Dieting & Training for a Show; the Good, the Bad and the Ugly (in fairly lengthy form)

I’ve been wanting to write about my experience and opinions on the fitness competition I did in 2015 for EVER now, but as we all know I slack and get “writer’s block” aka I’m lazy. And this is going to be a pretty detailed post so I had to wait for the inspiration to strike instead of half-assing it. I get asked a bit about how I went about training for a fitness show, or people wanting to know how to lose weight without a starvation diet because I sure as hell didn’t follow the plan I was given to a t. We’ll get to that somewhere in the mix. Disclaimer in advance: I’m not a coach or a dietician. I don’t think I’m a coach or a dietician. I am not qualified nor do I plan on becoming qualified to do either. This is just my personal experiences, and a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way to help out anyone who’s just curious or is thinking of giving it a shot themselves. Also I don’t have anything against people who do shows seriously and competitively. Some of my biggest role models are heavy into the fitness world and do several shows, and all I can say is HOLY THE BODS ON THEM. The ones I admire are the ones who take a healthy approach to it, and who don’t force drugs on clients or leave their clients misinformed and harming themselves. We’ll get to that. I do respect anyone who does the shows because it takes a lot of commitment, and I love seeing anyone do something to boost their self confidence. That being said, I’m not a fan of the drastic and unhealthy approaches people are willing to take because personally I don’t think it’s worth it. This is all MY opinion, so I’m not bashing anyone or calling anyone out. Just stating observations. Disclaimer is cutting into my word count, and we know I don’t make em short and sweet as it is lol so let’s get to it.

 

A little history on me and why I decided to train for the Atlantic Classic Fitness Show in March 2015:

I was always petite growing up. Super short, small waist and fair sized bum. Hourglass shaped which I took for granted as most of us do when we’re young and vain. I maintained a weight of about 115-120 from age like 14 til I was about 20. I could eat literally whatever I wanted and drink every weekend and not fear stepping on the scale. Then I hit 20 and my metabolism went on strike. I had a really hard heartbreak that felt like the end of the world to my barely 20 year old self, and I got fat. I don’t say that lightly, I was almost 170 lbs on a 5′ 1 & 13/16″ frame and that jump was literally in less than a year. I went from 120 lbs to 170 lbs and hated my body. Below is a picture from a Halloween when I was still tubby, and then the difference less than a year later when I got my first sleeve started.

I tried the Atkins diet (which resulted in me cutting out all carbs, going drinking for my best friend’s birfday, blacking out because my body couldn’t process the liquor, I guess I punched her in the face? I was a complete train wreck, and I woke up the next day with no shoes and an hour drive back to my college town to work a shift with alcohol poisoning and no clue why my best friend wasn’t talking to me. FML moment x 1208387.) Needless to say, that shit didn’t fly and I went right off it. I picked up running that year, and to this day I still LOVE running. I finally graduated college and got happy again. One day my broken heart stopped bleeding and I went a day without being sad and it felt like all of a sudden my metabolism kicked back in. I dropped back down to about 135 lbs and felt really good.

So maintaining that weight for a couple years, I had a few friends from high school who were getting into the world of fitness. I’ve always been an on-again off-again gym goer, Mama has been teaching fitness classes since Daddy died so I’ve always had it around me as well. I’d never really sat down to think about how you can sculpt your body using training and good diet, so when I saw my friends make amazing progress and compete in these “bikini shows” I was super inspired. I downloaded the LoseIt app (I now use My Fitness Pal) and started tracking what I was eating. I saw the coach that one of my friends had used in the past and decided to give it a shot towards the end of 2014. I did a 3 month phase to start, saw some results and decided to do the less competitive show in April of 2015. When I say “less competitive”, I mean that the placings don’t allow for advancement. There is a novice show called the ECC in Halifax each year, and if you place well you can move on to provincials. From provincials is nationals, etc. I wasn’t doing the show as a serious sport, I just wanted to see if I could make those changes to my body and have fun in the process. The Atlantic Classics is a super fun show, it’s less pressure and everyone is actually so sweet and supportive so I highly recommend a show like this for anyone starting out or who wants to use competing as a tool the way I did.

I didn’t follow my diet plan very well and tracked my own macros loosely, basically monitoring my caloric intake and using some of the meals that were provided in the plan. I was much more compliant with the training plan and schedule because I’ve always enjoyed exercise. I work in a FIFO job too, so at that time it was super easy to get into a routine because when you work away your life is one big, repetitive schedule. I didn’t do the amount of cardio I was supposed to as per my plan, I didn’t do the full workouts as per my plan, and the reasoning was a few things:

  • I do a manual labour job so I’m already torching a ton of calories just at work, I didn’t think it was healthy or realistic to expect me to turn around and burn another 500-1000 calories a day with workouts. If I’m too tired to do my job, it’s an easy choice as to what is getting cut out, and since my job paid my coaches, I said screw the extra cardio.
  • Since I was doing what I could in the gym, I didn’t want to under eat. I followed my meal plan loosely as well because I felt that the caloric expectations were too low for me personally. I also have researched a ton over the years (I research everything and anything that captures my attention for even a moment) and women shouldn’t be falling under 1200 calories a day for more than a week max. In my opinion (and that of numerous others I gather my intel from) you shouldn’t be below 1500 or thereabouts a day. As soon as your body dips below that 1200 cal intake for a sustained period of time, you go into “starvation mode” where your body begins to burn muscle instead of fat. It’s coded into our DNA, even though the world is now at our fingertips, our ancestors weren’t so lucky and they had to store as much fat as they could for survival. Our bodies haven’t caught up yet. Same with leg and armpit hair, and other areas  which I’ll pretend to be too classy to mention. Get with it genetic coding, this is unfair.
  • Last reason for slacking on my planned workouts was that they weren’t designed for my camp lifestyle. When I was on days off I could spend an hour and a half in the gym doing weights, but in camp you have very little free time after working and sleeping and eating. I only had an hour max to put in at the gym before work, sometimes I would try to get just cardio in when I woke up and go back for a quick weight workout after work. But it’s exhausting and time consuming, and I’m up there to make money above all else. Towards the end of my prepping, since I was still eating ice cream and pizza and burgers and fries several times weekly, I did go to the gym twice a day most days. It helped that my camp had an amazing gym as well as offering classes, and one of my best friends I met at work would come with me and be my partner. But it was cardio in the morning, and some weights at night most of the time. Or a class at night.

 

We’re caught up now as to the backstory of chubby Caoimhin deciding to become lean Caoimhin and into the actual prep time line. I’ll add some pictures of my starting point and progression as I went on. This was before starting the prep in the end of October.

Next is my progression from October until February. It’s another reason why taking progress pics is SO important on a weight loss journey, you’re always the last person to see it so you really do need to have irrefutable evidence that your hard work is paying off.

That was a lot of pics LOL but it shows the slow and steady whittling of my body into the goal I had. And the funny thing is, I don’t think I was happy with my body yet. One of the bad points of competing is the magnified body dysmorphia. You don’t see the changes like everyone else does, you focus on the one area that really troubles you instead of celebrating the total package. Even when I was at my all time leanest, I still had cellulite on my bum and thighs, it’s part of my genetics and I doubt it will ever go away unless I do starve myself. But I would love to be back to my happy weight where it’s less noticeable. Some people hate their arms, and no matter how great the rest of their body looks comparatively, they will always be a little dissatisfied because of the one thing they can’t change. It’s human nature and we all have our flaws we’d pay a million dollars to eliminate, but realistically no one else notices them. I will never have small thighs. I’m cursed with a full bum and fuller thighs, complete with stretch marks from puberty and a massive weight gain. My tiger stripes will never go away, and I think I’m finally okay with it after doing this show and seeing them still proudly blinging for the world to see. They’re scars that show my battle with making it into adolescence, my battle with my first real broken heart, and my eternal battle with my first place I gain weight. If you look closely at my stage photos you can see the stripes nice and bold on my inner thighs. But I am what I am, and that’s a tiger so RAWRRR. img_2989

I was eating about 1600-2000 calories a day throughout prep (excluding peak week), and burning about 300-600 in the gym depending. I still ate soft serve ice cream with crumbled up cookies in it like it was going out of style. I still had wedge fries with gravy and delicious pasta in camp. I still had pizza and burgers and fries on days off. But I also learned to use moderation a little bit, and I was faithfully tracking my food, even when I knew it would be over my goal. I also spent a lot of time at the gym on days off because my schedule permitted it. A point I want to make about the good of competing is the friendships and camaraderie and support you gain. I have very few friends these days, and 3 of my 5 bestest best friends I met solely from this competition process. They will forever be a part of me, and not a day goes by that I’m not grateful for having found them through this sport. And a lot of my friends now -outside of the handful of suckers I’ve latched on to full swing- are because of my decision to compete. Either from sharing a coach, or being at the gym the same time and meeting through the grapevine, I have a lot of really awesome friends that I met and sweated with and still feel supported by and loved by. You end up cheering on the other athletes around you, and motivating each other or sharing tips and workouts and recipes, or enjoying your treat meals together because they understand exactly why it’s a treat. I love love love my fitness friends because they are genuine and hardworking and beautiful inside and out. Now the bad that can come from people you meet while competing is very limited if you don’t throw yourself into the shark tank. Some people are highly opinionated, extremely narrow-minded in their approach, unhealthy and honestly miserable so it can be hard to be around. You learn pretty quickly to stick with the good peeps and not worry about the ones who aren’t on your side as it were.

I’ll chat quickly about the dieting aspect because it is so important for weight loss. You cannot lose weight if you don’t have a deficit. Basics with how many calories your body needs is as followed for those who don’t know (sorry if you do know or don’t care, skip on through haha):

  1. Your body needs a certain number of calories just to function. If you multiply your weight by 16 it will give you a rough idea of what that “maintenance” number is. For example, if you weigh 140 lbs your body needs 2240 calories just to exist.
  2. One pound/lb is 3500 calories. Gained or lost, every 3500 calories is 1 lb. If you want to lose weight, you need to cut out 3500 calories, aka go below your maintenance number for a period of time. The normal goal is 1 lb a week, so you would cut out 500 calories a day (3500 cal/7 days a week= 500 less calories a day). If you wanted to lose 2 lbs a week and you could do so without going into starvation mode, cut out 1000 calories a day (7000 cal/7 days a week=1000 less daily). You can play around with it, but that’s the very very basic formula.
  3. You’re obviously going to burn more than that base maintenance number if you’re implementing a gym routine. So some people will add the number of calories burned from a workout to their daily goal, and ultimately be able to eat more food and still hit their target. I.E. 140 lb person wants to lose 1.5 lbs a week (3500 x 1.5= 5250 calories to cut a week, 5250/7=750 calories to cut a day). They have a daily goal of 1490 calories. Same 140 lb person does 30 mins sprints on the treadmill and is wearing a heart rate monitor, sees they’ve burned 250 calories in that time, they can add that on to their daily allowance and eat more and still be at their goal. So instead of eating 1490 which we’ll call 1500 for argument’s sake, they can eat 1750 and still be under their desired cut.
  4. If you want to have a detailed plan for how much you should eat and when and what kind of exercise to do and when, etc either hit up bodybuilding.com which is an amazing resource for everything you have questions about, ask around because I’m sure there are people who are willing to help with what they can, or hire a coach to get set up and get a plan tailored to your wants and needs. There are tons of online coaches, as well as coaches locally. Be sure to ask questions, and if something doesn’t sound right or feel right, DON’T DO IT. Your health should always come first to you, and honestly to your coach. Be wary of a coach who advises you to take T3’s (which I only ever thought was Tylenol until last year cause I’m naive AF) because it will help create an overactive thyroid and melt the fat off your body. What happens when you finish that show though and your thyroid decides to shut down? Or you’re not given instructions on how to reverse out of whatever cocktail you’ve been prescribed? The only person left to deal with it is YOU and if you had a hard enough time torching off fat the good old fashioned way with diet and exercise and a normally functioning body, I assure you you’ll have an even harder time torching the fat that pours back onto your body because there is nothing regulating it. ***I’m not a scientist, I’m not a doctor, I’m just basing my opinion on what I’ve heard has happened, and the research I’ve done after hearing about the poor clients who wound up miserable and uncomfortable and unhealthy to whatever degree. If I’m wrong on any points here my bad*** Basically in this long ass paragraph I’m just trying to say be careful and ask questions. Find a reputable coach. Spend the time and effort if you’re going to be spending the money. I was never asked to try any of the drugs out there that some athletes use, prob in part to my attitude problem, the fact that I wasn’t competing on a serious level and wasn’t planning on it in the future, and the fact that my body responds well to training and a balanced diet. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY AND YOUR BRAIN. Period.

This is getting long and I haven’t even gotten to the last bit of prepping or the show itself. Sorry folks. So as you can see, following a fairly structured program began to work wonders for me. I ordered my suit from Sherry’s Originals in PEI (she makes amazing suits btw) and that expensive little number was my motivation. It was GORGEOUS!

I began wearing it for my check in/progress photos closer to the competition date, starting in February with about 7 weeks to go before the show. It didn’t fit very well prior to then, hence why it was so motivating.

My posing SUCKED for the first mega hahaha, I had to enlist a friend of mine whose posing is UNREAL, like literally she works it like a pro. She helped me big time, but I was still awko taco and looked a bit silly on stage with competitors who had experience and also body awareness. It was a lot of fun practicing, but I still suck which is why my booty will never be popping in pics on insta. I just don’t have what it takes. Sigh.

I maintained the same calories and workout schedule until peak week. If you don’t know what that is, it’s HELL. Easiest explanation. It’s the final week pre-show to lean out, dehydrate and get shreddy as fawk. I still ate ice cream that week cause I’m terrible, but it worked wonders for leaning me out. I was in one of my best guy friend’s wedding at the start of peak week, so while everyone else was drinking and eating their delicious food, I heated up rice and chicken and brussel sprouts. It took me a year to touch brussel sprouts again. I felt fantastic body wise, I’d never been that leaned and defined, and I still had a bit of energy (because it was the beginning of the week). Fast forward to mid week and I was starting to get diet brain bad. End of the week I was useless. I decided to do a photoshoot so I have something to always look back on from my show. I loved doing the shoot, it took me out of my comfort zone, but I would love to do another shoot in the future. Here’s a slideshow of those shots. I actually LOVE them, BHH Studios in Halifax, check him out cause he’s honestly amazing. Also Mike Mousseau is hella talented and next on my list for a shoot (sorry sucka I want to do one, love ya LOL).

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I had such a great time at the show, I got all dolled up and strutted my stuff and just felt awesome all around. I had proper abs. ABS DAMN IT, you could see each one!!! More so the last few days leading to the peak week anyway. I got 3rd callouts (which means I was like 13/27 or 28 or whatever it was?) but I was ecstatic to even get that. I did the prep my way, didn’t starve or binge or hate my life, I listened to my body and adjusted what I was doing according to what felt right to me, and I loved it. By no means was I anywhere as lean as the competitors who had already done shows or put 110% into their training. But I was so good for me, and I didn’t rebound two weeks after the show and gain it all back. Until surgery last March actually I was pretty good still. Then it all went to shit again. I’ve also been eating 3000-4000 calories a day and been SO slack in my workouts aside from when I’m at work. If I’m away at work, I go to the gym every day, eat well every day because I need the energy to make it through the shift, and I walk like 8-12 km a day on site. Up until this month when I’ve been home I’ve been a sloth. Now I’m working with a new coach (coaches actually, super cute couple who actually have a realistic, HEALTHY approach, have tailored a plan to me personally instead of giving me a cookie cutter plan and ignoring my dislikes etc) and I’m excited to start the process again. I’m not doing another show, but I want to get back to my happy and healthy body, and maintain it as a lifestyle. I learned so much about myself through competing and I don’t regret it for a single minute. In fact, I had so much fun with the first show that I bought a suit to do the novice show. Decided after a long reflection that it wasn’t for me, but I still have that suit in its packaging. I’ll show you cause it’s beautiful and funky and colourful as hell ❤

 

I’ll prob finish this off here because it’s long as fuck, I’m STARVING and I have now written through my normal time when I call my grandparents on Sunday nights. I’ll have to do that tomorrow, I’m a bad granddaughter. When it comes down to it, competing was an amazing experience. I can see why people get such a rush from it and choose to do it competitively and religiously. It’s so amazing watching your body change and being able to create what you want your body to be. I’ve been working shoulders pretty consistently since the show (except for when I wasn’t going at all LOL) and since I was def over maintenance calories I gained a bit of muscle. I caught sight of straitions at the gym the other day and was pumped. Now I’m super stoked to lean out bit by bit again, and kind of carve away at the clay I’ve been moulding.

Final pieces of advise for anyone who wants to compete, or even just wants to begin a regimented weight loss journey;

  • Write down why you’re doing it. It’s easy to fall off the bandwagon so if you have a goal, write it down and review it. When you lose focus it will show you why you started. Also make sure you’re doing it for you and not for someone else. You won’t stay committed to something that you’re not into deep down.
  • Take progress pics and measurements. The scale isn’t always the be all to end all, it’s a great tool for measurement but if you find the weight staying the same and you’re still busting your ass, check your measurements and compare pics. You might be adding muscle. Plus it’s so cool to look back on how far you’ve come.
  • The slower you lose it, the better the chances it stays off. If you lose 20 lbs in a month, it might be because you were under eating, or cutting out foods that you’re likely going to miss and wind up binging on, sorry to say, and the chances of gaining it back when you’re sick of the extreme diet are high. Patience is everything. You didn’t gain weight overnight so you won’t lose it overnight. ***Not for everyone though, the more you have to lose, the faster it will come off at first. So if you’re 230lbs and lose 20 lbs the first month, maybe it’s cause you did stick to a 2500 calorie diet and it made a huge difference. That being said, the more you lose the harder it becomes to come off safely and in a healthy way. You won’t lose as fast when you weigh less because your body will require less for maintenance. Am I rambling from hunger at this point???***
  • Actually, off that point and most importantly, EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT. We all lose weight differently from different areas first, we all handle carbs and fats and proteins differently. Basically what works for one person isn’t guaranteed to work for another. I can’t do low carb or I gain weight. I also can’t do super high fats. But some people do amazingly cutting down carbs and bumping up fats. You kind of have to experiment to find exactly what is going to work for your body.
  • We all enjoy different things, so don’t do a workout just because you’re told you should if you HATE it. I hate the elliptical so you will never see me on it. I love sprinting so that’s my go to. If I’m on a plan that says otherwise, I talk to my coach because if I don’t enjoy what I’m training, I’m not going to stick with it. Find what works best for you and go for the gold. The most important thing is doing something at all, so make it something you enjoy. It’s hard to be motivated for a workout or diet plan you can’t stand.
  • Google form for exercises if you don’t know. Start light when trying new equipment or routines. Better to start light and get it right than to overload and hurt yourself.
  • Take rest days. Your body needs time to repair itself. Rest is good. Especially if you’re trying to grow muscle and eating a surplus. You can’t add muscle if you aren’t giving your body time to heal the tears and in turn create new fibres.
  • Have fun. Changing your lifestyle or deciding to compete should be exciting so be sure you’re enjoying it.

 

Ending with a slideshow of the show day and peak weak and then 8 months later. Goodnight fam, hope you had a wicked weekend and Monday isn’t too rough on you.

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