“…Involves belief that one’s own appearance is unusually defective
and is worthy of being hidden or fixed.“
At the ripe young age of 25 I found myself a new mother. My whole life I had fought to fit into a mold of some kind, whether religious or emotional or relational or physical, and I felt lost. I had wider hips. Boobs. I was “oddly shaped”: small upper body, skinny legs, tired glutes…. and I really did have boobs. Double D’s, at the time (oh the nursing days…). I felt lost. I didn’t know this body. What was this? What should I do with it?
I started counting calories and running with some light weight lifting again, something I hadn’t really done since highschool. I’d been active, but not religious with food concerns.
Around that time I got an iphone. I got Instagram. I searched “fitness”… and I found a bikini competitor. I was hooked. I saw she was a mom… and I was hooked.
5.5 months later I placed top 2 at my first NPC show and qualified for nationals. I’d followed months of rigorous nutrition plans and workouts and starved and depleted myself down appropriately for peak week. I hadn’t ever been so proud of how I looked.
2 weeks later, with poor coaching and no reverse dieting instructions, I was 22 lbs heavier and absolutely miserable.
So began a long cycle this last few years of “bulking” and “cutting”. So began what I am now examining as a probably unhealthy relationship with food and a certainly unhealthy immersion into a culture that perpetuated insecurities and increasingly severe body dysmorphia.
The bodybuilding culture lives, eats, breathes, and thrives on comparisons. How you look LITERALLY determines your value.
While this culture has been easy on some… it is very, very hard on others.
The focus is always on flaws… not progress. If you’re going to stand onstage next to someone who worked harder or has better genetics in their favor, you have to make up for it somehow. To increase your value… you have to look different.
Spend almost 3 years trying very hard to look different, and it becomes incredibly easy to be supremely self-critical. You spend so much time trying to “fix” your body, that you forget how much it’s already changed or what it’s capable of. You begin to view it as a piece of shit failure with a lot of ground to cover to be “the best”, and you become obsessed with your own flaws.
Everyone is constantly trying to fix themselves. Diet changes, workout tweaks, everything – all grounded on becoming “perfect”.
Nutrition is regimented to the gram… to the nut! I remember my boyfriend saying “seriously… what is one extra almond going to do to you babe” as I religiously counted out my 10 almonds one night.
Take these behaviors out of the sport of bodybuilding: self-criticism of an already athletic and healthy physique, supreme obsession with measuring food, high concern about varying even an iota off plan, and severe self-criticism and abasement… and you have what many would call an eating disorder, an exercise disorder, or at the least… body dysmorphia.
In the beginning, bodybuilding was an amazing test of discipline. Over the last 5 preps, it has instead become a painful way to color my view of my own body… a body that is sexy, strong, and very, very healthy.
Today I attended my first Crossfit class at Free Range Crossfit (http://freerangecrossfit.com/). I was super, super nervous. I kept thinking about how my thighs are still carrying fat from my bulk… I don’t have a six pack right now… my shoulders are still so small. I was worried about skipping a lift day and my body… digressing?
Instead, I had an absolute. Fucking. Blast. By the end, my shirt was off. I wasn’t thinking about extra bodyfat. No one was looking at or critiquing me. I rowed my damn heart out, and I buddy-carried a 150 lb dude back and forth in a parking lot multiple times. I heard “awesome job”, “one more”, “wow, your lungs are strong, dude!” and much more encouragement. Post-WOD, I’m incredibly sore and exhausted, but I didn’t come away and look at the mirror to see if my quads were tapering… or waist was smaller… or triceps more pronounced. I felt strong, powerful, beautiful, and capable.
When I got home, I ate a damn brown rice wrap with turkey and mustard and spinach – at a meal where I normally don’t get carbs. Later, I had egg whites instead of tuna. I had ketchup with it, too. Am I going off-grid, crazy, wild, treating my body like crap? No. But I’m letting go of the obsession.
I’m still meal planning. Still cutting. Still focused on what I need to do to progress. But I’m done hiding things, fixing them… viewing them as defective. I’m done buying into body dysmorphia disguised as a passion for progress.
I applaud everyone still in the industry who finds a balance, who feels great about themselves at every stage. But for me, every day is a greater confirmation that leaving competing was a good thing.I want to grow into a healthier mindset… a greater belief in my own power and less self-criticism. I want to stop worrying about an extra almond or a substitution. I want to change how I see myself. I want to give up the habit of critiquing every flaw. I want to move forward out of a very body dysmorphic culture, and into one that focuses on long-term good and uplifts and encourages me to be and do my very best.