Hello to all of my incredible friends! Welcome back to my NPC Prep Diary! I initially wasn’t going to do this again for the 2017 season, for two reasons. First, because bodybuilding isn’t the same as living a “fit & healthy lifestyle”. It’s an extreme, and I don’t want to send the wrong message to anyone that doesn’t compete. Secondly, I didn’t know anyone really enjoyed these weekly updates. I threw up the question on my Instagram and received an overwhelming “yes, please do a prep diary”.
The goal this year? To win my IFBB Pro Card. Aggressive, but I find that if I publicly state my goals, it forces me to stretch & push myself.
So, here I sit at 18 weeks out from the pro-qualifier show NPC USA Championship in Las Vegas. And GIRL DO I FEEL THICK. (Thick compared to where I need to be on stage, not in terms of a normal human woman. Because let’s be honest, any and all shapes and sizes are beautiful, and I feel just as confident at this weight as I do as a muscle-skeleton on stage). Remember how last year I reverse-dieted perfectly, getting even leaner than I was on stage for my wedding, and then started competition season about 15 lbs over my stage weight? Well NOT THIS YEAR. My Hashimoto’s Disease took a weird turn last summer, and my thyroid lost a significant amount of its functionality (meaning: it died some more). I should have been on a much higher dose of my medication. So, in a short amount of time, I put on quite a bit of weight. This paired with some binge eating I was dealing with immediately after my 2016 season ended, and I’m sitting at about 180lbs (gentle reminder that my stage weight is about 146-150lbs). I’ve got work to do.
There are also a few other things going on in my (and Kevin’s) life right now. We’ve been building a house since December, which is wonderful and exciting on one hand, and miserable and stressful on the other. But we’re almost to the finish line and close & move in April. Exciting, but I’m ready for my nightly stress-dreams to be over.
Meals this week are nice and easy. Right now I need as little additional stress in my life as possible, which includes creative meal planning. So, bro-meals it is.
Lunches are shredded chicken with a BBQ dry rub seasoning, roasted golden potatoes, and steamed green beans. The chicken was cooked in chicken stock in a crock pot, shredded, and then put under the broiler on a sheet pan for a few minutes to “crisp up” the ends.
If you’re an OG reader, you remember that I also used to show off my weekly “treats” I’d buy at the grocery store to fit into my macros for the week. Well, we have a new game called “spend the least amount of money as possible on groceries, so we can put as much down on our house as possible”. So I’m afraid my treats are either cheddar rice cakes or a Square bar (Discount code “6ftfit” gets you 20% off! I don’t get commission, Square Organics are just really great, generous people!)
If you look back to the start of my prep last year, training is almost exactly the same, only a little less cardio. My coach creates all of my training programming, and this year has really focused on what judges are looking for in a bikini athlete. Actual exercises are different (hint: I haven’t squatted for almost a year), but the training split remains the same. A typical week looks like:
. Monday: Shoulders & Arms Hypertrophy Tuesday: Rest/Cardio Only Wednesday: Power Upper Body Day Thursday: Power Leg Day Friday: Rest/Cardio Only Saturday Upper Body Hypertrophy
Sunday: Lower Body Hypertrophy
Cardio has been slightly increased to two 20 min steady state sessions, and one 20 minute HIIT session.
Cheers to the start of another great competition season while juggling building a house, moving, daily work life, and trying to shed as many pounds as possible between now and July. While it’s sometimes overwhelming, I feel so blessed & highly favored, keeping one of my favorite Christine Caine quotes top of mind: “Favor is for purpose, not status.”
The number one New Year’s Resolution people make year after year is to eat healthier and lose weight. This also happens to be the most frequently failed resolution. But why can’t people seem to be able to stick to the goal of eating healthier? Because of the way society tells us we need to eat in order to be “healthy”. Cleanses, detoxes, juice diets, clean eating…all of these buzz words are not only confusing, but they’re miserable to stick with long-term. Of course no one wants to change their eating habits if this is what “healthy” is!
In this 4th part of my New Year’s Resolution series, I cover 3 ways to actually succeed in having a healthier diet in 2017!
Say “NO” To Cleanses
Many think they have to do a “detox” or “cleanse” to kick-start their diet. I promise you that your liver & kidneys do all the detoxing you need. Extreme diets (like cleanses) are incredibly restrictive and are typically missing entire food groups essential for a well-rounded diet. Aside from nutritional value, most cleanses or detox diets are very low-calorie. You may see short-term weight loss, but as soon as you return to a normal diet, you will see the weight return. And because you just starved yourself on juice for 10 days, now you’re famished and more likely to binge once it’s over.
Don’t Label Food as “Good” or “Bad”
Food cannot be either “good” or “bad”. There is no morality in food. It is nourishment for your body. have you ever told yourself that something you liked was “off limits”? Didn’t it make you want it even more? The second I tell myself I’m not allowed sweets, I end up eating a half dozen cupcakes. Allow yourself to have balance, and say “no” to restriction, but practice moderation. Keep antioxidant-rich dark chocolate in the house as a sweet treat – healthy and decadent!
Food Prep vs. Meal Prep
“Meal Prep” is the process of preparing several days worth of specific, pre-packaged meals. If you’re used to eating out or having the freedom of choosing what you feel like eating in the moment, then meal prep may not be a good fit. Having a fridge of pre-packaged meals would most likely go to waste, or sound unappealing. “Food Prep” is the process of preparing different meal components ahead of time, but storing them separately so you can create your meal at another time. Cook some chicken breast on the weekend & store in the fridge – it’s great to put in salads, top nachos, make sandwiches, or have on its own. Have a variety of washed & prepared vegetables to snack on. If you’re used to “convenience food”, make sure you have handy healthy food at the ready!
December of 2013 I secretly made a New Years Resolution that changed my life: I was going to compete in my first NPC Competition. All year I had scrolled through Instagram & Pinterest for hours looking at all the beautiful, rhinestoned bikini girls. After months of wishing, I finally committed to making my dream happen. 3 years later, the journey has been tough and full of lessons learned the hard way, but for me, worth every second! If you’re like I was in 2013, admiring and wishing, maybe this is your year; your year to take the plunge into the world of competitive bodybuilding. In Part 3 of my New Year’s Resolution series, I explain reasons I believe you should (and shouldn’t) compete.
As we enter into 2017, is competing something you’re interested in? Are you like me in 2013, looking through Instagram wishing you could get on stage and flaunt a bikini body?
If so, here are my Top 5 reasons why I think you should take a leap, and make your New Year’s Resolution to join the world of competitive bodybuilding in 2017! (And my Top 5 reasons why you shouldn’t.)
Top 5 Reasons You Should Compete
1. You’re goal oriented.
I tend feel aimless without a goal, and need a detailed plan to achieve said goal. If you really love strict structure around your life, this is the perfect hobby for you. “Type A” folks tend to do really well with bodybuilding due to the need to be exact with your diet & rigid in your training regimen.
If you love lists, numbers, and a detailed plan…this is the life for you!
2. You love competition (and have a desire to win).
I will never understand why people compete if they don’t care about winning. If you’re looking for affirmation or a platform to show off your weight loss, I believe this is the wrong outlet.
Aside from the fact that competing can do metabolic & mental damage to an unexperienced novice, competing without a desire to win steals opportunity from those that are serious about the sport.
If you love competition & have a inherent desire to win, go for it. If you have a passion for the sport & bringing your best to the stage, it’s time to take the leap! It will take grit. It will take everything you have. And if you’re instinctively a competitive athlete, bodybuilding is a perfect place for you. Many competitors actually are former athletes! Me? I ran track – another solo-sport.
3. You want a physical & mental challenge.
Yes, there’s a physical challenge in preparing for a bodybuilding show. There will be mornings that you’re doing cardio & it feels like your body is falling apart. You’ll get to a point where you start to get weaker in the weight room rather than stronger. However, I will argue that the bigger challenge in bodybuilding is a mental one. Doubt, exhaustion, anxiety, depression, brain fog, stress, more doubt… You’ll have to dig deep, and “motivation” won’t be enough – you’ll have to rely on dedication.
One of my favorite quotes from one of my coach Paul Revelia’s YouTube videos is “just because you’re on a flexible dieting plan and you’re not doing fasted cardio and you’re doing ‘all the right things’…it’s still going to get to a place where it sucks, and if it doesn’t, you’re probably not getting lean enough.”
If you’re looking for a bigger mental challenge than a physical one, then competition prep is definitely for you.
4. You don’t have FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).
Once you commit to a bodybuilding show, you’re going to have to get used to saying “no”. Even if you prep using flexible dieting, you still will have to say no to some social events, dinners out, happy hours, etc. As much as you see people on social media preach “balance”, there’s really no such thing as a competitor. Not to mention, you’ll be tired! You won’t want to go out as much. Low calories, higher cardio & strenuous weight lifting sessions will leave you ready for an early bedtime. If you already are a bit of a homebody & don’t care if you miss out on a night at the club, then you’ll transition well into “prep life”. I was amazed to find out that most bodybuilders (even the ones famous on social media) are huge introverts. If you get energy out of being alone, then hitting the weights solo while your friends party will be no big deal!
5. You’re not a stranger to the weight room.
Have you been lifting weights for a while and have a solid base of muscle on your frame? Then you’re in great shape for your first competition prep. A lot of novices (women especially) make the mistake of starting to lift seriously only after they start their first prep. It’s impossible to put on decent (if any) muscle while in a caloric deficit, dieting down for a show. “Prep” is only meant to uncover what’s already been built under your body fat. Having some decent muscle on your frame (even for bikini) before deciding to compete is essential. I guarantee you’re much smaller than you think you are once you’re stage-lean!
Top 5 Reasons You Should Not Compete
1. You have an unhealthy relationship with food.
You would be amazed at the number of women that start competing to try and “cure” an eating disorder. I can tell you this with conviction: with few exceptions, competing will only enhance any disordered eating habits you already have, or expose new ones. Even prepping in the healthiest way possible under the guidance of a phenomenal coach, this year I struggled with binge eating post-show. When your body gets to the level of extreme leanness necessary for the bodybuilding stage, hormone levels are out of balance, and your body doesn’t respond to normal hunger & satiety cues. On the flip side, as we get used to seeing our bodies get leaner and leaner, the mental challenge of watching the reverse occur in the transition to offseason can lead to restriction & a fear of gaining weight.
Many other disordered habits can arise during competition prep – we convince ourselves that there are “magic foods” to getting a perfect physique and only eat those items, coaches tell clients to eliminate entire food groups that then become “fear foods”, etc. It’s a weird, weird world and unless you’re strong mentally & have a healthy relationship with food, I recommend not rushing into competing.
2. You’re maintaining your current weight on low calories & high cardio.
If you’re not eating enough food or if you’re depending on high amounts of cardio to maintain your current weight, you’re in a really poor place to start a contest prep. Ideally, cardio levels should be low and calories should be high at the beginning of prep to allow room to decrease food & increase cardio as needed. If you’re already at your floor, you have nowhere else to go to lose body fat. This is when you run into the case of a sub-1,000 calorie diet, hours of cardio, and still struggling to lose weight.
Working with a coach during offseason to help you get in a good place metabolically is key to a successful prep. IFBB Pro Laurin Conlin made a fantastic YouTube video covering where you should be in terms of food intake & cardio before deciding to compete. You can find it here.
3. You think competing is part of a “healthy” lifestyle.
Looking at bodybuilders, many would say we are the picture of health! Tanned, ripped, and eating all that asparagus & chicken…man, we must be the epitome of a “healthy lifestyle”!
Not exactly. We sure look the part, but I will make the argument that prepping for a bodybuilding show actually gets to a point of being unhealthy, and is only meant to be endured for a short & temporary time period.
Competitors with a good coach push their bodies past the point of a comfortable hormone range, and into a level of leanness that is unmaintainable, and if held long term can cause health issues that can take months (or years) to reverse.
Competitors with bad coaches take risky supplements, lack proper nutrients from restrictive diets, are subjected to yo-yo dieting, and as we’ve seen in the news this past year, can tragically cause death due to unsafe “peak week” practices of manipulating water, sodium, and potassium.
I’ve seen girls pass out backstage due to dehydration, and girls get sick because their coaches cut food and water 48 hours out, told them to double the dose of diuretics and “throw in an enema, too”. Improper use of anabolic steroids can cause lifelong damage (while I’m proud to be a 100% natural bodybuilder, if you compete in the untested NPC, steroids are more prevalent than other federations). If you do compete, I can’t stress enough how important a good coach is. Drugs (including diuretics) are 100% unnecessary. I got pretty shredded (pictured below) drug-free, eating a ton of food & drinking over a gallon of water a day. Please be safe and always put your health first – know your limits.
4. You haven’t researched coaches.
If you haven’t competed before, 99% of the time, you will need a coach to get stage-ready. The competitors who are able to successfully coach themselves are few and far between. Even if you’re well-versed in nutrition, it’s extremely difficult to look at your own physique objectively, and you’ll most likely underestimate how lean you need to be for the stage. That being said, it’s important to research coaches, ask questions, and take time making the decision on who to hire for your first competition. I joke that I “stalked” Paul Revelia & Team Pro Physique for about 6 months before I finally emailed him.
These days, you can throw a rock & hit an “online coach”. Don’t make the mistake of hiring someone based on how they look – their physique is not indicative of the quality of that person’s coaching skills, it’s a reflection of whoever their coach is.
5. Money is tight.
Competing is expensive, so if cash is tight, you may want to start saving until next season. A non-inclusive list of expenses to expect are…
NPC Membership Dues: $125/year Competition Entry Fees: $80 to $300
Competition suit, plain (these are extremely uncommon these days): $130+ Competition suit, fully rhinestoned: $600-$2,500 Posing heels: $50 Stage Jewelry: $50 Competition prep coaching (training & nutrition): $700+ for duration of prep ($30+ per week) Tan: $120 Hotel: $100-$150/night
Makeup/Hair – DIY: $80+ for stage makeup products (extra $100 for hair extensions)
Makeup/Hair – Professional: $100+
The low-end of this total is almost $1,500! This also doesn’t include food (lots of protein & produce mean high grocery bills), supplements, gym memberships, etc. Of course if you have to travel for the show, you need to factor in gas, flights, taxis, etc. I’m starting to sweat just thinking about it all.
My husband and I joke that we chose the two most expensive hobbies possible (he’s a gearhead guitarist), but we plan ahead to make it work! I’m competing at the National level again this year, starting with Las Vegas. Each paycheck, I automatically have a certain amount deposited into a competition savings account (separate from our main savings). By my first show of the year, I should have enough stashed away to cover the expenses of competing.
At the end of the day, I absolutely encourage anyone interested in the world of competitive bodybuilding to learn more about it! And as long as you’re in a “good place”, then I wholeheartedly say DO IT! It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever decided to do, but it’s also the most rewarding.
If you decide to make it your resolution, let me know in the comments! Maybe I’ll see you at a show this year!
We’re one week into the new year, and most resolutions are still going strong! But what about in February? Or even next December? According to Statistic Brain¹, only 37.8% of people achieve their resolutions, and a whopping 42.2% of people fail their resolution each and every year!
So how do you beat the odds and follow through with the goals you’ve set for yourself this year? We’ll cover some ways to succeed in Part 2 of the 2017 New Year’s Resolution Series: Sticking To Your New Goals.
New Year’s Resolutions can feel exciting January 1st, and daunting come February. We often feel like failures when we fall short, or start to fall behind. First of all, resolutions aren’t meant to be the catalysts for epic transformations or major life changes. They should be specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic, and time-based (SMART).
Set Achievable Goals.
Start small by making resolutions you can stick to! Don’t make a laundry list of everything you want to change about your life & name them “resolutions”. Start with one or two achievable goals, and break them into smaller action items to get you closer to success.
When I set the goal to compete in an NPC show, my first step was to find & hire a coach. Breaking your resolutions down into smaller “to-do”s will not only make them easier to stick to, but will also make you feel accomplished rather than overwhelmed.
Tip: Google “Goal Setting Printables” and find your favorite template to use to map out each step.
Tell other people about your resolutions! Make it known what goals you have so your friends and family can support you. Start a social media account or blog for accountability! I have found that community significantly helps, especially when sticking to your goals becomes difficult & motivation starts to fade.
When I initially made the resolution of competing in the NPC, I didn’t tell a soul other than my husband and parents. However, I had the support of my coach & team – I never once felt alone in my goals, and ultimately, it helped me stick to my resolution.
Go Easy On Yourself.
No one is 100% successful 100% of the time. We all stumble, we all fall short. I can’t tell you how many mornings I’ve slept in when I should have gone to the gym, or how many days during offseason I’ve taken off from tracking macros. It doesn’t mean I’m any less committed to my goals – it means I’m human.
I can guarantee that you will fail at some point during your journey. That is not important, what’s important is how you react to that failure. The 42% of people who fail their resolution every year most likely throw in the towel the first time they screw up. Give yourself some flexibility & grace in the fact that you will never be perfect in any goal you set for yourself!
What were your 2017 resolutions? Let me know in the comments, and let’s hold each other accountable!
¹Statistic Brain Research Institute, January 1, 2017 http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/
Happy 2017! I hope you all had a fabulous & safe New Year’s Eve. Kevin and I celebrated by dressing up, going out to dinner…and were home by 9pm. We tried! I have to say, it was really nice ringing in the new year sipping champagne at home rather than being out in the craziness.
I’ve been spending the last few days of 2016 planning out everything I want to accomplish in 2017. I love that with a new year comes a fresh start. While some scoff at “resolutionists”, I have a special place in my heart for new goals that come with a new year. January 1, 2014 I made the New Year’s Resolution to compete in an NPC competition. We all know how that ended up…
The next five weeks will be dedicated to my New Year’s Resolution Series. Each Sunday will bring a new way to make this year the BEST year possible, starting with Part 1: Ways to Save & Make Money in the New Year! I’m not affiliated or sponsored by any of these companies – I genuinely use and find that they all have helped me reach my health & fitness goals!
I spend about $100 on groceries each week for Kevin & I. With that, I prep breakfast, lunch & dinner for each of us for Monday thru Friday. At 30 meals, that’s a little over $3 per meal!
This is by far my favorite money-saving app that I used in 2016. It’s on the home page of my iPhone, and I use it weekly. There’s no points or credits, just CASH that you can transfer to your PayPal or Venmo account! You can browse every available rebate by store, and “unlock them” by answering a poll question or having a quick recipe or ad pop up.
Once you purchase that item, you can redeem the rebate by scanning the item’s barcode, and taking a picture of your receipt. Less than 24 hours later, money will be deposited in your account. They also have rebates on produce items, too! An example would be $.50 rebate on bananas – you simple take a picture of your receipt showing you purchased bananas, and you’ll have 50 cents in your account the next day.
Plus, if you sign up through this link, then you’ll get an extra $10 with your first redemption!
Tip: If you’re not loyal to one brand of beer, liquor, or wine – make sure to check the list of rebates before you buy your booze. They usually offer $2-$5 for alcohol!
Kevin and I both lift, both eat a lot of protein, and also prefer to eat fresh, whole foods as much as possible. We got to a point where groceries for two were costing upwards of $170 a week.
If you have an Aldi’s near you, GO. Be forewarned: it’s bare-bones, you have a pay a 25 cent deposit for your cart, and you have to bag your own groceries. There’s entire websites dedicated to prepping shoppers on the “Aldi’s Experience” – what to expect & proper protocol. However, PLEASE don’t let that scare you off. It’s all for one reason – to keep overhead costs down. The food is top quality, produce and meat are usually great, and the prices are all rock bottom because they don’t have the extra expenses that typical groceries stores have. The cart deposit? To avoid paying extra staff to retrieve carts from the parking lot. Tip: Go to Aldi’s first, get everything that’s available, and then supplement the rest of your grocery list (usually some produce or meat items unavailable) at your main grocery store. By doing this, I’ve been able to cut our weekly grocery bill down to about $90.
Bodybuilding.com & Campus Protein These two websites always seem to have the absolute best prices for supplements, and reasonable & FAST shipping. Sign up for their emails to make sure you get alerts to all of their BOGO deals.
Campus Protein has great bundles to take the guess work out of what should be in your supplement stack, and Bodybuilding.com has everything from vitamins to gym accessories.
Make Extra Cash
Swagbucks is one of the most reputable online rewards programs, that give you points, or “Swag Bucks” for the things you normally do online. Swag Bucks can be redeemed for gift cards or PayPal cash!
The easiest way to make money is through their search engine. The only bummer is that it uses Bing instead of Google, but you’re getting free money, so it’s worth sifting through search results. If you download the app, it’s also really easy to cruise through a few videos (like movie trailers) on your phone while you work on something else.
You will make the most money through their cash back program. Through the website, you can search for the store you wish to shop at, and see how many Swag Bucks you’ll earn per dollar spent. Click “Shop Now”, make your purchase, and within 3-7 days you’ll see the Swag Bucks show up in your account.
If you’re like me, a new year means cleaning out all the clutter of the past, including my closet. I’ve sold a ton of clothes, accessories, & jewelry through these two consignment sites. They make it extremely easy to sell items – just upload some pictures, enter the description, set the price, and publish! Shipping is fairly simple, but easier with Poshmark. Once an item is sold, Poshmark automatically emails you a prepaid shiping label to print out, tape to the box, and it’s ready to go. Mercai adds one additional step by giving you flat-rate shipping options that you can buy, or you can choose to ship on your own.
My best sale? Rock & Revival jeans for $60!
Tip: Both are great places to find sold-out Lululemon styles!
Get $5 to spend when you sign up to Poshmark:HERE & enter code PUGSN.
Get $2 to spend when you sign up with Mercai:HERE & enter code PYBVGB.
What are some of your favorite ways to make & save cash this year? Post them in the comments below!!
Happy Labor Day! I hope everyone is enjoying a fun & balanced day relaxing and celebrating with friends & family!
I want to share some really exciting news – I had my first fitness magazine feature published on FitnessRX Women Online!
At the beginning of August Rebekah Kathleen Clementson reached out to me on Instagram asking if I’d be willing to do an interview. I was absolutely shocked and immediately responded and answered her questionnaire. Through the process we actually became friends, and bonded over our height, competing, and faith. To this day I have no idea why she decided to reach out to me of all NPC competitors, but I consider myself extremely lucky and blessed that she did!
It was even on the homepage!
Luckily I also had just received the edited images from my photo shoot with Amber of Fitography Files (if you’re in the Southeast and want a fitness photo shoot, CALL HER. She’s absolutely incredible and I had a blast shooting with her!)
My favorite quotes from the article:
FitRX: Awesome, thanks for sharing! I’ll have to try that workout. What is the best piece of advice/wisdom you’ve ever received and can pass on to our FitnessRXwomen readers?
Megan: Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.
One of the things I love about fitness is that there is no finish line – there’s always room for improvement. That being said, comparing yourself to someone else that’s farther along in their journey can be a huge motivation killer, and social media is a breeding ground for comparison. Sure a woman may have better glutes or run a 5k faster than you, but maybe she’s been training for years longer. You’ll get there in due time! Just make sure her success isn’t stealing the joy from yours.
FitRX: Great advice! Do you have anything else you’d like to share?
Megan: Growing up as tall as I am was very awkward, and kids can be mean. It took me a long time to feel comfortable in my own skin. It wasn’t until I started lifting weights and being able to sculpt and mold my body that I began to adore and appreciate it. I’ve talked to a lot of women that feel uncomfortable in the weight room because it’s full of men, or because they don’t want to “look stupid” doing an exercise incorrectly. The reason I started 6ftFit was to create a community for women to confidently conquer the gym and their health together. I’m always open about the fact that if there’s a woman that doesn’t have a gym buddy, or needs an accountability partner, to email me or send me a message on social media! We’re in this together, and I’d love to be that person…and Lord knows sometimes I need that text making sure I stuck to my macros or woke up in time for cardio!
Nothing is more true. I remember the day I started this blog, feeling silly and like a complete beginner. I may not have known what I was doing, but I knew why. 6ftFit has grown over the past year into something much bigger than I could have ever hoped!
I’m still pinching myself over the magazine feature, but I truly believe this is just the beginning! I have big plans and goals for 2017 and beyond that I can’t wait to see materialize.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. I had to send my laptop in for repairs, but that truthfully only took about a week. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to say, or how to say it. Since my 2016 competition season ended, I’ve been struggling. This is my third competition season, but has been a much harder transition into offseason than last year. I have a fabulous coach that provided me with a post-show plan & reverse dieting macros, but I still crash-landed into rebounding.
I’ve been struggling with “post-show blues” and binge eating. In the evenings following my last competition, I would eat until it hurt, take some Tums, and then keep eating until I went to bed. Kevin said I would even moan in my sleep from the pain. Weekends, I would talk him into getting pizza & beer, and then proceed to force dessert & more snacks in after. My whole body felt swollen and like one giant bruise.
Last year I got married only a few short months after competition season. I was extremely focused and very strict with my reverse diet so I would stay as lean as possible for my wedding (talk about motivation!)
Last year, I never got “stage lean” enough. I never dropped below 15% body fat, so I never had any real changes in my hormones, and never had any urges or cravings. This year, I did drop below 15% body fat & noticed a big physiological difference.
This year, I slipped back into some really old habits of restricting foods. I looked the absolute best I’ve ever looked, and was getting leaner than ever before. Because I was hitting new physique bests, I was scared that if I introduced a different food (even ones I had eaten all through prep without any effects on digestion), I risked ruining my physique. I literally ate the exact same meals (only 5-6 foods) for nearly 6 weeks.
July 21st to August 4th
I cried after sending the check-in above on August 4th to my coach. Looking at it now, I realize how silly I was, and that I still looked great. But I was comparing myself to what I looked like on stage, and I felt like I had “ruined” my body in two short weeks. I had gained about 10 lbs, and the inside of my body felt bruised. I kept calling myself “fat” – I still struggle with breaking this habit – and I have to remind myself that the weight on the left was not maintainable or healthy.
There were two major factors contributing to my poor mental state the past few weeks:
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (which let’s be honest, all bodybuilders have to some degree)
The Binge/ Restrict Cycle
Here’s the cycle: Have an epic, uncontrollable binge session. Wake up feeling disappointed & depressed, step on the scale (big mistake since this is also swelling, water weight, and food). Be horrified with the number, and think I look fat in the mirror (enter the body dysmorphia – in reality, I just wasn’t “stage lean”). Decide to go back to Peak Week macros for a few days to try and diet off the extra weight. Last two days on a super low carb, low fat, low calorie diet. End up starving, have another uncontrollable binge night.
I realized tracking my macros was contributing to this cycle, so I stopped completely for about a week to eat healthy & get back to a normal mindset about food. It really helped, and now I’m back to comfortably tracking (and estimating loosely when needed) according to my higher reverse diet macros from my coach. Being honest with him about my struggles was also key to breaking the cycle – he understood, and raised my macros to something that I could hit & feel good about.
So have I been able to get to a better mental state? Kind of. It’s still a day-to-day struggle. I haven’t uncontrollably binged in a couple weeks, which it great! And I need to celebrate those wins rather than beat myself up when I don’t hit my macros. By following my reverse diet plan, my weight is slowly coming down little by little. Since I want to gain muscle during my offseason, I don’t want to be in a deficit to lose the fat I gained. I am just living with it and learning to love a curvier body.
The “post-show blues” are a different story. This is a cutesy name that we competitors give a very real form of depression. I find myself slipping into a semi-depressed state often, and it’s been difficult to motivate myself to stick to a regular gym routine. I still catch myself calling myself “fat” and have some anxiety with food. I’m short with my husband and get frustrated that he doesn’t understand what I’m going through. I even started tearing up at the gym today for no reason (though, my coach’s Leg Day is enough to make anyone cry…)
Part of it is chemical. I became the leanest I ever have this year, and I know it affected my hormones. Now that I’m gaining weight back (and ahem, gained some back quickly), my hormones are having to regulate and are all over the place. I’m sure there’s a much more scientific way to explain the biochemistry, but for now let’s just say I have “crazy brain”. Physically, my body also thought it was starving during this time, so wanting to binge & putting on some extra body fat is its way of going into “survival mode”.
I think my post-show blues are worse this year also because I had such a successful competition season – I want to keep going! I want more trophies and to keep chasing my Pro Card! Focusing on next year’s competition season and what I need to improve has been helping, but is too far away to be effective 100% of the time.
I know this is temporary, and will pass as I settle into “offseason life”, and as my body regulates itself. However, I always want to be 100% transparent about my fitness journey. I consider myself a successful competitor, and it’s important that it’s known that no one is perfect and I struggle just as much as anyone else. I’ve had the pleasure of regularly speaking with other girls that are struggling right now as well, which makes me love this sport even more. We support each other during prep, offseason, successes, and when we stumble. We’re not perfect & fall short, but we can certainly help each other learn to love ourselves & our bodies in every phase of this journey.
I wrapped up my 2016 season with the Flex Lewis Classic here in Nashville, TN. This was my favorite show that I competed in last year, and I was looking forward to it being my finale. I definitely brought my best physique and overall look to this show – I think bright red is officially “my color”!
Competitors fly in from around the country (and world) to compete in the Flex Lewis Classic, and this was the first year it was a Pro/Am show as well (meaning IFBB Pros competed as as well as the NPC amateurs). The quality of competitors at this show was nearly the same level as a National show – everyone looked incredible! It also was a treat for both Kevin and my parents to be able to be there for the entire show this time!
Prejudging went really quickly because they skipped individual routines. With 400 competitors, they wanted to save as much time as possible. Unfortunately, this meant that we went on stage much earlier than usual (like, 3 hours earlier), and my meal timing was totally off. I missed my last meal, and ended up scarfing down a Reese’s cup and rice cake in order to try and pump up 15 minutes before I stepped on stage. I ended up being a little less “full” than I’d like because of it, but at least I made it on stage! There were several girls that completely missed Prejudging and were disqualified because of the unexpected early stage time.
Even though I was moved into the center spot immediately during Prejudging, I ended up taking 2nd place in Open Bikini Class F.
I have to admit, I was disappointed and had really hoped for another 1st place win! My coach and family were a little disappointed as well, but I had to put it into perspective! Last year I was SHOCKED and grateful to place 3rd at this show. I had done terribly last season and it was a near miracle that I finally placed last year. This year, I won Battle at the River, Iplaced at my very first National show, and now I came in a close 2nd in a stacked class.
The improvements I had made from 2015 to 2016 were incredible, and it was almost hilarious that compared to last year, I was upset at the fact that I placed 2nd at Flex Lewis Classic.
One of the best parts of this show was getting to meet and hang out with so many incredible friends, and a lot of other local girls. I finally was able to meet girls that I’ve followed and known through social media, which was a lot of fun! I also had two teammates travel to compete in this show, so there was some great Team Pro Physique camaraderie as well!
After 22 weeks of prep,I am entering a well-deserved “growing season”. I’ll be taking the feedback I received from the judges and my coach this year to make improvements and add some muscle to my frame for next year. My 2017 season will be focused on National NPC shows, competing for my IFBB Pro Card. Until then, I’m excited to reverse diet, enjoy a glass of wine, and lift some heavy weight!
This weekend I traveled to Teaneck, New Jersey to compete in my first National NPC competition. These shows are where bodybuilders compete for their “Pro Cards” to become an IFBB Pro. Being a National-level competitor also opens a lot of doors in terms of exposure in the sport & opportunities for affiliations and sponsorships.
For each class, they place #1-15. Anything after 15th place received a 16th place finish. I’m so happy to say that I placed 15th in a class of insanely amazing looking girls! It’s such an honor to place at my National debit, among the best of the best.
Wednesday was travel day for me. I had my (overweight) checked bag, my IsoBag with a week’s worth of food, and a carry-on with everything I would need to compete (suit, heels, extensions, etc), just in case they lost my luggage. I had a lot of anxiety going through security, just because the TSA has supposedly started cracking down in light of the recent terror attacks. To my surprise, they didn’t give my meal bag a second glance, and I passed through the scanner & X-Ray in about 30 seconds!
I flew into LaGuardia (that’s…an experience) and took an Uber to the hotel in New Jersey. The rooms at the Teaneck Marriott are newly renovated and gorgeous. There were two things that had to be done before anything else once I arrived:
1. Unpack all my prepped food into the mini fridge.
I spent hours cooking, weighing, packaging, repackaging, and freezing my food for this week. I track everything, including sodium, during Peak Week, so I couldn’t leave this up to a restaurant or hotel room service. Plus, I saved a boatload of money bringing my own meals. (Wine, chips, and FitCrunch bars are for my husband – not part of my Peak Week diet).
The hotel room had a refrigerator, but no microwave. They had a “microwave room” once the competition began, but I needed something for Wednesday & Thursday to heat my food. I found this adorably tiny Mini George Foreman grill at Target (I think around $15) and packed it in my checked bag. It worked perfectly to heat up all of my prepped food – even the potatoes & rice!
2. Re-make my bed with black sheets.
This is to prevent any damage from the spray tan. Trust me, they will fine you if you ruin the hotel’s towels and linens.
After these two things were done, I ate my lunch, did some cardio, then started prepping for my tan. Pro Tan are the tanners for most National-level shows, and they suggest coming to your first spray with a base coat on. So I exfoliated, shaved, and buffed on my first coat of tan. It was surprisingly easy to apply!
Thursday morning I sent check-in photos to my coach Paul and got fantastic feedback from him. I think we both were surprised by how much change was able to happen in three short weeks.
After I sent him my email, I headed down to the hotel gym (which actually is a full spa/fitness center) for a quick 20 minute circuit workout followed by 20 minutes of cardio.
Competitor check-ins started at 1pm, so I basically straighted my extensions, ate, did a little posing practice, and slothed around until I went downstairs to get my height measured & my competitor number (they measured me at 6′ 3/4″…false. I’m 6′ even.)
I also counted down the hours until Kevin would arrive – I missed being with him so much! He really helps calm my nerves on show days. He finally arrived late Thursday night.
Women’s Prejudging started at 2pm on Friday. Even though it was only women, it was still a long day. Bikini didn’t step on stage until around 8 or 9pm.
Backstage at a bodybuilding competition is far from glamorous. There’s a lot of waiting, laying around, eating tiny meals to fill out, and talking about what treats you’re going to have after the show is over. The walls are also usually covered in plastic so the competitors don’t get their tans on everything.
JM Manion captured me in my sweats eating deli turkey out of a plastic baggie while another girl naps next to me. Now that’s an accurate view of what these events are like for the competitors!!
I ended up getting third call-outs (meaning I was in the third group of girls they called out of the group to compare & judge). Everyone wants “first call-outs” – they call the top girls first. I was a little bummed, but I knew I could still make top 15, and also – this was my first National show. I’m starting from the bottom again in terms of making a name for myself on the National circuit. And truthfully, there’s not much I would change about my presentation & physique. I am so pleased with the look I brought to the stage, and that’s all I could ask for!
Finals started at 5pm but I didn’t step on stage until around midnight – another long day full of waiting. Kevin and I stayed up in our hotel room until we knew my class was coming up. If you don’t make Top 5, you literally walk to the middle of the stage, hit a 5 second front pose as they say your name, and walk off stage. Was it worth going back knowing that I didn’t place? ABSOLUTELY! In my opinion, if you worked this hard to make it to Nationals, you should seize every moment of stage time. You may be noticed by someone that matters, or you may be seen as a poor sport if you don’t walk! So, I took my final 5 seconds of fame on stage.
With all the nearby restaurants & hotel dining closed, Kevin and I took a Lyft to a 24 hour diner in Hackensack, New Jersey to finally have dinner and celebrate my National debut.
Speaking of Kevin, he’s the best Stage Husband ever. He records video of my posing at every show, and each time I can hear him yelling encouragement, or my number out loud for the judges. He gets my mind right, keeps me focused, and makes sure that I feel confident and have a winning attitude before I step on stage. I’m so lucky that he not only supports my interest in bodybuilding, but travels with me to be by my side at each competition.
One of the great things about competing at the National level is meeting girls from all over the country. I was so inspired by the incredible caliber of competitors, it gave me the itch to keep competing at the National level. I can now say that I am “Pro-Card Hungry”.
If money wasn’t a factor, I would probably try to do USAs or North American’s this year, but I’m also getting tired of being on prep. I have the Flex Lewis Classic coming up on July 16th, after which I think I need a short off season to grow a little and come up with a proper game plan with my coach.
Until then, I’m just reflecting on how blessed I feel after this past weekend in New Jersey, and excited to finish my summer season strong at home in Nashville at the Flex Lewis Classic!
At 2 weeks out from my first National show, I finally got to have a Skype session with my posing coach, IFBB Pro Laurin Conlin. She helps out with the female competitors stage presentation for my team, Team Pro Physique. My posing has always been something I struggled with, and a few tweaks and tips from Laurin really made noticeable improvements!
I’m also continuing to lean out, and have added some temporary double-cardio to lean out my stubborn thighs. Last week I weighed 149.4 lbs. This week I checked in at 148.0lbs.
2 Weeks Out
Meals this week are 99% lean ground turkey seasoned with garlic, onion, and crushed red pepper, mushrooms, and broccoli. Dinners will be grilled chicken salads over spinach with a ton of veggies.
I also made Kevin Hasselback potatoes. While they’re not for me, can we just take a moment to talk about how absolutely beautiful they are?
I’m back to my normal power-lifting based training this week. The only change has been the addition of double-cardio, which I mentioned above. I still train and do my normal cardio in the morning, and hop on a stationary bike for about 30 minutes in the evening.
I have to admit, I’m getting nervous about Team Universe. NPC Junior Nationals was this weekend in Chicago, and there are some fantastic looking tall girls competing for their pro cards this year.
Kevin reminded me that I can’t compare myself to anyone else, and just focus on bringing my own personal best. He’s been giving the absolute best pep talks lately, and I couldn’t love him more for them.