The Post-Contest Diet: Interview With WBFF Pro Joelle Murphy

We all know about pre-contest dieting, but what happens after the house lights dim and the specter of hunger appears?

The fitness competition industry is chock-full of incredible athletes and amazing personalities. One such woman is WBFF fitness pro Joelle Murphy. Joelle's incredible fitness journey began when she was recovering from a traumatic brain injury, one that caused her to lapse into a three-day coma. She had to re-learn how to walk and talk, and underwent months of physical and speech therapy.

Afterward, she was plagued with self-esteem issues and became depressed about how her life had changed. She didn't know if she would ever make a full recovery. To prove to herself that she could do whatever she put her mind to, she entered a local figure and bodybuilding competition and placed third. Since then, Joelle has earned her WBFF pro card and has continued to compete.

Joelle's success has not come without dedication, willpower, and an intense work ethic. But this perfection is difficult to maintain. Sometimes, the superhuman expectations of this competitive industry can be a lot for one woman to handle.

In the following interview, Joelle gets real about the mental side of dieting, binging, and self-denial. It's not always pretty and it's not always fun. This is the stuff that's not printed alongside air-brushed photos. This is the gritty truth.

Our Friend, Food

Sara Solomon: I confess that the hardest relationship in my life is the one I have with my food. In fact, I probably think about food at least 100 times per day. Do you sometimes feel like food controls you?

Joelle Murphy: I am constantly thinking about food, whether it's planning my next meal or counting down the time until my next cheat meal. I find I don't think about food as much if I keep my mind busy by going for a brisk walk or if I have a cup of coffee.

Do you find the pre-competition or post-competition diet more challenging?

I find the pre-competition diet to be easier because it is structured and ready to go—no thinking or worrying about anything! After the competition however, I have friends and family who want to celebrate the fact that I can "eat again." That means they expect me to eat what they eat, which isn't always healthy.

And honestly, I tend to get an upset stomach because I'm not accustomed to the standard American diet. As long as I am the cook, then I am able to resume pre-contest eating. Eating clean on a daily basis works and has become a simple routine for me.

How do you bounce back from a "bingefest"?

Sometimes, I crave sugar so badly that I get mad because I can't have it. So I try to change my perception of food from one of instant gratification to one of nourishment for survival. When I can do that, I find I only want what my body needs. Another trick of mine is sometimes to remind myself of what will happen if I have too much.

Do you think it would be wise to plan a pre-organized cheat meal once per week to prevent diet mishaps?

I definitely agree. It's so important to plan your away-from-home cheat meal. Knowing that you'll get a treat once each week helps keep you focused.

Weighty Matters

Do you struggle to maintain your weight loss once you have achieved your goal weight?

I don't usually "let myself go" after a competition. My post-competition diet resembles my pre-competition diet. Sure, there's always a rebound or binge period that all competitors go through. But once you've "gotten it out of your system," it's easy to find the motivation to burn all the extra calories you've eaten.

There may be a slight period of depression, but that doesn't last long if you stay strong and push through the pain.

When you were a child, did your parents feed you healthy food? Has your childhood diet impacted your adult eating habits?

Growing up, I lived in a small town that was a one-day trip away from the big city. We had no choice but to grow our own food. My uncle had a grain farm, we had a huge vegetable garden, and we even had a raspberry bush. Maybe having fresh garden vegetables available helped me appreciate a good tomato.

Do you weigh yourself daily? What is your opinion on routine weigh-ins?

I have a scale at home but it's tucked away and I never use it. I'll jump on the scale at the gym every now and again, but it's nothing obsessive. I think we should judge our weight/look by the way we feel in our clothes.

Do you analyze or criticize your body in the mirror? Be honest! (I'm guilty of doing it.)

I do look at myself often and judge myself. Sometimes I catch myself putting myself down and forgetting what I have accomplished to get this far. I can't let it all go to waste. Those moments are when I have to stay positive and strong.

Healthy Is as Healthy Does

I am often still hungry even after I eat. Does this happen to you? How do you prevent cheating between meals?

It's all about willpower. How badly do you want to achieve your dream physique? If you are still hungry after eating, you may just be dehydrated. It's best to reach for a glass of water to see if that helps the hunger abate.

Keep yourself busy so you don't get bored. Don't sit around doing nothing. Find something to clean. Go for a walk. Lay on the floor for a few quick ab crunches. Just do something. Sitting around thinking about eating just makes it worse!

Please share your favorite healthy meal with us.

When you have a strict and limited list of things you can eat, you will be surprised how creative you will become. My last meal of the day is protein and vegetables with a teaspoon of flax oil.

This Is My Favorite Meal
  • green beans

    Green Beans

    1-2 cups

  • eggs

    Egg Whites


  • red chili

    Red Chili

    1 tbsp

  • flax

    Flax Oil

    1 tbsp

  • mustard


    1 tbsp

What time of day do you work out? Does the time of day affect your level of motivation? Is there a pre-workout supplement you can recommend to help us get through our workouts?

I prefer to do cardio first thing in the morning and weight train at night. I usually don't have much energy in the evenings to train. But I take Opus from Magnum Nutraceuticals and that powers me through any late-night workout!

Preparing Your Best Self

When you prepare for a photo shoot or a fitness competition, which supplements do you take to help you achieve a lean physique? Do you take these all year, or only when preparing for an event?

I consume the same supplements year-round. I am currently taking supplements by Magnum Nutraceuticals. I take:

Joelle's Supplement Stack
  • A-Bomb

    A-Bomb (Arginine)

  • Quattro

    Quattro (Isolate/Protein Blend)

  • Acid

    Acid (CLA)

  • G

    G (Glutamine)

  • Loaded

    Loaded (Multi-vitamin)

  • Heat Accelerated

    Heat Accelerated (Fat Burner)

    Taken closer to a show

If you don't have any shows or shoots booked, does this make you more likely to deviate from your diet and training regime?

By booking shoots or appearances, I am more structured because I have to stay in shape. I need a reason. But, I also need to take ownership of my feelings and decisions.

The average person in the population does not have shows or photo shoots to keep them on track. Can you provide other tips for maintaining accountability?

Regardless of whether you are doing a shoot, it's a good idea to take a picture of yourself and set goals. It also helps to be accountable to a commitment. I need to work with my trainer regularly. Knowing I will see them soon helps me stay in line.

Do you perform your cardio fasted (on an empty stomach) in the morning to assist with fat burning? What is your philosophy on this?

I need to perform some sort of cardio every morning. It's like a much-needed cup of coffee! I do it fasted after taking caffeine pills and a fat burner.