6-Pack Abs & Pancake Boobs: Lessons From My Life as a Fitness Competitor

I have 11 days left until I hit the stage for the 3rd year in a row at Fitness New England in Connecticut. If you've been following my journey, you know I've been in this fitness competition game since 2011 and I've enjoyed MOST of it. The last few weeks of competition prep are by far the hardest...my food choices are limited, I'm not drinking alcohol, and I'm working out (and practicing my routine) almost every day. There are some days when I just want to give up, but last week I realized that I've learned many lessons about weight loss, dieting, and life from this experience, so today, I'm going to share a few of them with you.

Lesson #1: Fat is NOT the enemy

When I was a professional dieter back in the day, "fat-free" food was my life. Fat-free yogurt, milk, cookies, salad dressing...the list goes on and on. Like many people, I truly believed that fat-free food would lead to a fat-free body...and that was NOT the case. Most fat-free, processed foods are low quality, sugar-filled, flavor-free concoctions that don't help you lose a pound. 

It turns out that fat is actually GOOD for you because they improve the appearance of your hair, skin, and nails...oh, and they can also help you with weight loss. When I started eating avocados, coconut oil, walnut oil, and sesame oil, my life was forever changed. Finally, I was way more satisfied after eating a salad tossed with sesame oil instead of a big white blob of fat-free ranch. One more thing...the next time you make some fresh air-popped popcorn, drizzle some avocado oil on it. Once you taste it, you'll wonder why you ever used butter.

Lesson #2: Going to extremes is a recipe for disaster

Competition prep is the PERFECT breeding ground for extreme behaviors: severely restricting food before a show, then going balls out and eating everything in sight when the show is over. Many competitors live like this and think it's ok because they "know how to get in shape quickly". This extreme behavior wreaks havoc on your body, mind, and spirit. After a few rounds of this nonsense, your body stops responding, you become depressed, you start binge eating, then the cycle just repeats itself. The truth is that you don't have to be a fitness competitor to know what this feels like. If you're a serious player in the chronic weight loss game, you've probably been here once or twice. 

The solution: treat yourself and your body well ALL YEAR LONG. I discovered that taking care of my body consistently (translation: no extreme diets, eating food that makes me happy, doing exercise I love, and resting) gave me the BEST results ever.  When you LOVE yourself, your body tends to love you back...it's funny how that works. 



 Lesson #3: Your ideal weight may not be what you think it is

Ok, I used to have a number or a range of numbers in my head that I wanted, prayed, and hoped would be my "ideal weight" (a.k.a. the weight that would make me happy). For YEARS, I believed that, since I'm only 5'3", I should weigh between 125-130 pounds. Makes sense, right? And for YEARS, I chased those numbers only to NEVER be able to sustain them longer than a few months. WTF??

It turns out that my TRUE ideal weight (a.k.a. the weight that makes my body happy) is closer to 140. Here's a picture of me from a few days ago and I'm 127 pounds. I know I can't sustain this weight because of what I've had to do (limited food choices, more exercise than usual) to get here. It looks good, but it doesn't FEEL good and I'm all about feeling good.

So what does this mean for you? Think about the number in your head that you keep chasing...where did it come from? A chart in the doctor's office, a magazine, the internet?? Find out where you AND your body are the happiest and healthiest...THAT, my dear, is your ideal weight.  

Lesson #4: Don't waste your time trying to spot-reduce 

For years, I thought that if I could find the perfect exercise to get rid of my back rolls, everything would be alright. Needless to say, I never found that exercise because it doesn't exist. If you've ever said to yourself "I want to keep my {insert favorite body part}, but I just want to lose the fat off my {insert your least favorite body part}", then pay close attention to what I'm going to say: Body fat comes and goes whenever and wherever it damn well pleases.

The first year I trained for a competition, I was SO excited that my back rolls were melting and I could start to see lines in my abs! But after a while, I noticed that my bras were getting bigger and it looked like someone had let the air out my boobs (pictures NOT included). I called my coach in a panic to tell her what her competition prep was doing to my beloved breasts. She just laughed and said "This is what happens when you lose body fat. What? Do you want me to buy you some new bras??".  

So what does this mean for you? If you're in hot pursuit of tight 6-pack abs, pancake boobs could be a very unpleasant side effect.

These were just a few of the many lessons I've learned over the past 3 years. Stay tuned for some more good stuff next week as I head into my FINAL week of competition prep before the big show.

If you know someone else who could benefit from my experience, please SHARE this post with them.

Until next week!

Melissa signature