My legs have shooting pains in them today. Walking the dog this morning had me crying in an alley. Exhaustion rears it’s ugly head every once in a while and brings with it an entire host of emotional baggage I like to keep buried. I feel like I’m getting sick, drinking ginger and lemon tea and eating oatmeal to feel better. Comfort food.
I have 4 weeks until my next show and I’ve been getting judges feedback from the OCB Tidewater show. Bodybuilding is an interesting sport. We work our asses off for weeks, reducing body fat all over to show case the muscular structure underneath, muscle we spend years building. When you look at how the
Women first looked in the sport, Amanda Latona being a great example, they were wearing off the rack swimsuits and looking a lot more like swimsuit models than the hard bodies and tiny waists we see today.
A lot of pros have stopped competing because the look has gotten increasingly harder and less focused on a natural look.
It’s ironic how a health industry that claims to be so focused on doing things in a maintainable and balanced manner is so focused on the smallness of its women in the bikini division. In fact- they downright ignore the facts that many women take dangerous routes to achieve that look.
My feedback has been overwhelming- leaner, leaner, leaner. More ab work. More glute and ham work. More leanness. And maybe adjust my hair.
I knew going in that I didn’t have the smallest package compared to the other competitors and that this was a possibility. I knew it. But hearing it still stings. I have an almost 300 lb. deadlift. I train 5 days a week, work three jobs, maintain my household and train others as well. And none of that counts on a stage- none of it. I’m strong but I’m not skinny enough. In a subjective sport- I am too thick.
I’d love to tell you that this kind of feedback hasn’t gotten under my skin, but I’m not trying to lie about these experiences. I see a lot of fitness inspirations post about how being first place requires that kind of sacrifice and dedication and that everyone at an elite level is not necessarily healthy.
But it’s something I really struggle with. I love building and the discipline of cutting and getting into the best shape of my life. But I don’t support making myself smaller- for a subjective competition. I don’t talk to my clients that way. I don’t train others that way. I celebrate health and the difference it makes in your day to day life. The sport is about building muscle and health and your mental strength as well. It seems incredibly counterintuitive to keep pushing beyond the scope of health in order to win a higher placing.
My heart hurts. It feels like all the hard work I put in falls short. And that’s another danger of this sport- I struggle with depression as it is. Most days I have a great handle on it- but dieting for 16 weeks and looking at yourself every day and seeing if you’ve dropped pounds or inches to be enough for someone else’s judgment wears on your mental health. And I can’t say that the repeated feedback of lean down hasn’t made this worse for me. I don’t want to struggle with someone else’s opinion of me, I don’t want to question the opinion I have of myself.
It bleeds Into my other goals. My faith in the gym I’m putting together. My faith in my work skills. My faith in myself as a daughter, friend and partner. The doubt can become crippling. And depression doesn’t always manifest itself as crying jags and unending sadness, it’s just a lack of joy and a bleak nothingness. The doldrums. I’ve always loved that description from the Phantom Tollbooth. The time where there is no wind in your sails and you seem stuck in place.
It’s not always like that. It won’t stay like that. But sometimes you just need to hide from life a little until you feel like you can figure it out again. You can go through the motions and keep smiling but you can only hold yourself together with tape and glue for so long. Your body shuts you down eventually - forces you to take some time. I’m hiding in my bed with two bowls of chicken noodle soup and ginger lemon tea. I’ve watched a lot of Orange is the New Black. I have cried out some of the frustration at feeling this way. But I’m not forcing myself to keep stepping forward when a pause is necessary.
I keep seeing a post on Facebook that says it’s ok not to be ok. “Reminder to ANYONE that my house is a safe zone. Coffee can be on in minutes or if you prefer something stronger or heavier, no problem. I will always be available - even if we haven’t talked in a while. Text me, call me, message me, anything. I will be there. I am always a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen. Nothing worse than being alone and going through things alone.”
I’m not ok right now. And that’s ok. I will be. I’m struggling, but I’ll keep moving. I want you all to see the double edged side of things- especially competing. I want you to understand that even people who look like they have their shit together really might not be as strong as they look. And that depression can still look like a 5’4” fitness fanatic with a great dog, family and boyfriend.