
5. Forgive yourself
So no, I can’t take back all the years I treated myself negatively but I can change my actions today and for the future. Forgiving yourself can take time but it gives you freedom to move forward. It is a step to becoming healthier mentally. The more you forgive yourself, the more love you give yourself, which in turn makes a happier you. It comes down to how you are feeling internally will reflect from the outside.
I am not saying every competitor feels this way or that I will never do another show but this was my past experience that spiraled into a place I will never be again. It has taken me on a journey I can never discount. It has brought me to a place of peace, love and happiness that only I can give myself. I am not perfect, nor do I desire to be perfect anymore. And out of it all I found a new passion, helping with their Balancebuilding journeys. So if there is anything in your life keeping you from feeling balanced, be aware and ask yourself if it is worth it, you might be paying a bigger cost than you think.