My Thoughts on Figure Competitions

Disclaimer: I have never personally been involved in a figure competition. All opinions stated are my own, based on research I’ve done.

I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of bloggers talking about figure competitions, especially lately with the focus on “Strong not skinny”. For the record, I don’t necessarily agree with the previous statement…after all, you can be strong and skinny, and for some, it is extremely hard for them to not be skinny, and we should all embrace our natural body shape to a certain extent. The point is, figure competition is becoming extremely popular and though I have never competed in it myself, I’ve become quite fascinated with the sport.

Let’s be clear, though. The main reason I like figure competitions is because you get to show off your leanness in some crazy, blingy, fun bikini. If I’m being totally honest, I love the idea of being uber-lean, fit and tanned. But for me, I know figure competition could become an issue for me, simply because of my past (and somewhat current) history with disordered eating and body image.

So sexy!

So sexy!

I don’t think every figure competitor has an eating disorder, or even disordered eating. There are plenty of bloggers out their with normal relationships with food and their body, and I commend them for that. But I have a couple issues with the other ones, the ones who are clearly disordered, or who are becoming restrictive, or have changed their eating styles drastically in order to get into competition shape.

I’m not here to call out any bloggers in particular, just to voice my concern about some alarming trends in general. First, the restrictive habits. I get that figure competitions require a LOT of dedication and self-control, and I really admire those who have both. But there’s a difference between self-control and restriction. One example of this is shunning most carbs, especially close to competition day. The science behind it makes sense, but it certainly isn’t healthy in the long run. Carbs are our primary source of fuel, and whether you choose to consume them through whole grains or through fruits and starchy veggies is up to you, but the obsession with protein at the expense of healthy carbs is NOT okay. Even if you’re eating more paleo, you can still carb up with fruit and squashes. So many people fear carbs today, and it makes me so sad. I know I’m being a bit of a hypocrite here because I still fear carbs somewhat (particularly grains) but I know that carbs are important and beneficial and healthy in the right amounts. Basically, if I had to skip all fruit for weeks to be in a figure competition, I would die. There’s a carb source out there for everyone–don’t skip out or skimp on them, especially if you workout!

Apples are NOT "bad" carbs!

Apples are NOT “bad” carbs!

The second thing that bothers me is that a lot of bloggers drastically switch up their eating habits to fit with a competition diet. What I’m referring to is a formerly plant-based (or mostly plant-based) eater suddenly adding in animal foods (usually whey protein, fish and eggs) so they can eat more protein. I think by now we all know that you can easily consume enough protein on a vegan diet, as long as you’re mindful of what you’re eating. Plenty of whole, plant-based foods are absolutely packed with protein, and if you feel like you aren’t getting enough, there are lots of clean protein powders and supplements out there to help you out. I want to be clear, though–I don’t think veganism is necessarily for everyone, but it makes me mad when a formerly-vegan blogger suddenly adds animal products into their diet all in the name of protein. I understand that protein is vital in fueling growing muscles, but you can get plenty of protein to do this on a vegan diet. I firmly believe that vegan figure competitors can perform just as well as those eating animals–just check out these amazing women! However, so many people turn to animal sources of protein, and forget the health benefits they may have seen while eating vegan or vegetarian. I’m not saying it’s bad or wrong to be an omnivore, just that those who are currently eating plant-based and considering going into figure competition should at least try to keep up their current eating habits. If anything, you can prove to others that you can be a fit vegan!

Amanda Rister, a gorgeous and super-fit vegan figure competitor.

Amanda Riester, a gorgeous and super-fit vegan figure competitor.

I think that figure competitions can be a fun way to challenge yourself, test your limits and try something new, but it can be an unhealthy thing that can make your body and mind quite disordered. As with all things, you should really consider if figure competitions are right for you at this time in your life and if so, what steps you’ll take to ensure you can maintain a healthy lifestyle while training for a competition and post-comp. As for me, figure competitions are something I may want to do in the future, once I have a healthier mindset surrounding food and my body, and I’d love nothing more than to enter as a vegan competitor to show that it is possible to be fit and healthy and beautiful on a plant-based diet!

How do you feel about figure competitions? 

My Story: Part 1

Hi everyone! Thanks for all the well wishes for my foot! Unfortunately, I went to urgent care on Friday night and the doctor there told me I have plantar fasciitis. I’m so so glad it’s not fractured, but there isn’t much that can be done for PF. I did buy some gel inserts for my shoes and am planning on icing it and trying a new pain reliever, but the pain might become a chronic thing that only gets better with steroid injections. I hope it starts to feel a little bit better soon, though! I’ll be recapping my weekend on Wednesday (WIAW time!!!!!!) so be sure to check back for some amazing recipes!

Today I wanted to share my eating disorder story with you. This is a hard post for me to write, but it feels right and I know that much of the blogging community is so incredibly supportive, not to mention a lot of bloggers have also dealt with EDs/disordered eating and can relate.

My anorexia really began in the fall of 2008, but it’s safe to say that I started engaging in disordered eating a couple of years earlier, when I was a freshman in high school. I was in a required health class at school, and of course, we learned all about nutrition. I learned that fats are “bad” and you shouldn’t eat too much, or anything deemed unhealthy. Well, I took that information and ran with it. I was never a  junk food eater but I started actively seeking out fat-free products at the grocery store. I wasn’t really restricting or anything, so my parents didn’t notice the small change in my eating habits.

9th grade. Before my ED, but I still felt insecure in my body.

In the fall of my junior year, I started looking at Yahoo Answers, which is basically just an online community where you can ask questions and get answers from other users. It started out innocently enough–I was just asking for school and fashion advice and answering others’ questions. But for whatever reason, I really became dissatisfied with my body during this time. I’ve always been a small girl, one of the shortest and most petite of girls my age. I’ve also been teased a lot for my size, and I’ve never had much self-esteem because of it, plus I’m fairly shy. Not to mention, my best friend since third grade and I were slowly drifting apart and I found myself distant from the close-knit group of friends I’d had since elementary school. I started feeling like if I could improve my body somehow, my life and relationships would be so much better. So I started asking questions about if I was skinny enough, how to lose weight, etc. At that time, I was 85 pounds at a height of 5’1. So definitely not fat at all; in fact, that’s pretty thin. And honestly, my ED didn’t start out with a desire to lose weight. I just wanted to improve myself, so I started trying to eat super-healthy.

But it wasn’t that healthy. I started out being focused on cutting out fats. I was eating mostly fat-free products, which aren’t too nutritious. I really liked this one Lean Cuisine meal with shrimp and noodles because it was really low in fat and pretty low in calories too. I also would eat plain black beans and plain rice for dinner…that was it, and it wasn’t even a serving size. Around that time, I’d discovered almond butter, and I loved it, but I was so scared of fats that I would only eat maybe a teaspoon a day, if that. In February 2009 or so, I started cutting back on carbs too after reading about people’s weight loss success on low-carb diets. At this point, my eating had definitely become restricted, not only in variety, but also amount. I would have a slice of light toast with half a teaspoon of almond butter and “hot chocolate” made with Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa powder and water for breakfast, a sugar-free Jell-O and a jelly sandwich made on one slice (cut in half) of light bread for lunch, a sugar-free pudding or a small handful of pretzel twists for a snack and then a miniscule amount of the dinner my family was having. I thought I was being so healthy, and I thought I’d be satisfied with my shrinking body, but I wasn’t. I saw myself as fat and ugly every single day. I was freezing cold all the time, my feet were constantly purple, I was losing hair, my skin was dried out and it hurt to sit down for any amount of time. I used a tape measure every day to measure my arms, legs and waist to see if they’d gotten any smaller, since we didn’t have a scale I could use. I tried to convince myself I was happy this way, but I wasn’t.

February of my junior year. Almost at my worst point, but I couldn't see how sick and skinny I was.

My parents started really catching on in March. I was continuing to eat a tiny amount, while also working out in P.E. class every day for 45 minutes. Almost every day after school, I’d come home and sleep because I was so weak and exhausted. My mom showed me an article from Seventeen about a girl who had anorexia and she said it sounded like me. Of course, I denied it, but I knew deep down I had a problem–I just couldn’t stop. Slowly starving myself gave me a high, it made me feel good…at least for the short term.

Then came the day that I had to go to the doctor. I don’t think I was scared at all, because I honestly didn’t think I’d lost any weight. Then I stepped on the scale…76 pounds. I’d lost 9 pounds in the matter of a few months. I know that sounds like such a small number, but keep in mind, I was already pretty underweight to begin with. I’d lost 12 percent of my body weight, which is a lot.

The next day, I woke up thinking everything would be normal. But it wasn’t. My parents sat me down and had a long talk about my anorexia. They knew I’d been asking for advice on Yahoo Answers and they knew a lot of other stuff I thought I’d been hiding well. After the talk, I cried pretty much all day. My parents also started forcing me to eat–and it felt like a LOT! I felt so full, disgusting and fat that entire day and many more to come. That night, my dad made me eat an apple and I was so mad that I threw it at him and said I hated them so much. I really regret saying that now, but I know my mind was in such a sick place back then that I couldn’t see that they were trying to help. I just thought they were trying to make me fat…

April 2009. The beginning of my recovery.

 

Part 2 coming soon!