Before I get into the bulk of this post I want to start by saying that I am insanely proud of that picture above. It's true that I didn't get myself where I wanted to be (you'll read more about that below) for my competition but damn a little over one year of hard work and, I have come so far! That's something I need to take a second and celebrate. I'm excited to see what I'm capable of by this time next year!
I ALSO want to say THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to all of you who supported me, sent me kind snaps, texts, IG messages, FB messages, comments, etc all cheering me on and making me feel amazing. I was embarrassed that I didn't do well in the competition so I'm sorry if I didn't say thank you to you personally, but I want you to know that your support really does mean the WORLD TO ME and I could not have done it without you guys! It's ironic because YOU - my virtual fit fam and online family have supported me more than most of my real life "friends" have in this process! Not all - but many people in my life couldn't have cared less, and just quietly judged me instead. I love that I was able to learn so much about myself in this process - and I also learned a lot about people in my life and how much they actually care!
Wow okay, I'm sorry that became a rant!! Moving on!
I'm thoroughly sad right now because the big brain dump I started of this post disappeared! But that just means that I wasn't meant to share this journey in the way I had originally started writing it, so here we go again! Second attempts are usually better than first attempts anyway right!? Ironic how that's also REALLY applicable to this topic!
First and foremost I feel it only makes sense to go back to when I first signed up for this competition. I feel like not many people really supported me in the decision (besides my team and fit fam of course) but a lot of people in my life were kinda judgy about it and always asked "what made you want do it?"
Although I've talked about it before, I'll say it again: I signed up to challenge myself.
I wanted to push myself beyond anything I had done before!
I also had the balls to sign up really because my friend/teammate Lorie and I decided to do it together in order to make it less scary for ourselves, and also to hold each other accountable since we both have backgrounds with disordered eating. And obvi we weren't trying to go back down that path of misery again! She had a family emergency come up so she was unfortunately not able to compete in the end, but who knows maybe next year she and I will sign up for a legit competition and train for it "virtually" together again! No promises, but we'll see!
I ended up linking up with another one of my teammates Shea as an accountability partner and she and I shared our mutual struggles and victories together - and we were even able to compete side by side in the end!
Anyway, I just felt like I wanted something to work towards. I was terrified to sign up but also felt very nonchalant because I had 20 some odd weeks to get myself ready, and I was already thin to start. I went between NBD to OMFG many times over the next weeks. Don't get me wrong, I knew I had hard work ahead of me, but I had NO idea the amount of a brain fuck I was headed into!
If you know my story at all then you know that I've struggled with a very bad relationship with my self image as well as with food. The two things really go hand in hand considering that I abused food by both over and under eating in order to feed my body image obsession for years. I spent about 90% of my life in pink tights and a leotard comparing myself to other girls who were gorgeous and stick thin and clearly I couldn't really handle it and be happy at the same time. I'm not making excuses for myself - I made my own decisions given the situations I was put in - and my disordered thoughts and behavior - I'm just trying to help you understand my past and who I used to be a little bit.
So anyway, through gaining happy married weight in a very unhealthy way after high school at a desk job (fast food, candy bars, all of the cheese and all of the pasta) to losing weight in a healthy way and finding a new healthy lifestyle you guys know that I found and fell in love with the Paleo diet/lifestyle in addition to rediscovering my love for ballet, finding a new love for at home workouts, drinking superfoods and nutrients with vegan shakeology, and really learning to love and appreciate myself as a whole, outside of all that body image BS I was so accustomed to. Woah that's a lot.
When it comes to finding health and fitness and staying a healthy weight my focus has really always been on taking care of my body and balancing my hormones for PCOS and Acne. I loved the effects of this lifestyle - I stayed thin and toned, but most importantly I never worried about what I was eating because I knew it was good for me. At the same time, I had sorta been in the same spot for awhile - and I wanted to spice things up a bit and see what would happen.
Then here comes this bikini competition that's taking place at an event I'll already be attending in Nashville called Beachbody Summit. I hesitated to sign up but I remember last year (2015) at summit seeing the competitors and thinking "I could do that!" and like I said, I really wanted to push myself and my body to a new level and do something really challenging. Plus it scared me which I took as a signal that I NEEDED to do it! My comfort zone ain't gonna grow on it's own after all!
Right away signing up added some umph to my workouts. I was doing a lifting program at the time (Hammer & Chisel - still one of my fav programs ever) and I was still dancing because my contract with the ballet company hadn't ended quite yet! So I was pushing harder in my workouts and really I wasn't really worried at this point. I had a plan. I was gonna be fine. I trusted myself and figured would research posing, a bikini, and all that other stuff later. So I continued to eat paleo, workout hard, ballet ended, then Hammer & Chisel ended, and the plan was to follow this "countdown to competition" eating program for the last 4 weeks leading up to the competition, it's especially designed for bikini competitions and provided in Beachbody's 21 Day Fix Extreme program.
So I was all set.
It's hard to pinpoint exactly WHEN things started to go wrong, but I think I'd have to say it was when I started researching competing when I was about 18-16 weeks out. You see, the first things I found on doctor google were blogs about girls working out twice a day in the gym doing weight training and 45 minutes of cardio in addition to having "preps" (referring to the amount of time that you intensely prepare for a competition and lean down or 'diet' etc) that were a MINIMUM of 12 weeks long.... SAY WHAT!? I was just planning to do that crazy eating 8 times a day thing 4 weeks before the competition! This new information changes things!
And just like that my original pretty plan went out the window and I started to second guess everything that I knew.
I mean that automatically sounded like torture to me but I figured there had to be something to it right?? And by this time I had finished Hammer & chisel again, my ballet contract had ended, and I had moved on to doing random cardio programs in the morning (think Brazil Butt Lift, Cize, etc BTW if you don't know what the hell I'm talking about with all these programs just check out my products page) and even just working more intensely on my PiYo live rounds (the ones I teach) at home. At one point I got a good hybrid down where I was doing 22 minute Hard Corps for cardio in the mornings, then Body Beast in the evenings. It's too bad I got bored of that because that was a good plan! But I was constantly second guessing myself and what my body needed! Plus everything was really just jumbled in my brain so I of course just kept doing more and more research.
I read meal plans, I read about refeed days, and carb cycling, and IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros), and just basic low carb, and sodium depletion, and ketosis, and water manipulation, and just OMFG SO MUCH RANDOM ASS INFORMATION! I mean I already knew a lot - but all of this was in the context of competing... SO it was different.
At that same time every single resource SAID that you need to make training and dietary decisions on an individual basis and it's not one size fits all. Yes - accurate. But quite frankly it can be hard to KNOW where the eff you are in the world and how you measure up in comparison to these super human women who are both lean and buff as hell.
Because it's a COMPETITION. Yes I signed up for me and to push myself to my very best, but I'd be lying if after time it didn't become at least a little bit about "well I'd like to do well and at least make top 10!" and at times THAT became my focus... BAD HARMONY!
I think that's one of the things I struggled with most. As I delved deeper and deeper into reading and watching youtube videos, and really just immersing myself into the world that is bikini competitions I started to lose sight of why I originally signed up and I just became obsessed with how my body looked and measured up to others. I also lost sight of most other things in my life and absorbing competition info became my main daily activity.
On the other hand - in this particular competition everyone uses Beachbody programs (or at least they're supposed to) and a lot of people participate NOT at all competitively and really just for the sake of showing off what they're accomplished (like 100's of lbs of weight loss for example like my amazing friend Shea who competed with me and has lost close to 200lbs using Beachbody programs - which is SO beyond awesome) or just for the sake of doing a competition because they've always wanted to do one! More power to yah ladies! Unfortunately I've been bred to compete and I am too competitive, I just hide it well.
Taking all of these factors into consideration though, I really went between "oh I'll be fine" and "omfg I need to work much harder!"
I would look up other competitors and compare my body to theirs. I would sit around and read articles and watch videos for HOURS, but I didn't actually take much action because I became overwhelmed and felt like I just didn't know what to do and I didn't want to do the WRONG thing. SO instead I did virtually nothing and switched programs and plans almost weekly. THIS is why you need to work with a coach! Anyway....
Turns out that for me, weighing myself, counting macros, and really closely tracking just about any detail of my body and food really puts me into a bad state of mind. I honestly didn't see it coming even. But in general this is why I'm so into PICTURES ACTING AS YOUR SCALE! I say it all the damn time. Throw that thing out! Pay attention to how your clothes fit and take pictures! Because especially for people like me with a past of disordered eating - tracking every little detail about myself took me right back to that high school mentality where I was obsessed. I started weighing myself every morning again, and sometimes in the afternoon, I started constantly checking my reflection, I was annoyed that my weight wasn't moving and BLEHHH omg I really hated going back to that mindset!
I actually got in a good streak for awhile there and was feeling good. Then I got too obsessive like I described above, so I stopped weighing myself and measuring my foods (sorry 21DFX!) so I could hold on to my sanity and I'm so glad that I did.
Those color coded containers are AMAZING for portion control and learning to eat for your health. They really truly are, and I believe in them wholeheartedly because I've seen them transform peoples eating habits. But for those of us with a history of disordered eating, they can be a trigger. They can take you to a bad place - which is why I stopped using them and went back to eating Paleo... But not before...
I started down a path where my prep went entirely to hell. I let myself drink again at a wedding and then again a week before competing (which is a HUGE no no on prep. Like a HUGE no no) I ate CANDY which I haven't done in YEARS. I ate ice cream, and I even got accidentally glutened (there was gluten in my food) by some damn duck that I got at a restaurant! Talk about #FAIL! I just went all kinds of crazy which lead me to not only emotionally feeling like crap for "ruining" my results, but I also physically felt ill. And that's where I was really done.
So I did indeed go back to paleo and eating in a healthy way that I know keeps me thin AND makes me feel good both mentally and physically.
I stopped forcing myself to eat 20million times a day (I was eating 6-8 meals a day because GAINS) and instead went back to eating more like 4-6 times a day and things got better.
So I recovered from that.
But then my exercise mojo went out the window - and let's not even talk about the fact that I yoyo'd from program to program like I mentioned above because I was CONSTANTLY unsure of what my body needed - to lean, or to bulk!? That is the question!
I was dumb and I spent WAY too much time and energy in all this research! I let my business slip, not to mention I went through a rough patch in my business back in mid May all the way through June that had me on the verge of quitting in July until I hired business mentors: Get It Done Gals! But that's another story for another time.
Anyway. I made a lot of sacrifices.
I went on trips where I felt alienated because of everything I had to keep up with for my prep like waking up early to exercise and eating like an insane person, plus not being able to drink. I actually felt great in my body - but people act like you're crazy and it's not fun. It's not even that anyone intentionally alienates you, but the prep is consuming and it kinda takes over your life if you let it. And clearly they were just like "why is this girl so crazy and torturing herself?" I promise it didn't feel like torture. For the most part I really genuinely ENJOY exercising and eating healthy - this was just different.
I honestly didn't fully grasp what I was getting myself into when I signed up. I thought it was simple - buy a special bikini, buy some heels, learn to pose, eat well, & exercise. But there was really a lot more to it and these are the things I wish I had known in hindsight, and I'd like for you to know if you are thinking about competing:
- You have to have tunnel vision - what other people did, what they ate, how they look - all of that is just going to mess with your head. Just concentrate on YOU.
- Be careful WHO you take advice from. There are a lot of coaches and athletes out there who have been fed misinformation and they will unknowingly pass that info on to you in an attempt to be nice and help.
- FOLLOW YOUR GUT. Don't change what you know to be true and good for your body OR what you believe about nutrition to fit into someone else's mold. Be you through and through even if all the "gurus" say it's wrong.
- Similar to the two above - DON'T SACRIFICE YOURSELF. Now don't get me wrong - you'll have to make sacrifices if you want to compete, and that doesn't have to be a bad thing. BUT do not sacrifice ANY essential part of who you are, what you believe, or standards that you live you life by just to look good on stage.
- The prep is long, the comp is SHORT. Literally I was so unfulfilled on the day of. I felt like I had spent so long working so hard and sacrificed so much for 15 seconds of posing and really just nothing. DON'T BE LIKE ME. Have a realistic expectation of what this is! There are people out there who have sacrificed more than you have, worked harder than you have, and who have actually stuck to their prep (unlike me - woops!) the entire time without waivering. Don't throw a pity party. Be damn proud of yourself no matter what.
- Don't do it alone!!! Get a coach, an accountability partner, someone you can talk to who's going to be honest with you but also love you. Someone you can trust and someone who's opinion you actually give a crap about, because otherwise you're not going to take their advice and you're just going to secretly go crazy.
Needless to say I DID go into this for me, and to push myself. But things got all muddied along the way - partially because I don't think I was mentally ready to take all of that on. I just wasn't! I thought that I was farther along in my emotional healing from my past of self confidence issues but I just wasn't, and that's OKAY.
I learned a shit ton about myself. And even though I didn't even place top 10 which was a hard pill to swallow, I know that I made huge improvements and really this was just like a practice learning round. I had no clue what I was doing about 90% of the time and I learned more and more every day.
I might actually do another competition. MAYBE.
I just feel like I was kind of cheated by myself and I became a crazy person along the way. Maybe it was the lack of carbs and salt plus being 2 gallons over normal hydration levels - or maybe it was just me not trusting myself. WHO KNOWS!?
I don't think I would ever compete in the Beachbody Classic again.... I'll don't want to say NEVER because I know myself well enough to know that I could easily change my mind on that... But I do feel that it took away from my experience at the event in Nashville a bit just because again - I was consumed and it was an extra responsibility on top of the travel and everything else!
I was also in a place in life this time when I just NEEDED A WIN. You know?? Nothing was going the way I wanted and I just felt like if I did well in the competition then it would AT LEAST make all of the sacrifices and letting my business slip somewhat worth it and justified. Another lesson learned Harmony - Just because you THINK you need a win doesn't actually mean that you need one.
Sometimes when you think you need a win is actually when you NEED to lose and have that super fucking real reality check with yourself and reevaluate where the hell you are in this life and how you got there, THEN you can move forward and grow from there.
And boy I really do feel like I've grown.
Had I gotten top 10, then who knows - maybe I wouldn't have this renewed passion and umph I'm experiencing in my life and business, and I wouldn't be helping people the way that I've been able to now that I'm feeling on top of the world in Gods love and energy again!
Everything happens for a reason. This whole prep was a hard experience for me. But hard is NECESSARY. Without hard we would be the most boring and annoying people ever. I'm so happy that I had the opportunity to do something that so genuinely terrified me, yet when the moment came to step on stage - I felt comfortable and sure of myself. I did something wildly out of my comfort zone. I learned A LOT about myself and a world I previously knew nothing about. It was a unique experience that I wouldn't trade for the world - because without it I wouldn't be who I am sitting here today. Stronger, bolder, wiser - and I'll tell you what - I don't need anyone's damn approval ANYMORE. I'm sick of trying to make everyone happy and please everybody. Especially "friends" in my life who didn't give me even the SLIGHTEST love or support to me in this process but instead quietly judged me. I actually had a lot of anger going into this - I wanted to prove people wrong. And I still will - just in my own different way.
That is what I gained from this experience. God's power to push me forward. It's the first time in my life that I've been able to feel and experience God's presence outside of a church affiliation if that makes sense. There is SO much more that plays into this WAY beyond this competition experience and I'll talk more about that in my next post!
I want to say that, competing it's for everyone. Just because I grew doesn't mean I recommend going through the shit that I went through to get to this point. But if you want a challenge - competing for sure will give you one and you're going to emerge either stronger for it - or possibly broken. What you do with your experience is entirely up to you.
A few other things I'd like to mention since I have promised my followers I would provide the info in past posts as far as what I ate, and my weight change.
So I measured my body fat % AFTER I got home from my trip to Nashville and had eaten quite a bit of food and I was at around 11% body fat if I measured correctly. HOWEVER my weight was nowhere near what I had grown accustomed to. This was a huge part of the mind fuck that happened during my prep! Ever since I went Paleo I've been a solid 120-125lbs at 5'8.
Yet during my prep because I was focused on building muscle and really seeing it GROW - I got up to 133 at my heaviest. Now I'm NOT saying that I am heavy AT ALL. But remember all the google research? Everything said that I should be LOSING WEIGHT. But I was just gaining/maintaining my my weigh between 127-131. This is why I had to stop weighing myself and THANK GOD I did because I felt so much better as soon as I stopped caring about it.
In general though as you grow muscle and lose fat and go through this whole process of getting fit a swol, if you're naturally a thin person (like a dancer) then you're going to feel like you're expending because the scale is going to rise and your pant size might also because #BOOTYGAINS. This is NOT a bad thing! In fact quite the opposite - I mean who doesn't like a nice toned booty?? So don't freak out, and start tracking your progress with pictures. I promise it'll make you feel much more sane and you're gonna be like "oh heyyyyyyyyyy, I see you growing back there booty! You keep up the good work!"
ALSO as far as what I ate: I did count macros for awhile which was simply awful for me and although I stayed Gluten free I def did do the whole Oatmeal and Egg Whites thing! I mean - my whole idea was that I'm willing to TRY different things and see how my body reacts. I def learned even more about myself here and also even more about ACNE. Absolutely every single experience and experiment can turn into knowledge you can use to help other in the future. I promise no matter how bad the experience, something good can always come from it.
Towards the end I did do a week of no salt although I did get a little sodium from my shakeology. I wasn't about to sacrifice my health for a sparkly bikini and some heels. I also did do a few days of drinking TWO GALLONS of water per day and I did months of drinking one whole gallon of water per day. I ate a lot of chicken breast instead of my usual chicken thighs, I ate a ton of salmon and cod, and I also started cooking everything in coconut oil again instead of bacon grease. Again, learning, learning, learning. And yeah, I generally eat healthy anyway! Ironically I think I did some of my MOST unhealthy eating during my prep because I mentally felt too restricted! THIS is why I love Paleo and it works for me. Yes there are rules and some find them strict - but I really do a Paleo Intuitive eating where you listen to your body and do what works for you!
NOW FOR PICTURES..... Some of these bikini somes make me cringe! My posing was way off in the beginning - but they mostly go in chronological order from when i fist signed up all the way to the day after! I'm making two albums below, one to show you some of the meal tracking I did/what I ate (mostly from SNAPCHAT so the quality is TERRIBLE), and one to show you pictures of me throughout this process. I tried to take a lot of pictures so I could see the vast difference on the day of after a magical "peak week" and prep - but there's actually not that much of a difference because I did NOT do the best job with my training OR with my eating... But hey, that's okay! I'm still proud of my final product, and I did work hard for it - so here goes!
Now for the food one which is also at least moderately in a chronological order, although extremely RANDOM....
So that's my wrap up!!! If you're wondering what I'm up to now with my training and eating - well after I got back from Nashville I took an entire week off from exercise and it was awesome! I did miss the movement but I know my body really needed it and it also gave me the opportunity to really invest back into me and my business - so investing in you too!
Now I'm doing the newest Beachbody program called Country Heat with my MOM who is 68 and modifying, but loving it! We are on day 4 today, and I also taught PiYo live earlier and I helped lead Country Heat live last Saturday also. I'm actually thinking about joining a gym because I want to train with some heavier weights that I don't have at home, so I might be taking the program Body Beast OR Hammer & Chisel to the gym with me! But for now I'm sticking to Country Heat at home with my mom for the next 30 days and just kinda taking it easy although the workouts do have me dripping in sweat by the end!
My eating hasn't been the best because I've been having a lot of Paleo treats like Honey Mints from Trader Joes, and indulging in things like the amazing Paleo(ish) pizza I made the other night (you can find it on my IG linked below) but I feel good, and I'm really just kinda taking it easy, putting on some fat because I DON'T want to be at 11% body fat (and I don't think I am anymore), and letting my body chill out a bit while still taking care of it and having fun!
If you have any questions for me, or you're getting into your first competition and you'd like to work with me and get a customized meal plan plus supplementation and workout program I am here for you and I'd love to work together! Simply click the banner at the top of this screen to schedule a 1:1 Discovery Call with me and we'll see if working together is a good fit or not! <3
xoxo - Harmony