Ok, so I dumped my guts out to you all last week giving you a little glimpse of where I came from. I got a lot of really great feedback from that blog, so many of you can relate...it's scary actually how many of us in this sport grew up like that. I think it's a coping mechanism of sorts to do what we do. 

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! 

How many of you reading this, are doing this to yourself right now? You've gained a little more weight than you wanted, you're beating yourself up for it regularly and you're thinking "if I just set a competition date...I'll get lean again." Admit it, you are out there...but you are NOT alone! If you are only thinking of competing so that you can get the weight off and using the stage as your carrot to get you there, you are doing it for the wrong reasons. Stop the madness. Get control of your relationship with your body and food before you decide to step on stage again, end the viscous cycle. I'm hoping I can reach even one woman out there struggling with this and help them see that there is light...I mean life...after the stage...even with an imperfect body!



01/24/2014 6:20pm

Tina I needed this! You've seen the emails going back/forth and I'm doing this now and I hate it! I too saw Zumanity and its an awesome show and you do truly get a sense of "all bodies are beautiful" (I especially love the "baggies" part!!!!). I can't wait for your next blog, b/c I feel like you're reading right from the pages of my life and I think I can really learn from you!

01/25/2014 5:15am

I couldn't agree more!!! We all have so much to learn from one another and we learn that we have so much more in common Than we would have imagined !

01/29/2014 7:13am

Traud - you know I get it girl. You will get through this if you just keep believing in the process. The most important thing i can recommend is to make sure that you are competing for the right reasons!

Kristina Straub
01/25/2014 4:21am

Once again thank you for sharing your story. This is my first prep. I've come to realize that prep isn't all that bad! I expected the worst as everyone said how hard it was going to be. I always love a challenge, saw a friend compete this past June and her transformation was ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!... I had to try it ... It's so out of my box. I do t like to be center of attention.. I do t wear bikinis especially in public. I have always been uncomfortable in my own skin. I wouldn't say I have a bad relationship with food. I played sports in high school ate pizza,fries and milkshakes! I am 5'2" I've carried my weight fairly well even after marriage then the struggle came during pregnancy gaining 40lbs with the 1st losing it all back to normal, pregnant again gaining 40 lbs and lost 10lbs and pregnant yet again for the 3rd time gaining 35lbs now lost 10... Finished with children I am now 38 lbs over my normal weight working full time nightshift... Completely exhausted and frustrated, over weight and feared I would be stuck... So I started signing up for marathons because I Hate running. I practiced aerial yoga and trapeze... Yeah I can do cirque du Soleil acts !!! It was a passion! Kept a food log with myfitness pal lost 12 lbs. found a groups for boot camp fell in love with HiiT classes lost lost 21 lbs in five months with clean eating and class for a Total of 33lb weight loss... My doctor was shocked... I immediately told him I don't have cancer I've been working out HARD and changed my diet from convenient to clean which clean is the most convenient! But around Xmas after weight loss. I loss so fast that I began to have issues with digestion and had to keep log of what worked and didn't :/.
My whole life I've loved a new challenge. I didn't get into the high school of my choice the first time so I worked harder in the 9th grade to get there for 10th grade.. I didn't get into my college of choice the first time so I worked harder to get in the next year. I wanted to be a nurse ( most competitive program to get into) I got in! I work for Johns Hopkins (competitive). Did a tough Mudder last April ! Reached my fitness goals and found a new challenge to stand I front of loads of people in a blinged out bikini !!!

This is my biggest challenge yet! So out of my box... Hair make up nails I love it .... Tiny blinged out bikini scary and learning to pose gracefully 😳 I've gotta lot of work to do .... Lots of insecurities to conquer and I am super thrilled to have an awesome group of women who are just amazing and normal and supportive ! Rare gems ... I am thankful and look forward to a long lasting memories and just have the best time on stage .....

Mama T
01/29/2014 7:16am

Great story Kristina! You are one tough chica! I have no doubt you will conquer the hell outta this competition thing, it's clearly not in you to fail at anything...and dammit if you did you would just come back stronger...you're a fighter. I'm so excited to have you on the team and to have you allow me to be a part of this exciting journey with you!

01/25/2014 6:25am

Tina this is great! As a first time competitor I haven't experienced the post competition yet, but I will think back to this blog post as I come out of competition as a reminder for myself!

Mama T
01/29/2014 7:17am

Vanessa - yes, the post comp can be really really hard. Having a plan and a support group post comp is almost more important than the prep for the comp itself. I'm here for you!

Paula Davis
01/25/2014 2:26pm

I soooo needed this!!! Thank you for sharing!

Tammy Elle
01/25/2014 4:04pm

I'm glad your train stopped at the station. Remember, the one I shared with you I spent a year getting off of? Lucky for me, I didn't have the regain cycle after competitions. I'd say my issue was more building and gaining in the first place. So being lean, staying pretty lean came relatively easily. I was 'skinny fat' from chronic workouts and food restriction - after all I was a 40 hour per week dancer in HS. I made a conscious choice to stay 'close' so I could just about walk on stage any time or be ready for photo shoots.

Problem - continual restriction can cause major issues with hormone balance/thyroid down the road. Also - the addiction factor. It had me missing social events, parties, and always being the odd ball that 'couldn't eat' what everyone else was having - not even a bite. And the record that played in my head was this, "someday you'll leave this earth. when that day comes, you'll have missed out on some important tastes, experiences, celebrations and bonding." AND FOR WHAT? So the balance is a swing back from Never indulging to sometimes partaking within reason. And you know what? I'm still the same person in everyone's eyes. Noone is judging me for not being stage ready. Noone is even remarking that I indulge more. Silly me, I'm not the center of everyone's world. Just my own. I relax now, knowing I'm an athlete - multi sport athlete. I am fit, strong, muscular and will be HEALTHY into later adulthood because of my well rounded habits and the balance I work every second to keep in check.

As for the "REAL" reasons people compete - when you ment'ioned that question above - well, I'm not sure many people can REALLY answer that question with the hindsight we gain after having REALLY attempted the goal. Mine started innocently through half marathon training because my times were increasing instead of decreasing. I realized through a simple math error that 1. what worked the first time won't work the second time because our bodies change. (I had done Body For Life as well, and went back to the same plan expecting it to work again.....wrong) and 2. as we become more fit, increase our intensity/duration and gain muscle - WE MUST EAT MORE! So I was killing myself. I was successful in shaving 8 WHOLE MINUTES from my half marathon time in 4 months - it was onto the next goal - a challenge to walk on stage with muscle instead of being a string bean dancer build.

Structure - extreme adherence - self restriction and goal orientation are all strong suits of mine that helped me succeed as a dancer and runner - and then a figure competitor. Ladies - watch out for the problems of remaining in those extremes. Because when they reach epic proportion and cause you to avoid family events, social celebrations, places where temptation to indulge lurks - or come BEFORE anything else in life - well, let's call a spade a spade - it's an addiction. Be watchful and mindful. Find the balance.

Thanks again, Tina for your amazing insight that seems to be helping so many of us see ourselves as you open your heart and soul.

Mama T
01/29/2014 7:21am

Tammy - You and I are such kindrid spirits. I'm so glad that you too have found that balance (even though as you and I both know it's a constant work in progress). I'm taking more steps to remove myself from this control/addiction/ to the restriction of food, etc. My next blog will cover the steps I'm taking to make these changes. I'm so proud that you are sharing your experiences with me it means a lot to see others going through the same things.

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