Several things happened recently that spurred me to write this post:
First, I was recently speaking at a conference for women about fat loss nutrition, and the woman who hired me told me they brought a former contestant from The Biggest Loser to the conference to speak last year. They said that when she stepped off the plane, she was unrecognizable. She’d gained back all of her weight, plus more. This pulls at my heart strings because though I’m all about personal responsibility, sustainable weight loss is effing hard, and using the practices they do on The Biggest Loser not only did her a disservice, but it was straight up irresponsible. The poor girl had no prayer of keeping it off. We know this now.
Second, I got some feedback from some of my fat loss clients that it can feel scary and intimidating to post on Facebook when you’re not as “in shape” as other people posting, in a closed group for example. I think by nature, as women, we tend to judge ourselves too harshly and also compare ourselves to others, so I get that. My personal mission is for every women to feel worthy, amazing and confident RIGHT NOW. Not 10 lbs from now. Not when they get up on stage. Not when they have striated shudders or a six-pack. I want women to own their unique awesomeness right this second. We’ve already spent too much time doubting.
And third, I’ve recently been on a bit of a tear about worthiness and taking action. In fact, I’m passionate–bordering on angry–about how many talented, smart and driven women I see who are not realizing their full potential because of self-doubt about their bodies, leanness or the fact that they don’t have a six-pack.
And so. I wanted to share my own story of weight regain as candidly as possible. I’m sure many of you can relate, and I am personally tired of complaining about it, and so in Part 2 of this post, I’m going to put forth the action steps I used over the last few years to finally stabilize at a “lean enough” weight, all the while doing so effortlessly. My journey was not only a physical one, but a deeply emotional one. In time, I learned to get over myself too
Getting Up On Stage: Lotsa Physique Affirmation
Prior to prepping for my first figure competition in 2006, I barely thought about food. In fact, I pretty much worked out like crazy so that I could eat whatever I wanted. Jade likes to tell the story about our first pseudo-date when we went to breakfast and I ordered an enormous stack of pancakes. It’s just “what I ordered”–I had zero knowledge nor interest in nutrition. I was in shape, but it was that water-logged, too-much-cardio-eat-all-the-carbs look. I was 160 pounds at 5’7″ and around 18% BF.
Once I started training for my show, I was forced to learn about food and eat for fat loss. Being the procrastinator I am, I regularly cheated throughout the process until 4 weeks out when my coach told me I still had a long way to go. Out of sheer terror of embarrassment, I immediately upped my cardio to 2 hours a day, cut all starch out of my diet and ate lean protein and veggies only. I dropped probably 15 lbs in 4 weeks for the show and eventually competed at 142 lbs and 12% BF.
Something really interesting and unexpected happened the smaller and smaller I got.
All of a sudden, I was getting a lot more attention and affirmation at the gym, from my family, from friends and even from strangers. My muscles were popping, and being that it was tank top weather, my delts and arms were drawing attention, my clothes fitting effortlessly. People were commenting almost daily about “how good I looked” and asked what I was doing. People were constantly asking when my show was? Was I excited? How did I feel?
Whoa. All of a sudden, I’m getting a lot of compliments, and man, it feels good. I mean, really good. I’m worth noticing. I’m relevant. I’m someone.
This all sounds so silly, embarrassing and self-centered to say out loud, and at the time, I certainly didn’t feel this on a conscious level. Only now, looking back, can I see that’s what was going on.
I won my show, displayed my trophy proudly at the desk at my local gym along with my competition shots and felt on top of the world.
For one day.
But being solely focused on that one date–June 4th, 2006–I didn’t even THINK about after the show. I didn’t have a plan, I just dropped 2 dress sizes, 20 lbs and thought, hey, look at my new body! I’m transformed! I’m good to go now!
I don’t know why it didn’t dawn on me to actually continue watching what I ate after the show. It didn’t even cross my mind that shoveling sugar down my throat for a week straight might affect my “new body.” I guess I just thought, once you arrive at a weight, you can go back to eating the way you were before and nothing will change.
Post-Competition Blues – What am I now, chopped liver?
Well, that was my first experience with crash dieting and weight re-gain. And by Thursday after the show, I didn’t even recognize my body. I was swollen in my abdomen and thighs, retaining water like crazy to the point that it actually felt like a bruise from head to toe. I remember jabbing a finger into my saddle-bag area and practically crying at how much water I was holding and the fact that in mere days I had already started re-gaining fat again at a rapid pace. My body was a sponge and I was completely flabbergasted by the experience.
“How come no one told me this could happen??!”
“How come no one talks about this? I’ve never read about this in Oxygen magazine!”
“Am I the only person this happens to??”
Cue the guilt, the shame and the embarrassment.
Heading into the gym a mere week after my show and, where are the compliments? Where’s the attention? What am I, chopped liver?
I blew it. I suck. This sucks. I feel helpless. Alone. Like a failure.
Putting on pants sucked. Day after day, fewer clothes fit. I felt stuffed into my clothes, whereas just weeks before things were hanging off me. So I started wearing baggy jeans and Mens’ Hanes white V-neck t-shirts out in public. I was embarrassed to be seen. Besides, my social media pages were littered with images of me lean, in a bikini, “in shape” and 20 lbs less than I am now. I’d see people and (somewhat self-importantly) think they’re judging me, looking at me like a fat failure. Someone who has no willpower. Someone weak and undisciplined. Even when I just exercised more discipline in 12 weeks than most people do their entire lives (at least when it comes to nutrition).
What should I do???
I just need to do another show!! That’s the solution. I need to get all that attention back. I need to not be invisible. I need to feel validated and powerful. I need control!! I need that routine, that regimen, that schedule that kept me on point. That kept me thin and affirmed.
And of course, that’s what I did for the next 3 years, show after show, losing and gaining the same 20 pounds back and forth. I was either “on” a contest diet, strict as hell, or I was completely “off” eating whatever I wanted in any amount I wanted.
Obviously this is not recommended. It’s not healthy physically and it’s certainly not healthy mentally. My physique become the sole attributor to my self-worth. If I was lean, I was “good Jill.” If I was off plan, I was “sloppy, fat, undisciplined Jill.”
And it was a prison where I only felt worthy if I was in “show shape.” And the highs were the best! I was on top of the world, clothes zipping right up, photo shoot after photo shoot. But the lows sucked. I felt small, fat and insignificant.
And this is how weight re-gain feels
Besides the physical discomfort, the emotional roller coaster is crippling. I feel for that Biggest Loser contestant. I feel for the millions of women who will yo-yo diet this year. I feel for my old self who didn’t know what to do and didn’t have the tools or the self-trust to try a new way. And I feel for you if you are still in this place.
But let’s face it. My experience is not even close to how bad this can be. Twenty pounds is nothing compared to people who have lost dozens, hundreds and put it back on. I feel for them. This shit sucks.
BUT, the good news is that there’s always a way out. There’s always a solution, if you’re willing to do the work to find it and implement it.
This is probably one of my most personal and vulnerable posts ever. Having just re-read this post, I can see that I wrote much of my inner dialogue that I’ve never uttered out loud even to Jade. And much of it happened subconsciously. At the time, I didn’t understand it as fully as I do now.
And of course it’s still a bit embarrassing but I have no regrets. Because my journey helped me arrive to the place I am now—balanced, moderate, happy and confident. I’ve gained much experience, insight and the ability to empathize. Though much of it was painful, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Check back soon for Part 2: How You Eat Is Exactly What You Get Good At. And leave a comment on the JillFit Facebook page with your own experience. I’d love to hear from you.
I’m going to be launching a Contest Rehab Program in 2014–touching upon both the physical and emotional challenges of the competition process for those who are ready to start living a balanced, powerful life after competition. If you’re interested in receiving updates about the program, please enter your name and email below. Ox, Jill