I slide out of bed, walk down the steps, enter the bathroom, strip off my clothes, and step on the scale. I stare back at the number and the feeling of hopelessness falls over me. I basically weigh the same as my male roommate (that could explain why I fit into all of his clothes) and I am 30lbs heavier than what I was two months prior. My skin hurts, I feel puffy, and I have successfully gained about 8-10% more body fat. I look at my body in the bathroom mirror. I don’t like what I see and can hardly stand looking at it. Why did I let myself gain all of this weight? Why did I listen to my body which told me I was hungry all the time vs listening to my brain telling me to keep dieting and to slowly increase calories? My roommate probably doesn’t even want me walking around in anything but sweats. No one will want to see me naked like this.
No one tells you about how this could be your reality post bodybuilding shows. No, I didn’t reverse diet obviously, but who’s to say that this isn’t reality even if you do reverse diet and slowly gain 15-20lbs back to your frame? You become so accustomed to looking at yourself as a lean athlete and then you slowly have to let go of that reality and be ok with a less lean version of yourself as you try to rebuild and reshape your body for your next season.
After my first year of shows, I took 6 months to let my body “heal” itself but it wasn’t enough. I had so many issues (IBS) and intolerances (<–click for post on all that) and I didn’t even know what was causing them. But I wanted to compete in figure so I started dieting again for my second season, and it was so much harder. My weight hardly budged, my nutrition coach just kept dropping calories, I still couldn’t even look at broccoli, and in the end, I decided my body didn’t want to do this. It has been almost two years since I quit dieting for a show and switched to CrossFit full time.
I maintained a weight of 157 until I moved home, started a new job, had extra stressors, and had to take some time off training and worked my way into the 160s. I was back to where I was before I started dieting for my second year of figure competitions.
During the course of that next year, my weight pretty much ranged anywhere from 164-167 give or take a couple of lbs, but slowly, I continued to get stronger and my body fat slowly decreased. I didn’t diet or even try to lose weight during this time and would occasionally track my macros just to see where I was. I wanted to let my body become more healthy so focused on gaining strength and becoming a better Crossfitter.
Before the CrossFit Open, I posted a picture on Instagram of my scale reading 159lbs, something I haven’t seen in over a year. I had recently started tracking my macros to ensure I was eating enough carbs and food in general and had lost some weight because of that. I was happy to see the number as it meant I would lighter for the Open, but more importantly, because it means my body is healthy again and is willing to drop weight, as long as I feed it.
But my post wasn’t about weight loss or about being lighter for the Open. My post was about loving yourself and your body. I am not going to lie and say I loved how I looked in my post figure days. I was so self conscious and it affected a lot of areas in my life and that is a hard mindset to break. But as I drew farther away from the figure world, I refocused my energy and thoughts on getting stronger and becoming healthier. I would celebrate my lift PRs over the numbers I would hit on the scale. I changed my food mindset from simply eating to hit macros to eating more natural foods and avoiding foods my body responded negatively to. Even though I still disliked my midsection, I reminded myself of what I liked about my body. I would also celebrate the little things…good lighting, the outline of abs, booty shorts, etc. Was I always successful at finding a positive? No. Did I have bad days where I would cry about how I looked? Yes (I am still female after all!). But those moments grew less and less, and sure enough, my body also changed for the better as I fed it properly and trained and lifted hard. I became more patient with the process. I understood that I enjoy CrossFit and would like to continue this for a while so that means taking care of my body, listening to it, and enjoying the journey like I expect it to be longer than a sprint. I didn’t rush my body and allowed it to do its thing. I accepted my physique for what it was and knew it would simply change as I continued to better myself as an athlete.
About a year (or a little over a year) into CrossFit, I started noticing my shoulders and arms looking stronger. I didn’t necessarily feel leaner (I most likely was starting to lean out a bit), but I looked more muscular and that made me happy. Strangers started making comments to me about my arms or asking what I did for my workouts. I realized it was the first time that strangers have ever made comments about my body in normal clothes (tank top and spandex is normal right?) and I felt like I had won a prize…I looked like an athlete without having had to diet down to look like one.
So as my weight drops, I do get excited because like probably everyone else, I like to think this means my abs will become more visible..something I have been waiting for forever. But I have also learned to be content with and appreciate my current self. I have learned to view the scale as a measurement of weight that will fluctuate daily, not a measurement of how my day will go, if I am fat or lean, or if I am attractive. I have made the decision to be ok with slow progress in order to still be a strong athlete and that has helped me let go of the desire for rapid progress as there is hardly such a thing when it comes to fat loss while making strength gains. I use pictures and [waist/hip] measurements as my true determinants as to how my body is changing regardless of what the scale says. And by learning to be patient and kind towards my body and accepting of where I am, I will be able to love my future self as well.
There is a saying that says “if you don’t love yourself, how will you be able to love someone else?”. That kind of applies to this situation! If you don’t value yourself and love yourself, or just simply accept yourself for who you currently are, do you think it will magically happen when you see a specific picture of your ideal self in the mirror or the perfect number on the scale? No. You will look at that number or your reflection and you won’t be content, if you even see the picture accurately. You won’t all of a sudden rejoice and say “Hey, I’ve made it! I can now be loving towards my body!” You will always want more and will never be satisfied because YOU are not enough. Those self-depricating thoughts in the back of your mind will continue to say you still need to lose more weight, you aren’t lean enough, you aren’t valued, etc. And they are right. You can always be leaner, more muscular, stronger, more attractive, have a flatter stomach or a bigger butt. But unfortunately perfection isn’t attainable and the funny thing is, what is perfect in your mind may not even be perfect to anyone else. So even if you somehow find a way to achieve perfection, there is still going to be someone else who finds another person more attractive, more desirable, etc and would that eat away at you? Would you then change your perspective on perfection and desire something else instead of your original idea of perfection? Would that change then make you happy? Doesn’t this all sound ridiculous to you now? Do you see how achieving your ideal physique will never lead to happiness or self-love?
There is one human being you will be with for the rest of your life: YOURSELF. And if you can’t love the person you have molded over the years and grown to become, how will you be able to love anyone else who may enter your life? All of that negative self talk you tell yourself will trickle into your workouts, job, relationships, etc. People can see it in your slouched posture, your lack of confidence, in your actions, and most definitely your words.
So take the time to figure out how to love yourself and be kind. If you can’t handle the scale, put it away for a while and just let your body do its thing. Eat natural foods and lots of it if you train hard. Get rid of your restrictive mindset as that usually just creates unnecessary stress. Find one thing that you can appreciate about yourself and build upon that on the days, weeks, months to come. Recalculate your self worth, for it does not equal the number on the scale. Pray. Meditate. Do things you love to do. Do something in which you excel whether that is being strong/fast/smart/artistic/thoughtful, etc–that builds confidence and keeps your self-esteem above water. Create a support system of people who can celebrate with you but can also find a positive about you when you have run low. Remind yourself that there is no one else quite like you and that to someone else, you are perfectly imperfect. Remind yourself that you have been created uniquely and have a combination of strengths that no one else has. But most importantly, remind yourself daily that YOU ARE ENOUGH.
**Progress pics from vacation over the past three summers (2012, 2013, 2014). 135lbs in the first, 153lbs in the second, and probably 165lbs in the third. I pic stitched the second two pictures together last summer but never posted it to Instagram. I wasn’t very happy with what I saw and didn’t feel like sharing it with anyone. But it is my body and it will fluctuate and change. I am ok with that more so now than last summer and know that this summer, I will and currently do look different. I am the strongest I have ever been, I have a more muscular upper body, and I will eat ice cream and drink some beer on vacation without worrying what may happen to my physique. I have worked my way up to a caloric intake that can allow me more wiggle room than ever before and more importantly, I am mentally ok with that!