First, I felt profound relief. It felt so good not to have another competition hanging over my head. Then, I had one of the best weekends I’ve had in months. I caught up with a friend I hadn’t seen in months and realized how dearly I had missed her. I spent Saturday with another friend and experienced not one, but two new things (visiting the NoDa area of Charlotte and going to my first roller derby). On Sunday, I went to brunch with a guy I met recently and then hiked Crowders Mountain for about 4 hours (another new experience). I clearly remember a moment after we had finished hiking and were driving home that I felt completely exhilarated – I had experienced something new with somebody new and the car was whipping through winding forested roads with my favorite song (Radioactive – Imagine Dragons) playing. I closed my eyes for a few moments and basked in them. “This is what I have been missing out on for all of these months.” I ended the weekend feeling confident that I had made the right decision in deciding not to do another show so soon.
But, there is also a downside. Indulging in all of the post-show, celebratory junk food has reignited my sugar cravings. I have eaten to the point of being completely stuffed on more than one occasion. After spending so many months feeling hungry most of the time, eating until I feel full (or beyond) is such an intense desire, and one that I repeatedly capitulate to. I honestly thought based on how well my prep went and my prior competition experience that I wouldn’t be dealing with post-show cravings and binges. I was wrong. For all of my good intentions about avoiding the same traps I fell into after my first show, I am still repeating many of the same mistakes, which is discouraging.
I know, for many people, the competition prep seems like it would be more difficult than the post-show period. But during prep, you don’t have choices – you have a set meal plan and a deadline. Cheat meals are dictated by your coach, not your social calendar or your cravings or your psychological state. After a show, everything is a gray area – you suddenly have the freedom to choose, and it can be overwhelming. I liken it to being on The Biggest Loser – for the period the contestant is on the show, they are at the ranch with trainers working them out for 6-7 hours per day and with only healthy food choices available. They aren’t striving for balance in terms of family, friends, and work because those factors have been excluded from their time on the show. The real struggle comes when they return home, when they no longer have a single-mindedness of purpose. They peak for the finale, and then life resumes. Most don’t stay in the same condition they were at the finale, and some of them even go on to gain back significant amounts of weight (or all of it).
I don’t look like I did on stage, even 2 weeks after, which is kind of embarrassing. I don’t even want to talk about competing because I feel like people will look at me and say, “Really? You just did a competition TWO WEEKS ago?” I realize that I can’t walk around in day-to-day life looking like I could step on stage any minute…but that doesn’t make the inevitable physical changes any easier to digest. It’s hard having gone through the competition cycle to not have some (or all) of your self-worth attached to your physical appearance. I keep reminding myself that I am still the same person who stepped on stage two weeks ago. A 2% change in body fat doesn’t change that. My degree of leanness is wholly contingent on my choices and can be manipulated. I am a person who just competed in a show after training and dieting hard for 5 months. I have chosen to enjoy quality time with my friends and indulge in the foods I love and have chosen to avoid during prep. I am experiencing the same post-competition blues that almost all competitors experience. Choosing to eat does not detract from who I am as a person. Maybe I’m a little fluffier than I would like – all that means is that I need to tighten up my eating a bit and make sure I’m consistently in the gym. My physical state is maleable.
That being said, I am working on some new goals because I feel I need a sense of purpose and direction. I’m almost finished working through the details. I have set myself on a path that I think will turn out to be life-changing…more to come soon!