Originally, I set out to compete purely as a personal challenge. I lost a whole bunch of weight and started to get the athletic shape I recognized from my teen years. As I learned about fitness, I found out about physique competitions and thought, "You know what, I reckon I can do that!" So I watched a few shows, did a lot of research, and decided I would give it a crack.
Six months later, I stepped on stage for the first time looking better than I had in years. But it took a lot of hard work, time, patience, sacrifice, and perseverance to get there. I lost precious time with my friends and family, productivity at work, and a healthy perspective on my body. Although I knew the price, I paid it willingly, because the pride I felt on stage was the reward.
So, that was that. I had done the job I set out to do. But I didn't stop there. I wanted to compete again because I wasn't completely happy with myself the first time around. Yes, I saw that I had made a remarkable transformation, and I was proud of myself, but there were parts of my body that I was not so happy with. I felt like my glutes, hamstrings, and rear delts were weak. (I realize how ridiculous that sounds to someone who has never competed. Troubled by your rear delts? What does that even mean?) I saw room for improvement. I wanted to compete again, but this time I would feel better about my body and its condition.
And so it started again. My relationships suffered, my work suffered, my health and sanity suffered. I can say that now, reflecting on the experience. At the time I strongly denied that I felt anything but positive. In my heart, however, I knew full well what was happening. I ignored it in my pursuit of achieving a better body than I brought to the last contest.
Obsessiveness ensued. This part was really difficult for me to write, but yes, I became truly obsessed with my body. In every mirror, window, and shiny surface, I was checking myself out. Are my delts growing? Is my butt taking shape? Are my abs coming in? It's exhausting. It's mentally draining. It's all-consuming. Every thought was focused on my body. I couldn't stand myself like that. It wasn't who I wanted to be. There was so much more going on in the world and in my life that I was ignoring. Instead, I chose to focus on my body. I'm usually all about balance, strength, kindness, and positivity to the body, but I feel I turned against some of my own values during my competition journey.
Don't get me wrong: I am proud of how I looked and am proud of the way I went about it. (Special thanks go to an amazing coach Evan Godbee.) But, I still feel a little unsettled about how much my perspective changed.
When I think about myself and my body now, I know a few truths about who I am and where I want to be. They are things that I lost sight of in the last few months. I know I always wanted to be in athletic shape; I always wanted to be strong and fit; I always wanted to be able to eat without guilt or fear; and I always wanted to be able to enjoy an enriched, vibrant, and balanced lifestyle.
I have a friend who I admired when I was overweight. She was in fantastic shape and trained hard every day. But she would treat herself whenever she wanted. I would be so jealous at work when she ate a brownie while I had to have yet another bowl of vegetable soup. She would say, "I work hard to be able to eat what I want, but I choose to eat healthy the majority of the time." And I thought, Damn, I want that too. That's all I've ever wanted!
The board is wiped clean. I'm getting back to those original goals: strength, power, fitness, health, and balance—especially balance, because I want to experience life to the fullest without worrying about food or my body all the time. I want to go out to dinner on a whim with my boyfriend, enjoy it, and not feel guilty. I want to feel comfortable and happy in my own skin at all times.
I don't even feel happy when I'm lean. I feel small, skinny, and weak. That is not at all what I want to feel! I just want to be "me" and be happy with who I am, mentally and physically.
I'm thankful for my competition experience for showing me these truths about myself. I now know the sport is not for me. I fully support people who do it—and I love and respect the sport. It's just not the lifestyle I want for myself anymore. I feel so free now that I know this. I already feel happier with myself and my body than I have in a long time. I'm growing, changing, and evolving every day.
I journey onward and upward from here, my friends—new goals, new focus, new life!