What I have learned during my 2nd contest prep within one year, is that anyone with the passion, drive and mental capacity can do this. Some of the hardest things I have gone through and how I overcame them
· Being around food you love and not being able to eat it
o This was by far the hardest for me initially (and still is at the beginning of the cutting phase). To our bodies, sugar is a chemical, an addictive chemical that messes with our heads. When you give up that chemical, your brain responds negatively because it wants to feel that energy rush that sugar gives us. As the prep goes on though and sugar consumption is decreased, those craving go away. My husband and I will sit around on the weekends and at night just looking at food porn. Yes, we want to eat the cake and cookies and pancakes, but it’s not as extreme to the point where we’re going to go out of our way to make those items or buy them. It’s just fun to look at and the pictures are enough for us. During this stage, I believe the goal that we have in our heads for what we are achieving to look like for these competitions have taken over where the sugar craving would normally be.
· Having to carry food with you wherever you go, if you’re going to be away from it for longer than 2 hours
o This is a pain. Pretty much is a pain throughout the whole process, though you get used to it. I try to find food that can be eaten at room temp or cold or I will work around my eating schedule to find the food that I can eat at room temp or cold. Lately I have been doing salad with chicken, and that is good cold. So if I’m traveling, I will most likely have that with me. It gets really stressful when you have to go a whole day away from a microwave and on an odd schedule. I learned that while traveling for work. I had a 2 hour car trip, customer visits, and then a 2 hour car trip home for 2 days during the week. That was a very stressful week, but as long as you plan ahead- write out your food schedule- you can make it work.
· Eating the same foods over and over again
o I know some people who compete come up with a whole menu of recipes for their contest prep. I have been learning to do this more during this 2nd prep, but it has not been easy. Since food needs to be weighed out separately, a lot of recipes that involve mixing veggies/protein/fats are hard because most items need to be weighed out after cooking. I just made a ground turkey stir fry which was ground turkey, onion and zucchini. In order to weigh out the right portion of turkey vs veggies, I had to pick around the veggies to get the turkey weighed, after being cooked together, in the Tupperware and then throw the veggies in (veggies are a free for all for the most part, I need a min. of 3 oz). So most of the time I would just eat the same food every day because it’s easier to measure out. Last prep consisted of a ton of canned green beans. This prep is a ton of romaine lettuce, green peppers and red onions, the only difference is I enjoy those veggies and look forward to them. The salad has definitely helped me overcome the repetitive food thing.
· Having people not understand that “one bite” is a big deal
o I have heard this from numerous people, who are competing or have competed, including my coach. Non-competitors don’t understand that having just that one bite of cake/cookie/pancake (can you tell what I’m craving lol) will make a difference. 1) it’s hard enough that we’re attempting to fight off any sugar craving we get on our own, but having someone push them on us and telling us one bite won’t hurt makes it harder; 2) having one bite will change things, maybe not physically right away but mentally and then it will physically when you get closer to the show date and your body fat is low (every piece of food you eat is crucial at this point).
· Not seeing results right away
o I have seen this numerous times on the internet and I totally agree with it:
§ It takes 4 weeks for YOU to see your body change; It takes 8 weeks for your FRIENDS AND FAMILY; It takes 12 weeks for THE REST OF THE WORLD; KEEP GOING!
o This is so true! My initial weight loss wasn’t noticeable until I hit the 10 lbs down mark and had been working at it for about a month or so. Within the first 2 months, my pants were changing sizes and then my co-workers were noticing the change. It’s such an incredible feeling once you start seeing the changes and then when other people notice, but you have to keep pushing and not assume there will be results right away. If you want this to stick, it takes time, your body needs to change and become accustom to something new.
· Skipping social outings because you need to get enough sleep to keep your training regime on par
o Keeping in mind that you are only going to be missing out on events for a short amount of time is key. It’s 3 months. Yes, a lot can happen in 3 months, if you are currently an active socialite, this would be difficult, but for the average person who goes “out on the town” maybe once or twice a month, this shouldn’t hinder too much. I still see my friends and will still do dinners with them occasionally during my prep, but I’ll either not order food (and eat in the car..) or I’ll order something I can eat. This can easily be worked around if you’re determined and dedicated enough.
· Being in the gym for long hours and possibly multiple times a day
o The reason I decided to compete was because I loved being at the gym and lifting heavy weights. It is a hobby that I enjoy, but like anything that is done too much, it can get exhausting. If I decide to not compete again (which is a possibility), the amount of time I spend in the gym during contest prep is one of the top reasons. I love being able to lift heavy and during contest prep you’re not lifting to build muscle and strength; you’re lifting to maintain what you’ve put on during off season. Due to the amount of cardio that needs to be done to get down to the body fat necessary, you will burn muscle as well in that process so lifting heavy is still crucial, but you will not get stronger. This makes me soooo frustrated because I track every single workout and I hate seeing the weight go down. But I know it’s going to happen and I know that it’s supposed to happen, so I just have to get over it.
· Being critiqued every week
o During prep, I’m sending pictures of my progress to my coach to critique me and determine if my diet and/or cardio needs to be changed. This is great because he can see things that I can’t and know when to make those changes. What I don’t like about them is that if I feel like I worked my ass off that day and feel awesome about the week and that I deserve a “refeed” or cheat meal and he tells me he doesn’t see enough progress.. well that’s a blow to your brain. It sucks, you feel like you did nothing that week and now it’s a new week and have to do it all over again to potentially be told the same thing again next week. During this prep, I did not get as many “refeeds” as last time, but I also had a lot of horrible mental weeks that prevented me from gaining the progress I needed. I have overcome this obstacle by telling myself every week that I will not get a “refeed”. I don’t tell myself I did horrible and I didn’t progress because that would be downright wrong, but I tell myself that the “refeeds” are there to improve my appearance and if I need one, he will give it to me, if not, it’s not because I didn’t work hard.
· Hormones out of whack
o This is the worst. This is seriously something that sometimes cannot be controlled. I have been learning though that there’s a difference between hormones being out of whack and just feeling down. Hormones out of whack means no matter what I do I cannot get out of the funk (except maybe sleep; that usually helps a bit). Feeling down is something that is easier to get out of, you just have to be forward with yourself and admit that you’re feeling down and that you need to get over it, easier said than done sometimes. This prep I went through the worst down of all when I found out my dog died. After that, I felt down, I tell myself that it can’t be worse than that weekend, I put an upbeat/happy song on my phone, and force a smile. Forcing a smile helps because it tells my brain that I’m happy and then the music helps send the happy message to my brain as well.
I hope this has helped anyone who is competing or thinking about competing. You can do it! You just have to utilize both your physical strength and mental strength to endure it!