Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Post Traumatic Show Syndrome

Hey Fit Fam ..

The few days after a show is such a high for most of us bikini competitors. You are in tip top shape, your abs are amazing, you are lean and glowing - gotta love that post show tan because once you shower a couple times it's just like a really good spray tan!! But in the weeks/months following, I see so many girls get really down on themselves that they lost their abs and/or gained weight. A small change should be expected, but I see many girls gaining as much as 10, 20, 30+ pounds! I've even seen articles where women BASH the industry because of the weight THEY gained after. One woman blogged about this and how she had suicidal thoughts post show and how it was such a "horrid experience."  I'm sorry .. but that isn't the "industries fault." It's YOUR (or in some cases a bad coaches) fault, because you CHOSE to take drastic measures just to be ready for stage ... likely doing whatever it took to get meet your goal of competing. I'm writing today to tell you -- It DOES NOT have to be that way.

Let's be honest here. This drastic type of post show rebound is just another form of yo-yo dieting. Many in the Fit Fam criticize yo-yo dieters when the reality is .. if you are gaining THAT kind of weight post show.. aren't you indeed "yo-yoing" yourself?! If you took drastic measures just to get yourself where you wanted to be for stage (or for those not competing reading this .. maybe for an event or vacation)... of course you are going to gain weight if you go back to eating more/different, doing less cardio, or the worst of them all -- stop taking non natural thermogenics/fat burners or drugs you may have been using. If you are gaining THAT much weight post show just by simply going back to the "norm," then maybe you should ask yourself just how healthy your process to "lose" was to begin with!?

Personally ...  I eat pretty much the same amount of foods now (technically non show prep) that I will 6 weeks, 2 weeks, week of show. The differences will be VERY minor. I don't stop drinking water days before I step on stage (some girls talk about how they don't have anything but sips of water for 3+ days) and I have NEVER EVER taken a single fat burner, thermogenic, or worse some horrible diet pill or illegal injection. Let me add ... I'm not saying all fat burners are bad ... there are some products that contain natural amino acids and other things like Raspberry Ketones and Green Tea Extract. I've not tried any of them yet, so I can't tell you if they wor, etc., I'm just saying that in my opinion (and my coaches opinion and from all the research I've done), they usually aren't necessary if you are willing to take a slow and steady approach. But so many people have tunnel vision, so they look past the warning labels, the mess they may be making of their metabolism and "do what they have to do". The reality is that taken in excess, taken incorrectly and in some cases taken PERIOD....things like fat burners can contribute to post show weight gain because you can't take them forever! Your body has become dependent on them to bump up that fat loss, so when you stop, you gain. They just seem like a bad idea to me, unless all you care about is how you look on competition/event day (which should never be the ultimate goal). Same goes with cardio .. unless you can stick to doing cardio for an hour every day of the week -- expect to gain some pounds when you stop.

Before I get any further into this post ... I want to say that I understand that many girls didn't develop as much muscle as they wanted before their show, or maybe the judges told them they need to gain more muscle before their next one. That often means competitors enter what is called a "bulking" stage, but from what I've been told,  seen and researched.. it IS possible to gain muscle and remain pretty lean. Most call it a "clean bulk". I love following Bella Falconi on Instagram and she posted a blog about clean bulking that proves it's possible! Have you seen her off season abs?! INSANE!!! This is just one of MANY examples I've seen and goes back to what I endlessly preach ... SLOW and STEADY!!! Maybe it's as simple as not worrying about a particular "show date" and seeing how your gains go? I'm not saying it's not important to have a goal - goals motivate us - but if you put some unrealistic time stamp on yourself, then you are much more likely to end up in this endless cycle of "bulking", leaning out, gaining weight post show and in turn getting depressed - then when you pick your next show, you repeat the process.

As I've mentioned in other blogs (here is one .. here is another .. browse my page .. there are more) .... I've been in and out of the gym my entire life. It was about a year before my show that I really started lifting regularly lifting. I still didn't lift like I do today. 6 months ago..... 3 sets of 12 to 15 was good enough for me! Not now!!! My workouts are MUCH more grueling. Same with food. Before I ate an overall healthy diet....but MOST of what I considered healthy back then would be considered clean cheats now. I didn't measure food... I eyeballed it.  I ate too many protein bars (even the better ones) instead of whole food meals, drank alcohol when I felt like it, etc. It wasn't until I started seeing my muscles pop that I became more curious what the BEST me really was and took it up a notch (okay like 10 notches). Because of that slow/steady approach BEFORE contest prep, I never did a traditional bulk and I won't be "bulking" for off season. Am I walking around with my EXACT show day lean body today, no!!! But I wasn't walking around with show day abs the week before my show either... because THAT exact look isn't possible to carry around on a daily basis.  I drink 1.5 to 2 gallons of liquid everyday, eat 6-8 times and I don't have a stage tan... so of course I'm not going to look identical!! But I am averaging the same weight as competition day, which means I likely have the same/close body fat percentage (don't ask me what it is. I've never checked, but plan to soon). My coach has had to assure me that what little bit of extra "fluff" I feel I have over my abs is likely majority water weight. So for all of you that are also consistent .. rest assured .. you didn't "get fat" .. no matter what your mind is telling you!

Normally my post show "gorging" isn't anything more than a typical not so clean cheat - except I'll have something that night after the show as well as a cheat the next day and usually my cheats are just one meal a week. But as you will see in that "beach bod" blog I posted ... I went on a big vacation the day after winning the Tn State Championships. Read it .. you will see that while I was AWARE of what I was eating, I certainly didn't follow any sort of healthy plan! So of course I gained a couple of pounds after vacation and felt a little fluffier ... but overall even after an entire week of splurging .. I was very happy with my post show look! I wanted to give myself a week of getting back to my "normal" routine and then see where I was before I blogged about it. Well ... 7 days after vacation my abs were still there, my booty was still tight and I ended up being one pound LIGHTER than my Flex Lewis stage weight and a tad lighter than my weight on show day for Tn State Championships (which was one pound lighter than Flex).

While I'm on the topic .. let me emphasize that a scale should NOT be a success indicator. This is especially for the majority of those reading my blog that are not competing and just eating right and getting in the gym. I know you know this .. but muscle weighs more than fat...so the scale may not be a good indicator for you!! I have "Weight In Wednesday" with my coach. I have no idea what the number means... nor do I care if it's higher or lower .. I give it to her and let her do with it what she needs, haha. But I do think it's pretty darn awesome that because of consistency I was able to go on a week vacation and just one week after I was a tad lighter than I was when I stepped on stage and won State!

To put it all in a visual perspective ... here is a picture I took exactly ONE WEEK after returning from vacation.

So you aren't comparing to stage pics. This one is a few days before Flex. Before any tan, before I stopped lifting for the week and before I drank less water.

And this one is a few days before State (keep in mind I still had some tan from Knox the few days before. Being tan DOES matter when comparing)

Three very different months of my life -- three very comparable looks -- and all within the same weight. Since that first picture (I'm a little late blogging), my weight has gone up/down by a pound or two. I'm currently experimenting with more fat in my diet. But if I posted a picture of today .. I'd look the same (just pretty darn pale, haha). Just a little proof that not only do numbers on a scale not define you .. but more importantly .. you CAN enjoy life after competition and NOT have some major yo-yo affect! Excess post show weight gain can CAN BE AVOIDED....but only if you prep in a healthy and consistent way! Let's all be a part of not just the #Fit Fam ... but #TeamNoYoYoFam -- okay? HaHa :)

Oh .. and please .. I don't want to hear "It's her genetics".  Genetics have nothing to do with this. Trust me .. I went on many vacations in my past where I did gain weight and lost what abs I did have.  It has to do with how I now treat my body YEAR ROUND. I get so SICK of hearing the "genetics" thing. I work ... hard. We all have things that (thanks to genetics) will come easier or harder. I'll blog about all that one day soon :)

I really wanted to write what I hope comes across as an ENCOURAGING blog entry. I was scared to post all of this because in NO way do I want anyone to think I'm bragging, boasting, or putting down their training methods. I'm simply hoping in reading this, that you (especially fellow competitors) can be encouraged and see that with the right long term training you don't have to experience some extreme weight gain that could lead to this "Post Traumatic Show Syndrome" many have.  Many  competitors take this route ... and like someone in an abusive relationship that continues to go back to their abuser ... yo-yo competitors go back to their "old ways" when it's time to lean out because .. well .. it "worked". It's a horrible, un-heathly, viscious cycle.  Why would you want to abuse yourself and your body that way? How can that be ENJOYABLE? I don't want to do this if I can't enjoy it -- and I do!! That is why it's important to find a balance.

My health is important to me every day of the year, not just the weeks counting down to when I'm preparing to step on stage and yours should be too! Live a healthy and fit life all year and you might be shocked to see how contest prep gets easier along the way AND that you can avoid any major post show weight gain!

If you choose to have a coach, do your research and make sure you work with an experienced coach/team who has a healthy, balanced, and sustainable approach to contest prep. If your meal plan is restrictive or unbearable at any time (very low carbs, no carbs at all, shockingly low amount of calories, or unrealistic or unsafe amounts of exercise), you are simply setting yourself up for this "Post Traumatic Show Syndrome." Always have someone in your corner that has YOUR best interest at heart .. not someone who wants some extra cash, bragging rights, a great transformation to add to their webpage, or another trophy to add to their teams collection. Sadly ... that is all many people care about.

I want to close by saying .. please don't mentally beat yourself up. If you find yourself thinking ugly thoughts about failing, the weight coming back, etc., just remind yourself that you are worthy, you are capable of change, and YOU CAN do anything you set your mind to. Being kind to yourself and not comparing YOUR journey with someone else's is vital in this process. Everyone has times when they will look "better."  Even those that do a great job at "maintaining" a certain look year round will have times that they fall off track .. times they want to indulge a little bit (like during the holidays coming up) and end up not being their personal best.  But as long as you are CONSISTENT with your training/wellness, then as mentioned, most of it is probably just water weight anyway. And so what if it's a little bit of "fluff" mixed in. As long as it's minimal, it's not going to hurt you in the long run and you won't have to do anything drastic to get back to where your 100% is!! ABOVE ALL -- it shouldn't change the way you look at yourself in the mirror! You have made a choice to be a member of this amazing #FitFam!! You are a dedicated, determined, strong, beautiful, capable human being -- be proud!!

Eat Clean. Train Dirty.

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