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Pro Bikini Competitor Shares the Dark Side of Competing

We all live for that day: show day. Our last 12+ weeks has primarily been focused on this one day. And we love every second of it: the hair, the makeup, and the friendships. Oh and don’t forget the amazing body you’ve achieved. There is nothing that comes close to this amazing feeling. We are on cloud nine…

Then we realize that cloud nine apart form the beautiful silver lining, is followed by a thunderous storm, which I’ve categorized as follows:

• The Rebound
• Post Competition Blues
• The Glass Cage of Emotion Effect

The Rebound
I believe that every single person who has ever competed whether being professional or newbies has experienced this situation to its fullest degree. The show is over and while that intense discipline over the past few weeks was followed to the T, now there are no holds. We find ourselves eating EVERYTHING we couldn’t have during that training period: SUGAR, SUGAR, more SUGAR, a little protein here and there, then more SUGAR and copious amounts of carbs.

Now let’s be real. Logically, we should know that this is not good at all, yet we do this and then the inevitable happens. Our metabolic rate gets damaged and our systems crash. For men, the effect is similar and just as damaging but us ladies get hit hard.

We can gain an easy 10-20 pounds and it could just keep going. We become self-conscious and start isolating ourselves, because nothing hurts more than showing someone a stage photo and not owning up to it. Because people always want to know, wow what happened, really? You gained 15 pounds.

To me, the physical side to the rebound is very traumatizing, but the part that really gets you is the psychological side to it. Your mental state gets hammered so hard. That is why I always tell women who ask me about competing that they must be so careful, because it is a dangerous sport. If you as a person are not strong enough to handle scrutiny by others, just imagine if you were to be scrutinized while going through a rebound. And the down side to this is that people believe it will never happen to them.

To avoid the rapid weight gain (and coinciding emotional turmoil) happening to me, I changed my post competition regime to going back to my normal diet for at least seven days after the show to force myself to keep everything in check, then I would have a cheat meal. And it would be anything I wanted. Immediately after that, I would follow up with a maintenance plan to keep me in check. I would slowly add in a cheat/re-feed day every seven days to balance myself out.

Always be fully aware of the possible negatives that can happen and emotionally prepare yourself just in case it does. If it doesn’t, you will be 10 times stronger in general, and if it does, you know you got this.

Post Competition Blues
A week has passed since show day and it feels like life has no meaning any more. You feel bad about yourself and food is your only comfort and you are making the mistake by looking at everybody else who is still in it for another show. You feel lost and alone, as if you are out of the group and nobody cares.

You had a coach but it feels like you were just a number to them and you have nobody backing you. The accountability has faded and you are in the desert….alone….with a lot of cake everywhere.

This is once again an obvious moment of self-reflection that went down the wrong path.

This is where I can usually tell if I turned a hobby into an obsession. If it feels like there is nothing exciting except competing, then I know I lost the balance I need to live life fully.

And the human truth about it is it is so human nature to feel like that, but we must not allow ourselves to be held back by something like this. Instead it must motivate you to get back on that horse and chase the next goal.

We must always be true to ourselves and know that life shouldn’t depend on what you look like to the detriment of your mental wellbeing. If anything you do in life leaves you depressed or even just emotional, you have to sit down and analyze why you do it and what is truly important.

If I can give you my personal opinion being a professional athlete, it would be this: DO NOT SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF.

Competing is not your family, your faith, your spiritual belief, or your emotional convictions. So don’t allow it to dominate and manipulate your brain in breaking you down and controlling you.
My motto towards training and competing or just looking good is “Fall in love with the process.” Take each moment to better yourself and reward yourself mentally. Tell yourself you are amazing, you look phenomenal and that you love yourself.

Remember there is only one of you in the whole world, and you are making it your own masterpiece, and like any artist a work of art is never truly finished. So instead of sulking after a show, grow from it. Fall in love with the process, and love yourself.

The Glass Cage of Emotion Effect
Now this for me is the most real, most dangerous, and most taxing danger zone in the competition world. Because we are our own worst critic. I call it “the accuser.” And “he” is so cunning and catches you on the low days and lowballs you on the high days. The “he” I am speaking of is that little voice, the small foxes that ruin the crops, the small doubts that turn into insecurities and the lies that if not addressed turn into false truths.

We all have them, now let’s address them.

The “Accusing” questions…
• I’ll never win.
• I am too skinny.
• I am not lean enough.
• Why can she do it but I can’t?
• How is it possible to push harder?
• What more do I need to do to win?
• I’m never going to be as good as her.
• Do I honestly think I look good, who am I fooling?
• I will never be the best.

These are but a few of the questions I find athletes poisoning their minds with after a show and I always see it as this beautiful soul stuck inside a class cage….of emotion. They see everyone and everyone can see them. But they are hiding behind the glass smothering themselves with these unnecessary questions that destroy their self worth. The cage fills up and suffocates them and all we see are these amazing people, full of potential, filled with resentment and pain but with no way to help them.

I know it is easier said than done, believe me, I have also been down that road, and I still find myself some days entertaining these thoughts. The best advice that I can give you is give yourself a break, but be true to yourself.

As a competitive athlete, I know that performing and doing well is right at the top of my list when I go into a prep for a show or anything related, but give yourself a break, and be real with yourself. If it is your first show and you don’t do well, try again and again and again, until you achieve the level of performance you need to place where you want to place. No Olympian athlete just walked onto a field and broke world records, so be real towards the process.

If you compete against some of the world’s best and do not place, do not break yourself down and believe that you are not good enough. Be honest with yourself and give yourself the credit that you deserve for putting in the effort and giving it your all. If you know you did not do your diet or training at 100 percent, own up to it because it will make you stronger. Allowing the accuser to make you believe you will never win only affects you. He thrives on you losing focus and self confidence. Stand up and own up to the reality. Turn yourself into a warrior and a champion instead of a worrier and a failure.

By Leah Ward