Confessions Of Competing – The End.

After I came back from Melbourne and Sydney I knew I would have to take a good, hard look at what had just gone down over the past year/s.  I had previously got myself out of a dark hole into a slightly better space over 2013 with my mind, body and overall health, only to slip back into that hellish place in late 2013/early 2014 with doing the March show….and reflecting on my sobbing on the floor with my face in a bag of banana chips moment the weekend before, I questioned what was the common denominator contributing to these recurring problems?  The bodybuilding lifestyle.

It just didn’t serve me anymore, it was doing more harm than good and as l wrote before, it certainly wasn’t what I would call living the good life.  The lifestyle while I was in it I THOUGHT I loved it, but it was only because I’d forgotten what real living actually felt like to me.  I thought the lifestyle was good for me, until it took away my health, happiness and ability to really enjoy life.  It happens to others without them noticing too…and shit will go down…to everyone who goes down this path in a dark way, it will happen.  In some way or another and again whether you admit it or not (although it’s clear to see that people are not so quick to post about the dark side of competing as they are to get up their stage shots at negative 8% body fat), the negative effects of this lifestyle will rear its fugly head, ALWAYS.  Whether that be showing up in the form of depression, health problems, the intense need to control, illness, injuries, mental battles…it will catch up with you, and these things are not just things that show up because they’re ‘normal’ things and its ‘part of life’, because that’s bullshit.  Things show up as a result of how you are treating your body and mind.

At the beginning of 2014 I also knew that I needed a new space, to be around new energy, to gain a new clearer perspective for my own growth – so hola Auckland.  First of all I still toyed with the idea of doing a show mid-year, I knew in the back of my head that I would not be competing again but it was like I couldn’t quite fully let go of the idea just yet out of fear.  One of the bigger things that was in the back of my mind was that I had built up this sense of ‘self’ in the industry and if I wasn’t going to do bodybuilding anymore, was I going to lose my identity?  Eventually after finally making that decision that yes I wanted completely out of the bodybuilding scene, and in actual fact, I didn’t want to be known as that ‘Figure competitor’ identity anymore anyway (dramatically throwing my fake cleavage chicken fillets in the bin).  I knew I had much bigger plans for what I wanted to take a stand for in the health/fitness/well-being industry that was never going to be fulfilled living the competing lifestyle – so that was something I let go of and trusted. I made the decision for something better (with much less crying) because I did not want to align myself with anyone or anything that was not on the same wavelength with what I knew health and fitness really was and meant to me.  The doors that opened for me from making that decision has meant that this was the best move I ever made. *Hallelujah emoticon*.  Over 2014 these were some of the significant changes I made in my life to get back on the right path:

Food wise:

  • I learned to look at food in a completely different light again. Over the years of body building, the focus of food was used to gain a physical look – I had to get my head around that I now wanted to look at food from ONLY a nourishment perspective… and that meant facing some scary shit, like apples (because those little f*ckers were like the devil in disguise!) “But apples are so high in sugar and…” Shut up.
  • Eating foods like beautiful breads, a wide variety of fruits, coconut oil or raw cakes/chocolate – “omg but it has like a gazillion calories and so much sugar/fat/carbs!”…..I go on and eat it…..nothing happens except I get healthier….funny that.
  • I learned to be ok with going out for dinner with friends and family and not being shit scared at not being in control of where we were going for fear of the food that will be there, and going into panic mode when they didn’t have a chicken salad on the menu.
  • I learnt to start doing my own baking with a variety of healthy ingredients instead of just heating up a scoop of protein powder in the microwave and calling it a naughty ‘cake’.
  • I learned that high calories did NOT equal weight gain. For so long it was drilled into me that anything over 1500 calories I would be putting on body fat and going backwards. In actual fact I eat anywhere from 2100-2500 every day now and actually have lost weight over this process…..go figure.
  • And this was one of the biggest and the hardest things… not count calories. For SO many years my head had been a constant calorie counter, every day writing and logging how many calories I’d eaten that day. These days, I count NOTHING and I can’t even begin to explain how much this has freed up my mind.
  • I’m now eating foods that in the bodybuilding world would be seen as too high in sugar, too high in carbs, too low in protein and too high in calories…..but how funny and ironic how this has ultimately brought me my best mind set and healthy looking and feeling body to date.

Body wise:

  • I actually set out on a mission to LOSE muscle. Yes you read it right, lose muscle.  I had spent so much time and energy on building muscle over the previous 3 years that it seemed crazy that I wanted to get rid of it, but I just didn’t feel comfortable with that muscle.  I didn’t like my look like that as I knew it wasn’t ‘me’, it was the effect of a bodybuilding head mess, plus I also felt like having that much muscle made my appetite go out of control, which I wanted to bring back to a balanced state.
  • I learned that I missed my previous self because when I looked at pictures of myself before competing when I was naturally just living life, I LOVED that look of my body and wanted it back. It wasn’t until I got into the bodybuilding scene where my perception of beauty was warped into capped shoulders, ripped legs, and popping abs …. now, I don’t give a flying feck if I have a V taper or a glute/hamstring tie in – that shit might get you insta famous but it’s not going to get you to happyville.
  • My period has returned and it in an very regular and normal cycle, something that was so TOTALLY screwed up by competing but has now VERY thankfully is completely normal
  • It’s been quite a process over these last 2 years to get my body back to regularity, throughout 2014 that ‘puffiness’ appeared again but I wasn’t going to rebel against it by dieting again, this time I wanted my body to heal COMPLETELEY.  My weight got up to about 61kgs throughout this time, not as heavy as the previous year where I had taken the year to let my body heal (I got up to 64kgs), so this time the backlash wasn’t as bad (no Quest bar box binges).
  • I noticed that over this time my appetite started to regulate again and I could go for a period of time without actually thinking about food.  First time it happened I was literally like ‘holy shit I just went 30 minutes without thinking about my next meal wtf?!”
  • I’ve defied everything I learned from the bodybuilding world and what I believed was right.  I’m now sitting at a natural 57-58kgs (which is good for me), no idea what fat %, but my body is very healthy and I love it and the way it looks.  No body image is not the main goal of all of this but for the purpose of these write ups, the picture of me in my bikini at the bottom of the page is what my body currently looks like – not dieting.

Fitness/training wise:

  • I wanted to make more of an effort to get out of my mundane routine of: Monday – shoulders & back, Tuesday – legs, Wednesday – Arms….. bla bla bla that I had done for so many years.  It got so boring to me and I still very much wanted to train and be active but I needed a new style, and my new style was anything and everything in-between :P Throughout 2014 I started doing trails, walked everywhere, did runs with friends, tried crossfit, did military style workouts, spin/aerobic/dance classes, yoga, outdoor body-weight workouts….. I flicked my variety switch on and it will remain that way forever :P  My style of training is now everything and anything that involves adventure and new experiences, and that’s personally what now works for me.
  • I had to learn to drop the thought of also counting how many calories I’d ‘burned’.  Exercise is not to be used for punishment or to be used to cancel out a bad eating days or to get yourself into a calorie deficit.  Exercise should be used to do something good for yourself, to give your skin vehicle a big high five, to move and shake what ya’mama gave ya :P  I move my body every day because it’s a gift and I’m damn sure I’m going to take care of it!
  • I also made a conscious effort to focus on stretching a lot more too.  I spent a lot of time in the gym working on my fitness (he’s my witness) building muscle and being on the treadmill burning calories, but didn’t spend near enough time on stretching and flexibility. Especially this year it has been a main focus for me, and I’m so stoked at the results. I lost my shit when I my hamstrings started getting more flexible. So happy.
  • It is also a main training focus of mine to do a perfect cartwheel. :P

Mind wise:

  • Mentally I don’t do dumb shit anymore like misplacing my phone, retrace my steps and finding it in the fridge – or zone out frequently, like, mid conversation, due to nutrient deprivation. My mind is sharper that’s for sure.
  • I learned to forgive what had gone on.  Even though influence and pressure is a big thing in the competing scene, I take full responsibility for choices that I made throughout the time and after it all went down there was nothing I could change so I chose to accept and move forward with new knowledge.  I took it all as a wonderfully bittersweet lesson and beautifully eye opening (and very hungry and tearful) chapter of my life. While the decision to take steroids for 6 months and also disregard my own feelings were the biggest things I disagree with from this time, I wouldn’t go back and change the story for anything. Everything that came my way, the people that crossed my path, the situations that came up, the events, the highs, the lows, and the low loooooows :P I would not change. I’ve taken something from all of it and used it to my advantage to write better chapters now and ahead.
  • I don’t stress about how I look, what I eat, how I feel, what I’m doing…every day has much more freedom than it ever did whilst competing. “You mean I can have a naturally looking awesome body whilst eating a caramel slice, doing cartwheels and feel good about myself?”  You bet your ass you can.
  • I will never not listen to my intuition again :P

Now here’s some extra points I would like to add to conclude…..

  1. Remember that doing a show and being up on that stage is basically a display of everything you are not. The fake hair, nails, tan, boobs, that level of leanness, doll like look……It’s not real life. It is a process of deprivation and mental anguish to get to that ‘look’…..…. if at the end of the day if you’re compromising your health and physical, emotional, financial, mental well-being for a trophy or 5 minutes of fame…. I would urge you to rethink what you define as a victory.
  2. People who say ‘I love the grind’, ‘it makes me a better more disciplined person’ and then in the same breath complain at how tired/hungry/sad/deprived they are, should take this negativity someplace else. If you really ‘love the grind’, don’t complain about it then.
  3. If people do want to compete they need to make sure they practice ‘Self Love’ every step of the way, and if you start to turn, don’t do it, because sometimes we make stupid choices based on what our ego tells us e.g. we need to look good, do better, be at the top.  If you do practice self love you would never do any of those grueling things you are doing to your body…. and that doesn’t mean don’t work hard, but work hard without PUNISHING. You don’t have to prove that you are worth something by putting yourself through deprivation for months on end to stand up on a stage and flash your body.  If your life revolves around THAT as your worth, you are going to eventually fall very hard my friends….VERY hard.  And you are worth more than that.
  4. Big supplement chain products – quite obviously this is a pet peeve for me.  You’re kidding yourself if you think they are ‘healthy’ products, absolutely kidding yourself.  It is actually mind boggling that body builders, nutritionists, doctors and ‘health professionals’ actually recommend this stuff.  Everyone is completely mind f*cked by it, just as I was. I guarantee if these people weren’t sponsored athletes, trying to make money or trying to get somewhere in their career or the industry, you would not see half as many supplement posts as we do today. For those of you advertising it, look into it and REALLY see what you are promoting and what is the true meaning for it… and perhaps come to the realization that you yourself are being a puppet on a string.  What is the ESSENCE of pure nutrition? And ask yourself why you are promoting synthetic artificial protein powder, ‘cleansing detox’ pills (that’s one of my favourite pieces of bullshit….yeah cleansing your wallet of its contents), and telling people to buy fat burners.  I don’t use ANYTHING these days and once again, my body is feeling/functioning and looking the best it ever has. I actually want to throw up at the thought of how much money I wasted on supplements.
  5. Now, if you want to take steroids, that is your choice, but for those of you still in the game, if you are sending out the message to your followers (real or fake followers – cause fake followers still have feelings too) that ‘good genetics’ has helped you, or it’s all just been pure hard work …. then you’re not only deceiving them, but more importantly you’re lying to yourself, which will never get you to a place of peace and happiness, NEVER.  I don’t doubt that you have still worked your derriere off to get to where you are but was it just pure hard work? or pure hard work + steroids/illegal substances?? and would you post that on social media? Didn’t think so, because we know it’s not right. Again as I said earlier in the write ups, there is NO DOUBT ABOUT IT that bodybuilders work hard, very much so – but let me ask you this: what message are you sending out?

Ok so now’s the time to come to a close all this :P  Ending on a diplomatic note, yes there were some very good things that came out of competing for me, no doubt about that, but obviously as this series was about ‘Confessions’ is was more aimed at highlighting the darker side of the scene for people to take what they want from it.  This is all from MY perspective and MY journey, take that into account and take what you will from all this information.  I’m not saying everyone should give it all up and go and be a gypsy and do cartwheels around the world :P I’m just saying all this because I want both females and males to know that we have to look after ourselves in the best way possible. There may be people out there who can live a life in bodybuilding and feel balanced and TRUTHFULLY 100% happy (although if there is a bodybuilder out there who claims to achieve this, please write an ebook on it and let me read it lol), but for SO many people to have these recurring struggles/health/mental/well-being problems arise from this lifestyle, it quite obviously is something that we need to address. To be COMPLETELY happy and healthy in your own skin (which work is involved here too but this 100% can be achieved believe me!), all year round – no ‘seasons’, that’s the top achievement, that’s more of a success than any bodybuilding trophy or medal will ever be.

I would like to thank those who have taken the time to email me about these write ups, I really do appreciate all your emails.  Also, as you may have read I will be in New Zealand for 3 weeks, in which I will be doing a free meet up talk called ‘Healing from a fitness & food hangover’ on Thursday 26th November at 6pm in Hamilton for those of you who are interested in coming along and who want more personal help and advice (struggling current/retired competitors unite :P ), as well as Self Love session appointments etc (details at bottom of this article).

It’s been a big ol’ journey and that’s a lot of shit to get off my chest haha, and on that note I’ll end with a totally unpredictable and unexpected cheesy quote :P that real change and the root of happiness all begins with self love ♥

Thank you so much for reading x

Upcoming sessions:

  • Bootcamp sessions (Hamilton): Mon 23rd, Wed 25th, Mon 30th November & Wed 2nd December all at 6pm
  • Reiki/Self Love appointment bookings available (Hamilton & Auckland): Mon 23rd – Fri 4th November
  • Workshops (Hamilton):
    ‘Healing from a Fitness & Food Hangover’ – Thursday 26th November, 6pm-8pm
    ‘With Health & Happiness’ – Saturday 28th November 10am – 12pm

Please email to book

Instagram: @fitbellawomen
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