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Back on the Contest Prep Train: Getting Your Mental Game Right

By Jillian Teta

It’s almost March here in NC, and that means a few things: we are starting to have some warm days, the daffodils and hyacinth are popping out of the ground, the days are getting longer, and I’ve started my contest diet for the first few shows of the season.

I’ve been competing now for a few years, and it never ceases to amaze me the amount of mental preparation and commitment that I need to exert to get myself “on the wagon”. I’ve spent the last several months training hard and eating well, but transitioning back into contest mode is just…well….different.

First of all, I love to compete and I am always a little pleasantly surprised when I pick yet another show to do. I have come to realize that this is a choice that is made consciously and I embrace it. It’s important for me to avoid the “poor me, I’m on a show diet and can’t dive into that chicken carbonara” because that is not really the point, is it?

What I begin to do, several weeks before the start of the diet, is to visualize and envision myself on the diet, mentally preparing to make the switch back in. I visualize the time commitment that it will take to prepare and consume the never-ending mountain of turkey, fish and vegetables before me, and I begin to consider that there will be no slacking off during my training sessions.

For me, taking a couple of weeks with this visualization helps make the actual transition day-one-of-contest-eating feel less like a wave of cold water slapping my face and more smooth and normal. I can kiss my last fro-yo goodbye and look ahead with a smile on my face.

When not on a show diet, I eat a lot of “buffer foods” like nuts, fatty meat, bacon and the like. Obviously that goes out the door with a contest diet. For me personally, when dieting for a show, nuts act like a trigger food, spurring me to want to eat more and more and triggering cravings I wouldn’t normally have, so I avoid them completely. Some ladies keep nuts in :)

Prepping myself mentally to let go of the trigger foods has been a great help in reducing the mega-cravings that usually rage on the first week or so. Buffer foods are comfort foods in a sense and it can be hard to let them go :) We have a saying here at JillFit: “The toughest part of a contest diet is the first two weeks, and the last two weeks”. The first piece is hard because you are transitioning in.

Transitioning back into contest mode also means I am taking greater responsibility for the preparation of food. It is something that competitors have to be consistently aware of and monitor. How much food do I have? What time is it? When do I have to eat? Do I have enough to get to the end of the week? And so on and so forth. That can be a little mentally draining, especially after 6 or so weeks have ground on like that, and that is why preparation is KEY. When not on a contest plan, it’s easy to improvise or pop in a restaurant and grab something healthy, or even skip meals here and there. That can’t really happen on a contest diet – for me, anyway – and attain the stage ready look and/or trigger massive cravings.

Mental preparation combined with physical preparation for me is the absolute key to getting back on the contest train without kicking and screaming.

Related: Why the first couple weeks of dieting suck (getting over “the hump”)

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