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The Struggle is Real

I have been informed by many that I give off a very cold first impression. My closest friends have said it took them a long time to break down my walls before I let them in to my personal life. I have never thought of myself in this respect; however I believe this may have to do with the strong, confident, slightly intimidating women I have chosen to model myself after. This "cold" nature is something I use to protect myself, but today I choose to let others have a glimpse into what I have been going through these past few months.

In this day and age where global information is readily available, it seems petty to say "post-competition is hard". Walking 5 miles, barefoot, to get water is hard. Searching through garbage bins to feed your family is hard. Living in a war zone is hard. Childbirth is hard. Reverse dieting and post-competition life, in comparison, isn't even on the radar. Unfortunately, I let it consume my life. I let myself spiral out of control post-competition. I let my weight gain control my emotions, my self-esteem, my life decisions, and the belief of my self worth. I told myself, time and again, that no one else understood. I obsessed over other competitors' photos on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. I beat myself up over my placement. I went over every cheat meal, every "little bite" or taste I had of someone else's meal during prep. I flagged every incident like that as a "failure" of my self-control. I told myself I should have done more cardio/lifted more weights. I was angry at my rest days. I was angry at my coach, myself, and anyone else who had been there on that journey for not pushing me harder. I was consumed by it all.

I have never been an emotional eater. I don't have "comfort foods". When I was pregnant, I craved green apples and salmon. After competition, I binged. Not the first night. Not the first week. I let the habit creep up on me like I did my jealousy and rage. It wasn't until I was up 18 pounds, eating a giant bowl of candy, that I realized just how bad I had let it get. It wasn't that I was missing workouts -still making it to the gym 5-6 days a week. It wasn't that I was missing meals, or eating less protein: I was throwing more junk into my diet than you could imagine! Every night was either a bowl of greasy popcorn, chips and salsa, bulk barn candy, or a combination of all of them! I didn’t do this because I was hungry. I did it because I kept telling myself "you deserve this". I "deserved it" because I was angry. I was angry I didn't place. I was angry that my class was so difficult. I was angry that girls who did a 12-week-prep and had never had children placed higher than me. So I ate. Then the next day I would weigh myself, get upset and be angry all over again.

I let the anger control me. It was fuelled by the disappointment I felt in myself and the jealousy I had for those that I deemed "beautiful and fit": the ones that posted the attractive, fit photos on the Internet for everyone to see. I kept telling myself "you used to look like that". The truth is, though, I didn't. No one looks like that. For 4 hours on competition day my hair and makeup were "perfect", I was tanned, and I was cut. 4 hours. 12 months and 2 days where I worked tirelessly, obsessively, to get myself to a point where I looked like that. For 4 hours! And I let those 4 hours control me.

It wasn't until I realized how much my anger was impacting my family and my life that I decided I needed to make a change. I was crying daily, at the drop of a hat. I would fly off the handle for no reason; call my husband balling like a child to fix me. He asked me one time "What happened to the confident woman I fell in love with?" That question stunned me. I didn't know. When had I changed? Even my children had noticed. They looked at me differently. My daughter kept asking “Why are you mad, Mom?” I didn’t know. Somewhere, I let myself get caught up in it all and left my old self on the side of the road. I felt like a shell of a person. I hated who I was, all because of hating how I looked.

My current weight is 140lbs. Not ideal, to me, but not bad either. I am only up one size since competition and can still see my abs (if I flex). I eat 6 meals a day -anywhere from 150-450 calories each- and weight lift 5 days a week. I run, do sprints, bike, and walk every day. I meal-prep. I work hard to keep my family healthy. All of these things are what I do to keep myself healthy and fit, but it should not control my life. I am more than that. I am a mother, a daughter, a wife, a sister, and a friend. I am a student and an accountant. I have a brain that I really like to use. I love Scrabble, and will only play Monopoly because its my husband's favourite game. I like video games and playing Risk. I am horrible at Chess. I have watched Greys Anatomy from season one, all the way through to the current season 6 times. I've read the Harry Potter Series seven times, and intend to read it to my kids. I love to swim, but only enjoy it if it's in a lake. I met my husband at a rock concert. I have hurled myself out of a plane, and rappelled down a 70 foot cliff from an anchor I built.  All of these things make up who I am today. Not the number on the scale or the size of my pants.

It's easy to say "I want to look like her" when we see competition photos. It seems that everyone wants to compete these days. What people don't understand is there is so much more to competing than diet and exercise. That girl does not normally look as good as she does on stage. 99% of the time she is sweaty, tired, hungry, and stressed while waiting for her next meal. Her water intake is measured, to the tablespoon, during her last week of prep. Guaranteed, she has had the thought of quitting more than once during her training. She may or may not have been encouraged to take unnecessary fat burners or supplements. Those heels really dig into you once you've been standing in them for 4 hours. Those poses are hard to hold and uncomfortable. And when she steps off that stage, her tan will stain her toilet seat and her shower.

I'm not saying "don't compete". Hell, I've already planned my next competition. What I'm saying is that I have learned that I am more. And that I am worth more than my stage photo. I am worth more than the number on the scale. Since realizing that, I've found it much easier to make healthy food choices; easier to stay on track. I am also a better mom, wife, sister, daughter, and friend. I’m a little more at peace, with myself and my progress. I have decided I never want to let my self-worth get so low that I cannot be a role model to my children. When she looks back on life, I hope my daughter to think of me as a strong, confident, slightly intimidating woman. A woman she wants to be like. A woman she has looked up to and one that made her feel safe and loved. A woman that showed her it's ok to be confident in you.

Strong women: may we know them; may we raise them; may we be them.

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 7.51.27 PM

* Above Left: 1 month post competition; Above Right: Day before competition

*Bottom Left: 2 months post competition; Bottom Right: First day I started training (6 weeks post partum) exactly 1 year to the day of competition*

 

Stephanie Hutchinson
Muscle Mommas

 

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