Who Are You Now? Dealing with Post Show and Progression from Suicide to Strength

Post show blues is a real ‘thing’. I would class competing as life changing. As with anything that requires extensive preparation and ‘hype’ – a wedding, a holiday, a marathon etc. – SO much time, effort and money goes into it and then all of a sudden, it’s over. If you are not careful, you can be left feeling extremely ‘lost’. For a lot of competitors, competing is their entire identity. It is their sole structure for their day; it is everything. Now, don’t get me wrong, I gave prep my all, but it never was my ‘everything’.

Two years ago, my photoshoot preparation WAS my entire identity. It came at a point in my life that I will be forever grateful for. I was at a very low point in my life; I had zero confidence, was struggling to adjust to a trans-atlantic move, miserable at work and felt I had nothing to live for. The gym and the rigid diet gave me two elements I could both control and progress in. After the photoshoot was over, I felt like this control and reward was gone. My body was gaining fat and I was repeatedly fainting; this is when I hated myself the most. I had no post-photoshoot goals in any aspect of my life, I was purely ‘existing’ day to day. I was never diagnosed, but I was depressed. I can pinpoint my lowest ever point and it was then that I decided there were two options, one – to end my life, and two; to get better. I chose the latter.

It has not been linear progress, and it hasn’t been easy, but I am probably the most self-confident and happiest I have been in a good few years. I have learnt to never make my entire identity comprise of ANY one thing. I try and live my life by building up my back pocket – that is to say, adding experiences and skills to my repetoire. Not only does it make me more educated, more self-aware and more well-rounded; it also gives me assets that permanently shape my identity. No-one can ever take these away from me.

Over the past year is probably where I have made the most mental, and physical, progress. I have gone from fearing food, to starving myself to binge eating to having a healthy relationship with food. I don’t suffer with cravings and I don’t binge eat ever. I have weighed my food for about 18 months. I used to try and conceal this, or pretend I didn’t for fear of what others may think of me. Over the past few months, I have stopped caring what people think. I may get laughed at for bringing my lunch to work, I may get teased for weighing out lettuce, but I have realized this is mainly from a mixture of ignorance and surprise. Outside of the fitness bubble, people don’t weigh food unless they bake a cake. It is not something they are accustomed to and, as with anything like that (think how prejudice and stereotypes form), ignorance leads to teasing.

While I would say my relationship with myself and with food is far from perfect, (I question whether anyone’s relationship wth food IS perfect), I do feel, for me, I have come an awfully long way to achieving a balanced approach to both. Gone are the days where I pop multiple vitamin supplements prior to eating any meal with carbs; gone are the days where I feared chocolate and bagels would go straight to my hips and gone are the days where I would get dressed for the day and instead of meeting friends, cry and hide. I have learnt, through education, reassurance and experience about food and health. This, in turn, has enabled me mentally to progress to a state where I am confident in myself and my abilities.

So, who am I now?

I am not going to pretend that I feel optimal right now – I am tired, de-motivated and generally feeling a bit sub-optimal. I still have remnants of my tan, (so I am also streakier than bacon), but in a state of flux with scrubbing it off as I know that being pale won’t exactly fill me with self-love either (anyone else?!) Despite this, I do not feel really low or annoyed, as I did after my first show. I learnt SO much from this experience; it added another card to my back pocket. It enabled me to come away from my second show wholly more satisfied and has also enabled me to look more objectively to the future. My sister commented to me that she associates me with being strong, not someone who is lean and sparkly. This comment filled me with pride – I aim to personify strong. As with most people who are 27, I have been through my fair share of shit. Without this life experience, I wouldn’t be ‘me’ as I am today. I definitely wouldn’t be as strong. I definitely wouldn’t be as driven. And I definitely wouldn’t be as ambitious. I know the next few weeks will be a challenge as I adjust to ‘non-prep’ life, but I feel confident that both being aware of this and being okay with this, will ease the journey.

So what are my health and fitness goals now?

My immediate goals focus around my health. I want to get my hormones functioning correctly again. I want to improve my digestive system. I want to ensure I am drinking enough water. I want to reduce the number of chemicals I ingest. I want to focus on limiting my soy intake. I want to make sure I am supplementing with apple cider vinegar twice daily.

My longer term goals are to increase my strength – I want to squat 200lbs, deadlift 300lbs and bench 135lbs by the end of 2017. I want to compete in a powerlifting competition. I want to add more muscle to my frame. I want my legs to be leaner. I want my core to be stronger. I want to spend more time on my recovery – foam rolling, stretching and yoga. I want to learn how to sprint.

I have a lot of goals – these are just my health and fitness ones; two portions of my life and my identity. So my best advice for dealing with any big event ‘ending’; focus on all aspects of YOU. What is your identity? What do you value? What do you want to achieve? What do you want to do?

Don’t let one aspect of you rule your entire life, because, when it is over, who are you now?

-Benchpressingbaubles, x


A Full Day of Eating; ‘Peak Week’ – 1 Week Out from the Bikini Stage

This isn’t going to be the prettiest diary of food, but all people are ever exposed to on the Internet or in magazine articles about ‘peak week’ are multiple versions of fundamentally the same diet. My macros aren’t high, but hopefully it shows you both an alternative to tilapia and asparagus 6 times a day as well as how you can make the best of poverty macros! Please remember, I am one week away from the bikini stage, this is not a sustainable diet!

Breakfast – 245kcal; 30p, 16c, 9f

1 pot of banana fosters Elli quark mixed with caramel Walden Farms syrup and 40g cookie dough favored G Butter, alongside a cup of black coffee, 2g salted caramel Slap! BCAAs, a multi-vitamin and a fish oil capsule.

Lunch – 120kcal; 22p, 10c, 2f * the 2g BCAAs I drank to facilitate protein synthesis as protein content was less than 25g

1 packet of Miracle Noodle fettucine, rinsed and sauted with 114g zucchini discs, 70g sliced mushrooms, 1 tsp ground cumin, 52g cooked chicken, 15g sugar free G Hughes maple brown BBQ sauce and 2g salted caramel Slap! BCAAs.

Pre-workout – 234kcal; 30p, 23c, 2f

1 Flatout original wrap with 40g iceberg lettuce, 80g arugula and 45g G Hughes sugar free hickory BBQ sauce, rolled into a wrap alongside 180ml vanilla Muscle Egg.

Pre/Intra workout – 16kcal; 4p

(4g Prosupps mixed berry BCAAs and 5g Musclepharm creatine monohydrate drunk pre/intra-workout).

Post workout – 279kcal; 31p, 30c, 4f

40g quick cook oatmeal cooked with 50g grated zucchini, 1/2tsp cinnamon and baking powder alongside a blended protein shake of 32g Dymatize whey isolate (chocolate coconut flavor) and 200ml refridgerated black coffee.

Pre-bed – 234kcal; 30p, 20c, 9f

180g non-fat greek yoghurt mixed with 100g blackberries, 2g unsweetened shredded coconut and strawberry Walden Farms syrup alongside 40g brownie batter G Butter.

I also drank 4 liters water, 2 cans Aquafina mango fizzy water, 1.5l Trader Joes lime fizzy water and 1 cup Teabella carrot cake flavored tea.

Total macros for the day – 1,172kcal; 146p, 99c, 25f. My prescribed macros for the day were 1,205kcal; 145p, 100c, 25f. Seeing as protein and carbohydrates are both 4kcal per gram, I left my macros as 1g over on protein and 1g under on carbs.

Next time I do one of these, it will be accounting for more calories than this!

Benchpressingbaubles, x

How to Maximize Minimal Calories

I am in no way advocating low calorie lifestyles. Just wanted to put that out there. Disclaimer down… let’s be honest, there are times for all of us that we want to drop a couple of pounds (and some of us decide to get as lean as possible and waltz about in a glittery bikini)! Unless you are consuming incredibly few calories, dieting does not have to be synonymous with bland, boring or monotonous. Being a foodie and, also, being in a calorie deficit for the past six months, I have developed a few tips on how to maximize minimal calories and am pretty well informed about low/no calorie flavoring options!

1. Think volume. I bulk up all my meals with tonnes of volume. I start most my savoury meals with a salad base and build from there. My favourite salad staples are different lettuces, cucumber, shredded cabbage, red peppers and celetry. It doesn’t have to be salad based either, I add mushrooms, zucchini and broccoli to a lot of meals too. You can grate/spiralize a lot of vegetables and either substitute your regular carbohydrate source for these, or reduce your regular carbohydrate and incorporate the veggies. For sweet dishes, I also add fruit or veggies to bulk out meals. Grated zucchini in oatmeal adds lots of volume, with minimal calories. Berries are low calorie fruit that can add bulk to a meal too. I also blend protein powder with ice and mix water into yoghurt to make it stretch that little bit further!

2. Think texture. Eating meal upon meal of ‘soft’ food only makes you crave the crunch of chocolate and pizza. Ensure your meals have different textures – even popping something under the grill gives your meal a crispier texture. I do this all the time with flatbreads and omlettes; even oatmeal!

3. Think herbs and spices. These have very minimal calories and spicing your food will make a world of difference. You don’t have to eat plain chicken if you don’t want to! My favourite herbs are fresh cilantro, mint and basil. Dried herbs, I tend to use an Italian herb seasoning. Spices; cumin, smoked paprika, BBQseasoning, fajita seasoning, nutmeg and cinnamon. There are an abundance of herbs and spices out there!

4. Think condiments.

I am a big fan of flavor. Here are my top 0 calorie sauce choices:

  • French’s yellow mustard
  • Fresh Market Sirarcha mustard
  • Frank’s red hot sauce
  • Frank’s buffalo sauce
  • Walden Farms dressings
  • Taco Bell mild sauce
  • Tabasco
  • Sicilia lime juice

Here are my top 10kcal and under sauce choices:

  • G Hughes sugar free BBQ sauce
  • Heinz reduced salt/sugar ketchup
  • Fresh salsa
  • Jardin’s street taco sauces

Here are my top sweet sauce choices:

  • Jordan’s Skinny Syrups
  • Walden Farms syrups
  • McCormick extracts
  • My Protein syrups
  • My Protein flav drops

5. Think flavored drinks. I brew herbal tea and refridgerate it. I also drink lots of sparkling water and green tea as well as decaf flavored coffee. I try not to drink too many diet sodas, but these can also be great to cure cravings.

6. Think adapatation, not deprivation. If you want a pizza, make a lower calorie version. Use a flatbread or a wrap, add your own sauce and toppings and you will easily cut the calories in half. I bet it tastes better too! Use the Internet to search for lower calorie alternatives or options. As I’ve said before, don’t focus on what you are missing, it will only leave you feeling like you are dieting.

The dieting world CAN have flavor and the dieting world CAN be pleasurable.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x