I Am Not My Body

I am currently in the process of training for a competition in which I will be judged solely on what my body looks like. One might think that this means my entire focus right now is centered on my body, and how it looks. But in reality, I am learning more and more as time goes on that even though this process is technically entirely about my body, it is really nothing about my body at all.  

For the first time in my fitness career I am approaching this process from a new perspective. For the first time, I am not doing this for the sake of trying to find happiness in my body- for the belief that a certain look, or being leaner will make me happier and more satisfied. I have already learned that the “look” itself cannot bring true happiness or satisfaction. True satisfaction comes from something so much deeper than an outward appearance. For me, true satisfaction comes from who I am and what I do, not from how I look. Through this process I am getting better at maintaining discipline in tough situations, putting the work in every day, staying positive and persistent, learning how to handle obstacles, and helping others—these are the things that bring me true satisfaction. How my body looks is just an (irrelevant) side effect. 

In this sport, it is always possible to improve. And thus, most of us that compete are never actually 100% satisfied with our bodies from a bodybuilding perspective because there is always something to improve upon. There is no such thing as perfection. But that’s one of the cool things about the sport. There is always the opportunity to get better. But not being satisfied with my body from a bodybuilding perspective is NOT the same thing as not being satisfied with MYSELF. It also does NOT mean that I hate my body, or that I’m even unhappy with it. Wanting to improve can be a process of self-love, of belief in my own power. But deep down I KNOW that my body does not define who I am. I am defined by my character, my actions, my integrity and the way I treat others- none of which has anything to do with how I look.

In the process of training for a bodybuilding-style competition, I think it is extremely important that “person” and “body” remain separate. This can be a very tough thing to do. This is a sport that judges the body, and sometimes it can be very harsh. You must not allow judgement of your body to morph into judgement of who you are. I’ll say it again, YOUR BODY DOES NOT DEFINE WHO YOU ARE. When you allow judgement of your body, from yourself or from others, to influence how you feel about yourself, this is a big problem. And it can lead to the emotional and disordered eating issues that are seen in the fitness/bodybuilding industry.

So how do you avoid this?

First recognize WHY you want to compete, and be honest with yourself. This sport is not only physically grueling, but mentally and emotionally as well. Before jumping in, you must have a clear sense of who you are and have some sense of satisfaction with that person, regardless of what your body looks like. Understand why you want to compete and be realistic in your expectations.

Maintain a clear sense of who you are outside of the sport. Seek satisfaction in things that have nothing to do with your body- work, church, family, other hobbies, etc. Work to maintain the positive and important things in your life (outside of bodybuilding) and do not lose sight of them for the sake of changing your body. Stay involved in and aware of the bigger picture. This is so important because too often a competition prep can become an all-consuming black hole that can negatively affect relationships, finances, work and even your own physical and mental health. Keeping a clear sense of who you are and what is important to you in the bigger picture can help you avoid falling down this hole. Trust me, it is not a path you want to take.

Continue to help others in whatever way you can. This is one of the most satisfying things you can do.

Focus on process driven goals rather than outcome goals or physical changes. This is an extremely important key to maintaining your “person” satisfaction. Currently, my process goals focus more on my mental game and I have found this to be VERY helpful. For example, some process goals that I’ve been working on are- improving my ability to handle unexpected obstacles that used to throw me off track; staying relentless with my positive mindset and reframing negative thoughts; maintaining the “self-love” concept of discipline (as opposed to punishment/fear) and putting in the work every day, even when I don’t necessarily feel like it (and then mentally building myself up in a positive way for doing this); and replacing thoughts of self-doubt with ones of confidence and faith in my abilities. Focusing on these goals helps take the focus away from my body and allows me to feel successful even if my body does not look quite how I want it to. Process goals are always possible to achieve, outcome/results/body driven goals are not. It’s important to understand that concept.

Practice self-care and keep your focus on daily behaviors. Are you doing the things you need to do on a daily basis? If so, then give yourself credit for those accomplishments, regardless of how your body looks.  

Recognize if you are improving or if you are self-destructing. Are you getting stronger mentally or are you breaking down? If you find that things are turning negative, it may be because you are no longer separating how you judge your body from how you judge yourself. If that’s the case, take a step back and re-evaluate your approach. Remember, even in a sport where your body is being judged, YOUR BODY DOES NOT DEFINE YOU. Be proud of yourself for who you are and for what you are able to do, regardless of what your body looks like. Never lose sight of YOU the person. You are so much more than your body. 

 

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Stop chasing a placing. Seriously.

I have to admit, I cringe a little every time I hear someone say “My goal is a pro card. I will do whatever it takes to get it.”

As someone whose said those very words, which then turned into “My goal is the Olympia…” and then “My goal is top 5 at the Olympia…” –let me tell you that all that mindset got for me was injuries, frustration, anger, depression and terrible self esteem. I was chasing a placing; letting competition results dictate how I felt about myself. And in doing so I lost sight of who I was and what it meant for me to compete.

If you are training/competing solely for a placing, you are going to be disappointed. There are so many factors outside of your control that come into play in physique type competition, that in actuality, you have no control over where you place at all.

Let’s face it. In sports, just like anything else in life, politics exist, and that’s NEVER GOING TO CHANGE. The sooner you accept that the more sane you will stay. To make things worse, physique type competitions are SUBJECTIVE. They are judged by other peoples’ OPINIONS. And then there is that whole factor that you cannot control who else shows up (sometimes more politics here) but realistically, you may be at your absolute best, but the person standing next to you may still be better. Should that diminish the fact that you are at your all time best, and you did everything you could possibly do to get to that point?

Physique type competitions can be absolutely brutal on confidence and self esteem if your concept of success/failure is based on where you place.

Everyone wants to win. Not everyone will. #fact. It’s ok to want to win. I mean, why compete if you don’t want to win. But at the same time, how you feel about yourself and what you’ve accomplished cannot solely be based on winning.

My advice is to focus on YOU. Accept going into the show (and I mean really, truly accept) that your placing is beyond your control. Focus on the factors YOU control. Did you give 100% to your diet and training, did you work as hard as you could, are YOU happy with how you look. If you can answer yes to all of these questions then you are successful, regardless of where you place.

For the first time in my competitive career, I can honestly say that I couldn’t care less where I place in Phoenix. Of course I want to win and I train to win (I’m competitive, I always train to win) but it’s no longer the most important thing to me. I’m not trying to fit in, I’m not trying to impress anyone, and I’m not chasing an Olympia qualification. I’m doing this for ME. I’m doing this because I love it and because I want to and because I CAN. And I hope to inspire others to do the same along the way.

My goal is to be the absolute best version of ME that I can. In all aspects of life. My goal is to work towards improving myself, overcoming obstacles, learning from mistakes and teaching others to do the same.

I am honored to have the ability to compete as an IFBB Pro. But bottom line is- pro status, placings, qualifications- they really don’t mean anything in the big picture. It’s the process and what YOU get out of it that means everything.
Besides, once you turn IFBB pro you have to pay $200-$400 per year just to renew your pro card 😁😁😉

Be you. Do you. Never settle.

“Badass or Bad Idea”

These days it seems everyone wants to be “hardcore.” But in reality, there is a very fine line between dedication and just plain dumb.

Let me preface this by saying that pretty much every mistake I’m about to list- I’ve made. The thing about pros is that we can be very good at only showing what we want people to see. After all, we are pros, we are supposed to be the best of the best and we have an image to uphold. But in turn, we are doing a complete disservice to those people who look to us for inspiration and advice.

What you get to see are the beautiful stage shots and photoshoot shots and contest shape gym selfies that we like to share, but what you don’t get to see through those photos are the actual consequences of what it might have taken to get there. You don’t get to see the permanent injuries, the thyroid damage, the 25lb post contest rebounds, the reproductive issues, the broken relationships and all the other not so nice things that can go along with taking “badass” a little too far.

Since returning to the fitness world last year, I’ve made it a point to maintain perspective and balance in my life, to keep my health and my relationships at the top of my priority list, even while contest prepping. It’s definitely still a work in progress for me, but let me share with you a quick reference list that may help…

>Getting your fasted cardio in at 5am before a long day of work and returning to the gym later to get your weight training in is pretty badass.
>>Spending 4 hours on the stepmill everyday is a bad idea.

>Training when you’re sore, or improving a different lift/body part/area while recovering from/working around an injury is pretty badass.
>>Continuing to train on a known injury to the point where it becomes a lifetime problem is a bad idea (yes, this one I am very guilty of).

>Getting through your very low carb days two weeks out from your show with no deviations to the plan is pretty badass.
>>Spending 12+ weeks eating nothing but tilapia, chicken, eggwhites, broccoli and asparagus is a bad idea.

>Going to a party and opting to avoid the desserts and alcohol while still spending time with friends is pretty badass.
>>Skipping all special/social occasions for an extended period of time because there will be “bad food there” is a bad idea.

>Doing some extra work on the side to make some extra money to put towards competing is pretty badass.
>>Spending your life savings and putting yourself into debt for the sake of competing is a bad idea.

>Completing a 12-16 week contest prep to the absolute best of your ability is pretty badass.
>>Spending 6+ months on a contest diet without giving your body any time to recover, only to rebound 30lbs when you’re finally “off” your diet is a bad idea.

>Going to the gym instead of to the bar on Friday nights is pretty badass.
>>Being a complete bitch because of your workout schedule/diet to the point where none of your friends/family even call you to hang out anymore is a bad idea.

I’m sure the list could go on and on. The point is, there needs to be a distinction between giving your all and being stupid. You can still be hardcore/badass/completely dedicated or whatever you want to call it, while still being SMART. You still need to dedicate yourself to your goals and do what it takes to accomplish them. If you want something, you need to work your ass off and sacrifice and do things that may not be a lot of fun to get there.

I’m NOT saying to slack. I’m NOT saying to take the easy way. I’m NOT saying to give less that 110% every damn day. But what I AM saying is that part of being “badass” and dedicating 100% is also being knowledgeable enough to realize when something you’re doing is just flat out not good for you. If I’ve learned anything over the years it’s the importance of keeping perspective. You always have to keep in mind the things that are most important in this life- spending time with the people you love, maintaining good health, enjoying this short time we have here on the earth—because winning that plastic trophy at your show will not mean anything if you lose all of those other things along the way.
Just something to keep in mind.

How To Recover from a Bad Day

As a registered dietitian, I don’t believe in ‘good’ foods or ‘bad’ foods, I believe all foods can serve a purpose. I try to encourage my patients and clients that are looking to achieve a healthy lifestyle to choose fresh, unprocessed, natural foods ‘most of the time.’ On the other hand, as a pro fitness athlete I understand that there are foods that will help reach you goals and there are foods that will not. And I encourage those athletes with a deadline (competition, photoshoot, show, etc) to choose the right foods ‘all of the time’ – especially if that deadline is within the next six weeks (off season athletes refer to the first recommendation).

Regardless of which category you fall into, there may come a time when you have a ‘bad’ meal or even a ‘bad’ day, whether by choice or by life circumstances. It happens to all of us. And in all honesty, a single bad meal or even an entire day should not be enough to completely derail your efforts. How you recover from such a day though, can make the difference between continuing to move forward toward your goal or taking several steps backwards.
So here are some strategies for recovering from those ‘bad days’-

1. Don’t delay getting back on track. Often one cookie turns into 10, one meal turns into a whole day, and one day turns into a week. Don’t let that happen. Make a conscious decision to stop. Turn it around, and get back on track. No procrastinating!

2. Avoid compensation cardio, cleanses, crazy diets, etc. There is no need to punish yourself for overindulging. All this will really do is mess up your metabolism and water balance even more, and it will create a negative mindset. So don’t do it. Get back to your normal meal plan and your normal workout schedule.

3. Drink lots and lots of water!! This will help get rid of any sodium or carbohydrate bloat. Additionally, if you had a drink (or 10), you’re likely dehydrated, so make sure to get that water in.

4. Try to avoid processed carbs and high sodium foods. Typically I’m not one to recommend a sodium restricted diet for athletes however if you’re sodium sensitive and already retaining water from yesterday’s food fest, you may benefit from just cutting back a little bit. And if nothing else, just stay away from the processed stuff.
– as an addition to #4, if you do tend to retain a lot of water you can try to include some foods with natural diuretic properties such as grapefruit, asparagus, cucumber or fresh squeezed lemon in your water.

5. Try adding a probiotic and a good multivitamin. Probiotics can help aid with digestion and healthy bowel function which may be necessary after eating foods your system is not used to. Furthermore, most metabolic processes rely on vitamins and minerals as cofactors so a good multivitamin can help boost your body’s ability to handle/metabolize the excess food. Antioxidants can also help rid the body of oxidative stress brought on by poor food choices.

6. And finally, and most importantly, let it go. Move on. Do not dwell on yesterday’s decisions. Do not waste time beating yourself up about what you did or did not eat. Don’t get on the scale for a few days because odds are you’ll have gained some water weight (and that number may be enough to freak some people out) Focus on what you are going to do now. You have the choice to keep moving forward toward your goal or to let it hold you back. Choose to move forward!!