I’m now 2 weeks out from my second-ever bodybuilding show, and my prep has gone completely according to schedule. I’ve lost about 13-14 pounds since May, and getting verrrry close to my stage weight. I cannot WAIT to present my physique at the IFBB Muscle Contest Philippines on Sept 8. It will be a big international show and I’m both excited and nervous.
Here’s my latest check-in picture (in the green bikini, taken earlier this week):
Compare this to my show-day physique from last year. While I was thrilled with what I brought to the show last year at my first-ever bodybuilding contest, my goal this year was to “beat myself” by making improvements that would be evident on stage (smaller waist, fuller glutes, & tighter legs.) I think I’ve done that, especially considering I still have 2 more weeks to work. Of course I want to place well in the actual competition… but that all depends on who else shows up and what the judges decide that day. It’s a completely subjective sport.
I’m excited!! I’ll let you know what happens. I’m entered in 4 categories for my division: Bikini Open (all ages), Bikini Novice (never won anything in this federation- IFBB), Bikini Master’s 35+, and Bikini Master’s 40+ (yup, that’s as high as it goes, friends!) I could potentially be 8 years older than some of my competitors in the oldest category, and it’s likely that some of the girls in the Open category will be young enough to be my daughters. Ha! But this kind of competition is such a fun challenge for me.
But that’s not the point of this post. There’s been another side to this whole “prepping” process that I really feel like I need to address. As I’ve become leaner and leaner, I’ve received more and more compliments. Not on my potential for doing well at the competition, but on my overall “transformation.” I think there is a misconception that this is my “new body” or that I can “just stay like this.”
I can tell you right now, I have no intention of staying like this!!! Haha. The day after the show I’ll be eating everything I haven’t for the last 15 weeks. I’ll be eating until I’m full (and probably beyond.) Then the next day, I’ll jump right back to my maintenance calories (2400… I’m eating just under 1700 now) and slowly gain back up to a reasonable level of body fat.
Because folks, this level of leanness is just not sustainable. Or actually, I should say, the behaviours required to get here are not sustainable. This is for show day only. I would never, ever take it this far if I weren’t competing.
To give you some insight on what my prep has been like, I began my “cutting” phase (the process of losing body fat while retaining muscle built in the off-season) in mid-May. I started with a small caloric deficit of about 200 calories per day with one cardio exercise session per week… this first step was very easy and totally sustainable. (My standard 5-day lifting program has remained largely the same in terms of volume & intensity: each workout takes me between 60-90 minutes to complete.) But it just intensified from there. By mid-June my calories dropped another 200 and I added 4 more cardio sessions each week for a total of 5. Then in August, another calorie drop (by another 300, putting my total deficit at 700 calories per day below my maintenance level) and we changed 2 of the cardio sessions to hour-long sessions done in a fasted state. So by now, I pretty much just work out and then rest! Because I don’t have enough calories to fuel anything other than my exercise these days!
I think there’s a terrible ruse in social media these days that presents extreme leanness as healthy, good, and even kinda easy. “Just eat right and exercise and you’ll look like this all the time.” But it’s just not true. I see young (and older) women on Instagram who seem to maintain this look year-round, and I wonder what’s really going on with them. What are they doing? Because I know what they’re not doing: going out to lunch with their friends. Having a glass of wine with their husbands. Definitely not enjoying a piece of their child’s birthday cake. They are doing what I’m doing now: eating in a significant caloric deficit and working out HARD. Every day with no exceptions. Oh and did I mention no booze? I did… how easy it is to forget!
Getting to this point is not necessarily healthy or balanced, no matter what’s portrayed so beautifully in the media. But this is not about long-term health & balance, it’s about preparing for a competitive sport. By the time I step on stage, I’ll be around 11-12 % body fat, a bit dehydrated, tanned, glammed, & pumped up with quick-acting carbs and last-minute exercises. It’s a “limited-time only” look that allows the judges to really see my muscles pop. I continue to be fascinated by what the body is capable of, and it’s worth the sacrifices I’m making for this short period of time.
However, to think about maintaining this stage-lean physique year-round is just unreasonable… as much as I’ve enjoyed seeing my muscle emerge, I can tell you that I’m equally excited about regaining some balance in my life.
It’s not that I’m sooo hungry all the time, but I’m cold and tired and, um… maybe a bit cranky at times. (I dunno, ask my family! They call it “hangry”…) I’d rather take a nap than go out. I’m usually in my pajamas by 7pm. I weigh and measure everything I eat, and to spare my family from boredom, I usually make them something different for dinner while my own dinner has been prepared earlier in the week and I eat it out of Tupperware.
So why am I doing it? Some days I ask myself the same thing, to be completely honest. But when I search my heart and ask, why… I know the answer. I truly love every aspect of this sport. It pushes all my buttons of challenge and reward. The discipline, the heavy lifting, the science of nutrition behind it, the mental game (yes, even though it can drive me crazy, I love mastering it!)… the high of the actual stage performance… I love it all. This sport fits me like a glove.
I’ve struggled in the past with feeling “locked in” with a certain way of eating, completely eliminating food groups or things I deem unhealthy. I’ve so often said, “I would just never eat that ____” …hamburger or ice cream or donut or whatever that’s completely pleasurable but low in nutritional value. It’s not because I don’t like it, it’s just that I had a sanction against it. But ever since I’ve been involved in competitive bodybuilding, that’s all gone. All foods can fit. It sounds kind of crazy to think that this extremely restrictive (at times) sport as actually given me so much freedom in my eating, but it’s true. No foods are off-limits to me anymore. A friend recently asked, “Is it hard to go back to eating everything after being so restrictive for so long?” And my answer: “Not at all. I just feel complete freedom.”
Competitive bodybuilding has also helped me love and accept my body at all weights and levels of body fat. It used to be that I only felt attractive, valid (in my profession), and acceptable if I were lean and tiny. But now, I know that’s just a big fat lie. No one’s worth is based on their body’s appearance. (And I can write a whole other post on that!!!)
So I do love this sport, with all its extremes at the end of prepping for a show. It’s all just part of it. In 2 weeks’ time, I’ll step on stage super-lean, tanned, and glam. It’ll be a blast. But when it’s all over, I’ll happily put on a few (or 10! pounds,) because I truly understand that this look isn’t meant to be worn year-round.
If you’re still reading at this point, I applaud you. Thanks for sticking with me! I cherish your support and I value your readership so very much. I hope this post gives you freedom in knowing that no matter what your level of leanness or fitness, you are loved and loveable.