Hanging Up My Heels: My Views on Fitness Competitions
A lot of people have been asking me when and if I am going to compete again. After a lot of thought and reflection on my time competing, my answer is no. I can’t say for sure that my answer won’t change at some point in the future, but for now I can say I probably won’t compete again anytime soon.
There are multiple reasons for my decision, but the main one is that over the past year I have shifted and shaped the way I want to help people with their health, and it is simply not aligned with competing. Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved competing while I was doing it. Fitness competitions came into my life at a time when I really needed the structure and discipline they provided. Not a lot of people know this, but after the car accident I was in three years ago, I was really struggling with Post Concussive Syndrome (which has symptoms very similar to PTSD). Because of the physical, mental and emotional issues I was experiencing, I really needed something to focus on that drew my attention away from my pain and put it towards a goal instead. Training for figure competitions provided that for me, and allowed me to expand my passion for health and fitness in a new way.
After working to get to a better place mentally and emotionally, it began to feel like the competitions had served their purpose. I realized through my journey and as I was working with my clients that there is something to be said for focusing on what the body can do, rather than purely how it looks.
In fitness competitions, a trophy is given to what is perceived to be the “best” body. But this inherently implies that there is a “worst” body as well. Of course it is obvious that first and last place rankings are a fundamental part of any competitive event. But assigning value on the physical body by comparing it to others, all standing on a stage at a ridiculously low body fat percentage, can create a lot of upset for a lot of people.
I saw so many competitors, girls and guys alike, who developed extremely unhealthy relationships with food, exercise and their bodies. They would resort to drastic measures to shape and “improve” their body to be the best on that stage, all the while feeling like they would never be good enough (many competitors struggle with body dysmorphia). The list of foods they were allowed to eat would dwindle down to single digits, while the hours per day they spent exercising would double. They would abandon family and social events in favor of following their competition plan, and obsess about every minute detail of their diet and training being perfect. And on the much more extreme end of the spectrum, many competitors even resort to taking dangerous drugs to enhance their physique.
As someone who struggled with disordered eating and exercising in the past, these behaviors began to feel a little too close to home for me. Seeing so many people enter into the territory that I worked so hard for so many years to get out of was really unsettling. I didn’t want to promote anything that resembled or encouraged eating disorders in any way, shape or form.
I want to reiterate here that I do not think fitness competitions are a bad thing, and I do believe that they can be entered into in a healthy way. There are incredibly well-balanced natural athletes out there, like Erin Stern and Jessie Hilgenberg, to prove that. I just believe that it is a very fine line that many people end up crossing without meaning to. If you don’t have a strong mindset, humility, and a whole lot of self-respect and self-love to begin with, competitions can be a dangerous thing.
So I want to shift the focus from judging the aesthetics of bodies, to celebrating all of the beautiful and inspiring things our bodies are capable of doing. To remind everyone that bodies of all shapes and sizes are beautiful, and what is more important is that you are healthy. It is possible to have the “best” body on a competition stage, while having very poor health and vitality. What’s the point in looking good if you can’t truly appreciate it because you don’t feel good?
I could put you on a strict diet and workout regimen and get you unbelievable physical results, but you may have to sacrifice your mood, energy and overall wellbeing to get there. Or I could teach you about honoring your body, eating and exercising intuitively, and feeling the best you have ever felt. And I’ll let you in on a little secret…when we live from that space, our bodies end up finding the natural weight that they’re meant to be, and we get stunning results anyways. Which means no more yo-yo dieting or struggling to lose or maintain your weight. Which means freedom and peace with your body for the first time…that’s pretty awesome if you ask me.
I am so grateful for the two years I spent competing and everything that I learned from that time. And I am also really grateful for what came after. This past year I have explored what it means to love my body at any size, to give up attachment to the number on the scale, and have learned to be more empowered in my body than ever before. I didn’t have to give up weight lifting all together, but I got to balance it out with other things I love and still have plenty of energy every day. And I get to go out to eat with friends without worrying that I’m not following my diet, and allow food to be both fun and nourishing, and not stressful. I’ve expanded my mindset by taking courses on physical fitness, holistic nutrition, and self-love. I’ve gotten to develop so many tools and strategies for loving my body while improving my health, and I get to share those with my clients to help them create lifelong results as well.
So to those of you who have asked, no I do not plan on competing again and this is why. Thank you for all of your love and support along the way, I truly appreciate it! I am excited to get to continue to empower and support each of you along your own health journey. If you aren’t already, I would love for you to be a part of my Empowered Bodies community! Be sure to subscribe to my newsletter for my latest articles, tips, and coaching specials.
With so much love,
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