I have been in the fitness industry for 13 years as both a competitor and working in the nutrition supplement industry. The one question many women ask me is “should I compete in a figure or bikini competition?” As a Psychologist I always pause and begin asking questions about themselves. Questions like “are you happy with yourself right now, how is your self esteem, why do you want to compete – is it simply to get lean or do you have a competitive nature that pushes you?”
I ask questions simply due to the fact I have seen many women (and men) “lean out” for the first time in their lives, usually to an unhealthy state of which is required to be on stage (6-10% bodyfat), and when they have attained their goal and compete, the aftermath is somewhat difficult.
What am I talking about? Once you have been on stage at a competition, it is difficult to accept your body when you it goes back into its natural healthy state of being at 12-20% bodyfat. The daily struggle of being obsessed with food, training, and wanting to constantly be at that “competition lean look” is difficult for many to accept. Our bodies were not meant to stay at a low bodyfat state, nor is it healthy to do so. Fitness should be a lifestyle in which healthy eating and exercising is not an obsession but a way of life.
I speak from experience as it took me years to accept my body after competing and stop obsessing about being “super lean.” Exercise is now a lifestyle for me. I’ve added different facets to my exercise routine. I now hike, take dance classes, no longer weigh myself on a constant basis, or obsess with food. I eat healthy to maintain my health. I lift weights to strengthen my bones because as a woman we are susceptible to osteoporosis as we get older. I no longer freak out about what I eat or if I miss a day at the gym.
So my answer to those who ask me if they should compete is usually no. As a Psychologist I see the mental aspects that plague men and women after competing. The constant obsession is both unhealthy and sad. Should you exercise and eat right? Absolutely! But set a goal for yourself. The pictures you see on magazines of men and women are not how they look the other 11 months a year. I know this because I have been in magazines. We diet for photo shoots and the rest of the time we look just like everyone else. Healthy, eating right, and exercising to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Don’t be obsessed. Be happy with your body and with who you are! Take a dance class, go on a hike, do yoga, mix up your routine. You will reach your goals in a healthy way but it will take time. Learn to love yourself from the inside out as this is what fitness is all about. Train hard, eat right, love life!
Fitmark Ambassador 2013