So, now let's move on to some other things I'm tackling as I enter week 2 of my official retirement from the stage. I'm already taking some important steps in finding more balance in my life. I've changed my workout schedule so that I can be home more with my son, and I can tell he really appreciates it. I know more and more every day how retiring was absolutely the right thing to do. But what now? How do I transition from being that lean, mean, ripped to shreds machine on stage to being just your average mom (yeah right, like I'll EVER be average..ha!).
Let's tackle the big fat (yes with cellulite) elephant shall we? I'll admit, I used the stage as a means to battle my weight and body image issues for the last 8 years. I'd reach that image of perfection, get on stage, then immediately gain tons of weight back for years...every time hating myself for it. Then I'd dangle that competition carrot in my face again so that I would shed the weight...again. For some reason, I couldn't be happy with my body if I wasn't in competition shape. Let's take a step back for a second. Before I started competing, my "skinny I feel good about myself wear half tops in public to show my tummy" weight was around 122 lbs. Yeah, I thought I was the shit at this weight. I wore short shorts, half tops (they were in style then)...I was proud to be in a bikini at the beach. Then I got preggo, got fat (gained 50 lbs), lost 50 lbs, then lost another 15 lbs and hit the stage at 108 lbs. Holy f&*(. I never ever thought I could look THAT good! I was in awe of my new body. But, I dieted for the show wrong, and I most certainly did my post show diet/binge wrong and quickly was back up in the 120s and then (gasp) 140s!. But wait...why all the sudden did I feel fat when I hit 115, 118, 122? That was always my "skinny" weight...but now I was ashamed of myself, hid in my clothes, was ashamed to go to the gym "like this." What would people think of me? They had seen me at my leanest, they would think "omg she's sure letting herself go after the show." And the worse I felt the more I ate, the less I trained...sound familiar????
People, let me tell you...this went on for YEARS! If you really want to know why I competed...it was to get that lean body back. It was my demented form of yo-yo dieting. And I know I'm not the only one doing this. I've had to ask clients, who I can see are struggling with the demands of a competition prep this really important question "Why do you REALLY want to compete?" Sadly, many of them were doing it ONLY as a means to lose weight. But guess what...this is the MOST wrong reason ever to get on stage because that stage weight? Well for the majority of us, it is not a weight you can or should maintain for long periods of time. I know women, who have attempted to stay at their stage weight, only to find that doing that has wrecked god awful havoc on their health, their hormones, their relationships...you name it. Don't get me wrong, there are a few genetically gifted individuals out there that stay lean like that all the time...but let me tell you...they struggle with their own body image issues too...I've seen it.
The last time I got on stage (June 2011) I swore I would NOT let myself blow up as I had in years past. Getting on stage no longer became my challenge...I could do a comp diet standing on my head..what I had not mastered was how to NOT blow up after the stage. So I took this challenge head on. I changed my relationship with food DURING my prep so that I could carry on that relationship post show. I realized that the junk food junkie that I had always proclaimed myself to be, was no longer who I really was. I didn't want to feel like shit anymore and that crap food made me feel like shit. That was the reality. I started to appreciate the food I put in my body, it was nourishment for my body, it tasted good, I didn't have to choke it down anymore. Every contest prep BEFORE 2011 was miserable. One prep I couldn't eat chicken, it made me puke, the next it was tuna, the next it was tilapia...it was getting ridiculous. But when I stopped telling myself that I HAD to eat this miserable food and be on this miserable diet (devoid of poptarts and french fries), and started telling myself that my body deserved these good foods, that crap I was craving was only going to make me feel like crap! And guess where the crap cravings came from???? Oh yeah..that awesome childhood of mine. I grew up on crap food, it was a comfort to me...yes...I was an emotional eater and my emotions during contest prep (yo-yo dieting remember....eliminating all the foods I loved) were all over the place...BECAUSE I WAS DOING IT FOR THE WRONG REASONS!
Ok, so where am I going with this? Oh yeah...so when I changed how I felt about contest prep and the foods that went along with it, I was finally able to get control of my off-season. I wanted to stay "fit" and feel "healthy". I didn't want to have to lose 20 lbs again cuz that sucked! I wanted to continue to look like an athlete and be comfortable in my skin. Now, that did NOT mean that I stayed at my contest weight...nope. And it didn't mean that I deprived myself of things that I do still love to eat (and drink). I like the occasional glass of wine (or frootloop vodka lol). I like to have a piece of cake at a birthday party, yeah...I like to live a normal life. But the majority of my meals still came from my "contest prep" foods that I really came to love and the rest of the time I enjoyed myself. Did I gain a little more than I wanted...yup..sure did. I sit now around 125 (on my 4'11.5" frame) and I HAVE CELLULITE on my butt and backs of my thighs. But you know what? What real woman doesn't? Ok ok...there are some that don't, but that stage image, those smoke and mirrors, those images of perfection you see? That's not real...that's not all the time, that's not real life! I had to realize that I am still a fit, healthy woman. And my size 0's still fit (well most of them anyway)...so when I would look in the mirror and start to "hate myself" I had to remind myself that if I wear a size 0 I cannot call myself FAT! Even if I wore a 2 or a 4! Did I have some fat..yup...my body needs some fat! But was I fat? Oh hell no. Was my body changing and giving me a little extra pudge in my tummy that I never had before? Yeah...and ain't gonna lie...that shit sucks...but my ass and legs have never looked this good in my off season and my back? Wow...my back was rock'n!
You see, I had to change the message in my head. I had to force myself, each time I looked in the mirror, to stop picking myself apart, stop finding all the areas that didn't look stage ready. Even as I write this it sounds silly to me. I am still training, I'm feeling strong, I am an athlete and I am a real woman and I have cellulite. You want to know what else really changed it for me? I went to Vegas and saw the show Zumanity. This is going to sound weird, but I was expecting to see all these women with perfect bodies performing all these really amazing moves on stage. You know what I saw??? Women, with some very IMPERFECT bodies. Lots of curves, some cellulite, some with a little flab on their bellies...but OMG they were so sexy, so strong, so athletic and so freaking confident in their skin (did I mention nearly naked?) on stage in front of 1000s of people! Dear freaking lord what was I always picking myself apart for? These were real women, really sexy and super confident. This was the defining moment for me. I realized right then and there that I had to be sexy and confident in whatever body I had. In MY real body, not some ideal image I had for myself or what I thought other people wanted to see me as.
So you know what? When I finally changed my relationship with food, with competing, with my post competition body and with my image of myself....I WON! I found my healthy off-season body, cellulite, tummy pudge and all. Once I won that off-season battle with my self-image, I no longer needed the stage to dangle that carrot to get lean so I could be happy with myself. I found peace within myself and know that I'll be able to maintain this for years to come.
So my point, if I have one, is there are NO perfect bodies on stage or off. Even on stage the tan and lights cover our flaws (stretch marks, scars), we can pose away a little jiggle here and there (I'm an expert at this btw). And off stage...we are real people. Real women (and men) with real lives and real bodies. It's ok to gain a little..in fact it can be good for you. Change your relationship with the the prep. You aren't deprived, you are eating for your goals. You are an athlete, you are not dieting, you are training and eating to fuel your athletic body. Once you change your relationship with your prep, you can and will change your post-show relationship with food. And don't hate yourself for gaining a few lbs, remember, your body needs a little fat to survive...and remember that real women have curves (even us athletes)! Take a good hard look at some real female athletes out there....you'll see what I mean. The way a woman carries herself, big or small, fat or fit....that's what's really attractive!