Let me tell you a little about my fitness journey. Actually, let me preempt that with a few things. First, this is in no way to bash or degrade those who, by association, may have had a negative or positive impact on this journey. Second, please know that the intent of this post is to illustrate ups and downs and learning curves, and to humanize myself to those who know little about me. Third, it is to share the intrinsic power of health and strength and finding yourself amidst suffering.
I grew up playing sports. Lots of sports. Mom made me play sports. Some of them, I liked. Some I did not. I played anyway.
I wasn’t really ever any good at much, I was in the mediocre pack in volleyball, softball, swimming, you name it. But I was persistent, loud, encouraging to my teammates, and tenacious, so I was usually team captain.
Sports kept me in shape until that awkward prepubescent stage around 14.
I fluffed. It was ugly. There is photoproof. Add 15 lbs of fat to my current frame and glasses, stringy hair in my face that I brushed into a poofball before I knew it was curly, and braces.
It’ll cause a shudder or two.
At this stage, my kind and loving mother put up with me being an asshole and made me run with her (I used to yell “I hate you!” on these runs), simple 10-20 minute walk-run trips.
At some point, I noticed how I felt in my clothes, I noticed more stamina, and I started getting that “runner’s high”. I got addicted.
Enter the obsession. From about 15-20 something all I did was cardio and sports conditioning classes and more cardio and sports and more cardio. I counted calories like crack and consumed them sparingly. I dropped to 104 lbs at my lowest. Some of this was due to Lyme, some to a form of an eating disorder, “exercise bulimia”. I would “work off” every calorie I ate, and then some.
I remember constant exhaustion and fighting through various stages of hunger. So unhealthy.
I was “skinny fat”. My mom used to be so concerned about me, she would weigh me and then make me eat. I snuck ankle weights on my legs under sweatpants sometimes to try to up my weight on the scale.
Eventually, she made me go to a therapist. I’m glad she did.
At this stage I learned I had an unhealthy body image. I began spoon feeding myself almond butter and carbs. I would feel so sick from eating that I would occasionally throw up or make myself throw up. I was genuinely not bulimic. I had developed tons of stomach issues from antibiotics for Lyme and eating lots at once made me so sick. It was easier to do my best, but sometimes throw up when it hurt too much.
Once my PICC line was in, I really got nauseous very often, and would have days where I didn’t eat or ate too much and was sick or forgot to eat and forced high carb low protein meals in at the end of the day.
I hated my body unless I was skinny, and when I was skinny, I felt unhealthy. At this point, I really was trying, but even as a trainer, I knew so little.
After my marriage to my now ex-husband, I went into remission from Lyme. This was about 23 years old, by now. I was able to eat what I wanted (apart from a gluten and dairy intolerance), and rebounded into weight gain. Then I got pregnant, and got skinny. After my delivery, I ran and ran and ran and did light weight work to get “toned” and “slender”. I felt fluffy, “skinny fat” again, but I wasn’t calorie depriving or doing as much cardio as I did in highschool. I didn’t really know what I wanted from my body (it’s hard after you have a kid… dafuq these hips come from?!).
Bored at home, in a bad relationship which was quickly worsening, I fought for something to aim for. A goal. I was new to Instagram and browsing one day and discovered bodybuilding pictures. I had never seen bikini fitness athletes, even as a trainer of 6+ years at that time. I was about 25, almost 26 by then, post pregnancy, tiny, no muscle, and eating snacky low protein high “healthy fat” and carb meals 4 times a day, about 1400 calories.
I contacted a random trainer through Instagram, paid her a minimal fee, and freaked the fuck out when she gave me 5 days of weights, 2 rest days, and NO CARDIO.
Oh, and 2400 calories. More than I’d ever eaten in my life.
It took me a while to trust and wean off of the cardio. When I did, I dropped 7% bodyfat in 4 weeks. My body was STARVING. Muscles were growing, I felt tight, and hard, and strong, and healthy. My skin improved, nails, hair, energy, sleep… I was increasingly empowered to stand up to my (now ex) husband. I started to put up with less, and to dream more. I was a better mom, a stronger person, and slowly realizing I needed to get out of my marriage, and should’ve long before.
I picked a show date and switched to a bodybuilding team (which I am no longer with). I competed 12 weeks later, placing 3rd my first show and 2nd my second show, in New York and LA. Big shows, amazing competition, completely shocked at my placing both times.
I was the sexiest I’d ever felt in my damn life. The simple discipline of competing made me feel like a badass. I loved it.
By this time, I had left my (Ex) husband and was trying to start over.
At this time, my body went into shock. Between the transition into providing for my son and fear of the future and divorce and nasty encounters with my ex and knowing absolutely nothing about reverse dieting, I gained 22 lb in the first few weeks after my show.
TWENTY. TWO. POUNDS.
I was miserable. I had never felt so fluffy. At least when I was “out of shape” before, I was tiny.
My metabolic compensation was extreme. No one had told me about off-season, tapering my calories up slowly, or tapering off of extreme amounts of cardio.
I knew nothing. I was floating and lost and miserable and didn’t want to talk about it.
It took me a solid 9 months to recover. I had to do crazy research to know WHY I ate like I did as a competitor, what I should eat now, how to recover from a show with metabolic compensation and water retention…
I bounced all over the place and finally discovered that carb cycling helped, a little. I was still struggling.
I couldn’t believe how I could go from feeling sexy and powerful to miserable and alone.
I figured the best thing to do next, since I was already nationally qualified, was to get ready for a national show. I prepped with the team and was informed that I had a LOT of weight to lose, and that I needed to slim down my legs and run…. A lot.
I took it to heart and pushed like the devil.
I completely depleted myself. I lost 18 lbs in 5 weeks, and wound up in urgent care 3 weeks later with extreme muscle pain. I thought I had rhabdomyolysis. I thought I was going to die or be on dialysis. I was in pain and exhausted and hurting. I hated prep, I hated competing, I NEVER wanted to do it again.
I was lucky enough to know more, this time around, so it took me about 8 weeks to put on 6 lbs. I stopped there. I was reverse dieting and slowly tapering down cardio.
I was incredibly, incredibly lucky during this time to stumble across some conversations with Kyle Rogers (@kyle619pt). Kyle made me want to compete again. He explained a ton to me, talked about strengths and weaknesses, and suggested plans which weren’t generalized and some very specific attention to make sure prep went smoothly.
He wanted to train me during my OFFseason. WHAT?! Yes, because he knew that’s where it MATTERS. That’s where you improve, and grow.
For the next few weeks, I “bulked”. I grew more than I ever had in my upper body, and my legs tapered down WITHOUT CARDIO.
I am currently elated. Proud of myself, excited to compete again. I don’t feel like I’ll be completely lost on the other side of it. I’ll know what to do, I’ll have help doing it, and I’ll rock it and maintain a healthy, strong physique that I’m proud of, with healthy eating habits and informed perspectives.
I’m proud of this journey, and can’t wait to hit the stage again in the spring.
#Follow me on Instagram! @sportyspicefit