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January 28, 2011

Part 1: Lovers, Haters and the Fat Loss Lifestyle–is it really all about me?

Part 1: For competitors

I wanted to write on something that I feel like is fairly common at least in the world of fitness and bodybuilding competition and can also come up frequently when learning to live the fat-loss lifestyle: relationship issues.

There is no other time than when prepping for a show that a competitor becomes more egocentric.  And many of your loved ones, friends and spouses are left behind because of your singular focus.  It’s not that we don’t still love, respect and cherish them, it is just that the focus necessary to train, diet and prep for a show is all-consuming, leaving very little mental energy to take care of others’ needs.

And although I know there are many competitors and fitness professionals who can juggle it, all from tending to a marriage to taking care of children to making their friends still feel involved and loved, unfortunately for many it is difficult.  And in fact, more often than not, this scenario sneaks up on them and before they know it, others in their lives feel neglected, unsupported, unappreciated and not considered.  That is why I would encourage any aspiring competitor to be aware of this possibility, plan and prepare in advance to mitigate any issues.

Many times while prepping for the very first show, loved ones and friends share in the excitement of the event and this excitement overshadows any annoyance or all-about-me mentality that shows up.  Everyone is working toward a common goal—to get you on stage in the best shape of your life—and all is great.  Friends may even want to do your diet with you or be there for some of the cardio sessions.  They inquire about the diet and ask “can you eat this?” “do you have to get that crazy tan?” and “are you sure that’s healthy?” and there is a learning process for all.

Granted, at times there are haters, perhaps people who knew you as a partier or junk food junkie and could always count on you for a pizza date, and now you are no longer there for that.  More on haters in Part 2, but for the most part, the first competition is the easiest in terms of the impact on the significant other and friends.  Besides, many are certain you will come right back to the pizza parlor after the show.

However, as a first time competitor turns into a seasoned competitor, doing show after show and adopts more of a competitor lifestyle, this can take a serious toll on any relationship, romantic or otherwise.  Hours spent in the gym, a diligent attendance to food shopping, cooking, preparing food and eating clean can take hours away from time spent with others and by the way, “Are my abs coming out?”

We love mirrors! lol :)

I have laughed with the girls about the many times we have asked our significant others about certain body parts—look at this, look at that, do you see a change here, what about my glutes?  Sorry ladies, but as much as your boyfriend loves you and wants to look at your glutes, this shit gets old!  And of course, it is not to say that we can’t or shouldn’t ask for feedback from our husbands, who better to give us affirmation? But we need to remember that everyone around us has needs too, and sometimes they need us to do something for them or gasp—they need to do something for themselves that doesn’t involve our abs!

This is where consideration and awareness comes in.  Though it is not always easy to break away from the kitchen or stepmill or mirror to see what the rest of the world is doing, this is absolutely critical in being able to maintain fulfilling relationships during competition prep.

Here are some ways that I have found to consider my husband throughout the process, and also tips from girls who I have prepped:

  • Don’t make any assumptions—they do not HAVE TO come to your show, they do not HAVE TO help with food prep, they do not HAVE TO watch the kids while you get your second cardio in, they do not HAVE TO do anything.  They choose to help you, encourage you, be there for you, support you, etc because they love you.  But above all, you need to remember that YOU choose to do this and they are doing the best they can to adjust to what that means for them.  Let them be who they are without taking offense; besides, you are doing what you want, shouldn’t they have the same freedom?
  • Stop to smell the roses—I am as guilty as anyone when it comes to just putting my head down and grinding it out, at work, at the gym, in the kitchen without the smallest consideration of what everyone else may need.  But this sort of unawareness of what’s going on around you does not work in the long run for creating and sustaining relationships with friends, family, spouses, etc.  This is definitely something I struggle with and am working hard to learn, grow and be better about.  We can’t expect to check out for 12 weeks to prep for a show or shoot, and then have everything be the same when we are done.  Instead, set aside time now to spend with loved ones, friends and family–every week throughout the prep process, whether it’s a family hike, a coffee date with your girls (hello, you can drink black coffee :)) or a movie with your significant other.  It is more important than ever to show loved ones that you appreciate them, care about them and want to support them in what they are doing too.
  • Use words of appreciation—you may feel as though you are the one making all the sacrifices; besides “I’m the one who can’t eat carbs, I’m the one who has to do 2 hours of cardio, I’m the one who has to wake up at 4am everyday, I’m the one who has to get on stage in a bikini!”  Guess what?  All those things are your choices.  You can just as easily decide not to get on stage.  It is easy to play the “poor me” card and feel as though your sacrifices should be recognized by others, don’t they see how hard this is?!  But guess what?  Loved ones, friends and especially significant others also sacrifice for you and that needs to be recognized by you.  A husband who endures hundreds of questions about if your are abs are popping or a boyfriend who eats dry chicken with you on a Friday night because he wants to spend that time with you and knows you can’t eat out—those people need to be recognized and appreciated too.  And though we may feel appreciative, that doesn’t matter unless we verbalize it—SAY THANK YOU.  Recognize that this process may be hard on them too.  They love you, they want to be there for you, even through moodiness and irritability, but they need to be thanked for that :) Verbal appreciation is powerful and it does not go unnoticed.

I hope some of these reminders can help you, they have certainly helped me in the past.  And of course I am still learning and don’t have all of this figured out!  Also, I did not write this to offend anyone and if you have it all figured out, I commend you and perhaps you can share some insight with the rest of us.  I simply wanted to point out from personal experience and from what I have seen with other couples who endure during this intense period of deprivation and intense focus, that the process affects more than just you.

It is so easy to get into a grinding routine during prep and forget everything and everyone else around you.  Hopefully this post can act as a reminder about maintaining perspective and trying to see things from others’ points of view.  Competing is an amazing feat that not many people have the focus, will power and drive to do, but it can take over your life if you let it.  Of course if that is your goal, then it needs to be your first priority, but if you want your loved ones and friends to be along for the ride, remember that ultimately it is not all about you.  Let me know what you guys think! Would love to hear! Love, Jill

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