Competition prep & raging insecurities
*Important to note that I did not end up competing after writing this article. I quit at 6 weeks out and took a much needed mental break to reset and refocus. However, I am happy to report that one year later I did take the stage and compete in my first ever fitness show! Falling down is often part of the journey of the road to success.
The ugly ‘I’ word is what comes to mind when I look back on this previous six weeks of competition prep. I hate having insecurities as much as anyone does, but in an industry where your body is the main topic of conversation, it’s inevitable. (I literally cannot fathom how supermodels function under this type of scrutiny). So here I stand, approaching the 12-week mark of my first prep, and shrouded in insecurities and comparisons between myself and others who are fitness competitors. I’m not lean enough. My waist isn’t small enough. My shoulders are too small. My glutes are WAY too small. My stomach isn’t flat enough… To the outside world I may look great, probably better than I ever have, but to myself, I see something very different staring back at me in the mirror. Wherever the bar was initially set at has been drastically changed, and a whole new level of fitness goals has been set (until of course, the bar continues to move as the competition draws near).
I am starting to see a very strong tie-in between the discipline that it takes to properly prepare for a show like this and eating disorders; I can only imagine there is a high correlation. Whereas with a true eating disorder you may eat a very limited amount of food (or none at all), and spend hours each day doing cardio to burn off every ounce of fat, with competition prep you nitpick and track nearly every bite of food that goes into your mouth, and head to the gym 6 days a week with the discipline of a military soldier. You become insanely hard on yourself for missing your macro goals for the day. You value your cheat meals as much as social gatherings with your closest friends. You ride the highs when you’re on point, you become a maniac when you fall short, you get up and repeat the cycle, day in and day out. I imagine that the highs probably feel much the same way that a bulimic feels when she purges or when an anorexic goes yet another day with an empty stomach. Gruesome comparison, I realize, but it seems fitting. It’s a very weird mindset… and one that I can already see is a very slippery slope.
That being said, there is an upside. With competition prep, when done properly, you are never starving… craving carbs, donuts, sugar, giant greasy cheeseburgers and fries, yea sure… but you are never not eating a sufficient amount of food. I am still sitting at close to 1750 calories a day (150 g protein and around 185 g carbs). I am not starving by a LONG SHOT nor do I feel that way. Am I seeing forward progress? Absolutely. Am I feeling insecure about where I’m at compared to others? A-B-S-O-L-U-T-E-L-Y.
Doing a competition like this takes a ton of sacrifice (as I stated in this overly long captioned Instagram post). You sacrifice a lot of time, a lot of money, a ton of sweat, and probably a tear or two along the way. Friends come and go, you make new ones, you find people who share your interests and you lose other people who walk away when they can’t stand to watch you pick apart one more restaurant menu (finding foods that fit your macros during prep is a difficult feat)… You will likely drive those very close to you up the wall during hangry outbursts or emotional spells. It is a trying time. But one I can confidently say will only make you stronger in the end (and I don’t mean just physically). The drive to compete comes from deep within yourself to strive towards excellence. However, this means you have to be in this 100% for YOU, and only you. Trying to live someone else’s dream, or match up to a standard someone else has set, will not get you out of bed at 4:30 in the morning to do squats and deadlifts. Doing this for your significant other will not get your butt to the gym 3-5 days a week to do HIIT sessions. And doing this solely because you think it will make you look better in a bikini will easily have you quitting months before show time rolls around. Nope, this is so much more than that.
So why do it at all? To prove to yourself that you can! When you approach, what was once an impossible goal, and rise to the challenge and conquer it, your outlook on what is and what isn't possible suddenly starts to shift and change. You begin to realize that your mindset controls so much more of your life than you ever thought before. Mind over matter. Mind over matter. Mind over matter. I feel like I'm starting to go down a deep and philosophical trail now, so I'll digress, but just know that achieving your goals helps to expand the realm of what is considered possible, and I want to push that as far as I can this year... and hopefully even further next year, and further the next, etc.
So lastly, why let the insecurities get you down? Preparing for the stage already has you in a higher echelon than most of the general population in terms of fitness, but I think that’s just it. People expect you to look perfect. You are being compared to others who are striving for perfection. And you are being judged based on looking perfect, or as close to it as possible. You have first timers (like me) up against seasoned pros! To just call it like it is, it’s f'n scary. How would insecurities not abound in a situation like this? Some insecurities drive you to work harder, push out one more rep, finish up one last set, get your butt out of bed and TRAIN HARDER. And being nervous about something isn't always bad either, it simply means you give a sh*t about the outcome.
Finding a way to balance the good nerves with the bad will definitely be the focus of these next four weeks as I enter into what is now truly Competition Prep.