Competing in two bikini competitions in the past six months has been exhausting. While it was empowering and exciting at times, it was also challenging. As of recent, I’ve attracted a lot of attention from women via social media, curious if they too, should compete.

Several women have reached out, asking:

“Is it that hard?”

“I don’t think I can get lean enough, can I?”

“Did your life suck when you prepped?”

Generally speaking, I had a great experience. And, most of you know that, as you’ve read my summary blogs, silly posts, and other #bikiniprep updates.

I gained a ton of confidence, learned even more about nutrition and fat loss and was floored by how strong my own “strong” really is after powerlifting on a caloric deficit.

But I didn’t anticipate that going into #bikiniprep. I anticipated the opposite, actually.

Based on the tone of numerous articles I’d read online, I worried that I’d lose my period, that I’d develop a bad relationship with food and that I’d be bitter about the whole experience.

Luckily none of that happened, however, I did experience some negative things as a novice in the bikini-prep world, blindly coaching myself.

#tbt

I’m writing this now (even though I hate articles about downsides to things), because it wouldn’t be fair and honest if I did not share the negative sides to bikini competitions. After all, these are the things I’ve been telling all the women who’ve reached out, when they ask me what it was really like.

It took me a long time to write this, too.

I really didn’t want to publish a fear mongering article to dissuade anyone from going after their goals. A few articles I read during my “research phase” almost kept me from competing. Thank goodness I like to experience things for myself.

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The biggest reason it’s taken me a while to write this piece is that I’m still dealing with some of these negative aspects myself.

The negatives I’m about to mention are not the typical ones you read about.

I didn’t lose my period. I didn’t totally lose my boobs, nor did I feel “manly.”

I didn’t lose my sex drive or my hair.

However, like anything you do for the first time, there are struggles and lessons learned. And all of these things can happen to anyone dieting, if they take it too far.

I am sharing these five negative effects of bikini-prep for a few reasons:

  • to shed light on the struggles for prospective competitors
  • to cover some dieting mishaps anyone can experience if they aren’t careful
  • to share what it was really like for me on my bad days.

Again, generally speaking I had a great experience. I learned a lot.

5 Negatives to #BikiniPrep

 

  1. Letting go of whole foods

I had always been active and fairly lean, but never “stage ready.”

You see, in the past I lived by three basic rules for staying lean all year round:

  • prioritize protein
  • eat tons of veggies
  • drink sparingly and eat few processed foods and treats

But when it came to the bikini diet, I knew things needed to be more strict with my diet.

No more sushi or salads with random sauces for which I hadn’t a clue about the ingredients. I wrote this article 4-weeks out about what I was missing and craving.

During bikini prep I really honed in on the calorie counting for the first time in my life.

I bought a food scale. I measured things and I cut out all bites and tastes of buffets at restaurants, my friends’ or family members’ dinner plates etc.

I planned most of my meals and drastically decreased alcohol in the first half of the prep.

These changes sparked initial strides in fat loss because of the accountability from tracking my nutrition. See what I looked like below, just after four weeks of hardcore calorie counting.

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I didn’t want to meal plan because I knew I would go crazy if I didn’t take a flexible dieting approach.

This means I wanted to count calories to understand exactly HOW MUCH I could eat, so I could fit treats and other things I desired into my diet on occasion.

And, it turns out it is much easier to track the calories in a Quest bar, candy bar, or packaged item, than say  a veggie stir-fry, a salad from Sweet Green or a salad from the Whole Foods salad bar.

I also realized that when I prepare veggies, I used a lot of oil and seasonings or toppings. By omitting olive oil and butters (hello spray butter!) I was able to cut out calories easily.

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By the halfway point I was eating significantly fewer vegetables and basically drinking spray butter.

I made sure to have spinach daily and broccoli a few times a week during the middle of my prep.

As the calories began to dip, I no longer wanted to spend 50 calories on plain broccoli, when I could have maple turkey breast for 60 calories without anything added to it and enjoy the taste.

By the end of the first #bikiniprep I was barely eating veggies. I wanted all of my calories to come from protein and starches like oats and sweet potato.

At the time I didn’t feel bad at all. However, adding vegetables back into my diet post-compeititon bothered my stomach for days.

Negative? Fewer micronutrients and fiber which are good for your longterm health and well-being.

2. Poor digestion

Without the amount of veggies and fruits (fiber) my body was used to, my digestion was off in the final two weeks of bikini prep. I looked leaner, but because of how bloated and crappy I felt on the inside, I started to think I looked fat on the outside.

I took probiotics and drank apple cider vinegar to get some fermented stuff in my body, but I was never regular.

If you could magically jump into any photo you’ve seen of me on Instagram or my website and talk to me at the time it was taken, I’d tell you I felt fat and gross. Even times where I look remarkably lean, I felt like a big, fat cow due to how horrible my stomach felt.

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Negative? Not feeling like a million bucks when you look like you’re in the best shape of your life. Also, having to take supplements in order to go to the bathroom.

3. Moodiness and being cold

Ask my mom about this one….. I speak with her several times a day, everyday, and so many points during my bikini-prep I was short with her. On low carb days of prep I was either angry, sad or frustrated.

During the bikini prep I went as low as 60 grams only once. Otherwise my low carb days were no less than 90 grams (because I teach and walk too much to go any lower).

Simply put, I thrive when I have at least 120 grams of carbs a day.

I’m definitely not cut out for low carb. Or low calorie, for that matter.

I was often snappy and foggy brained when coaching. Forgetful was my middle name.

If you follow me on snapchat, you probably saw about 50 snaps of me drinking freezing cold green protein shakes in the bathtub.

I had to drink my shakes in the bathtub because it was the only way for me to feel my toes. Two weeks out, I began drinking my shakes in the tub  twice daily.

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This is not in the tub, but this is my go-to shake taken PRE-bikini prep.

I think moodiness and being cold is normal for anyone who is too far from energy balance and/or under carbed.

Carbs are crucial for bodily functions and anytime you take your body too far from homeostasis, something is going to go awry.

The fact that I didn’t lose my menstrual cycle, sex drive or hair are all signs that I didn’t take the diet too far, but it’s embarrassing to say that yes, I was a biatch for the final weeks of both preps I did.

I love this article by Precision Nutrition– “The Cost of Getting Lean” . What’s funny is that I read this before my bikini prep, and I thought maybe it was a little too dramatic, but it is pretty accurate.

The truth of the matter is that to get to a very lean point you have to give things up regularly for a while; it takes time and you have to be happy with giving those things up.

Precision Nutrition’s article paints a good picture of what the cost can be for different people.

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There are several people out there, however, that want to go through this challenge. The cost makes sense for them. I liken it to a man who wants to be on Navy Seal Team 6 and goes through BUDS training.

I liken it to an ultra marathon runner who must spend more time training on the weekends than with is family.

We all make sacrifices for things we care about. Nobody can tell you what you should care about.

Negative? People being frustrated with you and for you.

4. Oversimplifying my meals has left me a very poor chef

Because I teach 10 fitness classes a week and coach anywhere form three to six personal training sessions on top of running Crossroads of Fitness, I have little time to cook.

And luckily, since I work from home I never really had to meal prep. My fridge is six feet from my desk.

However, tracking calories and macros is much easier when you eat simple foods like egg beaters and oats, plain chicken and packaged items like Quest Bars.

Personally, when I’m not competing I’ve always enjoyed cooking and I strive to be a better chef.

The bikini-prep diet left me feeling like an Olympic athlete who takes two years off due to injury, when it comes to my cooking abilities. I don’t even know where to start.

After my first competition I was so used to using low-cal everything and sugar-free everything that I was hesitant to dive right back into eating normally. Not to mention, I wanted to compete in my first USAPL meet at 114 pounds so I needed to keep my weight down.

However, after my second bikini competition I dove right back into using real butter instead of spray butter, eating ALL the vegetables and having real syrup at breakfast, etc. I felt very heavy and fat for a few weeks. I’m still having some weird bloating issues with some foods.

The photo below was taken after I tried to eat some cauliflower, broccoli, and turkey from whole foods, having a quest bar as a snack and a protein shake and oatmeal in the morning three weeks ago. No idea why my body did this.

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Negative? Not only am I out of practice of cooking yummy meals with whole foods, I’m kind of scared of how various foods will affect me.

5. Perfectionism and being self-critical

When you are in the thick of bikini prep, you are applying nutritional strategies which are not sustainable. You’re purposefully giving your body less than it needs for homeostasis. You’re taking every natural hunger cue and physical cue signaling exhaustion and giving it the middle finger.

You see, when you’re highly motivated to get on stage and complete the process, to get leaner you are empowered to do whatever it takes in the short-term.

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I tried to maintain a sense of reality during prep, but it was hard. I had to constantly evaluate my body on how it looked, how it could be improved and note the positive changes.

Obviously I know that in the long term I wish to eat whole foods regularly, exercise when well fed, etc. but that healthy way of life can easily slip your mind when you commit yourself to getting as lean as possible.

During the past two preps, logically I knew I should eat vegetables and fiber, but if eating 16 ounces of tilapia per day in the final few weeks was what I had to do, I was willing to do it.

3-days-out-from-first-NPC-comp-November-1-2015

And, the only time I ever felt good– and by “good” I mean not bloated or full feeling-– was first thing in the morning at 3:30 a.m. or after 4 p.m. when I had been fasted for five hours.

That is no way to live.

What’s worse, after you get to that incredibly lean point and you see what you are capable of looking like, it’s hard to not want to look like that all the time.

And even worse, when you’re in it, you aren’t showing it off, being social, or doing anything fun.

You are in your bed, watching Netflix and admiring your six pack that nobody can see–if you can even see it.

For instance, I’ve never posted the photo (which I Instagrammed to launch this article) because at the time I took it, I actually thought I looked fat.

This was taken one week before my competition (November 6th) and I felt horribly bloated, physically drained and unsure if I was lean enough for stage. I texted it to my mom to see if she thought I was ready, because I thought I was furthest from it.

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In reality, I was the leanest I’d ever been in my entire life.

Also, fears of “messing it up” definitely set in afterward. Not only do you feel weird when all of the sudden you eat can eat more carbs, calories and vegetables again, but you worry that you won’t be as awesome without the sweet abs you just recently saw.

It’s a fleeting feeling! But you don’t know that when you’re in it.

Had I not begun to shift my mindset on getting strong as hell *immediately* after the competition for a powerlifting meet, I think I would have suffered even more dysmorphic feelings, because nobody looks stage ready or like they look during peak-week lean all year round– at least not newbies to fat loss or bikini prep. Powerlifting was the king to my yang in this whole process. It saved me.

For all of you out there working on getting leaner my BEST pieces advice for you to stay sane and objective are:

  • take measurements and photos, the scale doesn’t always make sense
  • If you start to think negatively about your progress you’ve gone too far. It shouldn’t be all-consuming. You should find a way to work on fat loss and still go out to dinner (like my Dare to Eat clients).
  • Take photos without any emotional attachments for two weeks. If you hate a photo, wait two weeks and then look at it again, you’ll see it more clearly. If you do, or when you do, let that be a reminder that dieting can mess with your head and let it motivate you to love your NOW even more, and take a step back from dieting.
  • set other goals in the gym so that progress photos are not your only motivation. For instance, doing more chin-ups is a great way to measure fat loss. When you lose weight, chin-ups become easier!
  • Have an exit plan, a reverse diet etc. for after the show. It will help you maintain and regain healthy habits.

Wrapping Up

It’s important to know that scientifically speaking, anyone can get leaner. There are quasi-healthy ways to do it and there are some not-so-strategic ways to do it.

No matter how you go about it, I do not believe it is “healthy.” It can be the farthest thing from healthy from a psychological and physiological standpoint, depending on where you are when you start and how you go about it.

I had the some serious qualms about competing thanks to several fear mongering articles. I do not this to be one of those. However I want to be open and honest about some negatives I experienced.

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Oddly enough, I actually think I might want to compete again because I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes and I’m confident I can do it better next time.

I learned that I can get leaner and still have some cocktails. I learned that I’m a total biatch when I don’t eat carbs. I learned that I love training for things, whether it’s a bikini competition or a powerlifting meet.

If you are considering competing, know that it can be incredibly empowering, or it can mess with you.

Either way, remember this: at the height of your leanness, when you have the perfect dark spray tan and your muscles are popping, your makeup looks pretty and your hair is done, you’ll be sitting alone in a crowed hallway backstage of a packed auditorium unable to share it with anyone– unless you bring one of your best friends, which I made sure to do the second time around 😉

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You’ll take a few photos that will last forever, but after you go to dinner post-show, you’ll probably never look like that again. Are the photos worth it?

For me, I enjoyed the majority of the process besides the bloating stuff. I think if I tried different foods, meal timing etc. that I could’ve felt better.

If you don’t love the process–the lifting, posing and tracking– it truly isn’t worth it.

Personally, I love the way I feel, the way I perform in the gym and the way my clothes fit when I’m 115-116 pounds– where I was 8 weeks out. And, if you read that article, you can read a sense of empowerment. I was well-fueled, strong as hell and confident in my own skin at 115 pounds. That’s where I like to stay.

If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to reach out! I am happy to talk more about this.

#daretoeat

 

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