The self-tanner has faded, the manicure is beginning to chip and the elusive carved abs are all but a distant memory. And for all the warnings, jokes and tongue-in-cheek references my coaches and veteran friend competitors made to the "post-show blues," NOTHING could have prepared me for this.
Like most fitness and physique athletes, I consider myself to be beyond the definition of a Type A personality. I grew up a perfectionist, never feeling like my efforts were enough...I never felt pretty or smart or fit enough for all of the activities in my life or in comparison to my friends. To top it off, I'm a Virgo and a first-born, can we say, "tightly wound?"
My parents are two of the hardest working people I know and they taught my brother and I that hard work was what it's all about. That we could achieve anything if we were willing to work harder than everyone else. They also held us to a higher standard and taught us that this was the way to be successful in life. One family rule was that we were not allowed to play sports if we did not make the honor roll. Well, unbeknownst to my parents, I set a standard that I wouldn't be happy with myself if I didn't get on the HIGH honor roll on every report card. That was the kind of pressure I regularly put on myself in all areas of my life.
I was the kid that played elite soccer on 3 teams because I was going to get a scholarship to play soccer in college, I had made up my mind to this fact and failure was not an option. When my doctor diagnosed me with "exercise induced asthma" at age 13 I told him my breathing challenges were simply because I was not "fit" enough and had to work harder. I didn't need need any silly inhalers, I needed more sprints.
Growing up, I thought I was fat and had to train harder. I would go to the field by myself and practice long balls and sprint after the ball after every kick for hours. Needless to say, I was the best free kick specialist on most of my teams all my life; but, spent a great deal of time in a silent hell of dissatisfaction with nearly everything I accomplished...somehow, it was never enough.
I grew up constantly and silently berating myself, feeling guilt for not training hard enough or for eating something I shouldn't have. Those people close to me would get a glimpse of this at times and would ask my why I was so hard on myself. I never seemed to have an answer for them. I just had something inside of me, I just couldn't let myself relax or give myself a break. God no, that would mean I was being lazy or not working hard enough towards my goals, that was the reason I was fat after all...
Entering into the world of fitness seemed like the perfect "fix" for me a year ago. I could get my body in the best shape ever and follow a regimen that would be 100% fool-proof as long as I put in the work, something I knew I could do.
The part I didn't think about was what happens when the excitement of the show countdown is over? What happens when everything you eat post-show makes you feel sick? What happens when ALL you can think about is cake?
I didn't have answers to any those questions. And right now, I'm a week and a half out from my first competition feeling like a bloated mess. My body wants to train and actually has the energy and strength to do so now; but my mind is a disaster. I've sabotaged myself with mindless binges almost daily since my competition. I actually ate an entire bag of chocolate mini rice cakes last week...and then 3 cupcakes the next night and the other cheats have all become somewhat of a blur. I've eaten things til I felt so sick I could barely move. I am certainly not proud...I am definitely ashamed...and yet, this is so wildly uncharacteristic of me it's disturbing. I was so incredibly disciplined, I can honestly say that leading in to my show, I did not cheat once. I did not miss one workout and I was on split sessions most days. It was just non-negotiable.
Last night, like a crazy person, I was talking to myself as I lay in bed feeling sick to my stomach. My voice was that of my body, speaking to me saying, "I did everything you asked. I never gave up. I ate FISH for a week and got up at 4:30 am everyday to get to the gym. I fought so hard for that goal and now you're abusing me like this. How could you do this to me?" If anyone had heard me, they would have thought I had completely lost it, you may be thinking the same thing reading this, unless you've gone through this experience yourself.
They say it gets easier over time and yes, slowly, it is getting better. Three out of 5 meals make me nauseous now, instead of all 5. I'm integrating the proper number of fruits and starches back into my diet and I'm drinking more water again. I'm sleeping better and enjoying that my diet can include things like dairy again. I have to accept that I have gained some weight back and I have to be OK with that..somehow. I need to give myself a break, for the FIRST time in my life, and accept that I'm not perfect...whatever the heck "perfect" really means anyway. I need to know that it's OK to feel a little crazy during this time. That as long as I get to the gym and follow the "80/20 rule" everything will work itself out (though I'd rather it be 90/10).
All that said, NOTHING about this is easy.
This post-show stuff is no joke. If you're a newbie, stay close to your coaches and your fitness friends as you come off the competition "high." Don't go it alone and for God's sakes...stay busy. Know your personality to ward off danger zone behaviors (i.e wandering a grocery store alone) and have an accountability buddy that loves you that will help you through without judging.
Everything will be OK and you are just as fabulous today as you were on the day of your competition (Yes, I'm still convincing myself of this fact, which is one of those most important parts of my evolutionary process). Don't lose sight of that or the reason you chose to compete in the first place. It's all part of this beautiful and crazy journey called LIFE! Loving yourself unconditionally on the good and bad days is really what it's about, after all is said and done.
Stay strong ladies! xoxo